Over the year’s we’ve shared stories of so many talented artists, from painters to furniture makers, but never before have we shared the work of a photographer. That is until today.
Grace Costa is a crazy-talented Canberran photographer whose latest project, HORSE, is just so stunning we have to share it with all of you!
You may have spotted one of her gorgeous prints, Gemma, in the ‘Relaxed luxe bedroom look‘ we created a little while ago.
Well sit back, make yourself a cuppa, and enjoy this read on her fascinating career as an award-winning professional photographer.
Tell us about yourself and how you became a photographer?
“I grew up on a small property just outside the ACT and have always been very passionate about the world of art,” says Grace.
“After finishing high school, I studied commercial photography through CIT. That was a three year course back in 2000, which gave me a qualification and platform to build a successful career as a working photographer.
“My first studio photographer job was during my first year of studies, photographing babies and children. I had some nightmares about screaming babies when I was working in that job!
“I then moved on to photograph glamour portraits at the height of their popularity with the tacky soft focus filter to supposedly “hide your wrinkles”. From there I moved around the photo printing labs for Kodak and sales areas until I landed my current and amazing job as one of the official photographers for the Department of Defence. I photograph things I could have never imagined — and a far cry from screaming babies and off the shoulder glamour portraits.”
Where does the inspiration for your photography come from?
“I would say nothing inspires me more than when I visit an amazing gallery. If I leave the gallery with more fire in my belly than I walked in with, then that’s me being inspired.
“I recently visited the Victor and Rolf exhibition at NGV and that inspired me so much I went straight to a café to write down all my new ideas — and that was a fashion show of all things!
Your portfolio is a great mix of people and animals, do you have a preference?
“I am a people person through and through. I love meeting new people and I gain energy from their presence — a true extrovert.
“I enjoy photographing people, whether commercially or in an artistic sense. I once dreamed of taking a similar path to Annie Leibovitz but the closest I got to photographing a celebrity is the Chief of Defence Force, and Her Majesty the Queen when she came to the Royal Military College in 2011.
“I’m honestly not interested in photographing animals except horses. And what I do with horses is far from pet photography — I call it ‘conceptual portraits’. I want to build a story around an idea, and the horse is the main subject.
“Horses are the one animal I understand more than others and can truly connect with on a very personal level, because of my upbringing and my father being a horse trainer and educator of horsemanship all his life. He has taught me how to treat horses, how to communicate with them using their language rather than ours, and how observing them helps you understand their behaviours, which in turn makes you communicate with them better. I’ve always ridden horses, but that was always for pleasure – now I have discovered my purpose with horses, however long that lasts. Nothing tests your patience like photographing animals though!”
How has your photography changed?
“My photography has developed over the years. As for my creative/personal work I would say it has become more personal — this is the work I do to keep myself creative and explore uncommissioned ideas,” says Grace.
“That is so strongly proven in my latest series, HORSE. This series 100% came from my heart and soul, it had so much connection to me, and my personal story. Now I have discovered where my heart lies with my creative/personal photography work. What a really nice thing to finally discover after 16 years unconsciously searching.
“I am also now teaching and lecturing in photography, which has been a great confidence boost and helped me acknowledge how far I have come from a 20 year old student to a photographer working with freedom and creativity. I have so much to share with people learning the art of photography — I’m bursting to let it all out and show people the way with their creativity and skill.”
Tell us about your exhibition at Nishi and the experience of having a solo exhibition.
“My latest exhibition at Nishi, titled HORSE, was my 3rd solo exhibition and I’ve participated in many group shows, but nothing in the past received as much love and support as this particular body of work. It was a sell out show at the Nishi Gallery and a wonderful experience.
“I put everything I had into it, basically worked 7 days a week for most of the year. My friends and family all knew what it took for me to put this exhibition together and it was proven when they walked into the gallery with tears in their eyes because they were so happy for me and could finally share in my vision.
“I opened extra hours, promoted it like a crazy woman, and enjoyed meeting all the visitors to the exhibition. The Nishi gallery was the perfect place to release this new series, in the Nation’s Capital — the ‘horse capital’ you could say.
“The exhibition would not have been possible without the community of horse owners in Canberra giving me their time and their horses. It took over a year to complete the entire series, photographing 15 horses and using over 150 carrots along the way,” laughs Grace.
“A highlight of the exhibition, though, was having my father give a special talk as part of the exhibition, “In Conversations with horseman Angelo Costa”, which attracted a lot of attention. It was also very meaningful for my father to be connected to this series because, after all, he was the one who brought horses into my life and taught me how to understand them and communicate with kindness with horses. This has definitely helped me photograph them, because he is such a master of knowledge when it comes to horses.
“I photographed his old riding school horse as the catalyst image taken in 2014, which started the whole idea of photographing horses inside an outdoor room. My father thought I was crazy when I asked him to help me test the idea with his horse, Pepe. But crazy ideas pay off!”
What do you love most about being a photographer?
“I would have to say the results are what I like best about being a photographer. You can be so surprised by the results that you may not have even realised you captured — it’s only a fraction of a second that you see.
“I can explain this best when I think of my first major series, Buck’d Off (Australian Rodeo). The images capture crazy fast action, where everything (animal and human) is flinging around like crazy in all directions — your own eyes can’t keep up with the action, it’s so full on. But when I reviewed the images I found amazing moments in time where everything aligned and pulled all these elements together — a single narrative inside a small little frame. That’s pretty exciting!”
What are your goals for the next 12 months?
“This year is another big year in my career, although I did plan for it to be more chilled,” she laughs. “I’ve already got a fresh new body of work underway and it is once again portraits of horses.
“My current HORSE exhibition will be featured in the Head On Photo Festival in Sydney this month, and it is a privilege to be part of such a well-respected international festival, dedicated to photography.
“When I think of my dreams, I would like to see my horse art work in interiors and homes all around Australia. I’d love my work to be featured with Inside Out magazine, Real Living or Collective, Aussie magazines that currently showcase Australian made modern art.
“Interior styling is appreciating photography in a big way and it’s great to see this art form making an impact in everyday homes, to offices and beyond. People are investing in quality photography and choosing work that they can enjoy being around every single day rather than mass-produced work they buy merely as a short term trend, and dispose of it after the trend is over.”
Thank you Grace for sharing your story with us, we can’t wait to see your latest series of work when you unveil it!