We first met Zoe when we collaborated on a piece of furniture for her studio (the tailored NCW buffet unit with shelving above), which she uses to house props in her studio. We soon discovered she is an extremely talented photographer with a unique style, so we sat down with Zoe to find out about her path to becoming a photographer and her personal home style.
Tell us a bit about your background and how you got into photography.
I applied for a job as a wedding photographer’s assistant while I was studying Graphic Design at uni. I was supporting myself with bar work at the time, and I saw it advertised in the newspaper. It was my introduction to professional photography and while weddings weren’t really for me, photography came naturally and I grew to really love it as an art.
When I finished university I moved to San Francisco with my sister; our mother is American so we have dual citizenship. I spent the next ten years there working as a professional photographer. Freelancing in SF taught me how to hustle for work, and to continuously push myself and develop my style so that I could stand out. It's a really creative city with a lot of talented people, so it was very competitive. I learnt the value in making strong connections with my peers and collaborating with the right people.
Your photography is so fun and colourful. How did you come to find your own unique style of photography?
It’s often hard to make time for personal projects, but it’s the single most important factor in developing my style and evolving my work. If I discover something I’m really excited about, I try to turn it into a project. Little obsessions can become great motivators when creating new and unique work, because it comes from a place of genuine interest. These personal projects can be limitless, because you have no boundaries placed on you by a client.
How would you describe your home and interior? What kind of art do you have at home?
My home is colourful, cosy, inviting and eclectic, and filled with sentimental objects. We keep adding until it works. I don’t try to define my style, I have a mix of things and they just seem to fit. My partner has a collection of ephemera and it all just comes together. Most of our art was made by friends. It’s nice to support artists we’re friends with. They’re usually people I’m drawn to because of similar tastes.
What kind of clients do you usually work with? How would you describe your process when creating images for a client?
I attract clients with an appreciation of colour and visual abundance. I like to think my work conveys a sense of my own personality and style that works cohesively with what my clients are trying to achieve.
I like to be involved in the whole creative process; creating a concept, gathering props myself or bringing together the right team. It all comes together when we get to the shoot.
For anyone wanting to follow in your footsteps, what advice would you give to someone starting out?
I didn’t do it enough, but I think it can be great to start out assisting people whose work you admire. It's a great way to learn, while developing invaluable connections in the industry. I'm constantly learning from my peers and people I surround myself with.
I’ve already discussed the importance of personal projects, but I’m going to mention it again. It’s ok if you don’t finish them all, it's just about trying new things and experimenting until you find something that really works. Think about what you are fascinated by and turn it into a project, it doesn’t have to be something costly, make it achievable and easy so you can’t be held up too much by budget or time constraints. Your passion and excitement will show through, you’ll be able to practise and develop your style, and you’ll be noticed for it.
Some of my favourite personal projects are done in collaboration with other artists. It’s a great way to stay motivated, evolve an idea, and have a lot of fun. I have an ongoing project with a typographer, Sophie Elinor. ‘Going Nowhere’ was born out of a group exhibition in 2021, and it’s just something fun we work on together when inspiration strikes and we have a lull in our paid work. It also gave me an opportunity to experiment with motion without the pressure of a client brief.
All photographs by @zoealicelonergan
Check out Zoes work at zoelonergan.com.au