Interview: Sally -Forth

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When she just 16 years old, I hired Sally-Forth Heaney Garzoli (great name huh?!) as my official wedding photographer. She was still at school and it was one of her first photography jobs. Despite friends sending me video montages and ‘lookbooks’ of some of Sydney’s (alleged) best wedding snappers, I had no hesitation in booking Sally.

She had one of the most unique, quirky and natural styles I had ever seen and I was beyond thrilled with what she produced. She just has this knack for capturing things as they are, in their natural state. I can’t think of how else to describe her but as genuine and real.

Even back then, I knew she was destined for big things. And I was right. Her portrait above simply titled ‘Girl,’ recently won the People’s Choice Award at the ‘College Express 5′ show in the ACT and she has just been accepted into the coveted graphic design school at RMIT.

At just 18, she is a true talent on the rise. With Alexa Chung, Jane Campion and Peter Weir among her style inspirations, I catch up with this very talented kid from Canberra.

Firstly, congratulations on winning the People’s Choice Award. Can you tell us about the portrait and what inspired it?

The photo is of one of my close friends Rosie Zatschler and was taken in Tilba on the NSW south coast. It’s part of a series looking at the relationship between the person and the landscape, and how people view this.

I was inspired by unit stills Photography (basically film stills) and in particular, stills by Nick Briggs and imagery created by directors such as Baz Luhrmann, Jane Campian, Peter Weir and Joe Wright. I was also inspired by the Australian landscape and classic landscape photography, as well as photographers such as Annie Leibovitz, Tim Walker, Trent Parke and Max Dupain.

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How long have you been interested in photography and what do you love most about it?

I’ve always taken photos but wasn’t really interested in it properly until year 8 when I saw a magazine article about a young photographer named Eleanor Hardwike. To be honest, I thought I had a terrible eye for photography and was frightened of the camera. Now I love framing a photo.

I like how you can construct and capture a moment- moments which appear candid but are actually really structured with elaborate, almost kitsch sets. I like to be in control, directing the person, designing the set, picking out the outfits and makeup and framing and taking the picture. This way I know that nothing can go wrong and if it does, there’s no one to blame but myself. I could never let someone else be in control of the sets or costuming. I am a bit of a control freak like that!

I also like to watch how people act when a camera is around them, how they pretend not to realise but subtly ‘suck in’ or straighten up, but then again it’s also sometimes pretty annoying. Everyone does it though so it’s kind of funny.

You will be studying at RMIT next year.What do you hope to get out of it and what are your plans post study?

I’m not entirely sure. I want to learn lots I guess and meet new people. I can’t wait but at the same time I’m also freaking out!

Hopefully I’ll be able to go overseas and travel again, taking photos along the way, but in the long run I do hope to become a successful photographer. One day I’d love to end up like Tim Walker and Annie Leibovitz, being hired and paid to do what I do, rather than what the client wants done. But I would also love to become a unit stills photographer. I love the idea that you can take candid photos in such a structured and controlled environment.

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What are your top tips for taking a good picture?

I’m not really sure- I guess it’s up to the person taking the photo. I think experimenting is always important. It’s important to play around with different settings, different angles and all that jazz, to get to know the camera and to learn more about your own style. Also post production is important, well it is to me. Not crazy editing, like swapping faces or adding in additional objects, but making the image darker or lighter and adding a subtle vignette and correcting blemishes. However this isn’t essential, it really depends on your own aesthetic. Oh and DON’T CROP. I hate cropping! It feels like cheating when I do it. However it doesn’t bother me so much when other people do it, so if you depend on it, go for gold.

Finally, how would you describe your personal style?

I wouldn’t have a clue. My mum calls it “eclectic feminine” but to be honest, I don’t know what she’s on about! I like vintage clothes and styles. I am a big fan of the 30’s and 40’s (but mainly for formal wear) and definitely the 50’s and 60’s, so I pretty much get around in skirts and dresses. But a good pair of jeans is a staple in my wardrobe.

At the moment I’m digging Alexa Chung’s style as well as Clemence Poesy, but I think that’s mainly due to the fact that they both draw inspiration from the sixties. I am constantly buying vintage dresses. Unfortunately I can’t wear the majority of them out because they’re gowns, or ripped or too ‘out there’ to wear down the street or to the shops.

I love Alannah Hill and often use her gear in photos. I also love Lady Petrova, a small boutique dress shop in Melbourne. When I travel, I love to shop at “retro star” in Melbourne and “vintage clothing” in Sydney.

Check out Sally’s website for more style inspiration.

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