Through Their Eyes: Sharyn Cairns
It’s possible that you’ve never heard of Sharyn Cairns, but if you live in Australia you’ve definitely seen her work. She’s probably the busiest and most in-demand editorial photographer in the country - just pick up a copy of Gourmet Traveller, Inside Out, Vogue Living, Country Style or Elle Decoration for proof. Her work is defined by defined by lusciously dark shadows and moody tones and is being replicated all over the place by other photographers. But we reckon Sharyn was doing it first, and still does it the best.
Today Sharyn has generously shared some personal shots from a trip to Cuba. She travels often for work, creating some incredible series. One look at her website reveals Mexico, Spain, Tanzania, The Maldives … enough, you say! I get it, she’s living the dream!
Enjoy this warm, textural series and scroll down for a fantastic Q and A.
What was your last travel destination?
At the moment I’m travelling quite a lot within Australia. Last week I was in the Alpine regions of Mt Hotham shooting a travel piece for a magazine. Stunningly beautiful mountain ranges with some challenging but interesting weather conditions.
Name a place or experience that you really loved.
I generally love any travel assignment, good or bad experiences, it always makes for a fun adventure! But a trip to Cuba last year probably had the most profound impact on me. It’s an amazing place to be with all it’s history, music, people, beautiful old buildings and textured walls that we could only dream of here. But the other side of this beauty was real poverty and that made me think about everything I shot and question what really makes a good image.
How do you decide what gear to bring (bodies, lenses, flash, tripod, bags)? Do you try to pack light? What’s your minimum must-have gear?
After years of travelling with many hard cases, film bags, Polariods, light meters, colour meters, tripods, etc etc it’s nice to be travelling light! These days I have a compact kit with two camera bodies and maybe 4-5 lenses that I predominantly use. You want a system that is flexible enough to cover all subjects without limiting the shot quality. I also really love the Iphone and Apps as a nice way of enjoying photography without the pressure of technicalities and file handling.
As a professional travel photographer, do you ever take personal shots while on assignment (or during private travel) for your own pleasure? If so, how do they differ from your commercial style?
Most of the time on travel assignments, whether business or pleasure, I shoot the same way as it’s my inherent style. Having said that, I think my general aesthetic is dark and moody of which I can push a little further in my own work.
What would be your ultimate travel photography destination?
Anywhere I haven’t been to. I’m fascinated by unique cultures and love remote and unique destinations. People and that connection you have with them when you shoot them is the ultimate reward.