Each month I will be featuring and chatting to a different creative. My first is Nirrimi Firebrace, a photographer known for her intimate approach to taking portraits. She's been a name on the lips of many creatives for the better part of a decade, paving the way for the next generation of young photographers. Here, I spoke with Nirrimi about her inspirations, shooting style, and future plans.
Nirrimi is a 23-year-old portrait photographer and writer based in Australia and has been shooting for 10 years. Her favourite setup consists of a Canon 5D Mark III, a 35mm f/1.4, and natural light, always.
She's been an inspiration of mine for many years, impressing me with photos that have a natural feel to them. Usually taking to the outdoors and favoring natural light, she is living proof that you don't need huge teams or expensive equipment to produce beautiful images.
Connecting With the Subject
What I love the most about the aesthetic of Nirrimi's images is the way that they just feel really authentic, raw, and natural, like real moments. At the same time, the images are well-composed, with beautiful lighting, great colors, and a sense of emotion — too much for her images to just be accidents or mere flukes. So what techniques does Nirrimi use to get results? She tells me she prefers spontaneity, choosing to keep the subject "running around," because when the images are real, they feel real. This only changes when shooting commissioned works, which she admits are often more heavily produced.
In my personal experience, there's a thin line between trying to avoid your subject looking too "posed" and giving them too little direction that they just feel lost. So, just how does Nirrimi bridge the gap?
When I'm photographing, connection is so much more important to me than anything else. So, I connect to the people I photograph, mostly by being my silly and non-intimidating self, by being passionate and having an adventure with them. My father always says 'strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet.' And I think about that all the time. When you’re shooting with someone new, you have to become friends fast; so, I just pretend we already are. Oh and I make a lot of terrible jokes, but I’m not sure I’d always recommend that.
(I like to) leave my comfort zone as often as possible. It fills me with new experiences and perspectives that fuel new ideas. Daydreaming, staying up too late, journaling every single day and photographing most days, even when I don't feel like it. Being curious. Adventuring with fellow creatives.
As someone who has just recently joined the Fstoppers writing team, I'm constantly drawing on my own experiences as a way of coming up with new article topics and have noticed that I'm actually thinking about it when planning new shoots. I was interested to know what effect writing blog posts over the last few years has had on Nirrimi's own photo-taking: "It motivates me to photograph life more, so that I have images to go alongside my stories. In some ways, it also encourages me to add more narrative to my work and definitely has made me yearn to take images with more meaning."
For the longest time, I've admired Nirrimi not only for her personal work, but also her CV (she shot a campaign for both Diesel and Billabong before she was 20). I was interested to know about the process she undergoes when selecting the images with which to market herself. I'm sure it's a struggle for every photographer; you're happy with a number of your pictures, but you need to whittle it down. You have to let just a few photos speak for your entire portfolio. And for me, I always find my personal favorites always differ from what other people choose as theirs when looking through my portfolio. It turns out that Nirrimi finds it's "almost always" the same for her. She tends to lean towards the images she says are "fleeting moments — so small no one notices them, even after I capture them." She compares them to film stills, detailing that her favorites are often the pictures that capture feelings like "frames between frames."
"I try to respect both what I love and what I know will touch others," she says.
Motherhood and Beyond
Anyone that has been following Nirrimi's work for more than a couple of years will have also followed her journey into motherhood, which has been documented from baby bump to present day. Naturally, lots of the photos we see on Nirrimi's blog these days feature her beautiful daughter, Alba, who is showing as much creative promise as her mother. Being a full-time parent of course changes her schedule, but what about the way she sees her subjects? Has motherhood changed the way she takes a portrait? She notes that this is hard to answer: "On one hand, I feel like motherhood has swallowed me up so that no part of me remains unchanged. But on the other, shooting has felt so intuitive to me since I was thirteen and when I’m in that zone, it feels much the same as it did in the beginning. I suppose the biggest change is my priorities. Now, being a good person is more important than taking beautiful photos and I am seeking ways to give to others by creating." As for what's next, it seems she's got quite a bit on her plate:
Oh man! I have three novels planned, a recipe journal half-complete, a short film script I've written to be directed, three photography books in the works, a little film series to be shot, my first big workshop scheduled for early next year, and I want to start making music. I’m constantly jumping between everything and I’m longing to just finish one thing, while also parenting, traveling, working and blogging. This passion thing was much easier when I was just skipping school to photograph my friends.
With everything she's produced over the last decade, one can only wonder where she'll be at and what she'll be producing ten years from now. Keep surprising us, Nirrimi!
All images used with permission.