Photographer Sean Fennessy and Art Director, Stylist & Graphic Designer Jess Lillico are a creative couple based in Melbourne. Working together as Lillico-Fennessy the pair specialise in photographic image-making from concept to execution to application. In this edition of the journal, we chat with Sean and Jess about their creative partnership, how they curate their stunning home and their favourite music to work to.
Hi Sean & Jess! Tell us about your backgrounds, what led both of you to pursue creative careers?
We're both originally from rural Tasmania. Our families used to holiday at the same beach growing up, but we met many years later at University in Hobart. Jess studied Fine Art and always planned on a career in design. Sean took the longer route and took up photography during a brief stint as a newspaper reporter after realising he preferred taking the photos to writing the articles.
Sean, your unique ability to document the seemingly mundane, tied with your sleek, minimal sensibility has seen your work published internationally. How would you describe your personal practice?
I’m fundamentally an observational photographer. I always find I get the best results from working intuitively, responding to the light, and not getting too caught up with technique and tricks.
Jess, you work across a variety of disciplines including Graphic Design, Interior Styling & Art Direction. How does each of these skills inform the way you approach a creative project?
I trained as a Graphic Designer but have been transitioning to photography-based art direction for ages, and it now forms the bulk of my work. It just means I have an extra dimension of understanding how the images I produce may eventually be used in the real world.
Founded in 2018, Lillico-Fennessy is a partnership between the two of you, specialising in photographic image-making from concept to execution to application. What has been your favourite project to work together on?
We feel very lucky to have worked together on the launch imagery for The Calile Hotel in Brisbane. It was a big, challenging project but it was a real privilege to be able to start from scratch with a brand that has such a strong personality, and to be able to shoot within the exceptional architecture of Richards and Spence.
As part of your ongoing collaboration you published a limited edition photobook documenting the beauty and tenacity of suburban Los Angeles plant life. Shot primarily on 35mm film you note that “the intention was innate observation rather than formal technique.” Can you tell us more about your trip to LA and the process behind bringing this stunning photobook to life?
Any photographer who has been there will agree that the light in LA is like nowhere else. There’s this constant soft haziness that just makes everything look warm and washed out. So we went to LA knowing we wanted to work on a photographic project, but not sure what format it would take. As we walked around, we just kept noticing all these amazing gardens with beautifully tenacious plants, so we started shooting them. We then expanded to incorporate the idea of LA as a city that is unexpectedly permeable to nature. It really is sitting on the edge of the wild where canyons run into residential streets, coyotes roam the suburbs at dusk, and drought is a near-permanent reality.
Your apartment is sleek and refined yet still feels warm, relaxed, and liveable. How did you approach the renovation of your home, and did you have a certain look and feel in mind?
Haha, we don't think of it as sleek. It's a late '60s six-pack apartment with generous proportions and nice light. It's ugly red brick on the outside but once you step inside and see the big windows and view out over the hills you just feel good about being there. We did all the renovations on a budget but hopefully made some good style choices that elevate it beyond its origins. In terms of a look and feel, it's quite neutral and the materials are unpretentious - for example, the kitchen counters are matt laminex in "Deep Sea", but we splashed out on nice brass handles. We redid the floors in herringbone timber thanks to a fortuitous contra deal with Storey floors. I think that made a huge difference.
In what ways have your creative backgrounds influenced the stylistic choices in your home?
Since we both started working a lot with architects and interior designers, it's hard not to be influenced by these really high-end projects that you're seeing on a daily basis. But we strongly feel that you can create a great atmosphere without an enormous budget. We like getting second-hand stuff and trading our skills for art, plus Jess ends up storing a lot of styling-related paraphernalia at home... so things are always changing.
Tell us about your work-from-home offices. What steps have you taken to create spaces that foster creativity and inspire motivation?
We've always worked a lot from home so not much has changed since COVID in that respect. We have a little home office, but actually we more often work together at the kitchen table, on a really comfortable bench seat that we had installed. Being able to bounce ideas off each other and listen to music always makes work more fun.
Can you share with us some of your favourite music to work to?
You can find our work from home playlist here.