Tribute to Sharrin Rees ( 1952 – 2016 ) – Mum, Partner, Friend and a very talented Architectural Photographer

Tribute to Sharrin Rees ( 1952 – 2016 ) – Mum, Partner, Friend and a very talented Architectural Photographer


It is with enormous sorrow that we noted Sharrin Rees’ passing  ( Sept 2016 in Sydney )

A pioneer in interior Architectural photography, Sharrin brought her unique eye for design and detail to every project lucky enough to be the focus of her gaze.

Originally a Corporate Designer, she moved easily into the realm of making exciting images.

Sharrin had always wanted to be an architect. Unfortunately, she was never able to realise that dream, but she was able to express her love of architecture through her photography.


Sharrin was a skillful Architectural & Environmental Photographer. She enjoyed challenges and had the gift of being able to perceive projects from a strong architectural viewpoint – using form, colour & light to create moody dramatic effect and clarity of time & space.

Sharrin did far more than take photos. She brought forth a look, a portfolio and statement of architectural signature unique to each practice. Her appreciation of the beauty of detail, the nuance of form and the elegance of light and colour that made her work so extraordinary.

Her photographic eye was always able to draw out both the monumental and minutiae of a project’s attributes, a talent that always resulted in beautiful images Sharrin’s strength was her patience to get the right shot and her experience as a graphic designer gave her an edge over her competition at the time


She worked principally for Architects / Designers who invited her to profile & explore their projects in order to provide the best possible records for publishing, promotion and as important archives.

She notably photographed all of Burley Katon Halliday’s projects over 20 years or more. She also photographed most of William Smart Design, Koichi Takada Architects and SJB’s projects, working very closely with them in photography & design consultancy

Her photographs have been published in prominent Australian and major overseas design and architectural publications and in numerous books.

The Architecture & Design community will miss her terribly and its members are honoured to have come under her sharp and beautiful gaze.


Rest in Peace beautiful Sharrin  xxx




About Sharrin Rees


Sharrin was born on the 29th August, 1952 at Parramatta Hospital, NSW

She had one brother Ken Rees, who was four years younger and now lives in Port Stephens

She grew up in Ermington where they lived in a house which Sharrin’s father Harry ( a carpenter) built. He was in WWII serving as a skilled worker (carpenter) repairing/building ships around Perth, Fiji, Hawaii.

Sharrin’s mum Hazel May Rees ( nee Tuckwell) was a seamstress during WWII and continued afterwards making wedding dresses.



Around 1958 she went to Rydalmere East Primary

Around 1964 she started attending Marsden High School

She graduated from Randwick Tech, Graphic Design, in 1972

After graduation Sharrin shared a terrace in Bourke St, Surry Hills with a group of her friends from Randwick Tech.


“She had quite eclectic (but always tastefully executed) style.” .. Kris Rees

Photographer Phillip Bartlett and his wife Janet both thought that Sharrin’s dress sense was incredible. Particularly in the younger years where she tended to look very pixie-ish.


After graduation in 1972, Sharrin started working at McConnel Smith & Johnson Architects – at the time one of Australia’s leading architectural firms

Around 1974 she was introduced to Neil Burley by her colleague at MSJ David Wardmann, who had already started working with Neil at his design Studio

Sharrin was a talented Graphic Designer – with passion for Photography, which she gradually moved in to – first by processing prints in a self made modified store room / dark room in Neil Burley Design Studio and then gradually doing all of Neil Burley’s documenting on their architectural and interior projects

Sharrin was later to become a partner in Neil Burley Design


burley katon halliday studio sydney

Neil Burley established the graphic and industrial design consultancy Neil Burley Design in Sydney’s Potts Point during the 1970’s. David Katon joined the company in 1979 and the name changed shortly afterwards to Neil Burley & Partners.

Throughout the 1980s, Neil Burley & Partners established itself as a premier interior design consultancy, its signature minimalist interiors widely solicited for offices and even museums.

The firm won two significant public commissions in the Decorative Arts Galleries at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum and the USA and Australia Gallery at Sydney’s Maritime Museum. A restaurant commission catapulted the firm into the popular culture arena: Darley Street Thai on Bayswater Road, Kings Cross.

Iain Halliday joined the company in 1984 making partnership in 1986, with his name added in 1989. ( Burley Katon Halliday (BKH))


In her early architectural photography learning years, Sharrin often asked for some technical assistance from respected Australian photographer Kraig Carlstrom



Orange Tree Grove, Sydney


Anne Barton and Sharrin – ” a selfie before we even know the word” – Orange Tree Grove, Paddington 1979

From 1978 to 1985 Sharrin lived at Orange Tree Grove, Bennetts Grove Ave, Paddington with her friends Ellen and Anne Barton


Back row, left to right: Michael Morris McLaren ( NIDA tutor, theatre director, friend of Anne and Ellen,) Sharrin holding her dog Roger, Ellen’s sister Marie McKenzie ( Barton), Janine (a friend of Marie’s) Front row, left to right Ellen Barton, Liz Barton

Anne Barton  …..   ” I took the picture above ! At Orange Tree Grove, 8 Bennetts Grove Ave Paddington sometime around 1979-1981-ish. Sharrin, Ellen and I lived next door to each other in OTG as it was called back in the day.”


In 1985 Sahhrin purchased her first house in Sutherland Ave, Paddington


Anne Barton (black dress), Ellen Barton (in yellow ) and Sharrin at right helping to self renovate Sharrin’s first house in Sutherland Ave, Paddington

Sharrin was quite passionate about cars (particularly quirky/cute cars). In her early years owning a red Mini Cooper, red Mini Moke, red Alfa Romeo 33



This was a beautiful cottage on a cliff which was decrepit when she bought it. She drew up plans for refurbishing and renovating which was a pretty drastic overhaul.

Her father Harry (carpenter) helped with a lot of the work. She molded it in to a lovely place to live featuring lovely garden with lots of ferns, a large amount of thin shooted green bamboo, large deck spanning the house, lots of skylights very modern/design oriented.

Black carpet which was a bit unusual but worked very nicely with the furniture. She used a lot of designer furniture/trinkets in our house (barcelona table, think there was quite a lot of ludwig Mies van der Rohe” …… Kris Rees



Sharrin with her dog Jack Russel ‘Roger’, Anne with her dog Golden Retriever mix ‘Spook’ – Orange Tree Grove, Paddington 1979



Sharrin’s good friend Anne Barton in the 1980s


Ken Rees – Sharrin’s brother and Sharrin


Sharrin has her son Kris ( with partner Nicholas Penny )

Sharrin never married but was together with her then partner and her son Kris’s father, Nick Penny, for approx 15 years

Kris was born on the 18th March, 1986 at the Royal Hospital for Women, Paddington


Sharrin’s brother Ken with his now 2 year old nephew Kris and Sharrin’s mother Hazel Rees

A notable story was that after I was born Mum and Dad popped a bottle of Moet and had a glass immediately afterwards. She loved Champagne. Apparently my birth went quite easily compared with some others which I have experienced more recently. Mum was very quiet and polite but had an incredible inner strength.” … Kris Rees




Left to right: Nick Penny, Kris Rees, Harriet their dog and Harry Rees – Sharrin’s father


Left to right: Nick Penny, Sharrin, Kris Rees, Harry Rees – Sharrin’s father, and I think Nick’s mum on the far right








Sharrin, Tanya and Ken Rees – Sharrin’s brother and his wife on their wedding day



Sharrin’s 2nd partner Tom Parker


Sharrin’s partner of approx 18 years was Tom Parker – they lived together in Vaucluse for some 8 years and then together moved to an apartment at Roscoe St, Bondi for around 10 years

Sharrin then purchased an apartment also in Roscoe St, Bondi


We we lived in a couple places in Bondi both central around Roscoe Street. She very much enjoyed the sun, beach and buzzing activity of the area. We regularly walked up to an Italian restaurant up on the hill, sat out the front basking in the sun (she always loved to sit in the sun while I hid under any shade I could get.”  … Kris Rees


She was a huge fan of yum cha although she preferred the less fatty dishes and think a lot of her enjoyment came from the ‘ceremony’ aspects (by that I mean the fact we had gone to a bit of effort to make it in to the city, and would tend to spend a couple of hours there chatting and nibbling”  ….Kris Rees



Sharrin with her son Kris Rees ( now a young adult )


Kris, Sharrin and Tom enjoying the Vivid Sydney festival



She loved dogs – her current dog Jake (Jack Russell), previous dog Roger (Rodgey Podge) were very much a big part of her life. She was regularly seen walking around Bondi, drinking coffee with Jake, and her partner. They tended to befriend everyone around – my mum loved to chat and made friends quite easily, and indiscriminately” …. Kris Rees


Sharrin’s current beloved dog Jake ( a Jack Russell) was now about 12 yrs old.




Preferred camera(s) used by Sharrin


Photo taken by Anne Barton on Sunday 25th Nov 2012 at Peter Stutchbury’s Invisible House in the Megalong Valley

Sharrin’s camera of choice was a Hasselblad which she used in the early days of her photography career at Neil Burley Design

Later she generally shot with a Mamiya RZ67 (medium format camera).

In more recent years she used a Canon 1D and later 5D digital camera – which was the first digital camera that she felt was able to meet the quality of film in terms of resolution and reproducability.

Her skills in photo shop and other editing software allowed her graphic design creative abilities to shine


From my understanding originally photographers would shoot projects using lighting equipment which they brought to the shoot. This would help make an exposure which could be captured on a low ISO speed film (i.e. low graininess film stock). This would discount any lighting (natural, and built in) design which the architects would have factored in to their creation.

Mum and Neil Burley ? began shooting using natural, and built in, light which required them to take colour temperatures of all the lighting and apply gels to bring all the lighting in to the same colour tone in the pictures.

They also had to choose the time they shot carefully (and often use multiple exposures on the same shot with different internal lights on for different lengths of time) in order to get a balanced exposure inside, and outside the building (my mum often did this around twilight, using long exposure times which largely defined her look for a long time).

This process was very hands on/time-consuming and technically difficult and created particularly (in my opinion:) beautiful images which stood out from what a lot of other photographers produced.

More recently, with digital formats becoming more widespread, it became more popular to not to use internal lighting at all, in favour of using the natural light, ideally as it shines in through windows/etc and exaggerating the brightness inside by using long exposures and digitally manipulating various exposures together in to one shot.

Of course, also producing beautiful results although a marked evolution in her look.”  ….. Kris Rees




Some Special Tributes to Sharrin




Ellen Barton ( Life long friend )


Eulogy read at Sharrin’s funeral service by her long time, best friend Ellen Barton  ( re counted with Ellen’s kind permission )

Good morning. My name is Ellen Barton

I would like to say a few words about my best friend Sharrin Rees.

We have been friends since 1979 when my sister Anne introduced and we moved into an apartment in Orange Tree Grove in Paddington where Sharrin also lived. During those years we became neighbours then close friends and we had the best time.

We cooked and shared many dinners together at Sharrin’s place or ours. We spent many a lazy Summer afternoon on Bondi Beach which culminated in a visit to the Gelato Bar for strudel and gelato. Or we would spend time hanging out listening to music and sharing our favourite delicacies from Bonaventura’s Delicatessen in Hopetoun Street.

When I was learning to drive, Sharrin was my co-pilot and I her chauffeur. I clearly remember driving her (for practice) all over Sydney in her yellow and blue Mini Moke – with the top down of course. And then her little white Suzuki.

Sharrin liked to cook and I so appreciated her taking the time and making Anne and myself the complicated but thoroughly decadent and delicious Greta Anna Gateau Helene for our Birthdays.

In 1986 when her son Kristopher was born, I was honoured when Sharrin asked me to be his Godmother.


Through Sharrin, I became interested in AFL and also became a Swans Fan – we downed many beers over the years and up until a couple of weeks ago, if we were not together, exchanged many text messages whenever the Swans were playing. If they won, we celebrated. If they lost, we somehow got on with our lives.

Sharrin possessed an incredible warmth, generosity of heart, mind and spirit. I could count on Sharrin as my ‘go to girl’ if I needed help. And she knew she could always count on me.

Sharrin was. Talented. A hard-working photographer. A caring and devoted mother. And a very kind, loyal and thoughtful friend.

We have been through a lot over the years, but no matter where life took us in good times and bad, we knew we could count on each other.

It isn’t possible for me to put into words the importance of our friendship and how much Sharrin meant to me. I will miss her with all my heart.

Sharrin, thank you for your love and friendship. You were a sister to me.

I will miss you forever and take comfort in remembering all the great times we spent together.


Anne Barton ( Life long friend )


” Sharrin was my friend and surrogate sister, we met in 1978 and became friends.

Apart from being lifelong friends, I was fortunate enough to work with Sharrin as art director, camera assistant, digital operator and retoucher for six months, October 2012 – March 2013 on shoots for BKH, William Smart, Contemporary Hotels and Vogue Living with Alex Gordon

Alex’s father Douglas ( Gordon + Valich ), Sharrin and I spent many a Friday lunching at Mario’s.

I’m glad I have these memories of Sharrin.”


Peers and Industry Testimonials to Sharrin




Neil Burley
Neil Burley Design


In late 1972 I moved my office from Potts Point to Paddington when the work consisted of graphic, product and interior design.

Soon after David Wardman joined as an interior designer from the highly regarded architectural firm; McConnell, Smith and Johnson. When I needed another graphic designer David suggested Sharrin Rees, a colleague of his at MSJ who he knew was in a temporary position.

Sharrin was a very good fit having recently graduated from Randwick Technical College – then Sydney’s most respected graphic design course. She was happy, bright, great to work with and got on very well with clients. In 1974 she and another very talented designer, David Roffey, accepted partnerships to form Neil Burley Design.

We always tried to use very good photographers to cover our interior work beginning with Max Dupain. Later we asked Lewis Morley to shoot our project for Wyong Council.

At the end of the assignment Lewis delivered great colour transparencies but also handed over 10 rolls of unprocessed black and white film. He told us he was bored with dark room work and that there were plenty of commercial services available !

As both Sharrin and I were keen photographers we decided to buy a 6 x6 Hasselblad, modify our existing darkroom and start doing our own photography. This soon became a major part of her work.

When she left what was by then Neil Burley and Partners for the birth of her son Kris, she began her own practice; Sharrin Rees Design.

Although initially she did both photography and graphic design, photography soon dominated and her skills and clientele developed rapidly. She always did Burley Katon Halliday’s work.

Her reputation grew and grew, and by the time of her extremely premature death she had become regarded as one of Sydney’s best architectural photographers with an extremely impressive group of loyal clients.

I will always miss her sunny smile, great talent and incessant pursuit of excellence.



Iain Halliday


Sharrin Rees was an extremely gifted photographer, a gentle soul and a friend for over 30 years. I will miss her terribly.





William Smart
Smart Design


Sharrin Rees, who recently passed away and will be greatly missed by myself and the team in our studio.

Over the past 15 years, Sharrin was our number one photographer and was responsible for capturing the most beautiful images associated with our projects.

As a woman she was a pioneer in her field and as an architectural photographer, one of the best in the country.

What makes Sharrin Rees’ photographs stand out from the rest is their poetry, the way that they capture the project’s story in a unique and delightful way. This had me hooked and I therefore have had the privilege of establishing a wonderful collaborative relationship with her.



Philip Vivian
Bates Smart


Sharrin has a very special place at Bates Smart as she was the first photographer we had a relationship with in Sydney. Introduced to us through contacts at Burley Katon Halliday, where she had an office, Sharrin photographed our early major projects including Jones Bay Wharf & Pier 8/9, as well as many interiors.

Sharrin’ approach to her work was closer to that of an artist than most photographers.  Hers was a search for beauty through refined compositions, with elegant lighting. The spectacular was to be avoided.  Shoots often involved many office staff helping out, and evolved organically, with social events often following a night shoot.

Sharrin will be fondly remembered for her stunning photography, and quiet but engaging personality.”



Jonathan Richards


It is terribly sad for us to hear of the passing of Sharrin Rees. Sharrin had an impeccable eye. She saw angles and beauty in places no one else could.

More than anything we will remember Sharrin’s lovely calming personality and how she would happily chat away, seemingly carefree, while taking some highly considered photographs.

In an industry that is very much defined by beautiful photography, Sharrin Rees contributed in a very major way.


Ross Honeysett


Sharrin was a rare, bright, shining star.

I could always recognise her photography. ……so uniquely crafted & produced with the utmost sensitivity.

I admired her calm “get to” approach and her integrity was paramount.

Photography has lost a great practitioner & I have lost a great colleague.


Dianna Snape
Dianna Snape Photography


Sharrin Rees was a gifted architectural and environmental photographer, who forged the way for female architectural photographers at a time when the field was predominantly male dominated.

Leading architects like Smart Design, Koichi Takada Architects and Burley Katon Halliday valued her vision enough to select her specifically to photograph their projects. In a landscape abundant with talented architectural photographers, their choice was a testament to her talents.

She continued to hold her own in an increasingly competitive field, and her work featured strongly in the 2016 National Architecture Awards.

It is with great sadness that I learned of her passing. On behalf of our industries, both photographic and architectural, I would like to express our deep regret for her passing and our gratitude for her contribution and inspiration throughout her lifetime.

Her memory forever lives on in her beautiful imagery.



Telly Theodore
Telly Theodore & Associates


One of the many beautiful photographs Sharrin Rees had taken over a more than 15 year collaboration that I came across this afternoon.

Somewhat still in disbelief her steady eye will not grace another photo shoot, though honoured to have known and worked with her over so many years.

A truly lovely lady RIP



Jacqueline Bosscher & Thi Do
The Design Commission


Sharrin was a wonderfully warm, generous and creative person.

She took most of the photos on our website, and I will miss hanging out with her, assisting her and watching her work.

I am grateful that I knew her for a short time and that she will always be present in the photos of my work.

Rest in peace, Sharrin xo



Greg Natale
Greg Natale Design


Saddened to learn of the passing of Sharrin Rees, one of Australia’s most talented interior and architectural photographers.

I was lucky enough to have Sharrin capture one of my first breakout projects, The East Sydney Apartment in Darlinghurst



Neale Whitaker
Vogue Living

neale whitaker

I was very shocked and saddened to hear this news today.

I hadn’t seen Sharrin for a long time but have so many memories of her



Phillip Chia
The Uncarved Block


Such beautiful images which have inspired our industry.

Thank you Sharrin and goodbye



PTW Architects
Simon Parsons


We are sad to hear about the passing of Sharrin Rees.

A highly respected, passionate architectural photographer who beautifully documented some of PTW’s iconic projects including Sydney Grammar School Concert Hall, The John Kaldor Family Gallery at AGNSW, Jones Bay Wharf, 8 Central Avenue – ATP and most recently Pacific, Bondi Beach.

It was a pleasure to work with Sharrin, she will be remembered for her warmth, positive energy and love of photography that will continue to inspire.



Paul Brace
Popov Bass Architects


I’ve just found out the one of our greatest architectural photographers has passed away.

Sharrin has photographed every project I’ve done in my career over the last 20 years.

A true artists, a wonderful person and a great loss.

This image Sharrin took of a staircase I designed for PTW Architects



Nick Tobias
Tobias Partners


So sad. I ran into her what seemed like only weeks before. Shooting as usual. Seemed her normal ethereal self.

She’ll be bringing new and beautiful angles to the heavens.

Vale SR.




My sincere thanks to Kris Rees, Anne and Ellen Barton, Neil Burley, Nick Penny and Tom Parker for generously contributing to this article in Sharrin’s memory


Whilst she may have gone from us – she will definitely not be forgotten  !!

Her archives will remain for future generations to admire


Below is a compilation of projects photographed by Sharrin which feature ( in more detail ) on dedece’s project database

You can view them online here 

1 2 3 4 5 6


If you are interested in more information re Sharrin’s photography archive – then please contact her son Kris who is managing her archives

Sharrin Rees Photography +61 (0)414 353 475 or  +61 2 9300 0007

Address. 49 Roscoe St Unit 3; Bondi, New South Wales, Australia 2026.


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