Yasmin Suteja

by the partae

How did you start in fashion photography, film, branding and art direction?

One thing led to the other. I studied film making at university in Sydney. Then moved to Bali and started getting photography work. I think a huge part of a photographer’s job is creative / art direction, so I developed these skills concurrently. Especially within the current digital landscape, where we are expected to create exciting, original content at a rate faster than ever before – photographers are more than just camera operators.

Branding was something I started thinking about in the process of developing my own ‘photography aesthetic’. I was building Culture Machine as a company throughout this whole process, and branding was something I was thinking about right from the beginning. I wanted to establish a place in the market – and it was important to develop the branding of the company itself in order to set the precedent for the kind of work I wanted to do, and the companies I wanted to work with.


Please give an example of your photography and film making process?

Usually it starts with a client brief. They will send me some reference images, a location they want to use, or a ‘mood’ they want to set. I’ll put together a visual treatment based on those cues, and generally scout a location and do all the pre-production planning as well. Most of the time I’ll book Culture Machine talent as part of the package. I currently represent 5 models / social media influencers.

Once on set, the process is usually very instinctive. We’ll move from one location to another, and allow for natural moments. I usually have a pretty good idea of the type of shots I want to get. I’ll put together a mood board categorised into: pose, composition and lighting. I can refer back to this if I get stuck.

I am motivated by the natural light. So wherever I chose to shoot, or how I position the model, is generally dependent on what the light is doing at that time. I love ‘hair’ light’ and using a reflector to ‘fill’.

Filmmaking is a much longer process. I’ve only just got back into filmmaking recently. So my process is still developing.


What are you working on right now?

Right now, I’m working on a project funded by ABC and Screen Australia, under the Fresh Blood initiative. It’s a show called ‘Woes’ written by my brother Kai (@urmumsyadad). We’re working with a full production team on three episodes that will screen on iView. If we get to the next round, we’ll get a pilot!


What is your gear setup?

I shoot digi on my Canon 5D Mark III. I have 2 lenses. A 70-200mm and a 24-105mm.

I also have an analogue film camera. It’s an Olympus OM-1 that I purchased at Portobello Markets in London. It’s amazing! I sometimes attach a lomo flash to the hotshoe and shoot with flash fill. I usually shoot Vista 400 film (because the lab I go to gives me free rolls every time I process)


What do you like to do outside of photography and film and does it affect your work?

My favourite thing to do is meet friends for coffee and catch up. Usually involving a treat of some sort and maybe even some thrift shopping. I’m a real ‘people person’ and I love to hear people’s stories. I learn a lot from talking to people, and usually find inspiration for projects in these conversations.

I also love music. Specifically, RnB and Soul. My all-time favorites are Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill.


How would you describe your photography / film style?

I often get described as ‘urban’ and ‘edgy’. I think that’s because of my subject matter. I’m fortunate to work with close friends, who I get to shoot a lot of the time. So the imagery is usually quite candid and authentic, because of the relationship I have with them.


Do you know any photography and film making theory?

Yes, my sub major at University was film theory. I’m a big fan of Spanish cinema. My favourite director is Pedro Almodovar. I’m also fascinated by the Dogme 95 movement, and Lars Von Triers’ work – I’ve been particularly inspired by the documentary ‘The Five Obstructions’.


What are your plans for the future?

My plan is to start developing a team of young creatives that will become the next generation of filmmakers, creative directors and photographers. I want Culture Machine to be the a creative agency that covers everything from pre through post production, at industry standard. Moving from fashion photography into music videos, TV and eventually feature films!


How did you get into fashion photography and film?

I’ve always been fascinated by film and photography, and started using cameras at a young age – documenting family holidays on our VHS handycam, to planning weekend fashion shoots with my school friends. Studying filmmaking at uni gave me an insight into how films are made – and I just knew that’s what I wanted to do!


What are you listening to at the moment?

Princess Nokia and Loyle Carner


Who are your top 5 influences and icons?

Well it’s so varied – I’m influenced by a lot of people for a lot of different reasons. In photography, my first icon was David LaChapelle. I remember flicking through his book Heaven to Hell as an 8 year old – it was the coffee table book at my best friend’s house. I love the theatricality of his photographs. And the way he creates visual puns through symbolism.

I’m also influenced by filmmakers like Andrea Arnold, who have a documentary style approach to storytelling. I remember watching ‘Fish Tank’ at uni and thinking, “this is the kind of film I want to make one day”.





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