Memento sat down with fashion photographer, Emily Abay ahead of #EA-DROP01. Amid her new restaurant opening in Sydney and between photoshoots, Emily shared information about her background in photography and also thoughts on the balance between online and offline mediums.
What first prompted you to get into photography?
At first, I got into photography because my mum is also a photographer, so as a teenager, I had full access to cameras, a dark room and a studio my dad built in our garage at home. It was impossible not to explore it. I spent most of my year 12 in the dark room.
“As a teenager, I had full access to cameras, a dark room and a studio my dad built in our garage at home.”
Building from what you just shared - do you have anything to add on what motivates you as a photographer today or how those motivations may have changed over time?
As cheesy as this sounds, there’s nothing I could say that really keeps me motivated, Photography is in me as air to breathe. I feel like if you love something so much it shouldn’t be an effort to stay motivated. Overtime, the motivation doesn’t change, but the incentive sure does, it goes in waves. Sometimes I’m incentivized because I have an urge to shoot something creative, sometimes I’m incentivized because I want to build something amazing to provide for my family, but the motivation is always there, it never dies or fluctuates.
“Photography is in me as air to breathe.”
What are some primary tips or guidelines you like to follow during a shoot?
I guess when I’m shooting, I’m always looking for the light first, once I found that I then set the composition and place my subject. That’s just an instinctual rule I always have, but then once I start to shoot there are no rules and you will rarely see me on a tripod because I move around so much! Photography isn’t straightforward, you have to get up high, get down low, roll around and see what happens. Don’t ever wear nice clothes on a photoshoot..
Why do you think fashion can be a powerful medium for photography and how has Memento influenced that opinion?
Fashion is very powerful. I believe it doesn’t tell people who you are, but it tells people about something even more important, it tells people about your feelings. It’s like when you wake up in the morning and you get dressed, you put on the color that most representative for the day and reflects how you feeling when you open your eyes. That’s not to say that yellow is happy, black is depressing, etc, on the contrary, I think black the most sexy color on the spectrum, so you interpret color and texture the way that you want, there are no rules. It’s the same with wearing a print, there’s a sense of pride that you want to show people as you’re walking around, it’s a feeling of goodness and respect for yourself. You should never get dressed for anybody else other than yourself and whatever makes you feel fantastic. Wearing a Memento Gallery Tee, that’s a true indication of pride that the person is feeling great about and has a high level of care for themselves and the work.
“[Fashion] doesn’t tell people who you are, but it tells people about something even more important, it tells people about your feelings”
When getting your work out into the world, how do you think about the balance between offline and online mediums? Whether it be prints, books or your presence through social media and your website, etc.
These days everything is online, I can’t remember the last time I even went to a grocery store! Being able to sell my services and my work online has been truly life changing. I don’t think I wouldn't have had a career like this had it not been for the wonderful world of the Internet. I truly owe 100% of everything I have to social media.. I’ve put in the hard hours, but none of it would’ve been rewarded had not been for the access I have to be able to reach people. It’s certainly feels pretty surreal to walk into a Stranger’s home and see my work on the wall.. it happened just recently when I was at an advertising job, and I was looking for locations around the house, walked into the bedroom and saw one of my fine art prints. Seeing it in real life, knowing that this person has gone online and purchased what took me so much time to produce, I felt a lot of joy to see that someone else (who I’ve never met) was enjoying it so much that they want to wake up every morning and see that photo. So amazing.
“I felt a lot of joy to see that someone else (who I’ve never met) was enjoying it so much that they want to wake up every morning and see that photo.”