Emerging: Magdalene Shapter

Our latest feature is from emerging photographer Magdalene Shapter based in Brisbane, Australia. We chat to Maggie about her work, her inspirations and her plans for the future. Enjoy…


Tell us a little bit about yourself; how long have you been shooting and what first got you interested in photography?
I’ve been shooting since I was quite young; I think I started to really get interested in photography around the age of 12. I was using this terrible little hand-held digital camera and using it to experiment with taking photos of flowers – that’s when my dad, who is a photographer, realised that I was becoming really interested in the craft and so he brought me into his office, put a DSLR in my hands and started to teach me how to use it. I never really intended to follow in my Dad’s footsteps or become a photographer – it just happened really organically – I started taking photos because I felt, in a sense, like I needed to. I still feel that way. It’s this burning impulse. I think ultimately what ignited my photographic interest, and perhaps influenced me more strongly than what I was aware, was the fact that I’d grown up in an environment where I was exposed the practice of photography and was constantly in contact with powerful, beautiful visuals.

Who or what are your main sources of inspiration?
Inspiration is something I never try and force so I don’t necessarily have a definitive list of sources that I’m constantly inspired by. For me it can really be anything – anything that is emotionally evocative in some way. I’m often inspired by feelings or moods, and the desire to want to encapsulate that particular emotion or on a visual level. Generally the feelings or emotions that inspire me aren’t necessarily from an internal or introspective place – I can be very inspired by the nature of others. Often while I’m shooting, my greatest moments of inspiration come to me during the intensity of that moment when I’m taking someone’s photograph. I become so focused on that person and so immersed in the depth of their expression and their eyes. I try to get my subjects to a place where they let their guard down and, as soon as I see a glimmer of vulnerability, I want to go deeper – capture a part of them that comes from the most sincere, soulful place within.

I believe that developing a style begins with practice, experimentation and an unwavering sense of curiosity.

What has been your most memorable moment to date with your photography?
I recently shot an editorial that dealt with the theme of digital fatigue for a magazine (Frock Paper Scissors) that I was also acting creative director for. The shoot turned out to be my favourite piece of work thus far and got an amazing response from my peers as well as from some seasoned industry professionals whom I greatly admire and respect. It was a proud moment.

What has been the biggest challenge for you starting a career in photography? Any tips for new photographers just starting out?
There are always constant challenges as a photographer, and I certainly believe that these challenges will vary between individuals. For me, some of the biggest challenges have been simply internal struggles like being satisfied by the work I’m creating, or the constant pressure I inflict on myself to produce work that exceeds what I’ve done previously. Photography for me isn’t necessarily what I would consider my career; it’s my passion. Commercial success is of very little importance to me; I don’t ever want this to feel like work. I’m driven by a desire to feel creatively fulfilled, to be producing images that I’m proud of – everything else is secondary to that. The advice that I’d offer to beginners is to practice, and to be careful not to allow your work to become homogenised. I think studying the work of other photographers is an extremely beneficial thing to do, but I think it’s equally important to make sure you develop your own handwriting, so to speak. I would encourage beginners to consider the elements of the image that they admire, to decipher the structural components of an image – being careful not to copy or mimic – then to use that knowledge as a framework for developing an individual style. Individuality can simply come from a subtle nuance that separates your work from someone else’s; it doesn’t necessarily have to be an overtly grand visual innovation. I believe that developing a style begins with practice, experimentation and an unwavering sense of curiosity.

What projects are you currently working on and what is next for you?
At the moment I’m working on a personal photographic project that is collaboration between some of my very talented friends and myself. The underlying theme of the work is deconstructivism, and the tension between vacancy and intensity. Generally I don’t like to plan my upcoming creative projects with the specifics accurately outlined; I enjoy spontaneity and being taken on a whim after a moment of inspiration or the spark of an idea. At this stage, all I know is that I will be shooting more upcoming personal projects as an extension of the one I’m currently working on. As well as that, this year I’m going to be embarking on a big collaborative creative project that will involve the intersection of many creative mediums and will constitute a substantial part of my final year of university studies.

See more of Maggie’s work at:

Website / Instagram

All images copyright Magdalene Shapter.