Siblings united through photography
It’s rare to find siblings who get along as well as Chad and Menaka Weerasinghe.
With both developing a keen interest in photography and fashion growing up, Menaka has followed in her younger brother’s footsteps and is completing a Bachelor of Photography at the Photography Studies College (PSC) in the Montague Precinct.
While Chad enjoys street fashion, snapping people wandering around the city in exquisite clothes, Menaka wants to get involved in the world of photojournalism.
“I did a series for my image and concept class for gender which was named Beauty & Culture,” she said.
“I took portraits of women from different nationalities showing their natural beauty. The series was shot against a white background to focus on the women by taking away the distractions of backgrounds.”
Menaka also asked the women what they considered as beauty in their cultures and what advice they would give to their younger selves.
“I am very proud of this series, and I want to keep adding to it, with successful and beautiful women from different nationalities, to help young girls to learn from these successful women,” she said.
Having graduated from PSC already, Chad said he had since been working in the commercial photography space, recently taking street fashion shots for Melbourne Central.
“I walk around the city and whoever is dressed stylishly and nicely I approach them and ask if I can take a photo. I document people from different walks of life,” he said.
My main aim is to capture the moment of the subjects and the environment, with the intention of connecting fashion and everyday street life.
Growing up, Chad and Menaka’s parents took thousands of photos which they hung up on the walls of their home, a habit which “annoyed” Menaka when she was younger.
“When I was younger, I got annoyed at that, but now as I got older, I’m grateful,” she said.
“Growing up, we had so many photo albums and boxes of photos and negatives which we all loved to flip through and look at through the years.”
Menaka and Chad’s parents met on a movie set in Sri Lanka as extras, both sharing a passion for fashion.
“My mum’s mum was a famous seamstress in Sri Lanka and both my parents were into fashion. My dad would stay up to 6am in the morning making clothes for me. He used to work for a leather company,” she said.
Chad said it was great to be from a family of photographers.
“From the start Dad shooting himself growing up, and Mum being obsessed with capturing life events, to me and my sister photographing and working together has been amazing!” he said.
Chad and Menaka live together in Deer Park, commuting to the city for uni and fashion shoots. But like most siblings, they have their moments.
“We have fights and arguments of course, but it doesn’t last long. We’re like best friends and we hang out together,” she said.
In the future, Menaka said she would love to work for National Geographic doing photojournalism and portrait shots – quite the shift from mechanical engineering which she originally studied before starting at PSC.
“We’re thinking of next year going to Sri Lanka to take photos there, maybe of these painting in caves where they don’t know how they came up with the colours!” she said.
For now, Chad said he would be continuing with his Street Style Aesthetic series, as well as photographing events and working for designer labels.
And, perhaps unconventionally for most siblings, helping his older sister develop her skills as a photographer in conjunction with support from PSC.
“PSC has supported me with so many industry connections, from learning from experienced, knowledgeable, award-winning teachers working in the industry, involving you in the Melbourne photographic community, to helping you with pretty much anything you need,” he said.
Menaka said she was thrilled to be going back to the South Melbourne campus this year.
“We’re going to be doing more studio work this year, which we haven’t used before due to lockdown,” she said.
“We’ll have another teacher who’ll teach us documentary photography and she’s done a doco in Sri Lanka!” •