Sarah “Louise” Kinsella is a photographer based in Sydney with an eye for life. She picked up photography from her Dad and carried this passion throughout England in her early years. She is a student of her surroundings as she turned her craft into discipline. Here are some photos of her work featuring some scenery as well as her subjects in their natural state. – What Youth
What Youth: How did you start taking photos?
Sarah Kinsella: It was my father who encouraged me. He had a camera everywhere we went and I remember everyone photographing me when I was little. You think parents are obsessed with photographing their kids now on their mobile phones? There are so many photos of me as a child, and it’s all on film. Cameras were the norm for me growing up. I didn’t own a camera so I remember telling my mum I was going to borrow dad’s camera without him knowing. He had no idea and he still didn’t know until recently when I told him over dinner. We laughed about how I would take his new Nikon out of the box from the top of the cupboard, inserting my own digital card and then placing it all back exactly how I found it. I thought I was a genius, still I wasn’t happy with the digital camera. I was obsessed with his film cameras but there was no chance I was going to borrow one of those. I loved the sound they made when the shutter released. They sounded expensive and felt it. He used to set up the correct settings and let me shoot on it when we traveled. So, I asked for one as my Christmas present when I was about fourteen years old. I did my research and asked dad for the Nikon F100. He struggled to find that model but ended up getting me the Nikon F90x with a camera strap that read F100. I loved it. We then moved to England for my dad’s work and Europe is where my true obsession began. As the years went on, my eighteenth birthday was creeping up. Dad asked me if I finally wanted to have my first house party or go to Venice with him. I decided on Venice. We roamed the streets and photographed everything together. It was such an incredible holiday and it was there that I learned some of the most important lessons in photography. The first experience was when we got a boat across to the colorful island, Burano. As we all departed there was this old man with a walking stick mumbling under his breath in what seemed to be anger about us all visiting “his” island. He stood in front of this bright red building and was slowly pacing back and forth, mumbling. Photographing strangers can be extremely intimidating and it’s not for the faint-hearted. Confidence and speed are crucial in this department. I remember walking closer to him and aiming my camera, which he was not impressed about. He kept mumbling and pacing but I needed a shot of him and I got it. The second moment was questioning whether or not I should bother to take a photo. I waited and watched and walked on by but then I looked back, procrastinating. I was walking over this bridge and noticed the view was spectacular. It seemed there were always gondolas moving in the water and it was very rare to not capture one in photographs in the main waters. Yet, there I was looking at this particular location where none appeared at all and I wanted to capture the serenity and eeriness. These two photographs are very special to me and I always find I revert back to looking at them for inspiration on my behavior when photographing: confidently trust your gut and always take the shot!
Were you formally trained?
No, I learned the expensive way. I paid to develop the film and crossed my fingers every single time. I struggled with understanding the settings so I shot the same image a few different ways to gauge what the alternative settings meant. I used the metering system in my camera to guide my judgment, though. It was indeed an expensive hobby and, when I think of it now, it seems laughably foolish that I didn’t sit down to understand what all the numbers meant early on. I ended up taking a short ten lesson course in my twenties but it just gave me the approval stamp that I was correct to have confidence in myself. I have a habit of teaching myself everything. I need to trial and error things myself before I bother with someone else teaching me. This way, they’re my thoughts, my instincts and my ideas. In this day and age, we can be influenced by so much information around us that we forget to stop and consider “how would I do it?”. This theory of mine might seem idiotic to some but it’s what felt and still feels natural to me.
When did you discover that you wanted to practice photography often?
I don’t remember not feeling like this. I always loved holding my dad’s cameras. My dad, my pop and my nan’s brother all love photography. Some families are known for sport. My family is filled with avid photographers. Recently, I found out that one of my youngest cousins is now practicing photography, so it’s in our DNA – go, Jack!
What have you been shooting with lately?
I’m actually working on my first series that I plan on exhibiting later this year. I’ve always felt I needed to perfect my craft and really understand what it is that I enjoy shooting. Only recently has this occurred. I have an obvious preference to photograph females in natural landscapes and locations, but the style in which I now photograph them is what I’ve been grappling with over the years.
On every shoot, I bring all of my film cameras:
Canon AE-1 (x 2) – you’ve got to have both the black and silver models!
Nikon FM2 – thanks pop!
Hasselblad 503cx – thanks Mal!
Canon 5D mark iii – my partner uses this bad boy to record the behind-the-scenes footage and to provide me with light tests.
Digital or film?
For me, it’s film. This doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. I’ve only ever known film and struggled to the transition of digital. I prefer the authentic and untouched quality film offers. I despise the excuse of editing a photograph in post production because it wasn’t captured correctly on the day of a shoot. It’s a lazy mentality. If your art is to take photos then take bloody good photos. Autotune and overproduction in music works the same way in photography where it’s all just a blanket fix for the mistreatment of the craft and the lack of effort in the artistry itself. Lighting is incredible and tender and it should be treated in the most careful and gentle manner. My advice for shooting on photographic film: relax.
Where are you traveling to shoot next?
My partner was born in Poland and his cousin is getting married, so we are going there in July. But first, I’m heading to Germany to visit an amazing friend that I haven’t seen in years.
What are you looking forward to shooting?
I’m looking forward to shooting in Europe again. I haven’t been there since 2005 so I’m keen to see how differently I view things now that my photographic eye has improved over the years. It’s where it all began for me so it’s quite a special moment in my photography to be able to go back. We are so isolated in Australia, so it’s going to be great to be submerged within another culture for a change.
What are your biggest influences?
It’s so easy to spit out some photographers names as my answer to this question (like most of us do) but when I seriously dig deep, I am my biggest influencer. I think a lot of us could and should answer the same. The need to always improve and better ourselves is our greatest gift. We, as individuals, have to be our own biggest influencers in order to improve, otherwise we simply wouldn’t and we’d all be stuck in this cycle of the same old shit. For this upcoming trip, I’ve been looking at my old work and challenging myself to look at things differently and really use all the knowledge I now know for this second visit. I’m really excited to have something sort of tangible to really test out how much I’ll have improved–hopefully I have! When I last photographed in Europe, I wasn’t so sure of myself. I was young and just starting out where I photographed anything and everything I could. I’m now in my 30’s and I’m mildly experiencing the “I don’t give a fuck / I know what I want” mentality. So, I’m keen to see what is different in my photography comparing the then with the now.
Any upcoming projects coming up?
I’m working on a photographic series that I’m looking to release in September in Sydney. It’s the study of women and the perception of the woman’s nude figure in art and photography. I’m collaborating with an Australian artist on the final prints where he will paint over the top of my photographs. Of course, it will involve women, amazing locations and some mild yet tasteful nudity. It’s going to be my first exhibition series so I’m cautiously excited but not overthinking it. Whatever will be, will be.