Words with Sybil Steele

posted by / Swim / December 26, 2011

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“Travel everywhere if you can and take your children with you.”

Sybil Steele is our modern day renaissance woman. Her person drips with creativity, style and poise all the while juggling a plethora of various roles. From shooting for the new Gypset book, Gypset Travel to shooting Anja Konstantinova for Lovecat Mag, we find ourselves constantly in awe of her ever-growing creative accomplishments and are always excited to get a peak at the next project. From photographer to mother, Sybil keeps us inspired.

Sybil, who currently is living down in Byron Bay with husband Taylor and 2 lovely little ladies, talks photography career, her day-to-day and what keeps the inspiring inspired.

What/when was your last involvement with Surfing’s swimwear preview?
2009 I was the stylist and one of the producers for the Bali issue. It was really my first venture back into styling after being a new momma for a few years. It was a fun shoot and we dived in with elephants, birds, all sorts of crazy aspirations. I think we just wanted to have fun and make something very visual and the backdrop of Bali was such a playground. I had a great time with an amazing team and learned so much. It was like boot camp for getting back into the game.

Any funny/favorite memories from that shoot?
An elephant stepped on my foot and luckily it just pushed it down into the soppy mud and then released. But I remember thinking, oh that could have really hurt on a less mushy surface. It made me stop and realize that working with animals that weigh a ton could be a problem. A few days later I ran to the top of the mountain to grab a prop while the crew was down in a valley shooting near a waterfall. It started to pour rain and all the models and everyone were running up screaming about a flood. I ran down and tried to save all my borrowed accessories. We ended up continuing to shoot at the bottom and to try and get the shot which was crazy because it was flooding and there was electrical equipment everywhere. But no one on the production team seemed to care, we wanted to nail the shot.

Styling seems to have taken a back seat to your photography in the last few years, how did that evolve? Why photography?
Still something that eludes me as if someone would have told me 3 years ago I would be doing photography as a profession, I would have laughed and had major doubts. We had a camera in our arsenal and I just started to learn out of curiosity, out of loving fashion and clothes and wanting to document a simple moment of a dress blowing in the wind or the textures of accessories. I absolutely love fashion…and I suppose I always have. So it’s a very nice surprise and I think that it really solidifies the belief that you can do whatever you set your mind to. I have a long way to go, but I’m glad I tried my hand at photography in the first place.

What are some projects that you have done in lately?
Wow, it’s been a whirlwind. I just shot the amazing Anja Konstantinova for Lovecat Mag, she’s absolutely beautiful and a cool girl. Now I am currently contributing to a chapter in the next Gypset Book-Gypset Travel. I just shot an editorial on Mandy from Oracle Fox in which she styled and modeled. She’s a divine human, so down to earth and her spirit, not her clothes or fashion is what makes her who she is- intoxicating. I just shot the most beautiful styled shoot on the Spell Sisters in which Mandy helped to style too. It was quintessential Byron Bay and bohemia. I’m blessed at the moment all my projects are different styles and different outlets and experiences. I never shoot without a videographer or DP by my side. So every shoot also has a video. I worked on the next One Teaspoon Dirty Dozen campaign along side my husband and that comes out in January 2012. Jamie from One Teaspoon is the coolest girl on the planet, so chill and talented. Last week we shot Aila Blue, the Vagabond Luxe collection with designer Mai Miyama. It’s so beautiful, feminine and sexy. And last but not least I’m heading back to Bali to work on the 2012 Anna Beck Jewelry campaigns, which are going to be amazing and fun.

It seems that you have more on your plate than the average human, what are you currently working on?
I’m working on being happy. I think that drive and creativity are like an obsession and it’s hard to be present and patient. I work on being grateful for the people in my life and the opportunities that have presented themselves. A video or photos is a flicker in time, but how you feel is with you every minute of the day. So I work on being satisfied.

What’s next for you?
If you would have told me my venture into fashion photography would actually lead me to my bigger goal in life, and that is helping women worldwide, especially in more poverty stricken areas, I would have never believe that either. Fashion is fun, but it’s not that deep. It can be, but for the most part, it’s certainly not. So currently on the table my dream project is a short film I’m directing with friends on Bumi Sehat, an organization in Bali that provides health care and prenatal care to women who don’t have the means to afford ut. Robin Lim of Bumi Sehat is the winner of 2011’s CNN Hero award and I am humbled that this job came my way. It’s the pinnacle of my life…because providing media to help support a cause is what my ultimate aspirations are.

Where can we find you these days?
A typical day is wake up, have coffee, my best friend and worst enemy, respond to immediate US emails (as we wake up in Australia, the US work day is coming to a close), get my children ready for school, my husband drops them off. For there I am either on the computer organizing one of his productions or producing one of my own. I pick up the kids from school and we try and wind down, but our house has a crazy synergy, there is always something going on. I work and spend time with my family. I’m new in my area and I have a few amazing friends, but most of the time it’s heads down-work and family.

Who/what are some of your major inspirations as a photographer/artist?
My husband who teaches me about everything from business, to production, to being a better parent. He’s pretty amazing. Also my friend Paul De Luna who has been a mentor since day one, he’s an incredible photographer from NY and he takes times out of each day to guide me and help me. I’m inspired by his generosity and what he has taught me in 2 years is years of his experience. Mentors are a gift and I’m currently trying to develop a mentorship project under one of our productions. My friend Jen Brizendine who has been with me in my career every step of the way, always knowing intuitively where I am in my head, even when she is thousands of miles away. She’s very sharp and has a great eye (two!) and many of my shoots are inspired by her input in some capacity. As for other artists, I’m more drawn to painters and stylists, so Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Diana Vreeland. People who did what they wanted and how they wanted to express without caring much what others thought.

Words to live by? Any “must sees” we need to know about?
I’m a very to each their own person and believe you just kind of toughen up and get things done. I certainly have my own weak points but overall I power on and try and finish things and do them well. I believe in teamwork and the appreciation of others and their significant contributions.

Must sees. Well Rajasthan is one of my favorite places and I believe you should live in Japan sometime in your life. The Louvre in Paris, Musee D’Orsay and others are must sees and most of my must sees are related to travel of course. Travel everywhere if you can and take your children with you.

Attached Photos:
Some of Sybil’s recent work shooting Anja Konstantinova for LOVECAT mag.

Photo credits:
anja konstantinova model priscilla’s
makeup and hair by ashlea penfold
styled by oracle fox and marisa sidoti from moat
clothes by moat, stolen girlfriends club, spell jewelry and designs, vintage, ellery land, alexander wang
pamela love

For more works by Sybil Steele visit
tp://www.dripbook.com/sybilsteele/splash/)

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