Some of Australia’s most respected actors have reinvented themselves as shady underworld figures for photographer Luke Stambouliah’s debut solo exhibition, Persons of Interest, opening at galleryeight in Millers Point this Friday.

Susie Porter, Zoe Carides, Rhys Muldoon and a dozen other familiar faces loom large in the exhibition, Stambouliah’s first project since last month graduating from a three-year course at the UNSW College of Fine Arts.

But how on earth did an (at the time) 20-year-old student manage to convince a litany of big name stars to sit for him?

“I went through the right channels, through their agents. Once the first two people signed on – Zoe Carides and Tony Llewellyn-Jones – the ball started rolling,” the openly gay photographer told the Star Observer.

“Within two weeks, I got a text message from Susie Porter saying that she’d heard about the project and would love to be a part of it.”

Stambouliah’s inspiration for the works came from the Justice and Police Museum’s 2006 City of Shadows exhibition, which featured a collection of real-life mugshots from 1920s gangsters.

“Australians have this thing about glamourising criminals. Who’s more famous, Cate Blanchett or Ivan Milat? Shows like Underbelly glamourise that life so much.

“When I looked at these mugshots, they were really sad, and the antithesis of glamour.

“I really wanted to recreate them with actors of quality — not model types who looked right; actors who could properly convey the emotion.”

The 13 panels, on display in galleryeight until January 6, feature some unlikely faces — comedy duo the Umbilical Brothers have been transformed into “a menacing criminal duo”.

There’s one dream subject Stambouliah didn’t get to photograph this time around, but he remains hopeful.

“I did meet Cate Blanchett briefly because we borrowed some props from STC, and apparently she might pop along to the exhibition when she has time in the next few weeks.

“She’s someone I’m definitely very driven to work with.”

info: Persons of Interest opens at galleryeight, Miller’s Point, at 6:30pm December 17, and runs until January 6.

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