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Sustainability-Driven Photographer Marnie Hawson On Forging Her Own Path

Creative People

Marnie Hawson describes herself as a ‘purpose first’ photographer. In other words, her unwavering commitment to her ethics, the environment and climate action has led her to carve out a unique niche, exclusively photographing sustainable architecture.

Her work has appeared in publications worldwide, including Country Style and Gourmet Traveller, and even right here on TDF! We recently caught up with Marnie to learn more about her selective practice and the process of becoming a B Corp certified photographer.

10th May, 2022

Marnie hard at work at a recent home shoot. Photo – Marnie Hawson

But her educational background is in environmental science! Photo – Marnie Hawson

Marnie Hawson. Photo – Marnie Hawson

‘It takes me probably 6-8 hours to shoot a full house, and I generally work backwards from sunset (I really dislike mornings!),’ Marnie says. Photo – Marnie Hawson

‘I tend to just ‘see’ a shot in a space – it’s hard for me to say why, but I’ve always had an innate way of framing, and just roll with how I see things.’ Photo – Marnie Hawson

‘It is a privilege to document architectural solutions that contribute to sustainable communities, improve energy efficiency, reduce carbon emissions and much more,’ Marnie says. Photo – Marnie Hawson

‘Buildings generate nearly 40% of annual global CO2 emissions,’ Marnie says of the importance of sustainable homes. Photo – Marnie Hawson

When she’s not out on location shooting, she’s in the office at home working on other parts of her business, from her limited edition fine art print shop, to mentoring other photographers and pitching her clients projects to press. Photo – Marnie Hawson

‘I want to show people that sustainable architecture isn’t a compromise with aesthetics,’ Marnie says. Photo – Marnie Hawson

Her work showcases beautiful homes that are also very high performing, while being low energy and low impact! Photo – Marnie Hawson

Marnie says a good stylist is key to helping her get ‘the shot’! Photo – Marnie Hawson

Christina Karras
Tuesday 10th May 2022

‘I want to show people that sustainable architecture isn’t a compromise with aesthetics.’

Photographer Marnie Hawson has a zoology degree and was an environmental scientist for almost a decade before she decided to drop it all to pursue photography.

In fact, prior to this career change, she’d never even ‘dabbled in photography as a hobby’.

‘I tried a few things that didn’t really grab me, but then found photography,’ Marnie says.

‘I wrote a business plan with a series of steps that would enable me to make it into a career’, she explains. Then, she spoke to photographers she knew and learned the art herself by trial and error (and many YouTube videos!) Since then, she’s developed her own consistent style, which she says must be a reflection of how she sees the world.

‘I think that background in environmental science is why, as a photographer, I continue to measure my impact.’

It’s also given her a unique perspective on how she approaches her work. In addition to being carbon neutral and a member of 1% For the Planet, Marnie also got her practice B Corp certified at the end of 2021.

The rigorous process of becoming certified took almost 12 months and Marnie worked on her application for the first week of every month to make it happen – which she says was one of the defining moments of her career so far. As a result, she now only photographs sustainable architecture or other projects that relate to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals aimed at achieving significant social, economic, and environmental change by 2030.

‘The motto of B Corps is ‘business as a force for good’, and that’s also why I focus on sustainable architecture,’ Marnie says.

‘Being this specific about who I work with enables me to align with people who have a genuine commitment to the environmental and social impact of what they do.’

For Marnie, this also means turning down certain clients and jobs in order to ‘remain consistent with the path’ she’s chosen. Her work showcases her values and the power of environmentally conscious projects, while shining a spotlight on the possibilities of sustainable design.

‘I want to show people that sustainable architecture isn’t a compromise with aesthetics – you can have a beautiful home that is also very high performing, healthy and comfortable, and low energy,’ Marnie adds.

‘These high performing buildings are not just aspirational nice-to-haves, but actual innovations in architecture, design and landscapes that have been realised and are already making a difference.’

You can follow Marnie for more of her work here.

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The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net