When it comes to models, so much of what we see of them is a brand; a façade for sale to the highest bidder. So when I caught a glimpse of this models photography work and a particularly beautiful self-portrait campaign, my intrigue peaked and I just had to know more!
It’s a special thing when we get to see another side to a model and experience their own creativity and passion and getting to know Erin Shea was pretty darn special. She’s studied Psychology and Philosophy, landed herself representation by IMG, been on an international Elle cover and is currently exploring photography whilst championing positive body image. Need to know more? Read on…
So Erin, tell us a little about your background; what would we find if we stalked you online?
I grew up in a town called Orange in Central NSW. I don’t think I loved it as much as I should have when I was a kid, but I’m really grateful for growing up there looking back. After I finished school I did a year at Uni studying psychology and philosophy but then paused it and moved to Sydney when I started working for IMG.
You’ve been modelling for over three years now; what has been a highlight so far? That Elle Germany cover must be up there on your list?!
Yeah that was actually really cool, I didn’t know it was even going to be the cover until a girlfriend in Germany bought it and sent me a photo. I thought it was fake for so long!
I worked a fair bit with Pat McGrath last year whilst in New York and that was such an amazing & surreal world to experience. It’s all glitter and magic.
Do you find that your studies of Psychology and Philosophy impact or play a role in your career as a model? How did you transition from that into modelling?
I think they impact and play a role in my life in general actually. I guess any way to gain more emotional intelligence or empathy is always helpful. As a model I think it certainly made me more self-aware and probably more head strong.
You’ve gotten to work with some major players in the fashion industry; what’s it like being around such inspiring creatives? Who inspires you most as a model?
I love it. That’s definitely my favourite thing about my job. There are so many incredibly creative people out there who continually challenge my opinions & the way I see creativity so much.
As a model I love working with photographers and teams who aren’t purely there to do a ‘job’. The people who are truly engaged with creating something magical and who want to be inspired as well as inspire others are my favourites.
You’ve worked in some major global fashion capitals such as New York and London; tell us what that’s like. Is it really different working internationally compared to working in Oz?
It’s amazing, who wouldn’t want to travel for their job, I’m very privileged in that way. I guess the Sydney lifestyle is much more relaxed than in other fashion capitals, we have a great mentality to a work- life balance whereas other places can be a lot more full-on.
Australia can sometimes also be quite safe with their fashion choices with more of a focus on creating beautiful work, whereas I’ve found, working in New York especially, there’s not so much focus on beautiful as creativity; trying to think outside the box with their creations which I love being a part of. My favourite work day is when I get to look the most unlike myself, with wigs or crazy makeup and styling, which definitely happens more while I’m overseas.
Now to your other talent… has photography always been a passion of yours or has your experience modelling inspired you to get on the other side of the lens?
I’ve always loved taking photos but it’s only been recently that I’ve stopped being shy with it and started committing to shooting & growing more with it. I really love it. I’m still super nervous about putting it out to the world, more so than any time I’ve been in front of the camera, actually. Especially when I know so many photographers and how amazing their work is.
Most of the time as a model you don’t get full creative autonomy, it’s your job to make the client or photographers thoughts into a reality; so it’s been really nice taking that part into my own hands a bit more and directing how I want things to look or feel.
What is it about shooting on film that makes you choose it over digital?
There’s an element of realness to it I guess. Every choice you make, (including the screw ups) become part of the end result, and that’s much more similar to how real life works compared to a digital photo.
It makes me slow down and really practice being present rather than to not concentrate and snap a thousand photos and hope that one out of that bunch turns out okay.
Tell us a little about your advocacy of positive body image. How did this passion come about and how do you translate it into both your work and your everyday life?
I guess body positivity (or the lack there-of) has always been something I’ve been super aware of from a really young age. I have experienced too many of my girlfriends (and I’m sure there have been many men in my life too), who have found their relationships with their physical form really difficult. Just as we all do.
I really subscribe to the concept that strong women build up other women, and I guess that’s what I’m trying to do when I’m shooting other girls now. Every person has intrinsic beauty, I just don’t think that beauty is just tied exclusively to a physicality like much of today’s imaging and marketing can lead us to believe.
When I’ve been shooting I try to catch the girls when they look most like themselves, when they’re the most comfortable with me and with the physical space they embody. There is something so beautiful about being unapologetic for the way you look and feel. I love looking for that kind of beauty in a person while shooting, and I’m finding the more time I spend looking for that in the people I’m shooting with, the more I find it in the people I experience on a day to day basis, including myself, which is really magical.
About your recent series of self-portraits for Sir The Label; what was that like exploring your creativity being both in front of and behind the lens? Is it harder or easier to be in complete control like that?
I found it easier in the way that I went into the project knowing what i wanted to achieve and then just going for it to see what happens. But, on the other hand, as an individual working on something you certainly felt the pressure of getting it right more than if I were working on something as a team. I actually also dropped and shattered a massive mirror at the end of that shoot and my god I wished I had someone to help me clean it up haha.
Now for a few quick questions to help our readers get to know you better…
What’s your top beauty tip?
Coconut oil is my go to for almost anything. It’s an anti-inflammatory and antibacterial so it’s really good for lots of things. I use it when I get cuts or shave rash on my legs because it heals quicker, for makeup remover, for a general moisturizer or I mix it with salt and I’ve got an exfoliator.
What are your favourite meals to cook? (One nutritious meal and one indulgent)
My partner is a chef so I will admit that my cooking certainly isn’t the best in my house! I’m a sucker for a Spaghetti Bolognese.
Describe your personal style in three words…
Eclectic, relaxed & ever-changing.
Where do you love to travel to the most (for work or play)?
I’m heading to Italy in a few months for the first time; I suspect that might be my new favourite.
If you could model for any brand worldwide, who would it be?
I guess I have never really been a ‘brand’ person, so I guess when I think about a dream job it would come down to having an epic team rather than for any brand in particular.
And finally, what’s next for you? Where will we see Erin Shea in 5 days, 5 weeks and 5 years?
I’ve just flown into London so I’ll be here for a few months, I know that for sure; but it’s so hard to predict any further ahead than that!
I’m hoping in 5 years I’ll be building a cabin in the countryside somewhere; reading books & making pottery in the garage- could take a little longer than that but here’s to dreaming!