Sam Riles | The Unparalleled Series
Avalon, NSW, Australia

Sam Riles

I started taking pictures when I was a kid, stealing my parents DSLR and running into the paddocks with friends. Photography was something that made me feel connected to people.

In its entirety, Sam’s Avalon home encapsulates her work as a lifestyle photographer. It’s this rarity that stood out to me when I first met Sam, that the life she wishes for herself and for those around her is what she seeks to show in her work. And with this, there is no separation between her life and her career, they mesh and parallel consummately.

When I ask Sam about how she got into it all she tells me that she’s always been a life romantic. “Lifestyle has always been a priority to me. It wasn’t about pursuing a career but about pursuing a lifestyle. I’ve always enjoyed people, moments and still life. My personality, emotional and physical needs crave connection with people.” For Sam, being a photographer means capturing intimate moments between people, bearing witness to interaction and portraying her outlook on life in a lens that reinstates the intimate emotions between people.

With clients such as Aesop, Petite Grand and In Bed, there is an instantaneous recognition of the life behind Sam’s photos. Favouring an unstructured approach to shooting digital, Sam tells me she finds it difficult to teach others what to look for when taking photos. “I have always enjoyed looking at things in a certain way, noticing the warmth to something or understanding the authenticity in what people feel. I find myself drawn to certain photographs because they break down people to their most real selves, I like getting rid of the walls people create.”

In describing her work as a process Sam speaks about how her photography centres around the people she meets along the way. “I started taking pictures when I was a kid, stealing my parents DSLR and running into the paddocks with friends. Photography was something that made me feel connected to people.” Working alongside creatives Carmen Hamilton of Chronicles of Her and Brydie Mack of WolfcubWolfcub led Sam to develop further into lifestyle photography, an area in  which she felt aligned with. These experiences eventually led her to photograph people she finds great inspiration in such as Elise Peacock of Maison Balzac and Jesse of Supply Paper Co.

When I ask Sam about her home in Avalon she tells me that her and her partner Max’s decision to move to Avalon was a bit of a surprise for both of them. “I grew up on the South Coast in Berry where we had the freedom to climb trees, pick macadamia nuts from our own backyard and squeeze between the neighbours fence to hang out with the other kids on the block. At the time having space didn’t mean much to me but after living in the city for almost ten years I can appreciate the opportunities I had then, space allowed us freedom.” Before living in Avalon, Sam and Max called Bondi home. “It got to a point where having a balcony wasn’t enough, we wanted space to have our own veggie patch and a couple of chickens. We decided to stay in New South Wales because Max and I both launched our own businesses’ at the same time and wanted to let them grow while they were in their infancy stages.”

With their Avalon ‘beach shack’ feeling like home Sam tells me that she finally feels at ease. “The community in Avalon has a down to earth local quality about it, you feel as though you can disappear. I love going for walks up to Whale Beach in the morning and looking at all of the beautiful homes, imagining what we would do with them if they were ours. Spending time at Rough and Bare in Monavale and the Whale Beach Deli are also part of the pastimes I enjoy.” After editing for long hours Sam often spends time sitting in the grass, soaking up the sun. “Having grass surrounding us has made such a big difference. Because we face east, we get a lot of sunlight in the morning. Having the ability to sit and work outside allows me to connect back to where I am.”

With it’s midday exposure to ocean breeze, incorporation of natural timber and soft colour schemes, Sam’s home manifests warmth. Located between Avalon Beach and Whale Beach, Sam describes her attraction to this place because of its age and subtle  contemporary feel. “We love growing our own food, hosting friends and cooking healthy dishes, and this place allows for all of that with its endless natural light.” Growing up in several of the coast towns along the shores surrounding Sydney, Sam says she embraces having a place that enables creative outlet. “I love it’s old charm, the doors that are never closed and the big windows I can push open to bring in the sea breeze. This place allows me gain inspiration in exploring what’s around me.”

What stays with me about Sam is her ability to create a lifestyle for herself that is both her own source of inspiration as well as the artefact that nurtures her best work. It’s this circular notion that many people seek to gain for themselves but are unsure of how to string it all together.

Thank you Sam, for the insights into your work and Avalon home. It was a pleasure to speak with you.

Check out Sam’s website for more of her beautiful work –