In Focus: Sarah Pannell On Balancing Personal and Professional Work

In Focus: Sarah Pannell On Balancing Personal and Professional Work

Melbourne based documentary photographer Sarah Pannell shares her creative process and advice on making time for personal work between projects.

Sitting Down With

Sarah Pannell

Drawn to capturing cultures and their customs, Sarah Pannell makes rich, saturated portraits that peer into the routines and rituals of everyday life. Bathing, backgammon and city commutes are some of her past subjects. Her versatility to shoot food, travel and documentary style has landed her work in the NY Times, the NGV and VICE, along with producing several books. Urth Magazine chats to Sarah about what she does to stay inspired, the gear she uses and how she finds time for personal projects.

On staying inspired
"Nature and walking. Exercise in general is good for my brain and helps me focus. Reading; I oscillate between fiction and non-fiction depending on my mood. Watching films; there’s always an endless amount of things out there to inspire. Looking at art; painting, print-making, video works, music, etc. Enjoying other people's photography and visual art; online, in photo-books, galleries and museums. And as always, being inspired by the people around me."
On her photography gear
"For my personal work, I’ve always predominantly shot on film; I’ve had my medium format Mamiya 7 since I was at university over a decade ago, and I also currently use a Leica M6 for a lot of my work. I love a compact setup and I just  use two prime lenses.
For a lot of my commercial work and some video work, I use the Nikon (mirrorless) Z system and a range of Z prime lenses (35, 50, 85) plus I use the Urth M Mount adaptor on my Nikon so I can use my manual Zeiss lenses which have a beautiful quality.
As with all my equipment, simplicity is always key, which includes my flash equipment. Having minimal gear helps my workflow and adapting my lenses with different filters, particularly CPL and ND’s really assists how my images turn out."
On her favourite subjects to shoot
"I’ve always felt drawn to the different ways in which people live, eat, celebrate, and share. I love learning about other cultures and traditions; I think it’s good to understand a diverse range of perspectives on what ‘everyday life’ looks like for different communities. This doesn’t just refer to people, but landscape and our natural surroundings. It’s important to celebrate everyday beauty and connection; and a touch of humour can never go astray."
On balancing personal and professional projects
"With difficulty, if I am being honest. I often find myself quite busy with my commercial freelance jobs and it can be tricky to find balance and enough time to put into my personal work. But I find planning my weeks helps to lay out my work load and put aside time and energy for my own projects. I have to be quite disciplined with my time management. It’s certainly a significant challenge for anyone that works for themselves."
On the advice she'd impart to her younger self
"Don’t be too afraid to assist other photographers and learn on the go. There is always room for improvement, and don’t shy away from reaching out and asking for constructive criticism from people you admire. Shoot a lot and review and  then shoot some more. Practice is everything, as is patience."