Welcome to our GO TO BED Series, where we get under the sheets (metaphorically speaking) with interesting humans to chat all things career, beauty, wellness, self-care, and everything in between. We sat down with Yasmin Suteja, the photographer, director, and founder of Culture Machine, whose been making waves as a creator for the better part of a decade. We dove into her origin story, sources of inspiration, and why a simple night routine is key.

Name: Yasmin Suteja
Pronoun: She / Her
Star Sign: Sagittarius 

Thanks for being up for a good chinwag, Yas! Although, golden chats are kind of your specialty. You are such a force in the creative world but before we talk about how you got there, let's start with the basics. Who are you?

A high energy people person who is curious about the world and has an insatiable appetite for learning.

You had an interesting upbringing growing up in both Australia and Bali. How have these places and cultures influenced you as a person?

My childhood in Bali was full of boundless creativity and appreciation for nature. Some of my most vivid memories were spent with my Dad and brother exploring the rice fields. I distinctly remember my dad showing me a flower called “Putri Malu” which translates literally to Shy Princess. When I’d hover my hand over the plant it would close up and fold inwards. A few seconds after I’d walked away, it would re-open. I remember being so overtaken by the similarities between us.

When I moved to Sydney, I was 8 years old. The first thing I noticed was that a lot more structure was imposed on my life. From things like wearing a school uniform to having allocated times to eat signified by a bell, and then in the bigger sense, a lot more structure around career and aspiration. I always knew I wanted to work in creative industries. As I child I did everything from Balinese dance to ballet, gamelan to violin, painting to ceramics. I’m grateful that my parents encouraged me to express myself in whatever medium or form. I think Bali showed me an optimistic way to look at the world with respect and gratitude. Australia taught me how to navigate existing structures and bring my ideas to fruition.

What were your biggest inspirations growing up? 

They were so varied! Growing up in Bali we had less access to mainstream pop culture. But somehow, Britney Spears cut through and I remember having both Britney and Christina Aguilera on tape when I was 7 or 8. I would listen to their songs over and over and then learn the chorus and time it perfectly to hit record and sing over the chorus parts of the track. So somewhere in storage, there's Britney tapes feat. Yasmin on vocals. Music was a massive inspiration for me growing up. I actually wanted to be a singer before anything. I loved soul and RnB. Lauryn Hill was my idol. I loved Alicia Keys too. As I got older, film became my obsession. I had Sofia Coppola’s portrait set as my computer desktop background.

What attracted you to photography and motion?

When I look through our family VHS archives, they’re almost all filmed by 8-year- old me. I was obsessed with documenting and performing. I was that kid that organised a family play every year for Christmas with allocated performance time slots for each of my cousins. And of course I’d get so frustrated when they wouldn’t follow my schedule! I think I have a real childlike enthusiasm for the world, for people and their stories. From a young age, I was already documenting them. I was already asking questions on camera. I think it’s the storytelling component of photography and motion that attracts me the most. Most of my favourite photographs are portraits taken on holidays to New York and London where I was able to make friends aided by my camera and the access it gave me.

You're the mastermind behind Culture Machine, a new-gen talent and production agency, that's kept its finger on the pulse year after year. CM has led campaigns for Nike, Champion, Microsoft, Schwarzkopf, Jean Paul Gaultier, Paco Rabanne, and more. How did CM come to fruition, and how has it evolved?

Culture Machine started as a blog, and a place for me to publish photos that I felt were connected to youth culture. When I moved back to Bali, I realised there was opportunity for me to start a creative collective. I had friends who were talented stylists, makeup artists and creative directors. I had ideas I wanted to try and they were enthusiastic to help. So we started experimenting and I became a point of contact for a lot of brands that wanted to shoot in Bali.

Culture Machine really evolved when I moved to Sydney into a share house with my brother and friends who had social media followings. We became a “hype house” before we knew that existed and we made a YouTube show called “Free Radical TV” that would document a week in our lives. People still come up to me and tell me they used to watch our YouTube videos and that we were a key part of their youth. This is always really beautiful to hear.

As we all grew up and went our separate ways, I continued with Culture Machine and realised that my key skill as the driving force behind it was tapping in on fresh young talent and giving them a platform to launch their careers. And I think all the way we’ve tried to stay connected with youth culture and evolve as a company, alongside that culture.

You became an entrepreneur at such a young age. Do you have any words of wisdom for creatives on a similar path? 

You have to be committed to constantly learning. Right now I’m answering these questions while working on a documentary film pitch. This all came about from being continually curious, wanting to learn more and seeking out mentors. Anyone that knows me will tell you that our coffee dates always run over time because I have so many things to talk about. I’m constantly listening to podcasts, reading books, and watching films. Stay curious! 

Speaking of documentaries, congrats on winning your film grant! You can add "writes killer pitches" to your resume now. What do you always aim to capture in your work?

I think we are all universally connected by experiences of love, loss, and belonging. And I think if you can connect with someone on one of those threads, you’ll be able to tap in on a much deeper and spiritual experience of life. That’s what I love about the access that a camera gives me. It’s a conduit for these types of conversations. 

How do you stay inspired?

Conversation! I talk a lot and luckily the people closest to me love it too. 

What impact do you want to have on the world? 

I want to be someone who has been able to facilitate the process of helping people see and find their light. We all have unique skills and perspectives to offer the world. And sometimes all we need is someone to show us that light or how to find it within ourselves. I know people will remember my laugh. That’s for sure. I like to think that I leave interactions with people with a big smile on their faces. 

How do you switch off at the end of the day?

At the moment, scrolling TikTok or watching an episode of Sex And The City.

What are your non-negotiable night-time rituals?

My skincare routine which includes the whole Dermaviduals range, Suusmoon LotionKiehls Skin-Renewing Micro-Dose Serum (retinol), and Shiseido Wrinkle Smoothing Eye Cream. Oh and a cup of sleepy-time tea. 

What are your tips for a good night's sleep?

Calm App! I use one of the guided meditations for sleep almost every night, and I’m usually asleep before the meditation ends. 

What are some beauty secrets you swear by? 

Retinol is no secret but it's definitely made huge improvements to my skin. I think it’s also really cliche but, "keep it simple". I’ve tried soooo many products. It’s a trial and error to figure out what works for you but generally the products with the simplest ingredients, and a simple routine is the key to good skin. When I’ve tried to throw in a new flashy product into my routine I usually upset the balance and send my skin haywire. Simplicity and repetition are key. 

What beauty, wellness and/or sleep essentials are in your bedside drawer right now? 

I have castor oil beside my bed which I put on my eyelashes before sleep to keep them strong and healthy. I always have my Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask and water to remind me to stay hydrated. I hate going to bed thirsty.  

Are there any social, environmental, or cultural shifts you hope will happen in the next 5-10 years?

Personally, what resonates with me the most is a cultural shift in consumption. Working in fashion and marketing in general, it’s hard not to feel the weight of the hypocrisy of selling “liberation” to people through the promise of what a product will do to get them there. I was at a product launch the other day and of course, all the buzzwords were being used - but the irony of it is that we are enough already without that new cream, or that new foundation, or that new dress.

We are being sold products with the promise that they will make us feel more beautiful and more “empowered”. It’s tough because I understand and work within the parameters of the industry and this language of empowerment. But it’s empty unless we feel that through ourselves and community. And I think if we start to think from waste-less mentality, we will become less inclined to buy more, and instead buy smart, which often means second-hand. 

Can you recall reading, watching, or listening to something that completely changed your mind or life in some way.

When I watched The Five Obstructions by Lars Von Trier/Jørgen Leth, I understood that creativity comes from problem-solving. And that has been the foundation for the way that I approach all my work.

I was also very affected by the film Pina which is a feature-length film told completely in dance as a homage to the choreographer Pina Bausch. This film taught me that language is beyond spoken word. It’s also bodies and movement. Narrative is the way that we all see the world. There are endless languages spoken and non-spoken.

What’s next for you or what are you prioritising in 2023?

I’m prioritising learning, in a big way. About myself, my craft, and the topics that interest me.



Morning person or night owl? Night owl
Everyone should watch….
Triangle of Sadness.
Everyone should read…..
All About Love by Bell Hooks.
I dance like nobodies watching to…
Beyonce and Kelsey Lu.
My dream destination is….
Greece! I haven’t met that side of my family yet.
I’m inspired at the moment by….
Into The Woods by John Yorke.
The most *star sign* thing about me is…
I’m the social butterfly.
I would tell my younger self…
that life isn’t a competition.
A signature ‘Yas’ outfit would be….
something all black, a corset, and then an oversized blazer.
I’m currently bingeing….
the See Also podcast.
The best thing about Bali is….
My last meal on earth would be…
Chicken Banh Mi.
Words I live by are… '
there’s got to be a way.'
The last time I cried was….
watching The Whale.
My favourite thing about me is…
my charisma.
Something people don’t know about me is…
I sleep with my eyes slightly open.
I feel most like myself when….
I’m wearing a comfortable loose-fitting suit of some sort and leading a team.


You can learn more about Yasmin Suteja here

April 10, 2023
Tags: Go To Bed