One on One with Ted's Masters - Lucy Spartalis

14 January 2015
One on One with Ted's Masters - Lucy SpartalisOne on One with Ted's Masters - Lucy Spartalis

What defines your photography style?
I focus mainly on portraiture, using both photojournalistic and conceptually composed techniques. As I mostly work with everyday people (as opposed to models), I strive for my work to be honest and authentic, whilst bold and highly engaging at the same time.

How did you become interested in photography?
After studying (and deciding against) music management, I was working in a record store looking for something to sink my teeth into, so I enrolled in a photography class on a whim. I’d always been interested in the arts, having focused on visual art, music and drama at high school, but had no experience in analogue photography beyond my point-and-shoot. After only a few classes at The Centre for Creative Photography in Adelaide, I knew it was something I wanted to pursue; and within two years I began working professionally in the field.

What inspires you?
Everything. The work of visionary directors and cinematographers such as Stanley Kubrick and Wes Anderson; photographic artists like Erwin Olaf, Annie Liebovitz and Vivian Maier; various genres of music, travels, nature… and light. In one of my earliest photography classes, our lecturer told us “You’ll never look at light the same way again”, and how right he was. Good light is by far the most inspiring thing for me.

What type of lighting do you use most within your photography?
I occasionally use studio lighting, but mostly stick with the ambient light found on location (both natural and artificial). I find the art of discovering and interpreting the light to be an important part of my creative process – rather than having a predetermined plan, I thrive on looking for unique light and placing my subjects in it, often creating unexpected and exciting results.

One on One with Ted's Masters - Lucy SpartalisOne on One with Ted's Masters - Lucy Spartalis

What do you think were some of the key elements to the development of your photography?
I completed most of my studies using film rather than switching to digital – definitely one of my smartest decisions. Having to really consider what I was doing before hitting the shutter; learning about the mechanics of old cameras; spending so much time in the darkroom experimenting with contrast filters, papers and various development techniques; all of these experiences led me to approach digital photography with a good understanding of the traditions of the craft. There’s still so much that I don’t know, but having begun my career in a more manual, thoughtful process has helped me immensely.

The Centre for Creative Photography itself was a massive influence over my artistic development – I can’t recommend the school highly enough. Gavin Blake and his staff are passionate, talented and truly lovely mentors. It barely felt like a school – more like a supportive, open-minded artistic community. We were encouraged to think laterally, experiment with and embrace unusual concepts and processes, and basically do whatever came naturally. I loved every minute of my time there – so much so that I went on to become a lecturer’s assistant for several semesters.

One on One with Ted's Masters - Lucy SpartalisOne on One with Ted's Masters - Lucy Spartalis

What are you currently working on?
I shoot a lot of weddings (as part of She Takes Pictures He Makes Films – my collaboration with my filmmaker partner Alastair Innes) - at the moment it’s peak season and we’re solidly booked out. I also shoot band and solo artist promotional stills, and the odd editorial series for magazines such as Dumbo Feather (one of the most inspiring magazines I know). I’ve been invited back to the CCP in Adelaide to exhibit my recent film street series – captured around Spain on a Yashica Twin Lens Reflex – so I’m currently preparing the prints for that show, opening in the first week of March.

What is your proudest moment as a photographer?
There have been so many moments I’ve been very proud of – seeing your work emotionally affect your clients and followers is always pretty amazing! But a recent milestone was having one of my wedding portraits on the cover of the immensely popular wedding magazine Hello May. Another favourite was the launch of a music video I directed for battle-folk duo Coops & The Bird. My experience in composing photographs transitions easily into directing, which is something I’ve always dreamt of doing and plan to do much more of in the future.

Who are your favourite photographers and/or artists as of right now?
As well as the names I mentioned earlier, I really love the highly conceptual works of Gregory Crewdson, and Andreas Gursky’s large format urban lanscapes. His 2008 exhibition at the NGV is still one of the most incredible shows I’ve seen. The late graphic designer Storm Thorgerson has also been a massive influence for me. As part of his art group Hipgnosis, he was behind some of the most iconic rock album covers of all time – releases from Pink Floyd, Led Zepplin, The Mars Volta, Muse, Audioslave. His use of unusal isolated subjects within desolate landscapes is something I find really transfixing.

How has social media helped with the success of your photography?
Greatly. Love it or hate it, social media is an incredible tool for reaching your desired market, and for connecting with other creatives. I honestly wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for Facebook and Instagram. In particular, social media has helped my partner and I reach overseas clients, and we now regularly work around the world. I don’t know how that would have happened otherwise.

What’s your favourite photo that you’ve ever taken?
A portrait of Australian actor, elder and pioneer Jack Charles, taken in an alley behind the theatre he was rehearsing in for his Fringe Festival season of the biographical “Jack Charles vs The Crown”. We only had 5 minutes together and I shot only a few frames, but managed to nail a pretty awesome portrait of this incredible man.

What is something you wish you were better at?
Everything. All of it. There’s just so much to know.

One on One with Ted's Masters - Lucy SpartalisOne on One with Ted's Masters - Lucy Spartalis

How important is post-processing to your works?
Extremely! I really enjoy working my images until they hit their potential. I’d say the editing is 50% of my process. Sometimes I have no idea where an edit is going to take me. I love it.

One on One with Ted's Masters - Lucy SpartalisOne on One with Ted's Masters - Lucy Spartalis

What’s on your gear list?

  • 2 x Nikon D700 bodies
  • Nikkor 50mm 1.4
  • Nikkor 35mm 1.4
  • Nikkor 24-70mm 2.8
  • Nikkor 24mm Tilt Shift
  • Yashica Mat 124G Twin Lens Reflex
  • 2 x SB910 flash

What type of photography do you enjoy the most? Creating your own personal work or client shoots?

I honestly enjoy both equally. My clients hire me because they love my personal style, so all of my commissioned work is just an extension of my creative process.

What is the best advice you have ever received?
Don’t worry about what other people are doing, either in their style or their business practice. Of course it’s good to stay aware of the ever-changing trends and artistic movements to some extent, but stay true to what appeals to you. If you do things differently, you’ll carve yourself an interesting niche and will eventually find your audience.

What awards have you won?
I was recently named one of nine finalists in the Capture Magazine ‘Australia’s Top Emerging Photographers’ for my wedding work. I’ve received three silver awards at the South Australian APPAs, a Fearless Photographers Award, and Second Prize at the Ghoti 10 Exhibition at the Centre for Creative Photography.

One on One with Ted's Masters - Lucy SpartalisOne on One with Ted's Masters - Lucy Spartalis

What tips would you give a photographer on best way to get your work published/ or/ to get noticed?

  • Submit to everything
  • Enter every competition and award
  • Exhibit
  • Blog your work, share it with your creative community, tell people what you’re doing
  • Use Instagram and Facebook to get the word out
  • Don’t feel ashamed of talking yourself up – the world is too huge and too full of creatives to just sit back and hope people will notice you.

Any big plans for the future?
Where to start? I want to make a short film. Or two. Shoot more music videos. Shoot more film stills on the street. Work with more dancers. Write a book. Build a studio. The list never ends. It’s what keeps me going.

Any advice for the novice photographer?
Be prepared to work harder than you thought possible. Keep studying all the time - whether it’s in school or online, through reading books or watching YouTube videos. Assist whoever you can - learning on the job is a fantastic opportunity. Then take what you’ve read, heard and seen, and do things differently. There are no rules in this business, be exactly the artist and business owner you want to be and you’ll build yourself an exciting career.

If you like Lucy's work, check out her portfolio and galleries here...

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