There is something so generous, warm and humble about photographer Zoe Lonergan. Personally, I’m drawn to her quiet curiosity, quirky style and super-chilled Californian vibes…

The real magic begins when we get a glimpse of the world through her eyes. Zoe is a true story-teller. Through colourful expression, sincerity and delight, Zoe invites her audience to witness an intimate moment in time and simply enjoy! It’s an experience that is magical, leaving you feeling inspired and always wanting more.

As a fellow creative, I’m constantly thinking of opportunities to collaborate with Zoe. Why? Not only will the experience be great fun, but the result is going to be absolutely extraordinary.

We ordered a glass of bubbles and had a lovely catch up, discussing family, adventures in Japan and life back in Newcastle… 

Welcome to 12 Rounds, a series of one-on-one interviews with exceptionally creative people that we’ve had the pleasure of working with at KO Studio. Our network of creative experts reaches far and wide, from photographers to animators, marketeers to food stylists, writers to sound designers, event extraordinaire’s and life facilitators.

Our Creative Director, Miss KO thought it was time to re-connect over a cuppa (or a vino) with these creatives to listen to their creative journey, capture some juicy insights from the industry, and share their key learnings with you (our readers).

This month we are taking 12 Rounds with the incredible talented Photographer, Zoe Lonergan.

/01 When did you first discover you wanted to be a photographer?

While I was at uni studying Graphic Design, I applied for a job in the newspaper as a wedding photographer’s assistant. This was my first introduction to professional photography. Weddings weren’t really for me… But over time I realised it was something that I had a natural predisposition for and grew to love photography as an art.

/02 You spent 10 years of your career based in the USA, what was the creative industry like over there? How have you found the adjustment to working in the land of Oz?

I spent 10 years working in San Francisco (SF) as a professional photographer. It is a vibrant and creative city, with a lot of talented competition. Working as a freelancer in SF taught me how to hustle for work, and continuously push myself to learn more and develop my style so that I could stand out. But it was always a struggle. I learnt the value in making strong connections with my peers and having a great team to collaborate with.

Newcastle is a much smaller market, but a growing market – which is really exciting. The cost of living is less. Work-life balance is a lot better. It seems like people in my local network have more freedom to be creative here. Obviously, there is a huge amount of creativity in San Francisco, but people are constantly figuring out how to pay the bills, so you’re always working hard to find the next paying job. There wasn’t the time to do the work you’d prefer to be working on. I’ve felt really supported in Newcastle. Being close to my family and completing the NEIS course (new enterprise incentive scheme) gave me more freedom to be creative.

I’ve really missed some of the people and resources that were available to me in San Francisco. I’m working hard to educate my clients on the value of paying for good photography, which unfortunately is something that is too often given away for free.

I’ve begun to develop friendships with some incredibly talented and creative people in Newcastle, and the network I’m building is invaluable.

I’ve begun to develop friendships with some incredibly talented and creative people in Newcastle, and the network I’m building is invaluable.

/03 Can you describe your creative style for us?

I like to be involved in the whole creative process with my clients. Rather than just photographing something they have created or put together, I like to art direct and help them evolve their branding. I love creating a concept, gathering props, and seeing it all come together when we get to the shoot. My images are colourful, polished and I believe they convey a sense of my own personality and style.

/04 Your folio of work has a mixed of portraiture and lifestyle. Are there other genres you would like to explore?

More than anything I enjoy working with food, which is an industry I’m trying to break into in Newcastle. I love using props and lighting to create a sense of place and a story behind what I’m photographing. I feel honoured and inspired when I collaborate with talented chefs and learn a little more about their art.

/05 What has been your proudest shoot to date? Why?

I’m always proud of my personal projects, even if they haven’t yet made it to publication. In my last month in San Francisco I worked on a project with several of my closest female friends. I created a list of emotion evoking questions to ask them during an interview/shoot and during all 5 interviews my subjects and I laughed and cried. I haven’t figured out yet if these images should be published, but I’m proud of the connection we felt.

/06 If you could photograph any person in the world (dead or alive), in any destination in the world, who would you love to capture – and where would you take them?

I’d really love to photograph my nan and pop in the home they lived when I was a child. This home is in ruins now and I’ve recently been back there with my very patient partner, Jim. We cut two large chunks out of their bedroom wall with tiny, blunt handsaws, which is covered in the most amazing wallpaper I’ve ever seen.

/07 What has been the biggest challenge of your career? How did you survive?

Being a freelancer who likes to travel and living in a country away from my family, was a constant challenge. Every time I’d start to get comfortably busy with jobs I liked in San Francisco I’d book a two month trip home to Australia, or to New York, or various other places. I really needed to be settled in one place to build a name for myself. Of course, I appreciate being able to travel, but it’s really nice to be settled now.

/08 Do you have a creative process for each shoot? How do you know when you’ve nailed it?

I think this relates back to my previous answer about my creative style. I really like to put a lot of thought and effort into planning a shoot. If I do this well enough the shoot day is so easy, and I can focus on really perfecting my images, rather than trouble shooting. When I’ve planned everything out perfectly, that’s when I’ve nailed it… I guess.

/09 If you weren’t a Photographer, what would you be?

I think about this a lot actually (laughs). I don’t think I can see myself being happy as anything other than a creative. But I could definitely work with food, or could explore painting and textile design, or ceramics…

/10 What photographers or creative individuals have been a greatest source of inspiration for you?

Most recently I’ve been inspired by a trip to Japan. I love everything about the Japanese aesthetic, and, I’m currently working on a personal project inspired by Japanese food, craft and their quirky sense of style. I’m looking forward to sharing this project very soon… I’m also inspired by relationships between people. All of this helps me to develop my creative style and comes out in my personal projects.

A personal project I’m loving is all about Japanese replica food, called Sampuru. I visited the city famous for creating Sampuru, Gujo Hachiman last year. I also did a class to learn how to make fake vegetable and prawn tempura. At the time I was thinking…Is there any way I can become a master in this…? (laughs).

A personal project I’m loving is all about Japanese replica food, called Sampuru. I visited the city famous for creating Sampuru, Gujo Hachiman last year. I also did a class to learn how to make fake vegetable and prawn tempura.

/11 What’s the vision for Zoe Lonergan? What does success look like?

For the past 6 months I’ve been working with Newcastle’s new lifestyle magazine, Swell. I’m having a lot of fun doing that. I’m given a lot of freedom creatively, and it connects me with so many wonderful local people. I’m looking forward to continuing with that, travelling a little (next up is San Francisco, followed hopefully by Japan in 2020). In the longer term I want to open a well needed commercial photo studio in one of Newcastle’s amazing old warehouses, I’d love other photographers to be able to use it too.

/12 What song pumps you up before you head into the ring?

Always, Blondie! But, while I’ve been working on the Japanese images in my studio, I’ve been listening to a J Files episode called Big in Japan, so I’m currently making a Spotify list of all these artists.

See more of Zoe’s beautiful photography…

> Website

> Instagram

> LinkedIn


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