Made in the Shire is a series where I explore the nature of the collaborative portrait. I seek out ordinary types by placing newspaper classifieds calling for amateur models.  The work was shot last year whilst I was artist in residence at the Hazelhurst Regional Gallery and Arts Centre. Models answered an advertisement asking to email me their ideas. The model Adele, moved from Melbourne to start a new life in the Shire. She described her shoot as wanting to show a glamorous ‘bird of prey’ look with fairy wings holding her three-legged cat Otto. I also met Dean at a local cafe in Cronulla where he bought me a milkshake and asked if I could photograph him naked in the Royal National Park. He told her he had never done anything like that before.

My interest lies with the idea that people want to be photographed. I am not interested in approaching subjects to be photographed; they have to be willing and have an idea of what they want to do. When I am photographing I don’t want to catch them off guard, I want them to be fully aware of the situation and let them perform for the camera in some sense or another with little direction from me.

The way people use imagery/photos/videos as a means to connect and the disjunct between which images they choose to be published online or kept private influences the way I work. Imperative to to this series is exploring the nature of collaboration between subject and artist, where intention and result is blurred. The sitters have preconceived ideas of what the modelling experience is within photography, most don’t fully understand when I say these works will end up in a gallery and then they come to see themselves on the wall and its confronting or funny or strange for them. The word art for most people is troubling; they take it many different ways.

Rose and Nat
Devin and Hayley
Lauren and Shannen
Matthew and Victoria
Pat and John
Ryan and Leah
Sarah and Ant


Emma Thomson was born in 1981 in Sydney where she currently works and lives. She graduated from the National Art School with Honours in 2008. Emma works with still and moving imagery to challenge the notions of contemporary photographic portraiture. Her practice explores the nature of the collaborative portraiture and through local classifieds she seeks out ordinary types with a desire to be in front of the camera. Emma has been awarded government grants, international residencies and secured commissions. Her work has been profiled in Photofile and she has held national solo and group shows in commercial galleries. Emma is committed to the artist run community and since 2008 she has been committee member of MOP Projects in Sydney. Emma is represented by Galerie Pompom.

More of her work can be seen on her website.