It was with a teary eye that The Roost said goodbye to one of its longest-serving Roosters at the end of April 2019.

Photographer Mitch Lee first joined The Roost in 2010, when some of his friends from TAFE established the not-for-profit under the Renew Newcastle initiative.

Back then, the co-working space consisted mostly of graphic designers. “We wanted a place to go where we could have access to the same facilities as TAFE – things like printers, but also emotional support – as a stepping stone between graduation and employment,” explains Mitch. This ethos still stands true today: we’re a healthy mix of emerging and established creatives, lending each other support and companionship. We’ve since graduated from Renew and grown to incorporate a huge variety of creative industry professionals.

Mitch’s business has also evolved considerably since 2010. While he started out as a graphic designer, once he started playing around with cameras to build his design portfolio, he realised photography was a perhaps a more appropriate avenue for his creativity. “I always knew I was creative, but I was never great at drawing…I guess I didn’t realise how much drawing comes into design!” he laughs. Discovering his flair for photography was only the beginning of his professional journey though. “I feel like every twelve months or so something will happen and I’ll need to pivot or rebuild,” Mitch explains. At times like these, Mitch leans on his peers and mentors for support. Among these trusty people are Jelinda Millgate from the Business Centre and Brett Piva of Mitch’s new professional home, Onwards Studios. Each month, Jelinda comes into the Roost for one-to-one business coaching sessions with our members.

“She was super helpful, she helped me rebuild my business after my neck operation,” Mitch remembers. “Everything was a mess, I didn’t have anything together. I hadn’t updated my Instagram, all my web copy was old. She essentially told me everything I already knew but made me accountable for it.”

Since first being roped in to take some pictures for a family friend’s business website, Mitch has carved out a niche for himself in the Newcastle photography scene. He now specialises in events and professional portraiture, and is looking to move further into the advertising space. “That’s where you get to do the bigger shoots – you can be more involved with the production, be more creative,” he explains. Along the way, he’s worked the pub-photography scene, and spent time as a music photographer too. “Once the pub gigs fell through I did have a bit of a panic – but I was ready to leave, I was burnt out and it wasn’t very creative,” he remembers. “It was a good period for me because I built resilience and confidence – I became more assertive.”

The great thing about capturing events is that networking is built into your work practice. That’s how Mitch finds most of his clients now, and he’s entering a period of growth for his business. At his new home at Onwards Studios, he’ll be able to take advantage of the dedicated studio space for his more intimate shoots. While he’s sad to leave his Roosty-roots, he’s excited for the change to come.

“As a freelancer, you don’t have anyone to answer to. Walking into The Roost each morning, there was an expectation of quality and work,” he says. “I wouldn’t have a business if it wasn’t for The Roost.”