Richard's Photographer Spotlight: Feather and Stone
Look who's in Richard's Photog Spotlight: it's Seth and Tenielle Mourra of Feather and Stone! Based out of Australia and the US, this husband-and-wife fine art photography powerhouse trots the globe in search of adventure, inspiring their breathtakingly picturesque imagery. Feather and Stone is now internationally recognized for their wedding, commercial, and travel photography—discover where their story began over ten years ago (and the juicy tidbits in between) all in today's Photog Spotlight.
Richard: What first sparked your passion for photography?
Seth: If you ever lose Tenielle in a store, you’ll know to find her in the aisle with all the books & magazines. A bit of a dreamer, she’s always loved looking at beautiful design & imagery, especially fashion design & photography. In high school, she’d scribble down her own conceptual fashion designs in her school books and use her family’s point-and-click camera to take pictures of her friends.
As for me, I never had an interest in photography, until I met Tenielle. After getting married in 2002 and moving from Australia to the United States, Tenielle had to wait over a year for a work permit. As a gift, I bought Tenielle a kitten, a film camera, and a photography “how-to" book to keep her busy whilst she waited for her visa to come through. Tenielle loved the kitten and the camera, but she hated the technical side of photography and so she hung the camera up and kept playing with the kitten until we moved to Australia two and a half years later.
Upon moving to Australia, the tables were turned—and I now had to wait for my work permit. So, I found myself at home with our now grown cat child, the film camera, and this “how-to" book. I picked it up and starting taking pictures of Tenielle. She took a hair & make-up course, I took a studio lighting course, we started collaborating with fashion designers freshly out of university & created a little studio in our humble apartment. This turned into a very passionate hobby for both Tenielle and I. I still remember spending hours on end experimenting in our apartment, trying all kinds of crazy ideas with no pressure at all—we had no idea what was good or what was bad, we just made imagery from our imaginations and we loved it.
R: Making the leap from photography as a personal passion to a paying gig is a big one... how did you decide to pursue it as a career?
S: We were both very unhappy in our day jobs—we felt stuck on a treadmill and hated being separated, and we’d always wanted to find a way to work together. So the motivation for change was already there, we just needed to make the numbers work. Thankfully, we’d always lived a very simple life, so we didn’t have too much to wrap up. We’ve always valued freedom & flexibility, the opportunity to travel and having experiences over accumulating things. It was just a matter of time before we had enough work to transition from full-time day job to part-time day job, and then to full-time photography. We took it step by step and calculated the costs and risks involved so we knew when we were ready to commit, we were ready 100%.
R: When you aren't shooting for clients, what do you LOVE to photograph?
S: We still have a love for fashion portraiture. When we have time, we try and collaborate with likeminded talent, even if it’s just to make four or five unique images in one session.
R: How do you find a balance between being creatively fulfilled and paying the bills?
S: From my previous banking experience, I realized that my job was made easier or infinitely harder based on the client that I had. I learned that success and satisfaction was all about working with the right people. Since we had day jobs, we didn’t have to rush into our photography business and so we made it a point from the very beginning to be very choosy about who we worked for and with. This approach kept us creatively fulfilled—the couples that we shoot for trust us and give us creative freedom. In turn, it’s built a strong word-of-mouth client base that, to this day, helps us to pay the bills.
R: What is your favorite camera?
S: I really don’t have a favorite camera. However, the three cameras we use the most are the Mamiya 645af, Pentax 645nii and the Canon 1V. The Canon 1V was our first film camera over ten years ago, and we still use it today. We use each camera differently: the 1V is what we use for photojournalism and our 645’s are mainly used for portraits and details. In saying that, we’ve shot entire weddings on the 1V and have loved the images equally as our 645 work.
R: What's your first memory of shooting film, and why do you continue to shoot it as a pro photographer?
S: My first memory shooting film was when I was using Fuji Velvia E6 slide film to shoot portraits in a studio lighting workshop I did in Brisbane. I had NO idea what I was doing, and I remember thinking that the models skin looked red, haha! Later, I realized that film stock was mainly used for shooting landscapes.
Over the years, we did try our hand at shooting digital. However, we’re just too indecisive and inconsistent at editing. I felt like I had too many options, we found ourselves editing and re-editing our digital images every time our mood changed. We realized that we needed to be put back into a box of limitations. Using film keeps my head on my shoulders and allows me to focus on one thing: being a photographer.
Film is also absolutely timeless—it’s not molded by changing trends, it is classically beautiful. It also takes us back to our days in our home studio. Slowing down, paying crazy attention to detail, and getting it perfect in the camera. I choose the stock I want to use, now I just can concentrate on what I love most: lighting, composition and direction. Then I hand it all over to my lab and it’s done!
R: Why is it important to have continuous communication with your lab(s)?
S: We’ve always felt like our lab is an extension of our business. It’s always been so important to us to build a loyal & long term relationship, showing that we’re in it for the long haul. It’s important that they know more than just the film we shoot and the colors and tones we like. Richard's team has a wealth of information, so we communicate from a business stand-point on all aspects—market conditions, pricing, products, etc.
R: Do you have any pre-shoot rituals?
S: Tenielle and I always take time to sit down and chat about our couples or models individually before we shoot. We really strive to push ourselves each and every time, so that it’s completely unique from the last shoot. We pull a mood-board of fashion magazine tears that inspire us. In our minds, each shoot is a personalized, character-based editorial story from the tiniest detail to the scenery, setting the stage for the performance.
R: Let’s play a game of “Either/Or”! Savory or sweet?
R: Chocolate or vanilla?
R: Dogs or cats?
T: Any animals that I can cuddle.
R: Urban or rural?
R: Biggie or Tupac?
S: Biggie. Tupac was too angry.
R: Warm weather or cold weather?
S&T: Warm weather, the hotter the better.
R: Early bird or night owl?
S: Early bird.
T: Night owl.
R: Crossword or Sudoku?
R: Breakfast or dinner?
R: Batman or Superman?
S: Superman. Batman is just a rich kid in a high tech suit.
R: Historical Non-fiction or SciFi/Fantasy?
S&T: Historical Non-fiction.
R: Comedy or Drama?
S: "The Adventures of Walter Mitty", the best combo of drama & comedy.
T: Double yes!
R: Truth or dare?
R: What music do you listen to to get pumped up?
S: Black Keys.
T: Chet Faker.
R: If you weren't a photographer, what would you be when you grow up?
S: Writer or actor on SNL.
T: A baby animal caregiver/wildlife conservation/animal hugger, preferably with chimps or orangutans.
R: If you were a super hero, what would your super power be?
S: Tenielle and I would like to be some kind of Robin Hood/Peter Pan super hero team, taking from evil rich masterminds and giving to the poor and never growing up.
R: What is your favorite word, and why?
S: "Beach holiday" (two words), because we’re currently living and volunteering in Botswana, Africa on the border of the Kalahari Desert. When it’s over 110 degrees in the shade and we’re having a bad day, we close our eyes and say “Beach holiday”.