In conversation with photographer Sylvè Colless


It wouldn’t have suited Sylvè Colless to have pursued a career devoid of creativity. Sure, she may have had the intelligence for something more textbook, but imagine Sylvè Colless the accountant. 

No, Sylvè Colless the photographer – whose mum ran a small clothing label and whose fascination with taking pictures was sparked from a lifetime of poring over her mum’s Harper’s BAZAAR and Vogue issues – sits much better with us. 

This Sylvè Colless’s nude photography project got her in trouble at school, and then received a top grade. Her favourite cities to travel to are Paris and Tokyo, and she studied fine art and architecture before her love for fashion drew her to making images. This Sylvè Colless was invited to exhibit at the Venice Biennale in 2017, and has photographed covers for Harper’s BAZAAR.

A distinctive ability to express a story through the moments she captures, Sylvè Colless thinks of creating images as a conversation; a creative type of problem solving. 

Here, we talk fashion as romance, growing up in a small town, and her latest exhibition, Aurelia.


Interview by Anna White  | Introduction by Lucinda Mckimm | Photography by Stefan Wellsmore


On her journey into the world of photography

I was always interested in taking pictures form a young age - Taking photos on the family point and shoot and waiting for the film to be processed was fascinating to me.

My mum ran a small clothing label from home, there were many issues of Harpers and Vogue around the house. I always found fashion romantic.

I had a funny moment in high school when my interest got me into trouble. As part of the HSC I took it upon myself to arrange a nude photoshoot on the school grounds with a fellow class mate. After my suspension, ironically I received a top grade for this project.

Coming from a small town I didn’t realize that photography could be a profession – I thought the options were limited to either a doctor, lawyer or you’d work part time at the hardware store.

After moving to Sydney I began studying fine art. Shortly into my course I suffered a surfing accident and took time off to recover. When I returned to study I changed to architecture as it had more of a practical application. I learnt how light can transform a space. I think photography and architecture share similarities – equal parts; creativity, mathematics and science.

I was always interested in fashion so to create fashion images seemed like a natural progression.

On her creative approach

For me making images is very much a conversation, it’s creative problem solving. My approach is very hands on.

The most significant moments in her career so far

Shooting covers for Harpers Bazaar.

My latest exhibition, Aurelia, where I collaborated with director Daniel Borgman and sound artist Kusum Normoyle. The show exhibited with Mild Manners gallery in both Australia and the USA.

Received an invitation to exhibit as part of the Venice Biennale in 2017.

The following questions are based off The Proust Questionnaire, 1922. Its origins in a parlor game popularised (though not devised) by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A good nights sleep.

What is your greatest fear?
Sharks closely followed by public speaking.

Where do you live?
Silverlake, Los Angeles.

What is your occupation?

Which living person do you most admire?
My Dad, he is the most patient person I know.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Good sheets.

What is your current state of mind?

What values do you live by?
Be kind.

What are you most passionate about?
Making positive images for women.

What products make you happy?
Clarasonic, Dermalogica SFP 50, Equal Beauty moisture Veils, Jurlique rosewater balancing mist.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

What is the quality you most like in a man?
Good hands and a heart to match.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?
A sense of humour.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Making images.

When and where were you happiest?
In bed this morning.

Which talent would you most like to have?
Dance like Rihanna.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
To be less self critical.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My first exhibition. It was a leap of faith & big learning curve!

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
My parents dog.

Where would you most like to live?
Exactly where I am.

What is your most treasured possession?
My Grandfather's ring.

Where is your favourite place to escape to?
Paris / Tokyo

What is your favorite occupation?
Something you can easily measure the success of like window cleaner, it looks so satisfying. I also like the idea of being a sculptor.

What is your most marked characteristic?
My boyishness.

What do you most value in your friends?

What is your favourite book?
That’s hard!! I’ve just started a new one, Pornography and Silence by Susan Griffin, who knows, maybe it will top my list! I really enjoyed Just kids by Patti Smith, I love autobiographies.

Who is your hero?
Single mums with careers.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Marco Polo, I spend a lot of time on adventures.

Where is your favourite place to stay abroad?
The Fort in Africa or Hotel Amour in Pari.

What do you do to stay balanced?
Exercise and eat well is key. Spending 30 mins in the sun and jumping in the ocean when possible.

What is your favourite memory?
My dear friend Kellie’s inaugural birthday weekend spent by pool The Ace hotel in Palm Springs is on tie with a particularly eventful work trip to Paris.

What is your greatest regret?
Worrying about things that are out of my control.

What is your favourite way to spend a Sunday?
I love staying in Ojai & spending the day surfing at Mondos.

What is your motto?
Just do it!