PHOTOGRAPHER // CREATIVE DIRECTOR // TALENT AGENT
AT CULTURE MACHINE AGENCY (SYDNEY & BALI)
Abrand Jeans, House of Cards, Motel Rocks and Cantik Swimwear are just a very small fraction of the brands you have worked with at Culture Machine Agency. As well as finding new talent to platform, you have also photographed huge social media personalities like Mimi Elashiry and ANTM’s Brooke Hogan. What started as a hobby documenting personal style on the streets of Sydney soon became the creative agency we know today as ‘Culture Machine’(@culturemachine).
When did you begin working on Culture Machine and what has been the highlight so far?
The idea for Culture Machine began whilst I was at studying at university. I was doing a BA in Communication majoring in Media Arts and Production. I was extremely enthusiastic about coordinating creative teams, and producing mini projects.
I had also read a book called ‘The Tipping Point’ which has me really interested in the mechanics of social trends – which led me in to marketing and PR. With these two things combined, I found myself collaborating with like-minded creatives and looking for ways to connect with brands that might be interested in hiring us!
Your Instagram account (@culturemachine) currently has 24,000+ followers from people all over the world. Did you ever think that was possible? Did you think an idea like Culture Machine would get the recognition it has so far?
I remember when the idea of having 10k followers seemed unrealistic! I don’t really track followers or likes. I use Instagram as a portfolio – a platform to share our work.
We’re not one of those ‘insta froth’ accounts, we don’t get thousands of likes per photo. But I’m just stoked that there are people interested in what we’re doing!
What tips can you give to anyone looking to use Instagram as their marketing platform for a new business? How do you manage multiple Instagrams and continue to engage your followers daily?
I would actually love to seek some advice from someone on this – I’ve never been particularly good at ‘prime time’ posting, grid layouts, hashtags or any of that statistical stuff. But I guess it all comes down to knowing your audience, understanding what they want to see, and delivering it when they want to see it.
Following Culture Machine’s launch, we have since seen the rise of Culture Machine Models (@culturemachinemodels). What are some names for us to look out for and who do you think stands out to clients more so than others?
I started representing models when I began working with a friend I met at uni @natttybee. I then went on to represent Byron based babe @cocoallen. Then came model/DJ @_rhyme_. And most recently ‘the body’ @sullivang_. We’ve just taken on little pocket rocket and Abbey Lee Kershaw look-a-like @katheebss. All of the girls have been my creative muse at the time I represented them. I’ve spent months working with the one girl, developing her portfolio and marketing her to our network of clients. We usually book jobs as a team – where I will be shooting photos of our current #CultureBabe / muse, and Kale will be making a video.
The dynamic works really well because after working with the same girl for so long, you become very comfortable and confident communicating and understand each other. You get the best product working this way.
As well as sourcing talent for clients, Culture Machine also offers photography, film, branding and art direction. Do you see the agency heading in any other direction?
Up until now I’ve worn a lot of different hats – PR, marketing, photography, creative direction, talent agent – and as each year wraps, the Culture Machine team grows a little larger. I see myself focusing more on being an agent and a ‘facilitator’ and delegating work to other young creatives I admire.
My boyfriend @kaleneville makes all of our films. It’s a really great dynamic being able to work with him and be on set together supporting each other.
I also plan to make Culture Machine more mobile and international – we’re just about to wrap our very first Culture Machine Roadtrip. We’ve been in California for the last 3 weeks, shooting social media content and documenting it all in a web series called FREE RADICAL TV (www.culturemachine.tv/freeradtv). I plan to make this an annual occurrence, where we take a team of creatives, a muse, and a host of Australian fashion labels to an exotic location overseas.
I have to mention that you are also the in-house photographer at Culture Machine! And a very talented one at that! Is your background in photography or are you self taught?
I am mostly self-taught. I studied filmmaking and did practical camera work for cinematography throughout the course. I also did an elective in analogue photography and dark room processing and printing.
But I’ve learnt all of the important stuff through putting myself out there and through trial and error.
Indonesia is becoming a very popular location for brands to not only manufacture their product but to also shoot campaigns. How much of the year do you spend in Bali? Do you think your knowledge of the Balinese culture and the island in general has given you a greater advantage over other agencies?
My Dad is Balinese, and I spent my early childhood in Bali before moving to Sydney. After graduating from UTS in Sydney, I decided to move back to Bali. I’ve been in Bali for 2 years now.
It’s definitely helpful having that local knowledge, and knowing the language. It makes location scouting and general preproduction a lot easier.
I saw that majority of Australian brands were manufacturing their products in Bali – but no one was really offering a full services in fashion branding, photography and media. So I saw a new market and an open opportunity.
To me, I feel your “new gen” style sets your agency and Instagram a part from a lot of the others. It’s really refreshing to see something other than a cliche’ marble desk and a white wall throughout an Instagram feed. Is this influenced a lot by your personal style and interests? What has been the inspiration for your images and the branding of Culture Machine Agency?
Thank you! We’re always trying to offer something fresh and new. I think people tend to get too preoccupied with ‘followers’ and ‘likes’ on Instagram, so their work becomes very generic in the hopes of pleasing the Instagram masses. I guess I’m just not as attracted to those styles as I am to bright colours, quirky compositions, and clever ideas.
(cont.)Does this make it difficult for you to collaborate with certain brands with a very different style to you own?
Sometimes I get brands saying we’re ‘too edgy’, but my response to that is that we are creatives who work to whatever brief we are given. We do a lot of commercial work, we just don’t tend to share it on Instagram, We prefer to share our editorial and collaborative work.