Shannon McGrath is a well-known and respected interiors and architecture photographer based in Melbourne. However, that wasn’t always going to be her path. She started out studying fine art but moved across to photography, which was in turn a way to get into architecture. However, Shannon decided that she wasn’t suited to be an architect or an interior designer, and that to photograph spaces was the best alternative. “Really it’s the perfect world; I get to appreciate the projects without the longevity of what it takes to design and build projects,” she says. After completing her course at RMIT she assisted and took on small jobs until they grew in scope and size. “I worked hard at doing the best work I could and putting it forward for publication,” she says. The more Shannon’s work got published, the more design firms sought her out, and she has made a substantial career photographing spaces over the past 15 years. The next evolution of her career is to branch out into fine art photography after completing her Masters in Fine Arts. Shannon plans to continue this alongside her commercial-based award-winning photography. 

Which five words best describe you? Perfectionist, determined, efficient, relaxed and expressive.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? The most important step for me to get my career started was to assist one of the leading photographers Trevor Mein, what he taught me how to approach each job and the level of care you need to take for each project. What started my career was that he stopped employing me, telling me that I was ready to go forth so out of necessity I began my path. Since that point my skills and know-how of how to run a freelance business has gone from strength to strength.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? To never give up. Being a freelancer there are strong times and quiet times. In the quiet times it is easy to doubt but over the years I have learnt that there will always be quiet times and that it always picks up and not to take it personally. The market continually shifts. If you stay strong you will be fine.

What’s your proudest career achievement? Wow, there are so many, but some of the best are when I do what I call marathon shoots where you might shoot for 14 days straight on one project. For example, shooting the Royal Children's Hospital from top to bottom, a place that had so much personal meaning to me. I also love getting to go places that one one gets the opportunity to go like standing next to the pillars on Bolty Bridge before opening or getting access to some amazing rooftops and locations that really give you a thrill just to be there. But, also, I love the small projects that are designed beautifully, it’s just a pleasure to be there and have a small moment with the spaces.

What’s been your best decision? To take up a path that was involved in design. And best decision when starting out was to join a studio so I was amongst other photographers. It was brilliant as we worked off each other for ideas and technical know-how, which helped advance my path in photography.

Who inspires you? Well, the man Donald Judd. I don't have a favourite photographer that inspires me, it’s more that I tap into the movement of Minimalism, and the fantastic artists that came from that time.

What are you passionate about? Design and art. I started out in art, originally studying fine art. I took a detour to architectural and interiors photography but recently I have taken up my art practice. Currently doing my masters in Fine Art I am hoping that I will be able to engage in both sides of my practice, each one to enhance the other.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Again, Donald Judd - he is the master. Or Robert Irwin, the master in producing art that is practically not there at all; it’s all about perception.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? To grow my art practice. I would like to be producing my art and exhibiting as well as continuing with my commercial photography business. 

What are you reading? Readings on phenomenology for my Masters. I’m fascinated about perceptual space and the interaction between object and bodily experience. It all goes hand in hand with my work as this is what I do on a daily basis, interpreting space, light and a felt space.

images courtesy of shannon mcgrath; portrait for space furniture

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