18
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.


16
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.


09
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.


23
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.


22
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.


19
Mar 16

Success?

  
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?


16
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. 


15
Mar 16

A bit of depth

  
Firstly, I have to apologise for the lack of posts recently – have been both rather busy, and frustratingly, rather sick. 

Anyway, dipping way back into the archives with this shot, to 2010 and my first studio – Studio M in Zetland. Now, typical Sydney, that beautiful 1920’s warehouse has been replaced by generic apartments. But then, well, it was just a tad magical. 

This image is of one of my oldest friends, Amy. She’s a very soulful person, someone who seemingly has a connection to something beyond and I wanted to show that.
So I pulled out an old lighting technique – a dingle tray – a shallow pool of water which a light bounces into, reflecting onto your subject. Used by cinematographers for the last century to simulate the light from a water reflection, in a photograph it gives you something far more subtle – a sense of water and depth without ever knowing why.
Normally you put a black down underneath the water so the reflection is colourless, but this time I put down heavy blue and balanced to that. The result seems to generate that sense I felt about Amy. 


03
Mar 16

A quick noir.

img_7130-2

Apologies for the radio silence this week, have been slammed on a few different jobs and prepping the clip we’re shooting this weekend.

Today I thought I’d share a little portrait I did for actor Andrew Steel from last year.

He wanted noir. Classic noir.

These things are always fun to shoot – use some blinds, get the light shooting through them, some classic wardrobe and a smoke and suddenly you’ve got noir.

Lots of squinting later, we got this shot.


01
Mar 16

The shifting of locations 

 Last week I posted about our recce to two locations, and my decision to shoot in the more dramatic of the two. That location was the mangrove wetlands in Bundeena, pictured above.

Unfortunately and frustratingly, the national parks came back to us yesterday with a firm no. It is understandable – they’re concerned that a mass of people walking through the wetlands could damage the root systems of those wonderful trees.
Thankfully, I have a backup. 
Changing shoot locations can sometimes be a simple matter of substitution. And sometimes, a different location will completely upend the narrative and tone. In this case, I’ll have to rework the narrative structure in some places but that’s all.

Such is the nature of filmmaking – endless problem solving.