By Andrea Louise Thomas Photos Yanni & Luisa Denu

Seventeen-year-old Luisa Denu lights up when talking photography. She’s got a lot to be excited about: in January one of her photographs was published in Vogue magazine! The Year 11 student has a clear vision of where she wants to go with her photography and has the initiative to get there. She finds a lot of her inspiration right here on the Mornington Peninsula.

Whether surfing, swimming, walking the Port Phillip Bay beaches or charging through the waves on surf life-saving patrol at Portsea back beach, Luisa loves the sea and all it represents. Her family moved from Guenzburg, Germany, to Frankston when she was five, so a lot of her childhood memories were made on Peninsula beaches. It’s not surprising, then, that she characterises her work as ‘beachy’ and adventurous.

Sustainability is a strong focus. She hopes that by creating appealing images of the environment, people will be more inclined to want to protect it. “My photography is about creating an admiration of the environment and preserving beauty,” she says. Luisa wants to capture the rugged beauty of the Mornington Peninsula for generations to come.

While in primary school, Luisa received a kids’ underwater camera for her birthday. It sparked her interest in photography. She really got serious five years ago when her parents gave her a digital single lens reflex camera for Christmas. Luisa read the entire owner’s manual that night. Learning to use all of the manual settings opened up a whole new world. Once she grasped the technical aspects, the rest came naturally to her.

One of the things Luisa loves about photography is that it connects people to their memories. She loves to capture a moment for her own memory and also for sharing with others. Luisa has spent a lot of time travelling, bushwalking and camping and has enjoyed documenting her various adventures.

For Luisa, the best thing about photography is the human connection. Though naturally shy, photographing people brings her out of her shell. Now people are her favourite subject. She likes to put them in a natural environment to create an awareness of how the human presence changes the whole picture – civilisation vs. the wilderness, so to speak.

In her work, Luisa is always looking for something thought provoking and original that connects to the viewer. Even in a landscape, she tries to compose the shot in a way that tells a unique story. For her, photography is all about narrative and feeling.

While getting a great photo frequently involves a lot of planning, Luisa likes to keep her work free flowing. “It’s often the unplanned moments that make the best photos,” she says. Sometimes she shoots in burst mode. Coming back to look at those shots later often reveals that the unintended ones turned out to be the best.

If she had to choose, Luisa prefers to shoot on film believing that more thinking goes into shooting on film because a roll of film has a limited number of shots and she has to consider each composition carefully. There is no delete option.

She particularly likes film for landscapes.

Luisa likes working in colour because she equates it with happiness, it adds a modern touch and colour has a powerful impact on the viewer. That said, she likes black and white too.

It’s her favourite way to convey a particular emotion.

Right now, the most important thing to Luisa is getting an audience for her work. That’s why she uploaded her images to Unsplash, a free library of stock images. It doesn’t generate any income, but it creates exposure and it gives her photo credit.

That is how her image of the breaking surf at Noosa National Park was discovered by Vogue magazine.

Being published in Vogue was a huge boost for Luisa. It gave her confidence in her abilities and the sense that her work had real value. Now she feels she can truly identify as a photographer. That’s a good thing because it’s her sole focus. When she finishes high school, she plans to travel around Australia taking photos, and after that, the world.