From an early age, Traci Castle always knew she wanted to be a photographer. She laughs “Mum has home video footage of me from a Sydney family holiday and I’m telling her off about the light being no good for taking photos – I was just six years of age!”

Growing up in Wanganui, New Zealand, there weren’t many opportunities for a creative teenager to express herself and she found herself down a road of rebellion at a very young age. Drinking, smoking and hanging out with an older crowd, she soon found herself at a crossroads in her life where she knew that she had to make a choice to consciously change her focus in life or life was going to change for her. “I needed to channel my creative energy into something more constructive”.

Leaving school in Year Eleven to study Visual Arts, Traci was finally in a creative environment and she embraced the challenge of learning more about photography, as well as expressing her creativity through painting and drawing. She went on to complete a Diploma in Photography and graduated as one of the youngest in her class at the age of 19.

“I was ecstatic!” she grins when she recalls hearing she had secured an interview with an established portrait photography studio in Sydney. “I thought this was my chance to really grow”. Traci settled in to the fast paced lifestyle of Sydney but always missed her family and friends on the Coast. She missed the relaxed beach lifestyle and the lush subtropical rainforests of home. One day, reading a national recruitment website, she came across a job opportunity on the Sunshine Coast in a leading portrait studio. She quickly filled out the application and after an initial telephone conversation with the owner, was soon flying up from Sydney for an interview. Easily securing the job, Traci moved back to the Coast and started working within the studio.

It was at this point, she met Simon Ives. Simon was a digital enhancer, editing and enhancing images that were photographed by Traci in the studio. They shared the same work ethics and love of photography. In 2008, Studio Republic, the creative concept of Traci and Simon was born. An innovation in portrait photography using virtual backgrounds, the studio was the first of its kind on the Coast “There is nothing else like this that we know of in Australia that is available to the general public, so we really are pioneering a new approach to studio portrait photography in this country”.

Traci launched “Republic Youth Mentoring Program”, a work experience placement program that offers mentoring to young, passionate and dynamic photographers. “I just remembered how hard it was for me to get experience when I was starting out in my studies. I felt that as a business owner, I was in a position to help”.

She regularly donates photo shoots and products for fundraisers and is a regular sponsor of events. Traci explains “what we do is emotive. We help lift people’s spirits and capture special moments in time they’ll treasure forever – everyone deserves to have a beautiful legacy of memories. We are in a fortunate position where we can gift our services to help raise much needed funds and generate ‘feel good’ feelings all round”.

Her philanthropy carries through to one of her biggest passions in life – animal rights. She is a volunteer at the Sunshine Coast animal refuge. She is a member of the World Society for the Protection of Animals (W.S.P.A.) and a regular supporter of the PAWS and the R.S.P.C.A. Her American Cocker Spaniel, Ziggy, is a rescue dog who was badly abused by its previous owners.

When she’s not busy working at the studio, Traci enjoys spending time with her artist husband Berni and ‘fur baby’ Ziggy in the beautiful Coast’s hinterlands and coastlines.

Interview & Article by Louise Hickey