We're always proud to hear what our graduates are up to; recently we caught up with 2009 graduate Annette O'Brien, who since then has been working with commercial clients building up her work to shoot her first book. Well done on your hard work Annette!!
Hey Annette, one question that we always get asked first as photographers; what got you started in photography?
I never selected photography or art subjects at high school and certainly didn’t see myself as a creative person. I actually started studying Health at university and always thought I’d end up in that field. That course wasn’t right for me however, so I headed over to the USA to work at summer camps and travel.
While I was traveling, I was frustrated with being unable to adequately capture what I was seeing. I also happened to meet a photographer – it had never crossed my mind that it was an actual career option! When I came home I started researching photography courses, my Dad taught me the basics with a Pentax 35mm camera, and I’ve never looked back.
So why did you decide to study at PSC?
I quickly realised that I didn’t want to do a short course in photography. I valued formal education and wanted a qualification - the full time course felt right for me. I really liked the fact that the class sizes at PSC were relatively small. I hadn’t loved my previous “bigger university” experience so I thought PSC was a good fit– especially when I felt so inexperienced. At the time, the Advanced Diploma was the highest certification offered at PSC, and the pathway to RMIT to gain a Bachelor Degree was appealing to me. I planned to follow this path – I did so, and graduated from RMIT in 2011.
When you graduated with the Advanced Diploma, what did you focus on?
I graduated from PSC in 2009 with a Commercial Major. By the time I finished, I had finally figured out the direction I wanted to go, I loved interiors, food, and lifestyle imagery and hoped to shoot for both commercial and editorial clients.
In what way did PSC help to get you where you are today?
At PSC I really learned everything from practical and technical skills, to image design, colour theory, developing concepts and research skills. Other important aspects were: learning how to communicate ideas, showing my work to others and receiving feedback, learning how to edit/review my own work and to keep shooting until an idea is resolved. It constantly pushed me out of my comfort zone but was a supportive environment in which to do so.
Assisting was an equally important part of my education too and I spent many years assisting some fantastic photographers before I started shooting.
How did you learn to balance your commercial and personal work?
I don’t think I have quite got this balance sorted out yet!
The majority of my time is spent on commercial and editorial work. Occasionally I’ll collaborate with a stylist for a test shoot/personal work although it really doesn’t happen enough. I’ve got a few things I’m working on and hope to spend a little more time this year on personal work as I think it’s hugely important. I notice the improvement in myself (and my enthusiasm for other work) when I allow myself a little time to take photos just “for me”.
You mentioned that you're working on something at the moment, what is that?
What is your first book about?
Sorry, I can't share any details just yet! It's still in production, but I will let you know when it's released later in the year.
What do you find inspires you the most?
All sorts of creative people, especially the stylists and clients I work with and the people I photograph.
I love when people have big ideas and they make them happen.
I like to look at the work of photographers who do very different work to my own, whether in style or subject matter. I'm always inspired by nature and like to get out of the city whenever possible. I watch loads of documentaries, and I listen to podcasts while processing images.
How do you describe your style?
I think it’s always evolving… I love the effective use of colour, minimalist style, clean lines but an overall warm and natural feel.
Looking at all of the work you have done since leaving PSC, what has been the most rewarding part of your career?
Having my work published in magazines is always exciting. Shooting my first couple of travel stories last year was wonderful too; I covered Bali for International Traveller Magazine and Norfolk Island for Australian Traveller Magazine.
I feel lucky to have watched some of my clients grow their businesses – from initial ideas and dreams to running their businesses full time. Being a part of that journey is really special.
The fact I am working for myself full time is incredibly rewarding and I feel very fortunate.
What advice would you give to current PSC students or people thinking of enrolling at PSC?
Make the most of your time being surrounded by other students and tutors, ask for feedback, accept that you will make mistakes, and pay attention in your business subjects!
See more of Annette's work