Photography duo Sally Ann and Emily May talk about fashion, photography and their unbreakable sisterly bond.

Love them or hate them – you can’t choose your siblings. While some constantly engage in squabbles and can’t seem to find common ground, others are lucky enough to become best friends growing up.

Sisters Sally Ann and Emily May not only have a special connection, but they also share the same passion for photography – so much so that they have decided to go into business together. The photography duo is mostly known for their feminine and colorful aesthetics.

They spoke to NOW! Jakarta about their work as fashion photographers and sisterly love.

For starters, I was hoping that you could tell me a little bit about your background?

: We were born in Sydney and grew up in Jakarta – which makes us feel Indonesian at heart wherever we are.

Emily: We have had a passion and interest towards fashion and photography since we were young, and it all started back in middle school. Often, we spent our time making a mini photo session – took photos of each other like any teenager would do and posted it on Deviantart.

I find it very interesting that you are sisters who chose to follow the same career path. Have you always been close and shared the same passion for photography?
: We have been super close as sisters, so we grew up liking the same things and sharing the same hobbies. We are closer than ever before now since we are working, living, eating, socializing and breathing together. We are basically sharing everything – except for our boyfriends!

Sally: It first occurred to us to work together when we had to put our credits down and we instantly wrote both of our names as photographers – as we have always done our photo shoots together from the beginning.

When did you first become interested in photography, and particularly in fashion photography?

: It all started from taking pictures of ourselves and friends at school. We were just trying to be different. We never really planned this, to be a photographer duo. Strangely, maybe it turns out that the best things are always unplanned? We work together like being each other‘s assistants – and we also fight like sisters. From pre- production to post-production, all decisive moments have to be done together. The best part is that it’s always fun and doesn’t feel like work!

Emily: Sally studied Visual Arts and I studied Fashion Business. We didn‘t have any clue about fashion photography back then, until around 5 or 6 years ago when our friends started building their businesses and brands and hiring a photographer became a necessity, so they asked us for help. Studying fashion in college got us into the right network and it just went snowballing from there. From then on, we became a fashion photographer duo. It feels like it wasn’t us who chose this profession, but the profession chose us.

What do you think is the difference between fashion photography and “normal” photography? What are the biggest challenges that you face?
: In fashion photography, the clothes play an important role. Whether it is introduced explicitly or subtly in the pictures.

Sally: The biggest challenge is to get a mutual vision and aesthetic character with the team you are working with, such as stylists, make-up artists, and models. To us, fashion photography is a collaborative work. So working with like-minded people is always a bonus point.

Tell me more about what kind of work you do, and who you have worked with so far?

: Mainly we shoot fashion and commercials, both photography and videography. Fashion is the best thing because you can be creative and see rather crazy ideas come to life. But you have keep the balance and work with clients, that is like bread and butter.

Emily: Being Indonesian photographers, we need to step up the game by challenging the borders and the norms of the industry here. Our most memorable shoots are the ones we did with Nylon Magazine featuring Adrianne Ho in Palm Springs and Yuka Mizuhara in Tokyo. We are always excited to bring up Indonesia on a creatively inclined level within the world’s standard on projects like this.

As fashion photographers, I assume you have insight into both industries. How has the fashion industry in Indonesia changed over the last decade or so? How has the photography industry?

: The industry in Indonesia is relatively very young. It‘s vibrant, exciting and always evolving. As an emerging country, we haven‘t established a talent agency system for creative workers yet. With so many young talents around, there have been challenges where individuals become somewhat competitive and prone to exploitation.

Sally: We have high hopes for Indonesia‘s future in the creative industry. We believe this country truly does have what it takes to achieve international recognition, especially with the many great local talents we have here.

With the rise of social media, Instagram being an extremely popular platform and highly advanced smartphones with excellent cameras, photography has become a more common, everyday tool for many. How does this affect the photography industry and your job in particular?
: Yes, on some level it has made the photography industry more saturated. People find it tricky to differentiate between full-time professionals and hobbyist Instagramers.

Sally: On the positive note, we have an unlimited platform to share our works and to connect with fellow creatives from all around the world.

Where do you see yourselves in 10 years from now?

: Down under. In between our travels, we like to go back to our birthplace in Australia and finally find a place to settle in. By the end of this year, we will pick up our cameras, hop on a plane and catch the first rays of the Australian summer. We want to be reminded again how it feels like when everything is a bit slower and more laid back.

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Katrin Figge

Katrin Figge

Katrin Figge is a previous editor of NOW! Jakarta. An experienced writer and avid bookworm.