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Creative Clout: Stella-Rae Zelnik

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Stella-Rae Zelnik is not afraid of being the only girl in the room.

Quite the contrary – she lives for the chance to capture male-dominated subcultures with her camera. Her latest body of work, Smiles for Miles, showcases her year of travelling with custom-motorcycle riders from Canberra and Sydney.

“People [around the world] have been documenting motorcycles and the riders since the 1920s,” Stella-Rae says, although she modestly admits that her work is fairly unique here in Australia.

“Being female in a very male-dominated scene has allowed me to do something different [compared] to this generation of motorcycle photographers.

“I’ve always been surrounded by guys and their adventures, acting as both a participant and a fly on the wall, always trying to blend in to get the right shot. I’ve been given the privilege to experience situations that I know most women would dread!”

Stella-Rae recalls one of her most powerful reactions to a photograph came after spending a weekend away with friends during college.

“It was full of metal, drinking and late night swims, ” Zelnik recalls.

“I took my film camera and started documenting as soon
as we left. It was one of those unforgettable weekends that you remember as a huge blur. “When I got the rolls developed, I fell in love with the images I had taken. It was amazing to feel the days and nights again in such
a beautiful format. All slightly blurry and off colour, but it made me realise how much I wanted to document my experiences and try to capture the feeling of a moment.”


It’s this desire to tell a story, and evoke a sense of impulsive freedom and uncontrived joy, which drives Stella-Rae.

“I would love for people to feel involved with my work and feel the passion behind the image, but also to appreciate the spontaneity,” she says. “I want them to understand that I was just there in that moment.”


Something I’ve done that I never thought I would do “Sitting on the back of a bike for three days straight. It was the hardest trip I’ve ever done – long days of riding and late nights partying. I’d never thought I would do something like that for a bunch of photos. But I did and it was totally worth it.”

I’m inspired by… “Jewellery designer, Nick Potash. Everything he makes is original, and for a good photograph you need to make sure it’s a one-off, it has to be able to stand alone to make it a timeless piece.”

My idea of a nightmare “To lose a roll of film, or forget my camera for a shoot. I’ve actually had this nightmare on countless occasions!”

All images by Martin Ollman

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