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.


31
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.


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.

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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.


29
Feb 16

Crafting performance and the nature of music videos.

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Yesterday we started shooting the music video for L-FRESH The LION’s 1 in 100,000, which I’m directing.

The track is seriously awesome. If you haven’t heard it yet, I highly recommend you do! (It released everywhere last Friday.)

Anyway, yesterday was day one. Of four. Which is quite a long shoot for an Australian music video. The reason we’re doing it over 4 days is the scale of our narrative, which necessitates some relatively far flung locations that will need time to capture.

The narrative section will be shot later in the week. Yesterday was all about L and his performance.

Performing for clips is always a strange process. When you go to a gig and watch someone perform live, while they’re usually playing a rehearsed set, that set evolves as they react to the crowd and the conditions around them. That’s where the energy and power of gigs comes from.

Not so with clips. We have to create that energy from scratch.

The very nature of filmmaking also works against us – multiple takes, different shot set ups, the craft of where your marks are and how you can move, keeping time with the various speed changes needed to film it successfully etc – these can all take their toll and sap the energy of the artist. Thus you lose that vital connection.

It’s even harder when it was as paired back as was yesterday – just L by himself with a small crew. No extras, no set, no anything else really. Somehow I had to find a way to make his performance connect.

This is one of the most vital parts of being a director. My job is to make sure that his performance is as vital as any gig, fits both the overarching concept and the narrative, and perhaps most importantly, feels truthful.

I do this by setting a very specific tone on set, which is light-hearted and fun, but also focussed and very very determined. We do not leave until we have the performance needed in the can. So we play the track loudly. We cheer him on; give him an audience to react to, even if all he sees is a camera lens and some lights burning his retinas. I make sure to hold him to the boundaries set for the clip – narrative notes, guides to his character and the physical space within which he could move – so that his performance fits everything else. And then I just let him go. Do his thing.

An artist like L makes it easy. He is the consummate performer – ready for anything and able to adapt to everything. It is always a pleasure to work with L and I’m proud to call him a friend.


25
Feb 16

The spectacular vs. the dramatic. (Dramatic won.)

Long Reef scout

 

So, Monday’s recce was a bust. The location was under construction and we spent a whole day going back and forth for ultimately no gain. In a situation like that, all you can do is roll with the punches and find another location with the right feel.

Yesterday I went on another recce. Couldn’t drag our awesome DOP Lucas Tomoana along as he’s up North on another job… And it’s vital to have another opinion while doing this… So I managed to drag my partner instead and we made a day of it.

Strange process recce’ing. Yesterday we went to two widely separated locations driving for hours to spend relatively only a few minutes at each. One was an hour south, the other about 40 minutes north. Both through traffic.

One more spectacular, the other more dramatic. Both water locations and both tricky to work, particularly since the ideal tide patterns do not coincide with the best light. But this is the nature of both filmmaking and photography – endless problem solving.

I’m going with the more dramatic location. While it’s not as pretty, narratively it’s more powerful, more authentic and ultimately will resonate more with my audience.

This image shows Long Reef in Dee Why – the more pretty location. If you’re in Sydney, I highly recommend you get up there at some point.