sarah tomasetti

philosophy and output

Melbourne artist,  Sarah Tomasetti,  in her home studio. Photography by  Emma Byrnes.

Melbourne artist, Sarah Tomasetti, in her home studio. Photography by Emma Byrnes.

I do not think of my work-life as being part of a rat race. Instead I have made a conscious effort to carve out my own pace by working with people whose philosophy and output matches my own ideals.

And I see my photography involving much more than being just a tool that produces pictures. This craft allows me to make genuine human connections and intimate observations. When working with creative people, photography can be a way of connecting with their practice and observing the incidentals. If all goes well the results are pictures that evoke a moment in time or an environment that otherwise couldn’t be understood so easily. 


I think in pictures. I am constantly squinting at scenes before me, subconsciously applying the rule of thirds.

I have been taking photographs since I was 10. I was given a Kodak brownie camera for xmas and immediately fell in love with the satisfying click and the sound as I manually advanced the film. 

As time passed I realised that taking photos allowed me as a shy person to be right up close to the action without having to play a central part. Participating but slightly removed, hiding behind the lens. I was always quite shy as a child but have always been a keen observer…I watch and notice things. I pick up on nuances and energy. Photography enabled me to exercise these muscles.

In high school I maintained an interest in photography but also loved culture and media, leading me to study Broadcast Journalism (with a sub-major in Photojournalism). Studying Photojournalism gave me a certain slant on photography ie the photographer needs to have more than just the eye for the photo. They must accurately portray an event or scene while still maintaining a fascinating composition. In addition, the photographer needs to be fast and fearless and be willing to push boundaries in order to get just the right shot. They also do not manipulate or enhance the photo in any way in post-production (or at least they shouldn’t?!)
During the course of this program I realised that I wasn’t ruthless/hungry enough to be a journalist (I was too sensitive at the end of the day) but I definitely took away from that experience a fascination in documentation and strong foundations for storytelling (especially with images.)

Over time I went on to do all sorts of interesting things (film-maker, web designer, barista, screen printer, fruit and vegetable vendor!) including a design and animation degree. One of the things I enjoyed most about this period was learning about the Principles of Design. I also became adept at software editing tools such as Photoshop and Lightroom and really enjoyed the process of making images the best they could possibly be by cleaning things up a little bit in post-production (against the Photojournalism principles - yikes!)
These new skills combined to further inform my photography work - merging my intuitive, child-like curiosity and my reportage, photojournalistic approach with a more designerly, edited approach. 


And this is how it culminates in the way I think of myself as a photographer now - working intuitively with people to document their environments whilst maintaining a very strong interest in the composition, and aesthetics.

See my photography website here.

Read further blog posts in the “intimate observations” series here.

feeling free

Photograph by  Emma Byrnes

Photograph by Emma Byrnes

Ever since I was a young high school girl forced by curriculum-obsessed teachers to take physics and chemistry electives rather than art and painting I have harboured a burning desire to stand in front of a blank canvas brandishing a brush.
And late last year, after many years of procrastination, I finally took the plunge and started evening oil painting classes. To begin with I floundered about - despite having worked in the visual mediums of design, textiles and photography for many years. It felt like I had waited so long to give my right brain absolute permission to play and be completely free, that I had locked myself out from a true artistic practice. But eventually my logical thought process surrendered. An abstract, gestural style stepped up to the easel and with the help of my marvellous painting teacher, Sarah Tomasetti, I began to find flow.
I still can't quite believe how good it feels to paint. Forget yoga. This is my new medium for deep relaxation. Mixing the colours, scraping the palette knife, feeling the canvas under my brush. Losing track of time and all thoughts...being in the moment as the work takes shape. Standing back and assessing the mark-making. Seeing what translates onto the canvas when the analytical mind is cast aside and intuition takes over.
I sense that this is a new chapter for me and my creative journey. I can't see myself giving this up. Who knows where it will take me but for now I am happy just using it as a dedicated time each week to cast aside my thoughts, preconceptions and fear - to live in the moment.

And just in case you were wondering if this is a photograph of me?
No, it isn't. I haven't quite managed to get to that standard in such a short period of time :-) 
This week I've been documenting the beautiful, powerful yet delicate work of my painting teacher, Sarah, as she gears up for her exhibition at Beaver Galleries in April. A show well worth seeking out.
Em x