SOMETIMES, photographers doesn’t realise that being in front of the camera can make a person feel vulnerable and self-conscious.

Realising this, Mardiana Sani, 24, put nine photographer friends in front of a camera and submitted their portraits in for a competition.

The series, shot on film, was so impactful it won her the title of Capture Magazine’s ‘Australia’s Top Emerging Photographer 2012’ recently, beating some 4,000 entries to win in the portrait category, as well as the overall competition.

“We are behind cameras all the time, telling our subjects what to do, and being quite insensitive sometimes, especially in fashion photography,” says Melbourne-based Mardiana, who mainly shoots fashion editorials, backstage fashion, and portraits. “The point of that shoot was to get photographers in front of the camera so they know how it feels to be in a very vulnerable position.”

Her portraits, shot on film (with a Hasselblad 500c camera) on a rare format, were scanned, uploaded and then edited – it was something new that the judges hadn’t seen before.

“My kind of style is more vacant and serene, and can sometimes come across as melancholic. I admit, I’m an emotional person, and that’s what I look for when I’m photographing,” says Mardiana, who works at Blue Tree Studios in Melbourne and waitresses part-time to support herself.

“Also, because there’s so much digital now, I decided to shoot on film in medium format, which is rare. I adjusted the contrast and played with the colours as well, which was very important for creating just the right mood.”

Mardiana, who loves capturing quiet moments in chaotic situations, prefers taking pictures backstage of fashion shoots instead of out of the runway.

She recently captured some brilliant behind-the-scene shots of models at the L’Oréal Melbourne Fashion Festival, showing us what we don’t see at fashion shows – models gobbling down light meals, staring off into the distance while having their hair and make-up done, their expressions indechiperable, and checking their appearences in the mirror minutes before heading down the runway.
“I love the quietness in a photo, in all the chaos and all the things that are happening, I just love a good portrait of a person, a quiet, classic look,” says Mardiana. “I always want people to feel something about the photo before thinking about it. Before they start analysing it, I want them to instantly feel the mood of the photo.”

What sets a photographer apart, says Mardiana, is photo-editing skills.

“Everybody has a camera, and everyone can travel too,” she says. “The only way to set you apart from anyone who owns a camera is being able to take the photo to the next level. You want to create what you see in your head, and that’s not always readily available when you take the photo, and that’s where photoshop skills come in.”

A firm believer in living in the moment, Mardiana doesn’t take her camera everywhere she goes, and only brings it out on alternate days when she’s travelling.

“You miss everything when you take photos,” says Mardiana. “When you’re so busy looking through your lens and taking photos of everything in sight you forget to enjoy things with your own eyes.”

Check out Mardiana’s photos at


Tell us what you think!

Go top