May 16

Man Alive 

Every poet has a line of poetry that is central to their being, and I wanted to see how that affected them. So started The Poets project, where their line is an essential part of their portrait and shown with make up.

Randall Stephens here is a performance poet, powerful and usually quite intense. The title of his work is also a key theme that he explores in his poetry – ‘Man Alive!’, a statement that in effect is a summation of every part of his masculinity. Besides being lyrically powerful, he’s also a strikingly physical presence….

So what did that phrase truly mean to him? We kept it simple this time, simple black letters, whereas the previous portrait in this series has distorted clown make up. The reason for that is we wanted to strip it down to something more raw, an essence of his masculinity.

I asked him to stare down the camera and show us what ‘man alive’ truly means.

May 16

Keeping it sustainable

Charles Firth

How do we make this life sustainable? That’s a question I’ve been dealing with for a long time now. And something Charles Firth and I wrestled with before we shot this portrait.

Charles – one of the founders of The Chaser (one of Australia’s most successful comedy groups), writer, publisher, producer – is someone who should easily be able to maintain a sustainable living. And yet….

Australia is a nation that has a systemic disregard for income from pretty much any creative industry. Arguments about our population size don’t really hold water as countries with far smaller populations manage to keep their creative communities working. Yet Australia? We have a continual ‘brain drain’ – our best talent moving ashore to survive and thrive because they can’t do so here.

What do you do? Especially if you want to keep raising your kids in Australia and keep living the life you’ve been working at for over 20 years?

There isn’t a single answer, nor a simple answer – this life is difficult. I guess you have to be resigned to the difficulty and somehow make it work.

Charles is. And I guess, so am I.

May 16

The process we take 

Originally I had a different caption planned for this portrait. However, plans change.

So I thought I’d talk about the process I take with these portraits…

Each image is of someone I’d call powerful. I don’t mean powerful in the sense that they have clout (though some undoubtedly do). I mean powerful in that they have impact. These are not people who float through life. These are people who create change around themselves, who affect others because of what they do and who they are.
I shoot these portraits because I want to hear their stories. And I want to tell their stories. These portraits are in and of themselves stories, accompanied by words that hopefully add to what you see in their faces.
With each person, we sit down and talk. It’s that simple. Each session usually takes about 2 hours, and the actual taking of the photo is often barely 15 minutes, something that happens after we’ve had a chance to connect.
I don’t go in with a plan on how to shoot them. Each one is organic, and only when we’re in the studio do I start to think about the mechanics of how I’m going to light them and framing and such.
To shoot these portraits is a privilege. In fact, to have this lifestyle that I have is the ultimate privilege. So, hopefully, these portraits give back just a little to the universe.

This image is of Tatyana Leonov, travel writer. I can’t say much as Tat understandably wants to keep private. Suffice to say that she most definitely creates impact as a person, and manages to lead a life that is both inspiring and just sometimes jaw dropping.

May 16

A wonderful lack of cynicism…

It’s interesting what this business does to us. Being a professional creative of any kind; whether designer, photographer, art director or creative entrepreneur is a recipe for cynicism. You field ridiculous requests, ridiculous pay offers, ridiculous working conditions and deal with ridiculous people. Of course, when those offers are the good ridiculous, it’s amazing. But often, they’re not.

Taryn Williams founded and runs one of the most respected model agencies in the country – Wink Models. And then, just because she needed to have less sleep, she decided to start a new, well, start up – theright.fit.

Running a modelling agency means that level of ridiculousness is exponentially higher… Taryn here has quite literally seen and heard it all.

So it’s so refreshing to see someone that’s not cynical. 

Cynicism in small quantities is vital – it layers your hopes with pragmatism, something that only really comes from weary experience. But in larger quantities, it becomes toxic. To be creative is to be open to our dreams and the beauty of the world around us, not looking around with suspicion.

How do you keep it at bay? Well, in Taryn’s case, it seems to be by always keeping it fun. But at the same time drawing strict boundaries. And always remembering, what we do is generally not fundamentally that important. We make beautiful things, but in the end, we don’t save lives or affect people’s livelihoods. 

I asked Taryn to think about the scope of what she does, her hopes and dreams, unfettered by cynicism, and this is the result.

Mar 16

The first time with L…

As we count down the days to release for the L-FRESH The LION’s 1 in 100000 clip, let’s look at the man himself – L-FRESH. I quickly grabbed this shot while he was watching playback on his performance on set.

L’s now a friend, but I first worked with him years ago on yet another music video. However, the shoot for this one did not go at all smoothly…. In fact, pretty much everything went to hell. We had rain issues, location issues, safety issues, lighting issues, generator issues and wardrobe issues. Even our issues had issues… The whole day went out of our control.

But before the shoot day, we had collectively made the decision that all the artists (there were two featured artists in the clip, L was one of them) would be on set for the entire shoot. Oops.

L’s section was meant to be shot in the afternoon. However, because of those issues, L had to wait around for something like 19 hours before we could get to him. 19 hours! That’s friggin’ crazy.

And yet, when we got him on camera, instead of being tired or flat, he was absolutely amazing. His first take floored us. His second take was even better.

We all loved his music, but everyone on set became a true fan that day. I’ve shot L a few times since, both stills and video, and have seen him perform any number of times. He still floors me every time.

And you know what? A lot of the same crew are on this clip today because of that.

Mar 16

Difficult costumes…

We’re about to lock off the edit for our clip for L-FRESH, so I thought I’d share one more behind the scenes shot.

The wardrobe that James, the actor playing the Figure, is wearing is both heavy and extremely hot. At the first fitting on a cool evening, he started sweating after wearing it for only a few minutes.

Can you imagine how horrible it was for him in the 34+ degree, humid desert location without any shade? Clambering over rocks of course. That costume was also very difficult to manage and kept going awry too. Looked amazing, but an utter pain to work. 

We were all battling heat fatigue that day. But James really did it tough. What a trooper! And as you’ll see in a week or so when we release the clip, he did an amazing job. (PS. the editor thinks we should have put the umbrella in the clip…. I think she’s bonkers)

Mar 16

A quick bit of hair

In an edit suite at the moment, so don’t have time to write a long post.

Here is another shot from that hair campaign for Byron Turnbull I shared yesterday. 

That hair plate she’s wearing was….well….a pain. Fell off a bunch of times and was a bit of a bastard to light around. 

But still, it looks cool.

Mar 16

Midnight in…..er….a warehouse in Canberra. 

Another old shot, as I write this from a doctors waiting room – our youngest is a bit off.

The brief for this hair campaign (for Byron Turnbull) was to make it look like we were on a rooftop in LA or Paris on a warm Summer’s night. …..actually, we were freezing out butts off in a dirty warehouse in Canberra in the middle of winter….(of course)

So how do you create that look? Well, I set up a very layered and rich foreground light for our talent, and in the background built a little structure of party lights. I dropped the background out of focus, and the plan was to replicate them to create the effect of city lights. Which would have been a beautiful look.
Just like in the macaron shot of a few days ago, I worked with retoucher Sam Hawken. She suggested using these background plates instead of my build, which she thought would give us a more romantic look. She was right.

Mar 16


Dipping back into the archives again with this image, which shows my friends at Mak Mak almost at the beginning of their journey…

Now they’re continually recognised as one of the best macaron producers in Sydney, something they’ve achieved in only a few short years, but then? Then they were barely past starting out. And I wanted to show that.
The doorway (made of macarons) represents ‘success’, with a pathway of sugar leading the two founders towards it; from the mundane world to something else. And as they were at the beginning, they were still at the space in between. 

That’s how all of us who work for ourselves feel – we leave the mundane behind – of full time jobs and security and usually boredom, to make something special. That path is hard and long, and oftentimes we never reach ‘success’ because our ideals of success keep changing. Are we successful when we’re respected? Rich? When we have a great family life? When we’re lauded?
If you ask Carlos from Mak Mak if he’s successful, he’d likely say no. Sustainable, yes. Successful, no.

Speaking of success, this image to me is mostly a failure. I hate the attitude of ‘fix it in post’ – you should get it right in camera. That’s part of the craftsmanship of a photographer. But in this case, well, our retoucher Sam Hawken fixed the shot. 

I nearly bollocksed it up – the perspective on the two founders is wrong; the backgrounds don’t really match up; and while the doorway is an epic prop, the rest of the image doesn’t feel at the same level.

Yet, it works. Sam managed to pull the image together and make it feel cohesive. 
On a job this would never have happened. But, as I’ve mentioned before, with personal work we have the liberty to muck things up. That’s part of the learning process.
So, is it successful?

Mar 16

Promo on set 

Again diving back into the archives with this shot of 360 from 2011.

As both a photographer and director, I often shoot stills whilst also directing on set – this for instance was while we were shooting the clip for Boys Like You. Had very little time to grab the image though – about 5 minutes. 

The look was very ‘in’ at the time, and as the label was EMI, they wanted to stay on trend. Often, what that means in reality is to make something generic. Luckily, with an artist like 360, generic can’t happen because he’s so strong on camera. 

I still wish we could have done something more interesting with this image and his rather wonderful expression, but considering the constraints, happy with the result. 

And had a happy client. They used this shot on posters absolutely everywhere.