Sarah Pannell likes to sit quietly and watch. She has done this in bustling fresh food markets in Istanbul, in the shadow of the Pyramids in Egypt and outside Pellegrini’s in her hometown of Melbourne.
“I like to have a really natural and observational approach to documenting everyday life,” says the photographer. “I’m drawn to different places and landscapes, people moving within cities and the way people interact with their surroundings.”
Pannell – who has published three books of local and international photography – goes into the field with a loose plan, but is always prepared to stray from this if her surroundings present a better opportunity. “I go in with a clear idea of the images I want to make, but a lot of the time I also make a lot of images that might be just shot on the fly, especially while travelling,” says Pannell. “A lot of the time it’s very candid and not planned. With projects, I try to have some type of conceptual element to them to tie it together and give the narrative some meaning.”
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One of these narratives will be on display at the exhibition Unhurried by Nature, presented by Broadsheet and The Glen Grant Single Malt Scotch Whisky, which will be a celebration of nature photography and the great lengths photographers go to capture the perfect shot. The exhibition will be held at Marfa Gallery from August 12 to August 13.
Pannell’s images for Unhurried by Nature were captured just an hour north of Melbourne, in the Macedon Ranges. “I love walking around that area and I love the way the weather changes really quickly, and can be really foggy – it’s just a really beautiful spot,” says Pannell. As is her style, Pannell went in with a plan but ended up leaving the final decisions up to nature.
“The main thing was just to try and capture the first light of the day, the golden light that comes through the trees and the vegetation and the forest,” says Pannell. “We did a bit of hiking and I guess the idea was just to be immersed in nature and take your time and see whatever comes your way.”
Her 2019 series New Harvest, which combined human and landscape elements from across Eastern Europe and Egypt, is made up of shots that feel familiar, and yet somehow are also eerily menacing. “I like the challenge of trying to make an image that has an ambiguity to it,” Pannell says. “You might not be able to quite tell what’s happening. Framing it in a way that’s a little bit abstract but still very much a candid, natural image and still observational.”
Pannell shoots mainly on film, a medium which embeds further uncertainty into the final work. It requires unhurried and deliberate work from the photographer. “You’re forced to slow down in the way you shoot, you think more about each frame,” says Pannell. “I always think of it as quality over quantity with film and my process.” Likened to making whisky, film photography rewards patience, and so it’s natural that Pannell would end the day with a knock-off drink. “We did have one yesterday,” she says. “We were sitting with the sun setting and it was a nice way to end the day.”
Ahead of Unhurried by Nature, Pannell hopes that her images inspire a sense of comfort: “The sort of image you want to have in your home [when] you want to look at something and for it to make you feel good”.
“They might also be a bit ambiguous in terms of place and time,” she says.
Watch: Slowing Down to See Nature Clearly With Sarah Pannell
Melbourne documentary photographer Sarah Pannell has embraced shooting on film as a way to slow down and capture the essence of nature. "I'm driven by the challenge to make interesting images, in a world where there's billions of images made every day." We took time to journey with her into the wild, unwind and see through her eyes.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with The Glen Grant Single Malt Whisky.