Melanie Tjoeng – Visual Storyteller


By Benny Doyle

“I want to find something real through my photos, that’s why I don’t like to pose people that much and why I find fashion a little bit challenging. I’m not good at telling models how to stand – I just want to tell peoples stories. I’ve been a subject to shoot and it’s quite cathartic being both in front and behind the camera because sometimes in posing or in being photographed you can express something and get something out from within you.”

Gold Coast photographer Melanie Tjoeng is quickly turning heads locally and across the globe with her highly emotive subject matter and breathtakingly personal shooting style. Her documentary work has seen her sharing smiles in the slums of Bangkok, taking on buffet culture and American imperialism in Playa Del Carmen and now documenting Hawaiian Sovereignty, bringing to light the push for the island to regain its independence.

Then just to keep the 28 year old on her toes, she has helmed fashion shoots, captured beautiful weddings and seen her work published in Traveller magazine as well as The Wall Street Journal, shooting for the world renowned publication on location in Byron Bay.

Ric Richardson


Melanie explains the moment in her life when she decided to try and capture the soul of the world around. “It was August ’09 – I remember the exact moment. I was in Perpignan in France and this photo journalist festival was on. I had just gone as a wingman and a friend to my fellow photographers and I’d always taken pictures but never actually thought of it as a career possibility. Then I was sitting there, watching all this amazing work and I just thought, ‘I could do this’. From there, I’ve never looked back.”

Shoot done for Brisbane magazine, Frock, Paper, Scissors

Well aware of her quick development, Melanie credits some close friends’ helping hands, highlighting a tight knit band of shutterbugs across the globe. “My friend Ying Ang helped me a lot in terms of knowing how to use my camera and what makes a good picture and my friend Gareth Phillips really helped me too. Photographers are really amazing,” she continues, “they’re really open to helping other photographers, and it’s not an issue of ‘I’m better than you’. It’s a community. The more I shoot, the more I learn and that’s pretty much how I’ve progressed, just shooting and looking at my work and trying to improve. Even looking at shots from a year ago, I think ‘wow, I’ve come a long way’.”


And from a personal standpoint, there are many life lessons Melanie feels she’s gained through her work behind the lens. “Spiritual growth by being part of something bigger is huge, as is telling someone else’s story and not your own,” she explains. “I think they [pictures] transcend cultural boundaries and language barriers. You could say something to someone in English and it doesn’t translate all over the world but a picture does. For me documentary work is what I want to do forever, it’s what feeds my soul.”

To find out more about Melanie, head to:


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