So it's the most overrated night of the year. But hey, at least there are fireworks. And this kind of looks like a fireworks explosion, don't you think?

Apologies if you're getting sick of the palm trees. I'm determined to keep going though!

A more detailed post to follow in the wee days of 2011... and many more posts to follow in all twelve months of 2011! Hooray!



Though I have been to Golden Plains at the Meredith Amphitheatre twice before, this year was the first time I attended the iconic Meredith Music Festival. As such, I took several cameras and loads of film with the intention of capturing everything I could. Of course, the weather was so dreadful most of the time that taking cameras from the (relative) safety of my tent was too risky. And so, I don't have the plethora of images I hoped for. But I do have some.

This photo is pretty much my favourite of the lot, because it really sums up my feelings toward the festival. As far as I'm concerned, there are two ways to look at this photo, which can both be applied to Meredith: with jaded cynicism or with optimistic celebration. If you take the former viewpoint, you might see ultra-hip North-side girls wearing the 2010 festival uniform (i.e. high-waisted, possibly acid-washed denim shorts - middle seam digging into the arse crack optional) and getting muddy and 'free' for the sake of it (this was around 4pm on the first day, and it wasn't yet raining) - because, It's Meredith, man. If you prefer not to take the cynical path, you might see in this image the recklessness and ebullience that has always been associated with youth. You might even think of classic music festivals from eras gone by, and feel privileged to be a part of this generation's equivalent. I really stand somewhere between the two.

Most of these photos offer the choice of cynicism or celebration, pathetic hipsters or enviable revellers. Of course, as the rest of them are my friends, I'm leaning toward the latter from here on in...

Looking through the photos from the weekend, I have realised that Meredith is largely timeless. What I mean is, it doesn't have a whole lot of 'twenty-first century' elements, and so images taken there often look like they could be twenty years old. When your friend drives an old Kingswood, this is especially true.

(Though I don't have an explanation for that giant air mattress.)

 I wasn't thrilled with the colour throughout this film, with the possible exception of this photo: look at that brilliant green against her burnt-orange hair! Glorious.

The great thing about taking photos from behind people is there is very little chance they will see you, which means your photo will be totally natural. Of course, it also means you don't get to see faces. But in this case, I think it looks fantastic anyway.

A side note: the girl is standing on an esky. Those blokes are that tall.

OK, so I guess at this point the bad weather was on its way. Though I don't like the silhouettes in the foreground, the colours in the sky are wonderful.

Before that bad weather hit, we had a few quiet moments with my favourite kind of sun: the late afternoon golden glow. Just stunning.

Cliched? Yes. But who cares, it still looks great.

Still a bit of a glow about Rich. Though I suspect that had little to do with the sun.

Great headgear. Great size juxtaposition. Great background.

Speaking of the background - how could I not take a photo of the cherished wheel? A rare lomo shot from the weekend; the sky clouded over after this and I refused to waste slide shots on a dreary canvas.

My only attempt at some Meredith–lomo magic, which didn't really go as planned - it's overexposed and largely unclear. But maybe that's perfect.


photographer + subject

A little while ago I went to an exhibition at the Heide showing photographic work from Carol Jerrems, William Yang, Larry Clark and Nan Goldin, all from roughly the same era (1970s–1980s). I was reluctant to trek all the way out to Heidelberg when I wasn't even familiar with any of the artists, but something about the promotional image (Jerrems' stunning 'Vale Street') told me I shouldn't miss it. I convinced a friend to drive me out one Saturday, and I'm so glad I was able to see work from these four wonderful photographers. Goldin's images are confronting if only because they are so unashamedly warts-and-all; Yang's visual stories from pre-AIDs gay Sydney are breathtaking in their intimacy; Clark's gorgeous presentation of mid-American youths doing drugs and having sex is a natural precursor to his debut feature film Kids (1995), and probably my favourite images from the exhibition; and Jerrems' depiction of 1970s Australia from a female perspective is both fascinating and inspiring.

While I usually write only about my own experiences and photos on this blog, I wanted to take a moment to talk about this fantastic exhibition because I have rarely been so moved by the work of other photographers (Rennie Ellis is the only other obvious example, but that's another story). Specifically, I want to talk about Jerrems.

Her work - at least that which was presented in the exhibition, though I suspect that constitutes a lot of it - is not consistently great. There were some images that didn't move me at all, and which I thought were quite ordinary. But when Jerrems took intimate photos of people, and particularly of women, she seemed to reveal these essentially universal emotions: pride, shame, lust, defiance, insecurity, power, fear. Maybe that's why 'Vale Street' is so famous; all these emotions and more are captured so perfectly in that one frame.

Occasionally, she turned the lens on herself. Standing in front of a mirror, camera partly obscuring her face, Jerrems would shoot herself. I have read interpretations that talk about a deconstruction of the female gaze, and while I'm sure that is in there, I think the images are powerful at a more basic level. For me, they show a woman who is intensely curious about her body. Her stance and gaze (where it's visible) reveal a calm inquisitiveness - a gentle wonder - that is only just prevailing over the self-criticism, shame and insecurity that every female feels at some point (and often too many) in their lives. This is reinforced with tragic execution in her hospital self-portraits, where she examines her mutating and dying thirty-year-old body. In all of Jerrems' self-portraits, she is looking at herself, for no one but herself, and learning to accept. In this way, maybe the deconstruction mentioned above is apt; Jerrems is reclaiming the gaze from the countless men (and women) who have judged before her. It's a triumph - over others and over herself - that a lot of women probably never reach.

Like every other woman and girl I know, I have experienced the volatile and highly charged relationship between the self and the body. For me it started out with indifference, before moving (with a lot of peer encouragement) to intense scrutiny, on to shame (manifested in the constant attempts to hide it), reluctant discovery, the first stages of acceptance, and most recently, the beginnings of pleasure and admiration. It's a vital process, and one I'm pleased to be in. But even as I approach total acceptance and celebration, the negative views of the body are impossible to kill. This ongoing battle between love and hate, acceptance and rejection, is undoubtedly what I respond to most strongly in Jerrems' self-portraits.

The photo at the top of this post is a direct response to how Jerrems' images made me feel. I'm not quite ready to reveal close-up details, too much skin, or even my face - but I am willing to really look at myself, and to embrace the aspects of my body that are beautiful, but which I always thought were unsightly. It's hard to post even this for fear of judgement. That I'm unattractive. That I'm attractive. That I'm unoriginal. That I'm vain. But then I think of Jerrems, and I know that I can't be judged if the image is for my eyes only. And it is.


more psychedelic palm trees from the fitzroy gardens

And so it continues - the exploration of these wonderful shapes silhouetted against a spring sky. The journey is far from over, though; what I'd like to achieve is a completely blank sky, with the chosen pattern appearing only within the silhouette. I've done it once before, with the Holga:

But the F4 is a million times more accurate, and as such doesn't so easily overexpose. Which just means I have to keep experimenting. It's hard to imagine what the daisy(?) photo would look like with a clear sky, so I can't really determine whether or not it would be better than what you see here. On the one hand, I quite like the consistency of the floral yellow soldiers throughout the entire frame, and the glow around the palm. On the other hand, a clear sky would really accentuate the tree. It would literally be a burst of flowers. I'm looking forward to achieving what's in my head.

I took quite a few of these shots on a recent Sunday trip to the lovely gardens, with picnic rug, book and Yan-Yan in tow. None of them achieved the desired result - which disappointed me at first, until I realised that if you're a self-taught photographer then straying from the path is all part of the learning. The most successful image from the day is successful precisely because it didn't give me a clear sky. I just don't think it would look as good:

The faded background (outside of the palm) highlights the subjects so vividly, and the composition is, for lack of a better word, really cute. The inclusion of people is also a plus for me, because when it comes down to it, inanimate objects just don't excite me as much as the human form.

So I'll keep trying, pushing, changing, until I get what I think I want. And then I'll probably push some more.


a wedding

I have rarely agreed to take photos for someone's event, purely because I am not confident enough that I will deliver what they want. After all, I am not a professional photographer. Very far from it. But when my lovely cousin Emily asked me to bring my cameras along to her low-key beach wedding, it was quite something else; this was family. Once I had repeatedly warned her that I'm not really that good, and that any photos I take may not turn out very well - and after her own reassurance that she wasn't fussy and was not looking for anything spectacular - I wholeheartedly obliged. In fact, I was honoured. Honoured, and nervous.

I took all four of my film cameras - two SLRs and two lomos - with the idea to shoot colour and black and white simultaneously. I also borrowed a friend's point-and-shoot digital in order to bulk up the volume in case of any film-related disasters. When the day came around, I was feeling relatively prepared. My cameras were loaded and batteries were charged. 

The conditions were bright and windy, posing two problems and one benefit: harsh shading, windblown faces and hair, and beautiful colours, respectively. It wasn't ideal for photos, but I supposed it was just a matter of making do with what we had.

On the plus side, everyone looked their beautiful best - none more so than the glowing bride Emily, whose magnificence is best captured in the photo at the top of this post. It's my favourite photo of her from the masses I took, because in addition to being a knockout, she looks so confidently happy. Which, I imagine, is exactly how a bride should look on the day of her wedding.

I found the 'essential' photos the most challenging - that is, photos of the actual ceremony, family portraits, the group photo - because I had such little control over the action. I don't doubt that a professional photographer would turn such restrictions into wonderful images, but these were probably my weakest. Which is not to say that they are awful - I quite like the above photo of the monumental kiss. But it is undoubtedly flawed: the sky is completely washed out and the bright sun has taken away a lot of the detail. 

Colour was better for the ceremony because the glorious beach blues it captured prevent the white wedding party from blending into the background. I quite like the cropping of this one because it allows us to focus on Em and Dan's two gorgeous daughters, who took part in the ceremony with what seemed like equal parts excitement and mystification.

And as far as a family portrait - with all heads in the frame - goes, this is pretty hard to beat. What a lovely moment.


Here's another 'essential' photo that turned out beautifully. I think this one is irresistible because it is so perfectly classic. With the simple, timeless white dress, the nondescript white shirt and tie, the traditional pose (the masculine groom leaning down to kiss his petite bride, his large hands gently encasing hers) and the lovely black and white, it could easily be a photo of any newly-wedded couple from any decade. As such there is a nostalgia attached to this image (at least, for me) because it would be right at home in most people's family wedding albums.

While the essentials were essential, the photos I was most eager to take were those moments between official poses; the detail that goes on when people are preparing for the camera. When I accompanied Em and Dan and Co. to get ready for the ceremony, there were plenty of these, which I did my best to identify and chase. The moment above is probably the most precious to me - but tragically the window behind them knocked the exposure out and the resulting image is undefined and grey. On top of this, some dust has interfered with the scan leaving Emily with an unsightly ring on her forehead. Despite its aesthetic flaws, though, I still love this photo to pieces.

I don't think this is a brilliant photo technically speaking, but Daddy + Daughters looking expectantly up at the new (unseen) bride is a pretty priceless image.

Likewise, the soon-to-be-mother-in-law attempting to attach the flower to the groom's shirt is at least a little bit precious.

And one of the irresistable princesses, patiently allowing her dress to be tied and re-tied by any number of flustered adults.

And this - my favourite of all the images I captured that day. The ceremony was over, and the girls were evidently having trouble with their shoes and needed to fix them, or remove them. (Maybe they had to pour out the sand.) And just like on any other day, they went straight to Mum for help. So here are two little angels, literally leaning on their mother - grabbing onto the pristine wedding dress that everyone else was afraid to touch for fear of soiling it. It's so special because it shows that untouchable relationship between a mother and her daughters, and while (again) it's not technically brilliant, I think it's near-perfect for the reasons described above.

It was a lovely day, and a wonderful celebration. There were a lot of photos that you don't see here that didn't work out very well, and it's easy to be disappointed by that. However, I hope there are enough successes that Emily and Dan will be able to compile a nice set of memories. I think there are.

(And I probably won't be agreeing to photograph another wedding any time soon. But I'm so very glad I was able to do this one.)


three party portraits (including joe vs the floorboards)

It was an art gallery opening, I think. The white paper letters belonged to one of the minimalist installations - or decorations. Whichever it was, it had partially collapsed, leaving Sesame-Street-style block letters strewn across the suitably rustic floorboards. I was standing with Joe, and perhaps some others, when I looked down and saw 'O' and 'E' at our feet. That almost spells Joe! I pointlessly exclaimed. A lightbulb flashed behind taka's eyes and he vanished, momentarily returning with a wonderfully jagged handmade 'J' to complete my picture.

I've never been able to successfully recreate my 'people vs walls' (etc.) portraits in black and white. The detail generally gets lost without contrasting colours. This, though - this is something else. The exposure in both compositions is just right, and the haphazard position of the letters adds interest. Joe's warm smile also contributes significantly to the image's overall success.

It was freezing out on the balcony but the liquor was flowing and spirits were accordingly elevated. Someone spotted the camera conspicuously hanging from my neck and proceeded to orchestrate a group portrait. I didn't have the heart to tell them that the Holga flash isn't strong enough for such a far-away shot, so I chose to waste a few dollars on a photo that wouldn't work in order to avoid rejecting a stranger (or was it taka?) and the ensuing social awkwardness. Get in closer! I yelled in an attempt to hide my cynicism.

But hey! It worked after all. Some people look great, some people look blurry, some people have their eyes closed. Consequently, some might say it's not a great portrait. I say, if I'm trying to accurately capture a group of people at a party then the combination of closed eyes, blurry faces and hot babes is not a bad representation at all.

The buzz had died. The music had deteriorated. The cold had reached the bones. It was time to leave. Of course, not everyone shared my fatigue - and I did have one more shot left on the roll. Attentions were adequately hazy, allowing me to get in close without being noticed. I doubt even the split-second beam of intrusive brightness alerted these subjects to my activity.

In a way, this is my favourite kind of party portrait. Although it doesn't have the aesthetic flair of the Joe photo nor the jovial vibe of the group shot, it's a moment that would have existed exactly as it is with or without my presence. It's more real than the others precisely because of that. Also interesing is that even though Adrian (on the left) is fully visible and takes up around 40% of the frame, it is undoubtedly a portrait of Seán. I suspect it's because Seán is the more active partcipant; he talks while Adrian listens.

People have asked me if I feel self-conscious or embarrassed when I venture into the night with a camera floating at my chest or nestled under my arm. And I say Never. Because if nothing else, photography should provide a view into a time and a place. Memories for those that were there; insight and vicarious experience for those that weren't. If the photos happen to be interesting at other levels, all the better. What I will hopefully end up with is an ever-growing collection of images that can potentially tell a million stories. Which is totally worth any suspicious or judgemental looks that might come my way.



Tattoos are incredibly common, especially if you live in Melbourne's inner north. Some may argue that they are so common as to be boring or unworthy of attention. Indeed, in certain areas or social scenes (Melbourne's music scene, for example) it is undoubtedly less common to come across someone with no tattoos than someone whose skin has been permanently marked. Yet I don't think that makes tattoos less interesting. Regardless of their current prevalence, they still provide endless fascination for me, no doubt in part because I don't have any myself. But think about it - someone with a tattoo has chosen to mark their body with certain words and/or images for life. What is it about those words, or that image, that renders them so special to a person? And what made them choose that part of their body? And how do they then display them to the public, if at all? (In fact, some of the more interesting choices relate to those tattoos that cannot normally be seen.)

I felt like a total creep taking the above shot, because I was obviously aiming the lens at Ester's legs and not at her face. But I quite love the image, which I suppose proves that being a creep in the name of art is worthwhile. The fact that two very crucial elements - Ester's face and the dog on the end of the leash - are missing from the frame make it much more interesting to me, because what is in the frame does plenty of explaining: the leash is pulled tight so we assume there is something strong and alive on the end, and the white hair on Ester's sleeve confirms the suspicion; while we can't see Ester's face, her sheer black stockings, chipped nailpolish and evocative tattoo tell us a lot about what she might be like. Whether the conclusions we draw are accurate or not doesn't matter; the photograph is an exercise in imagination, and ties into the idea that a lone tattoo can reveal something about its owner.

Imogen designed her remarkable tattoo, which sits proudly and colourfully on her right shoulder. I know it took a lot of planning and bravery on her part to go through with it, but I think it's worth it as it's a gorgeous aspect of her body. I hope she thinks so too. This photo is not necessarily bad, but probably doesn't stand on its own very well. When photographing subject matter as potentially cliched as tattoos, it's easy for the results to be unremarkable. However, I think something like this would work beautifully in a series.

Again, this is probably better when viewed with other images as part of a common theme, but it does have its strong points - not least of which is the fact that you can't help but wonder what's on the top of that fine looking leg. I don't know the story behind Ben's tattoo, but I do know that it suits him perfectly. He's had it (and one other) for as long as I've known him and I just can't imagine him without it. Which again contributes to the idea that body art can become so much a part of a person that it comes to partly define who they are and how they are seen.

There's great potential for a series of images on modern tattoos, particularly within one community. What do they say about the group of people? About the individuals? How strongly does body art define these people, at this time, in this place? My guess is, more stongly than you think.


'no, no, I'm not very photogenic'

'But you have a beautiful face for photography!'
'No, I really look bad in photos.'

So went the conversation I had with Rosalind when I asked her if I could take her picture. In the end I insisted that she oblige me, and with a little help from Laird and alcohol, managed to get her relatively relaxed in front of the camera.

So often my attempt to photograph people elicits similar responses. Besides telling people they look great, there really is no way to convince them to trust me. Reassuring them that the photographic vision in my head is truly wonderful just doesn't work a lot of the time; insecurities are usually too deep to be silenced by the words of someone shoving a camera in their face. I know this because I am guilty of it myself.

This image is my absolute favourite of the 36 from my latest roll. I was certain at the time that the composition was perfect for the moment, and I stand by that conviction; the position of Rosalind at the top left corner allows her gaze to direct the viewer's, first to Laird and then to the others in the background. I think it's very effective. The actual moment - Rosalind reacting to Laird's inevitable tomfoolery, and simultaneously to the fact that at any moment she will be captured on film - is a wonderfully honest one between two good friends, despite the awareness of the camera. And while Laird definitely looks good in the shot, he is merely a bit-part player in the scene, instigating Rosalind's action and in essence facilitating her. Because without doubt, this photo is all about Rosalind.

What an amazing smile, what vibrant eyes, what irresistible freckles. Her happiness shines through so strongly here, but more than anything Rosalind just looks so incredibly alive. I look at this photo and think, Wow, I'd love to have an image like that of myself.

And so I implore my readers and potential subjects out there to take this as a lesson: if I tell you that I think I'm going to get a great shot of you, or that you're going to look wonderful on my film, please trust me. Even if it turns out to be less than wonderful, I will blame only myself and promise to be discreet with the results, for I know how icky it can be to have a bad image of yourself on record. But maybe, between us we will create an incredible photo and capture a moment that we can both treasure. And isn't that worth the risk?


faces in the sky

Anything that involves the flashing lights, bright colours and hand-painted imperfection of the time-warp Americana carny aesthetic is sure to make me swoon. (You might know this by now.) Carnivals, fairs, fetes, shows, parades, festivals - they all render me weak at the knees. So when September rolled around and the Weekly Times released its annual bumber Royal Melbourne Show guide, it was a no-brainer that I would fork out the hefty entrance fee for the chance to catch all the carnival splendour in its natural habitat.

I took a couple of photos as I navigated my way through the pram parade, but something was amiss. Everywhere I looked - and especially through the claustrophobic maze of eccentric spruikers, dangerous rides and exploitative games - I saw incredible scenes, but still, somehow, felt completely uninspired. At the time I anticipated every photographic mishap I have ever had, and as a result imagined that any photos I took would be failures. And so, after exploring most of the layout on foot, after taking about seven photos between two cameras, after under two hours, I left.

My photography woes continued days and weeks after the Show. As I had only taken three shots on my Holga, I knew I needed to use up the film. Unfortunately I had left the flash switched on for several days and the batteries were dead, meaning I would have to take the remaining nine shots without a flash - a daunting task considering even outdoor shots usually need a fill-in flash. This did not help my lack of enthusiasm. But as I set off to the second of two Grand Finals, a whole two weeks after the Show expedition, I forced myself to take the camera and make the most of the blue sky and sunshine. And so, on the way to and from the dismal game, I finished the film. The following week, I picked up the prints with hopelessly low expectations.

How I wished I took more at the Show. The one at the top of this post is gloriously over-the-top in its colours and layers, and the food stand exhibits all the things I love about the carny look - the typeface, the building shape, the colour combinations. But what really makes this photo worthwhile for me is, of course, that mischievously happy face in the sky.

I do quite like the striking shape and composition of the overwhelmingly imposing church, but it's the intense blue sky that made my heart sing when I saw this photo.

Aah, the mighty MCG. With a lot of post-firework smoke in this instance. I find this shot really interesting with the colours and the smoke - but let's face it, any shot of the 'G is going to be appealing to a Melburnian, if only for sentimental reasons. (And, for the record, much more worthy of worship than the church.)

It's a little overexposed, but the way the flora perfectly parallels the Birrarung Marr Federation Bells is nothing short of lovely.

The fruits of my lomo labour thankfully proved encouraging enough to pull me out of my photographic funk. Which is often the case, with art and otherwise - precisely when you start to lose faith, it pulls itself together and proves itself worthy of your attention. Just in the nick of time.


it's a celebration!

So I guess I should also say hello!, this is my first blog post on my first blog. I don't really know what I'm doing but I'll keep doing it for at least a little while longer (until my enthusiasm wanes). At this point, though, I am very much looking forward to regularly sharing my images, some old and some new, with a potentially unknown cyber audience. Hooray! 

And so I introduced myself to the world of blogging - to friends, to strangers, or perhaps to nobody - exactly one year ago today. I am thrilled to say that my enthusiasm hasn't waned in the slightest since I began; if anything, the thrill of putting my work out in a public forum has made me more excited about this blog, and about photography in general. It's an interesting psychological occurrence: even though in reality very few people probably read it, the knowledge that anyone, anywhere, could read it has the same effect as if thousands of eyes were scanning it every day.

The above is from my most recent roll of film, and is characteristic of many images I have shared in the past - a double exposure with a strange combination of colours, shapes and patterns.  I think it's very beautiful. Photos like this still excite me because they are simultaneously representative of and completely removed from reality.

I love to take photos. I love the rush of adrenaline I get right before opening that cardboard envelope and seeing what I have produced. And I love sharing the results with everybody, anybody and nobody on this blog.

(thank you)



One of the things I was itching to do when I purchased my F4 was to test out the multiple exposure function and see how layered images might look when produced on a camera that isn't made out of plastic. As part of my very first test roll, I took to the Fitzroy Gardens on a sunny Autumn day to get some standard flora shots (which I did, and which served the purpose of getting to know my camera, but are far too boring to post here). The sun was really performing and I used the opportunity to get a silhouette of one of the garden's magnificent palm trees, with the intention of shooting some colourful flowers as the second exposure, which would theoretically show through the black area of the tree. But I guess the flowers were all pretty much dead because everywhere I looked was just green and brown.

Frustrated with the lack of opportunity and about to shoot a patch of grass just so I could move on to the next frame, I noticed a small splash of colour on an ancient towering tree trunk. Upon closer inspection I realised that someone had stuck letters onto the trunk, the kooky formation spelling the work L-O-V-E. Well, even if it was a bit boring, at least it wasn't grass. And so I got out the massive flash for the first time, pressed a few buttons in the hope that it would fire some light, positioned the letters in the frame where I recalled the palm leaves had been, and took the shot.

When I saw this image about a week later, it took me a second to recall exactly what it was. Because it doesn't look like anything, really - it doesn't even look like a real photo. It almost reminds me of a badly put-together Photoshop job. That it is, in fact, a real photo, for me turns it from an aesthetically ugly image to a remarkable example of what this camera can potentially produce. And despite the photo being a bit unsightly and borderline corny, I think the composition is really cute - LOVE in a natural explosion of excitement! Just like being in love! OMG!

And let's face it, despite everything else, we all need some love now and then. Even if it isn't so pretty.


back to the beach

When I went to Splendour in the Grass in 2009, I was lucky enough to be staying right by the beach, and I took some incredibly vibrant colour (slide) photos while I was there that captured the beautiful blues and yellows of the sunny Australian shore. Though this year I camped on-site at the festival, I did manage to glimpse the Queensland ocean when we took a seaside detour on the way to Brisbane airport.

Whenever I am at a beach - and especially in sunny conditions - I am always tempted to take photos. I think there's something about the colours of the landscape that inspire many people to capture beach scenes, and they often do so beautifully. In spite (or because) of this, I made the decision to capture this particular stretch of sand using black and white film.

I didn't expect to like the results - I mean, my past beach photos have been successful largely because of the colour. I anticipated a mass of indistinguishable greys, completely uninteresting to the eye. And in one sense, that's what I got; these images don't have much definition at all, in terms of colour or shape. And they're not even level! However, there is definitely an element of charm to them. With the faded shades, the poor focus and the powerfully obvious vignetting, these photos are strongly reminiscent of some lost era - the days before people took colour photos, and camera technology was in its infancy. I know plastic camera photography often has this effect, but I don't believe any of my other photos have ever evoked it so strongly. Why? Because to shoot the beach devoid of colour seems like a waste. Like something one would only do if colour wasn't widely available - say, in the 1920s. Ridiculous? Yes. But it's the only way I can explain the impression these images leave on me. Will I shoot the beach in black and white again? Maybe. But I don't know that I will be able to once more resist capturing those beautiful colours...


black and white beauties

Is there anything more beautiful than a gorgeous girl on black and white film? Not only is it classic, it also has the very welcome ability to remove flaws - or at least turn them into something lovely in and of themselves. I've recently come across a great film that, with its ultra-smooth definition and high contrast, is the perfect accompaniment to a breathtaking femme fatale.

(I recommend you click through on the images to really see the excellent detail in the film.)

With her tiny frame, platinum hair and enormous eyes, Jessica just cries out to be captured. And I don't think it's the first time she's been randomly photographed - when I asked if I could take her picture she was very open to being in front of the lens. If only every subject was as comfortable with the way they looked; even if she is very aware of being photographed, her fearlessness translates into a gorgeous image. Now, you may be thinking Well no wonder she's comfortable - she's stunning! And you'd be right in that she is undoubtedly very beautiful. But her beauty is nothing if not unconventional, and I really believe that the most attractive people, whether on the street or on film, truly embrace the way they look, even (or especially) if it doesn't fit conventional standards.

Imogen: another wildly attractive lady with unique features. Here she is at a party, and after a few drinks her exhibitionist tendencies have overcome her usual (unwarranted) self-consciousness. I think this is a great shot of Imogen, but knowing how disapproving she can be of herself, I wasn't sure she would agree with me - it's certainly not a typical glamour shot and her eccentricities are on full display. When I showed it to her, though, she loved it! And I suspect it is because she looks so totally confident here. More proof that regardless of anything else, you look your best when you feel great.

Melissa has a dignified modesty about her that ensures she never gratuitously flaunts her beauty. She is also one of the most consistently stylish people I know. I mean, she always looks great. Perhaps this explains why Melissa also always seems quietly self-assured. I look at this photo, and I think her expression communicates that very strongly - she is justifiably calm and confident in front of the camera, but without a trace of arrogance. She is just so elegant.

Bronwyn is the kind of ecstatically enthusiastic person that immediately puts others at ease. Always at the ready with kind words and a heart-warming smile, her outwardly sunny disposition infects everyone around her. I realise this is almost a stereotype, like the introductory voice-over of a bad romance movie, but trust me, in the case of Bronwyn it's true. Well actually, you don't need to trust me - just look at that photo and tell me I'm wrong.

Each of these four images reinforce my impressions of their respective subjects. Are they accurate? Maybe. But it doesn't really matter. They're successful images precisely because they capture what I believe to be true qualities of these magnificent beauties. And, of course, because of that flawless black and white film.


twisted sister

I've always been fond of incorporating multiple exposures into my portraits, usually at night, usually using a coloured flash and usually layering a nondescript pattern over the subject. With these characteristics in mind, this image takes my multiple exposure portraiture in a completely new direction: daytime, natural light, landscape layered over the subject.

I didn't expect that it would work at all as I had rarely attempted this kind of photo before, but it immediately captured my attention because of its extraordinarily unique attributes. The grain, which I have written about before, adds a sense of nostalgia to the image as it reminds me of some of the photos you see from the 70s or 80s. The mise en scene (can I use that term in relation to photographs? Probably not) reinforces this impression, as there is nothing particularly modern in the frame. (Well, maybe the piercing?) Technically it's quite a success, as the portrait itself takes the majority of the film while the landscape only comes in just enough to be visible without ruining the main image. Plus the composition is nice - she's looking slightly off to the left and her hair is in sync with that movement.

Perhaps this one isn't so successful, but it's still very interesting to me - though I can't figure out why. Possibly because it's such a new kind of image for me, and I'm fascinated by the colour and grain - mediocre by today's standards - in a similar way that the portrait on the Sydney Harbour fascinated me. (In fact, they're very similar.) Maybe these images appeal to me precisely because it would be extremely difficult to replicate the effect digitally. Between the slightly off colour, the severe grain and the layered exposure, it is unquestionably created using film. And as ridiculous as it may sound, that just seems a lot more real to me.


the first day of spring

Here we are, back to the Melbourne of old - where the city's weather lives up to its reputation for being inconsistent, unpredictable and often rainy. For the past several years our winters have been alarmingly dry and umbrella ownership has probably dropped significantly, but this year's winter has been suitably wet and cold and miserable. And so it was no surprise that Melbourne welcomed spring with a dreary, grey and relentlessly wet Wednesday.

Eager to finish my film in time to drop it off before closing time, I took out the F4 for the walk between Flinders Street Station and Lonsdale Street in order to reach that often difficult exposure number, 36. (I have done this before on a different route, remember?) I also felt it would be good to test this particular film - a very high speed black and white - in (semi-)daylight because the previous shots on the roll were all taken after dark. The result was pleasantly surprising, as I think the obvious grain really suits that wonderful melancholia that a wet, cold city can evoke.

I also thought I'd try a couple of double exposures, basically because I don't do enough of them. The reason for this is that the nature of multiple exposures means leaving a lot of the outcome to chance, and I find it difficult to surrender that control - but it's a good exercise because more often than not the results are, at the very least, interesting. This image fascinates me - not because it's a perfect shot in any way, but because it shows a lot of potential for multiple exposure in black and white, and in the city. The juxtaposition of the old building with the modern shop signs is quite a good one, and the glow of the lights on this particular film is lovely.

I'll definitely be using this film in the city again. But as the weather inevitably warms up with the changing seasons, I guess the question is - will a less miserable city yield such promising results? And I suspect the answer is, of course. Because while Melbourne might be renowned for perennial teardrops falling from an endlessly grey sky, we know there's a lot more to her than that.


the older they get, the cuter they ain't

So says Marge Simpson's beauty-challenged sister Selma - and in the case of she and chain-smoking, DMV-desk-dwelling twin Patty, it's probably true. But as if to challenge the Bouviers and prove that some sisters retain their splendour long after childhood, the lovely Surace girls recently provided my lens with one of the most fabulous portraits I've taken in quite some time.

These country-bred beauties have been dear friends of mine from the time we were small enough to potentially drown in the large cow pats on their family farm. Of course this alone makes the picture special, but it also impresses me because it reveals some strikingly accurate personality traits: Dallas, the fun-loving extrovert whose outrageous humour and powerful vocal chords cause as much glee for her cohorts as irritation for her seniors, but which also make her irresistible to all but the stoniest of souls; and Bree, whose kindness and overwhelming congeniality - present in her gorgeously honest smile - enchant all whom she encounters. I think this perfectly captures a wonderful moment shared between sisters - two people who know each other intimately enough to put one another completely at ease, even with a camera present. Beyond the personal aspects of the image, the shockingly white hair (they were both wearing wigs) against the flawless skin and midnight background makes for a stunning spectacle.

The photo was taken at a wig party, and was intended to be the first in a series of wig portraits taken over the course of the evening. What a great concept - all of these completely normal guests with outrageous wigs on! In the black and white I thought it would be especially effective, letting the bizarre shapes speak for themselves. However, I only got two taken before everyone removed their wigs in a fit of itchiness. The second one really doesn't stand alone as a good portrait, particularly when compared to the success of the first one, but I think it would have worked had it belonged to an extensive series of portraits as planned. Alone, it seems unspectacular because it lacks animation, and it doesn't appear to capture any particularly vital moment.

Or maybe it's just because they're not sisters.