Today I am very excited to share an interview with Sydney-based photographer Sam McAdam! I often swoon over Sam’s beautiful work in Inside Out… you might have also seen her work in Country Style, and in fact some of Sam’s photos accompanied Vanessa Colyer Tay’s interview here last year.
Sam creates such beautiful, clean and uncluttered images. Even though they’re styled to perfection, Sam’s photos always seems warm and friendly – so that even the most lavish interiors somehow seem relaxed and inviting… She has a rare gift for capturing the true personality and mood of a space.
In addition to being a brilliant image-maker, by all accounts, Sam is also a delightfully lovely lady :) She has been so super-sweet to deal with these past few weeks whilst pulling together the interview… and when providing the images, Sam was also at pains to ensure the stylists for each image were credited – a rare and very thoughtful detail which many photographers often forget about. Now isn’t that lovely?
Huge thanks to Sam for her time with this interview, and for all the images and credits and back-and-forth emails!
Tell me a little about your background – what path led you to what you’re doing now?
I’ve been photographing for magazines for the past eleven years or so, and did other kinds of photography before that (I dabbled with my personal work after art school, photographed other artist’s work, shot for galleries). My family had always encouraged me to draw, and design costumes and sets for imaginary productions, so I always had a strong sense of wanting a job where I could be imaginative and creative. When I finished my fine arts degree in ’96 I didn’t have a lot of practical photographic skills (mine was a very academic course), so I gained work in a pro-lab and learnt all about the industry from the photographers that came in, and the magazines we would deal with, and I also began assisting on shoots. Around that time I fell madly in love with Marie Claire Lifestyle magazine and had that lightbulb moment – I knew that I wanted to shoot interiors and lifestyle for cool publications! And so then the long slog began….
It can be so difficult for young photographers to get a ‘break’ and turn their passion into a living… How did you approach this challenge, and what advice would you give to fledgling photographers?
Assist as many different photographers that you possibly can. Even if it’s someone whose work is different to your own aesthetic, or if the subject matter isn’t something you necessarily aspire to be shooting, you will learn something and file it away in your memory. It could be anything from noticing how a photographer lights a certain shot, resolves interpersonal issues on the set, or packs their equipment efficiently. All of these little bits add up.
I’d also encourage younger photographers to keep chipping away at getting that break, it might take years and be really frustrating, but if you make it through the time in the (professional) wilderness, you’ll be stronger and know for sure that this is what you really want to do.
You’ve worked for some incredible publications, and have collaborated with some amazing stylists… what have been one or two of your favourite shoots?
I am very lucky to work with so many inspiring stylists, and each shoot has some great memory attached (the location, the company, the lunch!) that I love them all! My answer to this question changes every day, but today my favourites would have to be the craft story with the wonderful Vanessa Colyer Tay in the current issue of Inside Out; and the Homewares Trend: Folk story with the gorgeous Glen Proebstel which was also for Inside Out. But there are so many more! Sometimes I’ve loved a shoot because it was technically challenging for me, and there is always a sense of accomplishment when I look at the final product. Other times it might just be a perfect, simple, calm image (which be just as challenging)
Can you give us an insight into the inner workings of your business? Do you have an agent who takes care of the nitty gritty such as booking, managing clients and scheduling? Do you employ an assistant, and do you outsource any other significant tasks (ie business stuff, bookkeeping etc..)
I make sure that I have really trusted people around to assist me, whether it is literally assisting on a shoot, with pre or post production, or someone to advise me. Often it is people I have known for years and have developed strong relationships with, and trust in their knowledge and integrity. Trust is such a huge issue, whatever your field of work! I am also blessed with a clever partner who works in a completely different industry and gives welcome objectivity to my decision making process.
Where do you turn for inspiration – books, magazines, your environment, travel, nature, family or friends… etc?
Inspiration is sparked by many things: bookshops; people watching; op-shops; blogs; cinema; literature; street art; a quiet spaces; galleries; the beach…
Which designers, artists or creative people are you inspired by?
There’s a huge list of people, so here’s a random selection:
David Byrne, Beck, Wes Anderson, Sia, Martyn Thompson, James Merrell, Christine Rudolph, Mikkel Vang, Sydney sculptor Alexander Seton, Karen O.
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
Bleary eyes, coffee, lugging, listening, troubleshooting, visualising, laughing, editing…..
What are you most proud of professionally?
Finding a happy balance between the left and right parts of my brain, and being able to switch between the practical and the imaginative at will.
What would be your dream project?
Inspiring stylist, open brief, HUGE budget.
What are you looking forward to?
Always, the next job!
Sydney Questions –
Your favourite street for shopping/strolling/people watching in Sydney?
King Street Newtown
Where /what was the last great meal you ate in Sydney?
L’Etoile in Paddington where we had a beautiful cozy evening with delicious food.
Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?
Sydney’s best kept secret?
I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you.