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The Ultimate Time-Traveller: Cybele Malinowski

For Cybele Malinowski, photography is more than what she does for a living. She is an artist who lives and breathes the images that surround her, and her many handy little (and not so little) cameras are just the means to commemorate them. Indeed, with her behind the lens, magical moments are seemingly endless.

When you meet Cybele you can almost see the perfect composition glowing in her eyes. Photography is her passion, her livelihood and her art, one which she is a freak at creating. Her portfolio spans through the music world, into the fashion one and beyond. When she’s not shooting Lady Gaga belting it out at a live show or telling models where to place their hands, she’s taking out her camera to capture, well, life, really. Within each and every photo, Cybele reaches beyond the two-dimensional end-result and manages to bring life to moments that have long ago passed. She has the ability to capture the essence of a live performance as if she is evoking the music to play for her and her alone, she is one of the fairytale-creators of fashion’s fa├žade of glamour, and her portraiture somehow always grasps the personality behind the physical. Her talent is unquestionable, so it’s almost bizarre to comprehend that her parents didn’t give her a telephoto lens along with her baby food.

“I guess I knew I wanted to be a photographer around 5 years ago,” she says.
“Two events happened simultaneously – I finished my first degree in architecture and I started dating my beautiful boyfriend Dan [Boud].
“We were both getting into photography, and each photo we took was a nod in the
other’s direction. You could say it was an artistic form of courtship.”

Choosing to study architecture because it was a “practical art”, Cybele says her degree bestowed her with “an incredible level of discipline and an understanding of space, light, form and the environments we inhabit.” At the end of the day though, she knew she wanted to explore the spaces through a lens rather than be the one creating them. So after a bit of pleading, she convinced her brother Justin to train her through his studio, Blue Murder. Within a month, Cybele and her camera were sitting across from John Howard, the then Prime Minster.

“I was really thrown in the deep end, and I learnt as I went,” she says.

“Although the first year or so was the most overwhelming and daunting time in my life, nothing seems too big anymore.”

With the kind of calibre of clients that takes some photographers years to secure, Cybele says overcoming fear was the major struggle at the beginning.

“I was young. In fact, I lied about my age, just so people would take me more seriously,” she says.
“Another hurdle was not having a fine arts degree – there is a certain snobbery in the industry.”

Eventually though her talent was enough to crush the doubters, and the personal body of work she developed at Blue Murder started to attract the bigwigs. She was asked to shoot a cover for Drum Media, which eventually led to covers for Jmag, which eventually led to being offered the position of official photographer for the MTV awards. As Cybele puts it, “once one door opens, many generally follow.”

Stark, bold and confronting, Cybele now has the art of photography down to a surreal perfection. Once she recalls the Secessionists, the Bauhaus movement and Japanese modernist architecture as some of her key design influences in terms of light, space and textures, it becomes clear that her photographs wouldn’t end up that way were it not for her extensive knowledge on how to click at just the right angle. Her mobile background may have something to do with that, too. Born and raised in Sydney, Cybele reflects that a year in Vienna at the impressionable age of 11 was perhaps the jumpstart into her passion for art and design.

“This one year in Europe had such a magical effect on me. Firstly, I now had two worlds which I considered home: One was Australia. Sun, light, ocean, heat. And then there was Europe. Green, cold, marble, catacombs, mosaics,” she says.
“I am still torn between the two. I have chosen to place my roots here under the Aussie sun, but every so often I yearn for the buildings, architecture and art of Europe.”

Torn between places but not jobs? Unlikely. As a photographer who is devoted to different industries, I couldn’t help but ask which one she liked best.

“I would say music first and foremost – this is the bulk of my personal work,” she says.
‘However, fashion is like my mistress on the side… I love the freedom within fashion submissions; working with a creative team and conjuring something that only dreams are made of.”

“It might be a very simple set-up, but it’s that split second in time when the model looks over her shoulder or forgets you are there…that’s a hidden moment I love to be a part of.”

So, now the question we’ve all been waiting for: What was [insert famous person’s name here] like? Unfortunately, Cybele knows that if she doesn’t have something nice to say, well… she doesn’t exactly want to get their lawyers involved. Let’s leave it at that.

“For the first few times I worked with celebrities I was petrified! But after a while you come to realise they are no different to anyone – some are nice, some are sleazy, and some are just downright bitches: same goes in the real world!” she says.
“Juliette Lewis was pretty amazing. As soon as I was introduced to her, she was super friendly, so I was instantly put at ease.
“I have had other unnamed divas who don’t let you forget who’s in charge – that’s just a drag for everyone involved.”

Like many creatives, Cybele counts the uncertainty of freelance work as the biggest challenge in her job, but highlights the freedom, creativity, travel and insights into other worlds. Her ultimate dream project would be an I-D shoot in outback Australia, art directed by David Lynch (um, we’re waiting…), and she says that Madonna or Prince would have the ability to make her desensitised celebrity stance completely star-struck. For now though, Cybele is preparing for a joint-show with Daniel Boud at the newborn MART gallery early next year, she’s working on a book and she’s looking to put on a solo show in the near future.

It seems as though her passion for the art form is ceaseless, and with every new opportunity comes a drive to do greater things – and this philosophy is exactly what she advises aspiring photographers to uphold.

“Keep your passion and infatuation with the medium alive: keep exploring, discovering and developing your trade – the beautiful thing with photography (like all art), is that there is no limit,” she says.
“A great photographer is a memorable photographer.”

“It’s about taking the viewer to another place – whether it’s truth of fiction.”

Cybele Malinowksi

words: Seema Duggal


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