In Awe Of: Gabi Mulder

Smiley face, bare feet - we knew we had exactly who we were looking for. Gabi Mulder, photographer extraordinaire and Byron local, picked the vibing Roadhouse cafe to meet and chat about all things creative and hard work. From techniques and life lessons, to travel and style, she had us collectively falling in love with her outlook on life and her plans for the future.

GC: So, with Oak & Bone, when did you decide that you wanted to go from fun photos, or Instagram photos, to an actual blog. How did it come about, was it really natural, or did you sit down and think this is the best path for me, a blog?

GM: I followed a lot of blogs online, and I just always loved how it was like you had complete control over the entire thing, and I loved that. When I first started shooting, the first couple of shoots I actually just put them up on a Facebook album. Horrible idea, but it started there. That was good because then people, obviously, that came up on their feeds, so it kind of gave a bit of like traction to what I was doing and a bit more attention. *Coffees arrive* So probably for my first ever 2 shoots I did just Facebook albums, and then I was kind of like, no I need to make a blog.

At the time I really loved 4th and Bleeker, Alexandra Spencer. You probably know her, she’s got her own label now, you know those dresses with the little stars all over them, she does that and she used to have this incredible blog. She’s actually a model but she also does a lot of designing. I loved loved what she did. So I modeled my design somewhat off hers, because I really liked how simple it was.

What I was really stuck on was a name. I was trying to think what are some words I love, and I was tossing them around, and then I came across Oak and Bone, and I thought like Oak as in nature and Bone as in humans. And I always photograph humans and nature, so like that works! And also it was kind of cool because the Oak tree is one of the longest living trees and the bone is one of the longest lasting parts of the body, so I thought that tied in well.

I didn’t expect for me to continue it, and kind of monetize on it, but yeah I think because it is so casual, and because casual people like that. Whereas it’s not like other blogs where they’re so commercialized and there’s ads all over the screen. It’s not like that.

GC: So if you do a campaign, will you kind of leave it in its own space and reserve your personal stuff for your blog?

GM: Aw, I’ll mix it up. So if I love a shoot I’ve done with a brand I’ll post it on there. They’re mostly my personal shoots, but yeah definitely some brand shoots as well, mostly like if I love the concepts and it’s maybe something that I’ve been wanting to do my own shoot on before already. So yeah I mix it up.

GC: How would you say you’ve grown and learnt things as a photographer in your years of experience?

GM: The biggest way to grow is just doing shoot after shoot after shoot. In the beginning I was a little apprehensive about photographing people that I hadn’t met before, so like you meet them in the morning and it’s like oh gosh I’m spending the whole day with this person I’ve never met before. But now it’s so easy now just because I’ve done it so much. As I say with anyone who asks me how to pursue photography, I’m just like literally just go out there and do shoots, you just do it, you’ve got a camera, just do it. Just consistently persisting with it has been my major growth thing. I think also travelling with it has been really great, like when I was in Europe, I did shoots over there with girls in Paris in stuff and that kind of cemented for me that it is a very global thing you can do. It doesn’t have to just be like a little local hobby. So that’s actually made me grow a lot.

GC: Do you have any muses or sources of inspiration who you know personally or who you’ve never met before?

GM: I know so many people on Instagram that I just love, and a lot of my friends as well. Most of my friends are creatives, so I definitely feed off them. I feed off places a lot as well, so literally any shot of New York City makes me buzzing with inspiration. I’ve been once before.  I honestly think my friends around here. So obviously Cartia Mallan, who you would know, when we work together or when we’re just hanging out there’s so much inspiration going around and I love that. Alexandra Spencer, who I was talking about, and a lot of older photographers as well. Like I love this photographer called Benny Horn, he’s the Australian photographer who lives in New York City and he is amazing, his style is style raw and real but he does it in such a polished way, and that’s kind of what I strive for, so he’s definitely one of my sources of inspiration.

GC: What has been one of your most special photography moments to date? Does a certain picture come to mind or a certain day come to mind that was just really amazing?

GM: Definitely when I was in Paris, it was the first shoot I did in Paris. I was meeting up with this girl who lived in Paris her entire life. I’d been travelling with one of my Australian friends and we, you know, couldn’t speak French and you’re very much on the tourist route as you just can’t go into the traditional places. So meeting up with her for that day, we spent the whole day together, just went around Paris, went to all her favourite cafes, and really got to experience a day in the life of a French girl and it was just so much fun, we had the best time, it was really interesting. She could speak English pretty well, but it just kind of made me realized that we can’t expect everyone to just know our language. As English speakers we so expect that. That day was just such a dream, it was winter in Paris but it was a blue sky day and it was just stunning, it was such a pinch-me moment that I was working overseas. It was amazing.

GC: What’s something special that you’ve read recently, or that you’re reading at the moment?

GM: My favourite book that I read recently is definitely Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s pretty much a book on – you wouldn’t call it a self-help book – but it’s just on creativity, how to live a creative life without fear. Because I think if you go in to like, no I’m going to be a write I’m going to be a photographer, there is a sense of fear there and other people fear for you, they’re look oh there’s no security in that! So she basically talks about why you shouldn’t be scared and creativity is magic, and she talks about her experiences becoming a writer. She’s so poetic in her writing, and I’m like obsessed with her so I’ve watched every YouTube interview, so I know her voice so well that when I was reading she was literally reading it to me.

GC: You also talked about Tim Minchin’s 9 Life Lessons (which I love) and a Ted talk about school and education in your Instagram post about that book, so I wanted to ask you, what’s your version of continuing education? What do you personally do to explore and improve, and who do you learn from?

GM: I watch a lot of documentaries and I watch a lot of Ted talks. I do that kind of stuff because I don’t really like institutionalized education, like school and University, I don’t really like that. I just hated that your self worth was put down to a mark on a piece of paper and I just can’t stand that. So for me it’s definitely like, the online world is full of so many amazing things, reading a lot, watching a lot of documentaries. I spend a lot of time with people, and I’m always meeting a lot of people and I love having really good conversations, so I find I learn most of my things simply from just talking to people. And travelling is definitely a massive one. *Breakky arrives* So also travel is a massive learning thing for me.

GC: That’s awesome, good answer. What’s your favourite place you’ve to travelled to so far, and what’s another dream location that maybe you haven’t thought about much, but you’d love to go to next. Excluding New York because that’s obviously next!

GM: Favourite place is New Zealand, like 120% percent.  All across Europe, everything, that has nothing on New Zealand, like New Zealand is literally heaven on earth, and it looks just how earth should look, like it is so real, so raw, and just incredible. I remember being in Queenstown and there’s mountains just shooting up into the sky around you, there’s forest everywhere, there’s lakes with the most pristine water imaginable. The air is just, like my friend described when she was there, I feel like this air is cleaning out my lungs, it’s so pure, it’s so crisp. Yep, New Zealand, favourite place.

Next place on the list, ummm. Ooh. Maybe… Oh actually, Canada, all the way. I’m like obsessed with mountains, and forest and stuff. So it would definitely be a road trip through Canada, British Columbia, staying in little wooden logs cabins on lakes and that kind of thing.

GC: New Zealand and Canada are just getting it right, it’s like the pure air or something, the female vote, gay marriage, they’ve just got it all down pat and they’re Northern/Southern versions of each other.

GM: Yeah and I reckon part of it is seriously that nature is so ingrained in all their cities and everything. I think people are just happier, and they’re less influenced by the wider, shittier world.

GC: Okay my last stuff is just about clothes. Looking through your photos and shoots, you style a lot of your shoots, right? What would you say are your wardrobe essentials, for you when you’re working, or when you’re being casual or whatever?

GM: Denim, totally. I love, love, good denim. And good jackets, I really like jackets. I like a good pair of sunnies. Comfortable shoes, I’m not a heels person. You need to be comfortable, and just wearing a cool pair of sneakers is the best. And on a shoot, denim especially. It just makes everyone feel comfortable. Layers, I love cold weather, just layering things up. Like today is my perfect weather, it’s crisp but beautiful. Whereas as living in Melbourne, I like, couldn’t leave the house.

GC: What’s your favourite thing you own that either, you wear a lot or you own it and it sits there being too sacred to wear.

GM: I go this amazing brown tassel jacket when I was in Montmartre, in Paris, it was in this little vintage store. I was in Paris with my best friend, we went up to Montmartre and we were just going through all the vintage stores and she’d found all these amazing clothes, and I’d being saying before we got there that I really want to find a good tassel jacket, and I really want to find a tan coloured one. And we went to this store and there it was on the mannequin, and I was like, there it is. I think it was like 20 euros, which is so cheap.  So that’s definitely my most prized possession because it’s beautiful, and also just the memory that goes along with it.  

GM: I’m very excited just to go overseas and scope out the creative situation over there, because I think I have it pretty easy over here. I’m just from Byron, where you’ve got lots of people who know you already. New York is covered with every creative type, so you’ve got to prove yourself. 

Questions by Greer Clarke
Photos by Tim Salisbury

Check out Gabi's photography on her Instagram and website Oak and Bone.