Photographer, stylist and adventurer Kara Rosenlund takes us on a beautiful journey across the Australian landscape in her new book, Shelter. Raw & refined, it is a book that paints a portrait of a selection of homes, structures and shelters in the different environments of our vast country: the deep red dirt road, the creek bed, the open plain lands, the salt bush, the mountain chains in the high country and the roaring surf coast.
The homes & the people inhabiting them punctuate each chapter. These individuals opened their homes & hearts to Kara as she explored their way of life in and around their sanctuaries. It is a beautiful book, full of considered diptychs, sprawling double page images, and still lives of thoughtful details in each household. It is one that is sure to educate, inspire, entrance & stir that familiar yearning for adventure.
Although an adventurer & a wanderer, where do you call home? Can you describe in detail the space where you create?
Home is a tin and timber weatherboard workers cottage in Brisbane, Queensland. All year round the windows and doors are flung wide open to catch the breezes off the bay. It’s a casual way of life up in Brisbane and it’s a good fit for how I like to live. Until recently I was working from home, which was great, though I recently found myself becoming frustrated with the lack of space and I was really craving interaction with others.
About three months ago I decided to move out into a co-working space, not far from where I live. It’s an old warehouse that spills out onto a park and it also has a large garden. The warehouse is a rabbit warren of rooms. Besides my own studio, there is a French antique store and cafe on one level called Vieille Branche, there is a graphic designer, another photographer, two architects, a fashion designer, a horticulturalist and also a framer who has her framing practice in an old blue bus within the garden space. On any given day there also could be French classes or wooden spoon carving workshops happening on one of the floating communal tables. It is a hive of activity, energy and creativity, which is wonderful to absorb when you work alone.
Can you walk me through the process of designing the layout of your beautiful book? How is the story of these shelters told through your pagination?
I wanted this book to be two things - emotional and generous. How I went about achieving this was through the imagery and layout. I wanted the imagery to pour out from the pages, full frame photographs, with no cropping or design, and no fuss or embellishments. As a photographer I wanted to create a book where there was nowhere to hide - the strength had to come from the photographs. The photographs had to be a real portray of the interior of the homes from a documentary perspective, no styling or interfering. I wanted people to really engage and fall into the imagery and for that imagery to take the viewer on a journey.
The pagination of the stories is dictated by the relationship the shelters have to the landscape they sit within. It was important for me to show the relationship between the home and nature, as the homes that are in the book listen to the language of the landscape and are heavily influence by it. One shack in the book is accessible only by boat or by a thin ribbon of a goat track, so the owners rely on what washes ashore to decorate their home. Another is a very old homestead on the Tropic of Capricorn, in the pink dirt of hot cattle country. The old homestead references the landscape by having many layers of striking hot pink, split cane furniture which was painted pink, mosquito nets dyed pink, all the linen pink and 15 varieties of hot pink bouganvilia. These shelters are of the land.
For you what makes a great image?
A great image is an image which never leaves you. An image which you find yourself thinking about long after you have seen it. There are no rules. Could be a landscape which stirs fond memories of childhood or it could be a war zone documentary shot which disturbs you greatly. The true strength of a great shot is in its ability to move and evoke something from within the viewer and stretch them.
What is your definition of shelter?
Shelter for me is a primitive sanctuary. It’s a place which offers safety, where you can let your guard down. A place which protects you and gives clear view of what is coming towards you. It nourishes and nurtures you, builds you up again when you are broken.
When you were on the road where did you look for inspiration?
The strongest inspirational lead came from the landscape. Australia is a very exotic country in terms of the variety of landscapes, colour palettes and climates. I would listen and observe the landscape, the light, the textures. By allowing nature in, it really set the tone of my book.
Who are some of your favourite photographers and artists?
I’m old school when it comes to my favourite photographers, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Henri Cartier-Bresson, then later would be Annie Leibovitz, Derek Henderson and Bill Henson. Favourite artists would be the landscape work of Luke Sciberras, Lucy Culliton and the still life works Matilda Julian and Anita Mertzlin.
What Instagram feeds do you find yourself looking at every day?
I love Instagram so much, it’s the first thing I see in the morning and the last thing in the evening (is that normal?) I love looking in on people lives – the farming life of @benjaminhole, the doco work in Afghanistan of @andrewquilty, seeing what you are up to @sibellacourt, looking in on the travels of @victoriaalexander_books and feeling proud of the portrait work my old friend @w_i_l_k is creating.
Where will your next journey take you?
I’m not sure just yet, though I know it will be made up of the good stuff – it will be a journey, which again will be real, emotional and from the heart. I’ve just come back from spending time with the tribeswomen of Namibia and I cant seem to shake the idea of perhaps doing more documentary work, visual anthropology of sorts and looking in on how we all live around the world - 'Shelter, How the World Lives’ sounds pretty exciting to me.