Apparently this is a rather famous cafe in Sydney. Or at least, its parent cafe in Woolloomooloo is famous, being a known celebrity-slash-tourist attraction, and also being listed on the National Trust register. It's called Harry's Cafe de Wheels, and its culinary specialty is something called a 'Pie Floater', involving a meat pie, tomato sauce and mushy green pea soup.
But I couldn't care less about the fecal-sounding menu, or how many times Elton John ordered from it in the seventies. To be honest, I never even laid eyes on the 'original' Harry's, nor do I have any great desire to. What I do care about is the lovely little shoebox eatery pictured above, which sits unassumingly at the foot of the grand Capitol Theatre in the (outer?) CBD. As soon as I set eyes on this architetural anomaly I just knew I needed to get a picture. Its irresistable typography and romantically sweeping asymmetrical roof cry out to be celebrated and commemorated on film.
Beyond my admiration of its mid-twentieth-century Americana aesthetic (no doubt related to my unabashed love of carny chic) is my joyous surprise at discovering a permanent fixture in the city that is, paradoxically, inherently temporary. I mean, the thing's on wheels! It recalls the Mr Whippy ice cream van that haunts the Arts Centre stretch of Melbourne's St Kilda Road. Unlike the ominous icy-treats van, however, Harry's never goes away.
I don't recall a black and white medium format picture of mine that has ever looked so dreamy. I like to think my camera responded to the otherworldly vision in front of its lens. As one observer remarked upon seeing this image, it looks like it's floating. And I tend to agree - floating in time, floating in space, floating in a city that sometimes seems to be drowning in its own bigness.
I don't know what your Pie Floaters are like Harry, but I really dig your style.
There's nothing I love more, photographically speaking, than a good portrait. When I talk to someone in the same spot for long enough I will invariably consider how they might look on film in that moment. Sometimes the answer is like shit, but sometimes if I have my camera on me I decide that a shot is definitely warranted. When James and a few others were in conversation over dinner in early 2009 I noticed how lovely the seat backing was, and snapped with the hope of capturing that and his beautiful smile. When photographing people - particularly when you're only prepared to chance one shot on them - it is hit and miss as to whether the result will be any good. I think this one was a hit.
This is not necessarily a miss, but I do regret the (lack of) focus and the break in the wallpaper to the left. What is visible of the wallpaper looks great, though, and I think it's a lovely shot of Madeleine. The fact that it was taken on her seventeenth birthday makes it even more momentous.
I suppose the notion of a busy background in a portrait seems like it might detract from the subject, which I have no doubt is a common occurrence. Perhaps the reason I don't find that in these shots is because they are black and white, so the backgrounds are only as busy as their patterns, rather than colours. (The graffiti shot of Laird is another great people vs wall shot - in this case the background actually complements the portrait as it's one of Laird's favourite, and most frequented, alleys in Melbourne.)
I have only made one attempt at these shots in colour, and I love it - but I don't think it's necessarily successful as a portrait. The combination of the surreal colour and the black-as-night sunglasses dehumanises it, so while the image is aesthetically pleasing, it doesn't reveal much about the subject.
I was immediately disappointed with taka's eyes being closed when I got this back, following my logic that eyes are a crucial element of a good portrait. Then I looked at it a bit more, and within a few hours I was in love with this image. The photo collage makes for a fabulously unusual background, and the bright flash around his head combined with the vignetting around the trim gives the shot a great sense of depth. It's hard to put my finger on the reason I grew to appreciate the closed eyes - perhaps because it doesn't necessarily look like it's a blink (though it was), so there are an infinite number of conclusions that can be drawn. Is he deep in thought? Is he rejecting the photographer's request to take his picture? Is he upset? Or resting? Or listening to something? What? It seems that closed eyes can prompt as many questions as open eyes.
Analysis aside, another reason this is a treasured image is because it captures a common weekend occurrence: 2am, Brunswick Street, pizza slices. Taka is drunk and sleepy, and he happens to be standing in front of a great looking wall. And maybe it's as simple as that.