Liz Sunshine says she got into street-style photography for the clothes, and stayed because of the people.
‘At the beginning of my career, street fashion was a new category of photography; this interesting intersection between real life and fashion that quickly became an everyday obsession,’ Liz adds.
The combination of the ‘adrenaline’ in finding someone to photograph, conversations with strangers, and growing her understanding of fashion was so alluring, she decided to abandon her dream of being an editorial and campaign photographer to focus on street style.
Since then, she’s started her blog-turned-agency Street Smith, has photographed ‘thousands of people’ and become one of Australia’s most prominent fashion and portrait photographers.
Liz’s decade-long resume spans fashion weeks, major events, and work for clients as big as Dior and Vogue Australia. But she still gets butterflies when she approaches someone whose outfit catches her eye on the streets across her travels, documenting them for her popular Instagram and TikTok platforms, capturing ‘what people are wearing in Melbourne’ or ‘what people are wearing in Copenhagen’.
In recent years, this career journey has also prompted Liz to dive a little bit deeper into her own closet and personal style, with a conscious lens. That’s why she’s currently undertaking a personal research project studying ‘our relationship with clothes’, sparking many conversations around sustainability amongst her online community, which has in turn prompted Liz to challenge herself to buy only 26 new pieces of clothing this year — which is around half that of the average Australian consumer, who purchases 56 items in a year.
‘For some people, that’s a lot, and for others, it’s a little,’ Liz says. ‘But for me, the goal is to keep moving in the direction of my values. Over the years, I’ve tried to distil what makes a person interesting to me, and I think it’s their head-to-toe commitment to whatever they are wearing,’ Liz says.
‘Documentary street fashion holds the same ideals as other documentary photography,’ Liz says. ‘It’s a historical record of a particular time, place, or thing — the street style element adds a fashion focus.’
Fashion (and the industry as a whole) often gets dismissed as superficial, consumerist, and vain. And it can be all of those things. But Liz’s work isn’t just about showing what’s trending, or about getting people to buy things. She’s exploring ‘the fabric of a city’ in the fabric of what we wear and why, because our clothes have plenty of stories to tell.
Below, take a look at a day in her life, juggling work and her two kids, with the help of her husband Dean — who she calls a ‘superhero dad’ reminiscent of Bandit from Bluey!
I normally wake up between 6:30 and 7.00am. Honestly, the first thing I do in the morning is check my phone, a habit I’m working on breaking. I’m a bit of a morning person, but it purely depends on sleep. With eight hours, I’m up and happy to start my day. On anything less (six is more typical at the moment) I snooze and roll over before dragging myself out of bed and washing my face.
My morning ritual is to make a matcha and eat homemade seed toast. Then I try to get to pilates a few times a week and kid drop-offs, unless I’m on a photographic work schedule, and then I’m at the mercy of the job requirements.
I’m always working by 9.00am, our office is on the bottom level of our home, so I’ll often go for a walk before I start, allowing for the physiological switch. I’ll only ever spend a whole day in the office though if I’m working to a hard deadline and my assistants need me.
The first few tasks of the day are really varied, but usually it’s getting through some emails or journaling. I typically prefer to finish any image editing on the same day, and I will often stay up late if I need to.
Lunch isn’t really my favourite meal of the day, so I normally eat a very basic, healthy lunch. Think avocado tacos with sauerkraut or soft-boiled eggs with salad, or Greek salad — a very uninspired lineup.
My afternoon schedule really depends on the day. If we’re shooting, it might be that, or packing equipment for a night event, reviewing or retouching images from the morning, working towards bigger research projects, meetings with clients, meetings internally, and sometimes posting on social, the list goes on.
I also have many different kits depending on the outcome I want for the job. Professionally, I shoot a 5D Mark 4 Canon mirrorless, and my preferred lens is a 24-70. I am also obsessed with my new Fujifilm T3. I have a few phones, a new film camera and I also love a Profoto B10.
I often get my energy from other people or particular projects, so I’m usually energetic in the afternoon, but also can be at any time of day, which is a little concerning at midnight or 1 am!
I tend to finish work anytime between 5.00pm and 2.00am. Last night it was 11 pm, tonight it will be 5.00pm.
We sit to eat for dinner as a family. Poppy (who is four) is our biggest limitation when it comes to food, so we are constantly trying to make things more interesting for us and keep her happy. Our dinners are mostly vegetarian, and we love to aim for thirty different vegetables a week with kids – but it rarely happens.
Then to unwind, I’ll read, write, drink orange wine with friends or crochet – a newfound hobby this winter! But to really switch off, I love going camping or to my parent’s home which is a farm in the middle of nowhere.
Ideally I aim to get to sleep about 10.00 pm, but its more likely midnight. If I were asleep at my bedtime and woke up at 6.00 am every day, I’d be a happy, focused person!
Right now I’m listening to, watching, and reading…
Reading: ‘Indistractable’ by Nir Eyal. I’m a notorious task switcher.
Watching: ‘Coronation Tailors: Fit For A King.’ I didn’t watch the coronation but I loved seeing the people behind the uniforms worn.
‘Cradle to Cradle’ by Michael Braggart and William McDonough. It’s about the cradle-to-grave product model and an alternative way of thinking.
I get my best work done when… I think about my intentions in advance.
My productivity tool/tip is… flight mode.
A philosophy I live and work by is… follow your curiosity.