Elle Hioe’s creative world is a dreamlike paradise saturated in candy colours and hyper-real scenes, oozing nostalgia. Her Instagram pages – the portfolios of the present – offer an ornate visual smorgasbord, dripping in keychains, beads, ribbons and all matter of kitsch, whether it be sparkly, shiny, or ostentatiously colourful.
Also known under her Instagram moniker, 14strk, Hioe’s vision fuses the intangible qualities of fantasy and dreams with the exuberant and joyous aesthetic of maximalism. Initially building a following through content creation and styling, the jack-of-all-creative-trades has recently expanded her repertoire to creative direction, art direction, and photography.
Hioe’s recent photographic work includes the brightly nostalgic re-imaginations of the traditional Malaysian and Indonesian folklore tale, Bawang Merah Bawang Putih, the seaside mirage of a “runaway angel”, and a barrage of earth-shatteringly good tour images of American rapper Rico Nasty. All of this has positioned her at the vanguard of rising, multidisciplinary talent in Australia.
Here at VICE, we like to keep tabs on the quiet local talent destined to become famous. So we sat down with Hioe, to find out what it’s like to leave literally not a single stone unturned in the pursuit of creative actualisation.
Hi Elle, please introduce yourself to the world.
Hi, I'm Elle. I'm a freelance photographer, stylist, art director, content creator and creative director based in Sydney, Australia. I'm 24-years-old, turning 25 in like 10 days. I am an Aquarius. And, yeah!
Oh my goodness, that’s quite a list of occupations.
I also started DJing recently. I don’t really consider myself a DJ yet though.
How long have you been doing styling and photography?
Styling has been something I've been doing professionally since maybe 2021, late 2020 at the most. Photography is something I picked up literally in the last few months, just because it's something I've always wanted to do, but I always pushed it to the side because I was developing being a stylist and kind of establishing myself. And now that I've gone fully freelance, I have time to do the things that I want, while also having money to do so from freelancing.
Photography is something that makes sense for me, because being a stylist, you can have the most amazing clothes, but sometimes the way the photos are, you can't necessarily see them, not the way I’d like. Not to discredit photographers at all, but I just feel like I'm a person with a very fixed vision. And I'm like, I feel like the clothes look really good this way or I think things should look this way. And with photography, it just makes sense to me because I can have complete creative control over the way my world is, or the way I’m presenting something.
How would you describe your style?
I guess I’d call my style in general… maximalist. Very colourful, obviously dreamy. I’m interested in looking at the world through a lens of joy and fantasy. When I was growing up, I was super into mythology. As a kid, I’d just go to the library and get all these stacks of mythology books, and I was super into fantasy fiction as a teenager, like a lot of us were. I think that makes sense when I look at my work. A lot of people would describe my personal style as, I hate to say it, “video game character-like”. Very fantasy-like. But I’m very interested in looking at the world through a lens of, like, heart, warmth, nostalgia.
This year I have a lot of ideas about personal work… I want to do a photo series on dreams I have, because I have a lot of crazy dreams. I also want to recreate memories from when I was a teenager and I felt really lonely, but making it something beautiful I can look at now.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced working as a creative in Sydney?
I feel like in Sydney, it's quite cliquey, which I think a lot of major cities can be. And I honestly will say, I don't think it was as hard for me as other people entering the industry, because I've already come in with having an Instagram which was quite prominent for the last few years. I already knew a lot of people, so I feel like that gave me a leg up, because people already knew what my style looked like.
But if you didn't know people in Sydney, that would be the hardest thing. I think that often people are quite unwilling to let new people into spaces because there's this view that there's not enough work to go around, which can be true for a lot of major cities. There also is this tall poppy syndrome that we have here in Australia, where people are like oh, yeah, you're cool, but they roll your eyes a little bit if you don't necessarily fit into their perception of what they think is cool.
I feel like there's starting to be a slight shift in attitudes. I feel that people are getting more open to deviating from the norm.
You recently photographed Rico Nasty on her Australian tour, can you tell me about how that went down?
It went down because we have been mutuals on TikTok for a few years now! Rico followed me a few years ago, and she DMed me on TikTok being like, I’m coming to Sydney!, and I was like yo, let's hang out!. And then after that, she messaged me, like, hey, do you know any photographers? Anyone who can take photos for me? And I was like, …I can?.
And I just sent her a few photos and some stuff I've done. And then she was like, okay, cool. And then we hopped on a video call. And she was like, okay, cool.
Those photos are incredible. Every single one. Was that your first tour with a musician? How was it?
That was the first time I've been on tour with anybody.
Honestly, I would say the whole thing was so much fun. Rico is literally one year older than me. She's born in ‘97. So it's literally just like hanging out with friends. She's so down to try different foods, she was so interested in going to places and she's also just so easy to shoot.
We did a kind of guerilla approach to the photos. She would do her glam in the morning, I would take camcorder footage during glam. Then quickly before the performance, we'd be like, quick, let's take some photos. And then I would just take photos of her during the day. Then I would camcorder film her performances. At the end of the day, I would have the photos of her on DSLR and I would literally get on my laptop and we'd have turnarounds of literally 20 minutes.
It was so much fun.
Who inspires your work?
I love the Korean photographer, Cho Gi-Seok, his work is amazing. I also love Erika Kamano, her work is so fucking cool. Then there are some really great creatives from all over the world, like Valeria Chrampani, Chen Xue, Suea, Jamie-Maree Shipton, and Sandy/Taboo.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I think people will be surprised I did the styling, set design and I was basically the art department for the New South Wales consent ads.
Omg. That was unexpected.
Yeah they’re huge! They’re everywhere.
I will be doing art direction for the Flex and Froomes live recording that is coming up here in Sydney. I was art director for part of the Netflix premiere of Heartbreak High. I think people will see my names on projects that they will be shocked to hear about.
You have BEEN working.
I am a workaholic. I have a tenth house stellium [astrology-speak for a life focused on “your career, social role in the community, reputation, massive goals you have, achievement and success” according to the first Google result], so.
Finally, what are your 2023 ins and outs?
Ok. In – being sincere online. Not being afraid to be the person who takes photos all the time and posting them. Be an unashamed shitposter. And finally, optimism is in. I personally do not stand for pessimists.
Out – self-deprecation. It’s sad! Everyone can see you’re self conscious about those things, like, baby! You need to work it out. Not-journaling. Everyone should start journaling. And what’s also out is pretending to be cool in public spaces. Just stop it. Just be silly.
Silly is always in, it doesn’t even need a mention.
It’s never out, silly is a state of mind.
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