LARK asked five of Tasmania’s most adventurous photographers to show us how they “Follow the Amber Glow” through their individual lenses. What resulted was a series of artworks, capturing the special creative spark that lights the Tasmanian winter.
Self portrait artist Micheila Petersfield is comfortable working on every side of the camera. Growing up regionally, she developed her practice of portraiture in isolation. Now, she prefers to achieve her slick, editorial photographs by acting as artist, model, muse, lighting director, editor, make-up artist, and even manicurist. The result is a body of work that depicts Micheila over the years through numerous staged scenarios, recreating aesthetic fantasies that collide fashion editorials, cinema, and advertising with her observational, feminist wit. We caught up with Micheila at ATELIER studio in Hobart, where we chatted as she darted between lighting, shooting, posing, and sipping her bottle of DARK LARK.
LARK: Micheila, tell us a bit about yourself.
MICHEILA: My name is Micheila Petersfield and I'm an art photographer based in nipaluna / Hobart, primarily working in self-portrait photography. I grew up in Cygnet, an hour out of Hobart. All through my childhood, we lived in a house that my dad built, a wooden shack out in the middle of nowhere. My mom's an art teacher and both my parents are folk musicians as well, so I was very much growing up in a creative family. They really nurtured my interest in creativity as a child. I was always the kid who was working on art projects all the time, doing crafts and this, that and the other.
I got interested in photography as a teenager around the age of 14 and started taking some self-portraits using an old Pentax that my mom had. And then I got my first DSLR at the age of 15 and started taking more self-portraits. From that I transitioned into doing very staged photography. Initially it was sort of outdoors around where I lived, out in the bush and forest settings. I was very much inspired by the fashion media I saw in Vogue, trying to imitate the style of those magazines. Then I just continued doing it through college and university, all the way through to doing a PhD that focuses purely on self-portraiture.
It's continued to be a very isolated practice since then, and I really don't have anyone else involved in the process. I do find that quite meditative, I think, because I just get lost in the flow of it. I very much find myself in a rhythm of going back and forth between behind the camera and in front. And then there is the editing process, which I find so enjoyable as well, because it's like painting, just going over the photograph and gradually changing these little tiny details.
LARK: Can you tell us about your DARK LARK photoshoot?
MICHEILA: My DARK LARK project is really about the amber glow that you feel in winter. But I'm sort of putting a retro-futuristic, cyber-1970s spin on it. The photos have a nostalgic feeling to them, certainly.
The nostalgia factor comes from my first memories of whisky. I used to go to the LARK Distillery as a kid when my parents would be playing folk sessions there quite a lot. So I remember sort of running around at the cellar door as a kid playing music. I wanted to put a fresh spin on that, combining that era with the more contemporary style of DARK LARK.
LARK: What were some of the techniques you used to capture these images?
MICHEILA: I spent a lot of time just trying to get the lighting right with these. Generally, I had two lights, one with maybe a blue gel and one with, like, an orange gel. I also cracked out the smoke machine quite a lot, which I really like the vibe of. And I spent a lot of time trying to get the label to actually pop out of the bottle because that's quite a difficult thing, lighting the silver text. I was playing around with that silhouette, sort of taking literally the prompt of “following the amber glow” and seeing it as this thing that's enticing you in, which I think is very much what the amber glow feeling is in winter. I always think of it as like a house that you're arriving to at night. It's all warm inside, and you're following the different red lights throughout the city, or drawn towards a warm fire.
LARK: How does it feel to transform yourself for your own work?
MICHEILA: I think it just naturally kind of happens, because it depends how you pose, if you've got your hair up or down, costumes and makeup on, or whatever, you feel like a different person. Because I'm really not like this naturally - I'm much more sort of clumsy, dorky person - going in front of the camera just seems so different!
Micheila’s experiments in the studio produced a body of work she has titled Sundown. To see her portrait of DARK LARK’s winter glamour, visit The Still from June 6th. You can find her work through Despard Gallery or at https://micheilapetersfield.com/.