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.

ceremony - contemplation - reflection

emma byrnes, tea and sympathy, melbourne photographer
emma byrnes, tea and sympathy, melbourne photographer
emma byrnes, tea and sympathy, melbourne photographer
Refining the imagery for Melbourne-based brand  Tea and Sympathy.  Photographs by  Emma Byrnes

Refining the imagery for Melbourne-based brand Tea and Sympathy. Photographs by Emma Byrnes

It was a couple of years ago that Anna of Sweet Polka and I worked together on the branding/imagery for Melbourne-based brand Tea and Sympathy. 
After recently refining the T & S marketing strategy Anna requested from me a new series of images for the brand that needed to evoke the following - Ceremony. Contemplation. Reflection.
Our mutual friends - James aka SuperMelody and Pauline aka Popcraft - had the perfect home setting to evoke this message. A lifetime of collecting and curating heirlooms plus an intrinsic sense of colour and style meant that props and setting were more-or-less taken care of. And James and Pauline have huge bursts of teal green in their home and this so happens to be the flagship colour for T & S. So it was a no-brainer - combine a workday alongside a much-loved collaborator for a wonderful local brand and a visit with dear friends - bliss!

peacock parade

emma byrnes, brave new eco, kara rosenlund
emma byrnes, brave new eco, kara rosenlund
emma byrnes, brave new eco, kara rosenlund
Photographs by  Emma Byrnes

Photographs by Emma Byrnes

The 2016 Peacock St renovation by Brave New Eco is the little project that could!
Last year this tiny West Brunswick extension and fit-out was awarded a special commendation at the International Green Interior Awards in the residential renovation category and this year it was nominated for the best kitchen in the Dwell Magazine BEST DESIGN 2018 awards. 
It feels great when images taken almost three years ago are still packing a punch.

twist and squat

emma byrnes photographer melbourne
emma byrnes photographer melbourne
emma byrnes photographer melbourne
Kinematics studio in Richmond. Photography by Emma Byrnes

Kinematics studio in Richmond. Photography by Emma Byrnes

As a photographer one needs to stay flexible in order to twist and squat into all sorts of interesting positions. But over a year ago I went to get out of bed and I could barely walk. It took me many weeks of trial and error and word of mouth recommendations to find myself on the doorstep of Kinematics Studio but gosh I am glad I did. I can’t even describe to you my admiration for the folks at this physiotherapy/pilates studio. The expertise of their practitioners helped me rehabilitate and propel me back on the rapid road to recovery.
And of course during my visits I was lucky to forge a relationship with co-directors Pep Karulus/Rachel Crampton who then hired me to photograph their new Richmond studio for use with their branding/social media (by this stage I was once again nimble-footed!)
The shoot encompassed interiors shots and product shots with Rachel jumping in to effortlessly provide some context on the pilates equipment. It was great to offer some of my own expertise back to this dynamic duo - long may their business thrive!

warmth and precise artistry

emma byrnes, dana leviston
emma byrnes, dana leviston
emma byrnes dana leviston
Photographs by  Emma Byrnes

Photographs by Emma Byrnes

Renowned Melbourne hair and makeup artist Dana Leviston has opened her beautiful new Collins St art-deco studio.
I have had the pleasure of working alongside Dana this year as she sought out my branding and small business expertise to consolidate her position as Melbourne’s go-to makeup/hair artist. I am looking forward to working with Dana to further develop her brand in 2019.

For those reading, be sure to keep Dana in mind if you ever need makeup or hair.
She is the most uber-talented, experienced, approachable and mellow makeup artist out there. And that’s no exaggeration.

Some of these snaps I took featured on Frankie Magazine to celebrate Dana’s launch party.

pause and reflection

emma byrnes, jing wei bu
Photographs by  Emma Byrnes
emma byrnes, jing wei bu
emma byrnes, jing wei bu
Jing Wei Bu in her home studio. Photographs by  Emma Byrnes

Jing Wei Bu in her home studio. Photographs by Emma Byrnes

Sometimes all you need is a suite of fresh images to demonstrate what it is you do, who you are or why you do it!

Chinese-born Adelaide-based visual artist Jing Wei Bu was in such a position. Jing Wei herself takes lovely photographs but she needed an outsider to capture the everyday atmosphere in her home studio.

So she booked in a morning session and we had a delightful time. In amongst flurried bouts of activity and creativity she carved out quiet pauses for us to reflect on our progress with Chinese tea ceremonies and conversation. 

If you require some extra images for your website/social media profiles don’t hesitate to get in touch.
We could enjoy a version of Jing Wei’s “pause and reflection” in your working environment.

fair share fare

emma byrnes, fair share fare, jen rae
emma byrnes, fair share fare, jen rae
emma byrnes, jen rae, fair share fare
emma byrnes, fair share fare, jen rae
emma byrnes, jen rae, refuge
emma byrnes, fair share fare, jen rae
emma byrnes, fair share fare, jen rae
emma byrnes, fair share fare, jen rae
emma byrnes, jen rae, fair share fare
emma byrnes photographer melbourne
emma byrnes, emma byrnesjen rae, fair share fare
Photographs by  Emma Byrnes

Photographs by Emma Byrnes

Amongst many other ambitious projects, Canadian Métis (Indigenous)/Australian artist-researcher, Jen Rae has established Fair Share Fare - a collaborative, multi-platform art project focused on future food security in a time of climate change. And for the second year running I have had the great pleasure of documenting REFUGE at Arts House for Jen.  

REFUGE is now in year three of a five-year project that examines potential climate-related disasters and traces how we might collectively respond. It explores the role of artists and cultural institutions in times of climate catastrophe…extreme heat, rising sea levels, forced migration, increased spread of diseases, social unrest, extinctions.

In 2018, the theme for REFUGE was PANDEMIC - artists examined a pandemic event and what happens when the risk of contagion mean no public gathering?

In Jen’s project - a horticulturalist, a masseur and a beekeeper each had significant roles to play and she places them in an immersive spa-meets-science-lab-meets-urban-agriculture environment.
In most instances during this documentation process the light was extremely low which for a photographer can be very challenging as light is what we paint with! But I think the limitations allowed for some dramatic images.

For in-depth detail and photographs of the project visit Jen’s website.