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Work / Photography

Sarah Pannell’s photography captures the places where people and landscapes interact

From candy-coloured Australian suburbia to sushi menus in Japan and carpet picnics in Iran, Melbourne-based photographer Sarah Pannell has an innate knack for presenting scenarios which tantalise our metaphorical tastebuds.

“I’m fascinated by human impact,” Sarah tells It’s Nice That. “The relationship between us as humans, and the way in which our species have manipulated, shaped and changed the face of the earth.” Her work focuses on landscape, urban structure and quirky moments – though human life is apparent in the details, “pure” portraits are omitted from her repertoire. We think of who might be, from the space where they are not.

“Everywhere I go, I’m drawn to how people and landscape interact and the absurd nature in which our modern world operates and allows us to live in the 21st century. My practice has shifted over the years from more street-based shooting toward a heavier landscape focus and increasingly environmental portraiture,” the photographer explains.

“Usually I become fascinated with a particular place or community and it goes from there,” Sarah puts forward of her planning process. "Finding new surroundings is a constant thrill for me, which is why travel both in Australia and abroad has been the key to shaping my work and life. Being able to travel further afield is a huge privilege and has led to my most interesting work I think.”

Most recently her work has taken her to Iran, which has fed into Sarah’s growing need for documenting places and settings that are typically misconceived by the media and in western attitudes. “I really hope to create work that makes the viewer stop and reconsider a particular subject,” she muses. “For example, this is particularly relevant for my work in Iran, as I feel breaking down certain western misconceptions about Iranian culture is crucial to understanding modern Iran and its people, and the relevance of history and tradition.”

So what’s her main goal? “I want to surprise and excite,” answers Sarah, warmly. “I hope to make people smile and perhaps to alter someone’s perception about a place or people. If someone sees my work and spends time reflecting on it afterwards, I’m a happy woman."

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