In late 2014 video editor Phil Lamont and I made a video for the Asylum Seekers Centre to promote the exhibition project organised with Australian Artist Wendy Sharp. We worked with ASC communications mananger Lee Meredith to create a short video that would explain and promote the exhibition of thirty nine portraits to be held in three locations from February until late May. All the portraits will go on sale with all the proceeds going to the Asylum Seekers Centre in Sydney that provides personal and practical assistance to asylum seekers.
Admission is free.
17 February – 12 March 2015
Tuesday to Sunday – 10am to 4.00pm
20 March – 15 April 2015
11 April – 24 May 2015
Late last year I was asked by the editor and chief of Australian Geographic magazine Chrissie Goldrick to come into the office and discuss with writer Peter Meredith and the Geographic team the logistics for a story proposed on music. The idea was to report on how music plays such an important part in our lives. How people from all cultures the world over use music and dance and how playing it or listening influenced our health and well-being. It became a story with limitless visual possibilities.
It was great to be there for the stories planning at the beginning and contribute my visual ideas in the round table discussion. After that first meeting, Peter and I were then left to it, we decided that some parts of the story would be visual only and others Peter would write about although I would not need to photograph.
We would get together every so often to let one another know what were were doing and would decide together which parts of Peters story needed to photographs.
I would photograph subjects in the story at a separate times to when Peter would interview them. Classic example of this was with Professor Sarah Wilson from Melbourne University. Weeks out from my journey to Melbourne and well after Peter had done his interviews I quizzed Krysta, the professors assistant on where I could photograph the research made to produce the results of professor Wilson’s work.
It was here in a sound lab in the Centre for Neural Engineering where we made the photographs of Krysta where research is made that supports the study that music improvers brain function.
I was introduced to Elizabeth Lecoanet the conductor at Sydney Sings the first day of photography for the assignment and after only a short time decided that Sydney Sings Choir was where I needed to create the video content for the digital edition and the web. I would juggle still photographs and video for the two sessions I had there. Each evening I could not help but feel great although exhausted juggling, LED lights, sound equipment, tripods and two hemispheres of the brain needed to tackle the stills and the video.
The last aspect I felt I needed for the story was a big event and a rock like festival or concert, so we organised a pass last minute press pass to the Big Day Out festival.
All of us photographers would get three songs per performer before we were ushered off from the stage area. While all the photographers pointed their lenses at the performers I was mainly concentrating on the crowd and their experience of the music.
It was one of those assignments that gave meaning to why I wanted to be a photographer. A great experience.
Australian Geographic March April 2014 is in the news stands now or the digital edition can be downloaded from the Australian Geo app on your phone or device.
It is my first multimedia presentation published to the web.
Just a couple of weeks ago I traveled with Gabi Hollows, wife of Fred, and board member at the Fred Hollows Foundation and Miranda Devine, writer from the Daily Telegraph to Vietnam to photograph and see what had transpired in the life of Tran Van Giap, the then nine year old boy pictured with Fred in the iconic photograph that has been the visual reference for The Fred Hollows Foundation for twenty years now since it first started in 1992. It was twenty years since our journey with Professor Hollows journey and we wanted to see with Gabi the blindness prevention program today after twenty years of FHF involvement. See here Miranda Devine’s Story in the Daily Telegraph
In 1992 I was working at the Daily Telegraph newspaper as a staff photographer. I cannot quite recall exactly how it happened but one morning the then picture editor Anthony Moran called me over into his office and asked me if I wanted to travel with writer Miranda Devine and Professor Fred Hollows and his team to Vietnam to do a story on the Australian eye doctor and his mission to train the Vietnamese eye doctors modern cataract surgery. Suffering from cancer and very ill Professor Hollows had just been released from hospital and had been cleared to go. It was my first overseas assignment and to do a photojournalistic story like this was an opportunity I had been wanting for a while.
I did not realise it but the trip turned out to be my big break. It evolved into twenty years, involved one way or another with international preventable blindness stories and the Fred Hollows Foundation. My first big professional break was getting a cadetship at NewsLimited as a photographer, my second was being selected onto the staff at the Daily Telegraph newspaper after finishing my cadetship and my third was to get this assignment.
As much as this first overseas assignment was a big break for me, it turned out to be a life changing break for a nine year old Vietnamese boy Tran Van Giap as Miranda tells in her story. published last weekend in the Daily Telegraph in Sydney and Herald Sun newspaper in Melbourne.
The basic story for Giap in 1992 was as Miranda explains so well, that Giap had he had a shard of glass lodged in his right eye for two years and his left eye was severely damaged. Giap and his father made a 170 km journey to Hanoi from their home and spend 25 days in hospital only to be told by Vietnamese doctors nothing could be done to help him.
It just so happened that the day they were to leave for their home Professor Hollows and his team arrived with Miranda and myself and two TV crews from Australia.
The moment in the photograph happened as I recall after a morning of surgery and photographing Professor Hollows and the visiting eye surgeons Dr Sanduk Ruit from Nepal and Dr Stephanie Young from Sydney working with and training the Vietnamese surgeons in intra ocular lens surgery (hProf Hollows was not operating as he was far to unwell at this time to do surgery).
In the afternoon Professor Hollows walked around a court yard outside the surgical rooms looking with a torch light at the eyes of patients waiting to be seen. Large groups of people were gathering, Professor Hollows sat down on a bench to be interviewed by the television reporter at the time Christopher Zinn. When the interview finished I was clustered on the ground close to Professor Hollows and I believe it was around moment that a few children had been pushed up before him and Giap came up to professor Hollows. He looked at his eye and suggested then that Giap’s problems were trauma and was complicated. He straight away organised for Dr Sanduk Ruit from Nepal one of Professor Hollows training surgeons, to examine and to operate. The rest is the history of Giaps life since then.
It was the first time, just last month that I had seen him since the day I made that photograph in 1992. Today he lives in Ho Chi Minh City, he is newly married to Binh, his wife of only a couple of months, he is studying for his masters degree in mathematics and driving his motor bike so confidently in his new home in Ho Chi Minh city.
The portrait of him I wanted in 2012 was to be with his year 12 maths class from last year. I wanted to make a portrait of him that represented what he had achieved twenty years after his surgery. Before the portrait I photographed him riding his motor bike to his home, with his wife Binh at a cafe, working in the classroom with his students.
The portrait was made towards the end of the class. I setup my portable Canon speed lights and photographed him and the class trying to bring a compositional eye to centre on him but include the reference and energy of the class. I made a couple of portraits with Gabi and with him and the photograph from 1992. It was made a little more difficult as he was wearing the same closes as the students.
Before the portrait I filmed some video on my Canon 5D Mark 2 as i do these days on assignments like these. Miranda asked the questions and I recorded a video interview with him, clipping my wireless lavalier microphone to his shirt to record sound into both the camera and my separate recording device, a Zoom H4N.
It was really great to see him after all this time, it’s not often you have a photograph that is so useful to so many people for such a long time and I don’t think it is about to end, the influence of the photograph or the work to avoid preventable blindness in Vietnam or the developing world.
The OPEN ROAD, the NRMA’s member magazine has just had a redesign. NRMA Publishing’s creative director Peter Sewell and his team have redesigned the masthead and there is new typography as well as other new editorial features. I was fortune enough to work with Peter on the cover story featuring NRMA president Wendy Machin. It was decided the portrait of Wendy should be made outside parliament house on Macquarie Street. The photographs needed to fulfill a strong brief so specifics were important and close collaboration with art direction necessary.
The pictures needed to point to the story to highlight the need for road funding commitments from NSW government.
I arrived early with assistant Gary Compton to work out where I could make a clean cover shot with parliament in the background as requested The photograph was quite a challenge with such busy backgrounds especially when shooting in bright sunlight.
I decided to shoot from two locations on the other side of the road from parliament and frame Wendy close and centre using neutral density filters to blow the background out as much as possible at f 2.2 or so. I would then pull back for the inside shot where background context would be helpful. I use my Canon flash fired wirelessly with a pocket wizard through my small Chimera softbox I have had for twelve years and as good today as when I bought it. We decided the background was not clean enough and we should try setting up on the same side of the road as parliment. The sandstone wall and the black iron gate would serve as clean background going out of focus nicely shooting at f2.2. I used the soft directional light just above the camera and padded down some specular highlights on Wendy with powder. We worked on as many subtile variations on body language and expression as possible in our time so the best image would reveal it’s self in editing.
Here are the published results the cover and inside feature page.
I am really happy with the way it ended up published Peter made the most of the selection I feel.
The ‘Iconic Australian Photography’ short story by the History Channel is now showing on Foxtel (channel 44) and via the NSW State Library’s website. Curator of photography at the NSW State Library Alan Davies discusses the collection in a five minute video production.
Alan discusses, a beautiful story, one that I had not heard before of two mates Max Dupain and Damien Parer. Alan also relays the story of discovering in a shoebox of negatives the photography of George Caddy and his photographs of Bondi Beach acrobatics from the 1930s and 40s.
It is a brief outline of the workings of the library and it’s collection with it’s million plus photographs. Two of my own photographs flash before the screen for less than a second during the presentation.
One a photograph I took of Australian Aboriginal runner Cathy Freeman as she realised the expectations of a nation winning gold in the 400 metre final at the Sydney 2000 Olympics . The second photograph I made as a guest of a friends wedding as the groom swiped the top of a profiterole wedding cake with a Naval College World War I ceremonial sword.
The art director for TIME Pacific back in 2000 Susan Olle kindly hired me to photograph the two weeks of the Sydney Olympics. TIME pacific needed a specially accredited photographer of their own just in case at any time during the Olympics they needed a photographer to make a portrait, attend a demonstration, or photograph a particular person in an event. I was not really needed for the sports action, they had Joe McNally from the USA assigned and another photographer based in Russia. TIME had access to Allsport’s photographs (now Getty images). I photographed a different sport every day over the two weeks. I covered beach volleyball, rowing, swimming, the marathon, equestrian, kayaking and of course athletics.
I remember very clearly just how much Australian expectation there was for Cathy Freeman to win the 400m. Australians wanted, actually needed her to win. Standing high up in the stand I had a very ordinary position facing the finish line with my 600 mm lens on my main camera and a 80-200 mm lens on the second camera using 400 ISO colour negative film. I photographed it because I just wanted to be there to watch history being made. Up in the stand I was with hundreds of photographers all elbow to elbow. After photographing most of the event with the long lens I switched to the 80-200 zoom and once she got up from the ground after sitting down for what seemed ages it could have been between 5-7 minutes I made photographs of her walking and waving to the crowd. In a number of frames I included in the picture the time of her run, the final places on the board, I composed her very small in scale to the enormous crowd. I have had many positive comments from writers on this photograph none from photographers. It is not a photographers photograph, it is a historian’s photograph, it is all about time and place. TIME Pacific published it across two pages as the opener to the coverage that week and some seven or so years later Alan Davies purchased the photograph for the NSW State library archive in 2004, one of twenty or so I have with the library. This Cathy Freeman photograph was one of a number of images I selected for the final edit of the games. It was Susan who actually spotted the image and considered it as some thing special amongst perhaps twenty or so photographs of the Cathy Freeman race. Susan chose it for the magazines opener for that weeks coverage otherwise the photograph may have passed by any notice in the busyness and stress of the time.
Felicity and Dat’s wedding in contrast was not work. I just took some photographs for a close friend’s wedding. When you are not commissioned you can do what you want. I actually like photographing weddings, especially when I can work in a documentary style. At some quiet time in the proceedings, usually after the ceremony I make some portraits of the couple and their family, an image to put in a frame where the couple are at their best and the photographs reflect a sense of place.
In this case I had the camera-lens combination I always used to loved when I was using film, a 28-70 mm Zoom on a Canon SLR and a 35 mm on my Leica rangefinder camera. It was time to cut the cake and as I waited to document the event Dat lifted the sword and just took a swipe at the top of the cake I instinctively lifted the camera and took the photograph. I must have pre focused without thinking about it as the photograph was nice and sharp, a little movement although that added to the energy of the image. It happened so quickly I had no time to think, I just did it. Alan purchased this photograph for the library and it along with the Cathy Freeman photograph. Some year latter they featured in the book on the collection the library published in 2004 called Eye for Photography.
The key for photographs presented to the library is, their information and their historical significance. It’s nice to have a few photographs in the archive at NSW State Library.
Photographer and writer Robert McFarlane opened “Reportage A Retrospective exhibition 1999-2009” at the National Art School Forbes & Burton Streets, East Sydney (Outdoor Exhibition) Thursday night. It runs from November 11 – 21, 2010 it presents an selection of some of the most memorable photographs from the past decade of the Reportage Festival curated by Stephen Dupont, David Dare Parker, Jack Picone, Billy Plummer and myself.
Director of the festival Jacqui Vicario and photographer Stephen Dupont have done a great job putting together the exhibition, and accompanying catalogue book created by Momento Books. It was wonderful to see the way the exhibition wrapped so well around the walls of the historical grounds of the National Art School. The exhibition installation designed by Susan Freeman and Beth Stevens and the team at Freeman Ryan Design did a great job as did Axel and his team putting it all up. Warren Macris made the crafted exhibition prints.
It is personally satisfying to watch Reportage evolve over the last ten years into a multi dimensional photo documentary event. Reportage has jumped leaps and bounds from it’s first raw beginnings in late 1999 when, Stephen, David Jack and myself wanted to rev up some interest in documentary photography in Australia and create a outlet for photojournalists and their work.