we ♥ .shaelah ariotti.

This week, we’re featuring some of the artists that we have on show at our “we ♥ what we like” exhibition at Bleeding Heart Gallery (Friday 17th June, 6pm!).

Introducing Shaelah Ariotti.

Hi Shaelah! We’ve been such a fan of your work for so long, which is why we we’ve asked to use your work for Strutten as well as featuring in our Launch Exhibition on the 17th. Thanks for letting us interview you!

Have you always been based in QLD?

Well technically I suppose not, I was born in Sydney… but my family moved to Central Queensland when I was 4, so I don’t remember much from NSW. I moved to Brisbane in the first year of uni, and haven’t lived anywhere else :) As I want to travel, I’m sure this will change!

When did you get your first camera?

My first camera was my fourth or fifth birthday present… it was blue plastic, with a black top section and a pop up red viewfinder, and the word “SNAP” on the lens cap. It took film. It was awesome. I wish I still knew where it was!

My first serious experience using a camera would have been when my father bought us a little point and shoot to take on a family trip to NZ, and when we returned to Australia (unfortunately not while we were over there!) I picked it up and started playing around. My art teacher at the time told me to keep at it, that this was what I would be really good at… All my early work was done on a point and shoot. It’s not the equipment that makes the photographer. It wasn’t until first year uni that I actually got my own 20D…..

Your work’s been in a lot of local magazines, what was your favourite one to be in?

My favourite…. probably Peppermint, just because we’ve had a really great ongoing relationship; I get along really well with the sub editor Tess, we share so many interests. (And her cats, they are SO cute! ^^) Although I have enjoyed all of them for different reasons!


Do you prefer colour or black and white photography?

It totally depends on the job or project. Proportionally, I probably have more colour work than black and white, as I prefer to shoot specifically for black and white rather than just converting in post, and I really love to use black and white film and process it myself…… haha buuut if you meet me, you see I have a pretty big thing for colour… I guess I just end up working with colour more, it’s not so much that I actually prefer it. Whatever the job asks of me, I will do it :)

Which is your favourite: Film or Digital?

Again, it depends on the project. I LOVE film, but I accept that the demands of the process I am required to use for my clients means that film is rarely a possibility. Digital is just so convenient. They both have pluses and minuses, but I guess it’s really telling that in my own personal projects I tend to shoot on both at the same time. Well not literally at the same time, but I have both hanging around my neck!!

Is there a typical process for your photographs?

Do you mean taking them or post production? For taking them, I honestly don’t know, I focus totally on the task at hand, you’d have to ask someone who is there on set with me!

As for post production, I do as little as possible, as my aim is to make the image look how I saw it in real life, rather than try to make it something it is not. I am not a fan of plastic skin. And I hate with a PASSION the attitude ‘I’ll just fix it in post.’
One, (for the photographers) if you can’t get it right in camera and have to rely on photoshop to function you shouldn’t be working (with the exception of things that are physically impossible to do in reality).
And two (for makeup artists, stylists, anyone else), if it will take you two seconds to fix and you just couldn’t be bothered, but it will take the photographer or retoucher extra time -potentially hours or even longer – they don’t have to fix it, believe me, they are not going to like you very much.
All my process is in the curves adjustment layers.

Who or what inspires you?

The list of names is, quite literally, endless. I have photographers who inspire me. Designers (of all types from fashion to furniture to interior to type and all in between!). Musicians. Family and friends. Authors. Light. History. Blogs. I don’t believe in cutting myself off from the world to create ‘original’ art, I would far prefer to be aware and inspired by what is going on around me; to see how I fit in the context of art history, and to use my own view of all that goes on around me to create.

How would you describe the Brisbane art scene?

It has come a LONG way since I moved here 6 years ago. A LONG way. I am actually really excited about what is going on here! Stuff like Strutten starting up just makes me smile!
While there are still not quite the amount of job opportunities that other cities or countries have to offer, I think we are definitely heading in the right direction. With people as passionate as you guys around, amazing things are going to happen!

What’s your favourite hangout?

Um… Campos in the valley after church on sundays for a lunch coffee… The Three Monkeys just because it’s open late and almost everyone knows where it is! Although I swear the chai used to be way better than it is these days :\… Southbank Cinemas coz it’s cheap… The espresso bar I work at in Bulimba…. I’d like to pretend I’m cool and go to all these hidden places but really I just work weird hours and nowhere is open!

What exciting new things do you have coming up?

Personal projects. I’m going to be creating just for the sake of creating again!! I’m doing some with stylist and general creative genius Kate Stein who is incredible and I am so honoured to be working with her! Also some with stylist Alicia Coleman who is a great friend, and someone I have been working with for a little while… we click so well and think so much on the same level that it’s like we read each others minds, scary sometimes!! I think it’s important to work with people who are committed, articulate, talented and driven, but who are actually willing to collaborate for the greater good of the finished project. I am so blessed to work with so many people who fit this description :)

Thank you so much for chatting to Strutten, it’s been a lovely opportunity. What advice would you give to aspiring young photographers trying to make their mark?

Thank you!! I haven’t really been interviewed before, so it was a new experience for me!

Well…. as I don’t actually consider myself as having made my mark, I’m probably not the best person to ask!! What I tell myself all the time is don’t even be tempted to copy what is popular at the time. Not even unintentionally. While we all learn by imitation, (and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, or trying new things just to see if you can do them) working by imitation is a cop out, and will probably get you into a LOT of trouble.

While you may get attention for working in a style that is popular and of the moment, fashions and trends in all creative areas are totally transient; you are far better of developing your own style and approach, nailing it down, developing your sense of professionalism, networking, working on your portfolio, so that when you do start to get attention, it will be for your OWN work, and you will be better prepared to last the distance, and not fade away when the super-pop-colour or bleached-out-vintage trend passes. You want a good reputation not a bad one.

The other thing would be education. I am a firm believer in it. While I am aware that there are many amazing self-taught photographers, I was personally not meant to be one of them. I had enough experience before I entered uni to have developed my own way of seeing the world through the lens, (which was an advantage) but didn’t have to skills to create genuinely good work. I could have meandered my way along and probably figured out of some what I learned at uni, but it would have taken me 20 years, not 3. Uni taught me many important skills, these are just some of them.

1. Technicality. Being well versed in the understanding of how photography and light actually works and all that follows that knowledge has been more beneficial than I can say. It also meant I improved very quickly…
2. Content. How important it is that your image actually has something going on behind it! The ability to create a concept that from which springs an image that has depth, and meaning, and that tells a story. Something that doesn’t use the obvious solution, that avoids clich├ęs, that communicates emotion. Something you can return to again and again. So important. And so overlooked. It just doesn’t seem to be that important when you’re taking pictures of oranges hanging on trees, as I was when I started ^^;
3. History. Where you fit into the history of art and creation. Who has gone before you and tread this path. It’s so naive to think that this is not important.
4. Thick skin. You learn to be your own biggest critic – in a good way. To start with, when the problems with your work are pointed out to you, you just hate everything you do, but then you quickly develop the ability to see the flaws before anyone else does, and fix them.
5. Professionalism. Needs no explanation.
6. Procrastination is not your friend. Time management, using organisational tools and prioritisation are. And how this directly applies to photography.
7. You will only survive if you genuinely have passion.

I’m not saying you CAN’T be a great photographer without an education, I just know that I wouldn’t be where I am today without one :)

It was such a privilege to interview you, and learn more about your craft and what drives you, thanks once again!