Friday, March 4, 2011

Fantastic FNQ photo Friday

One of the great things about photography for me is the entree it gives me into the lives of people I would otherwise never meet.

This was one such assignment to Weipa, up on the western coast of Cape York. The very tip of Australia for those of you who don't know it.

Coincidentally I'd just come back from there on a week-long assignment and got a call to head back there again. Only this time with a special guest.

Olympic champion and all-round beautiful lady Cathy Freeman was filming the second series of her hit TV show Going Bush. In the first series she'd been accompanied by one of my favourite actresses, Deb Mailman. In this second series she was joined by young actor Luke Carroll.

What made it so special was the reaction from the young aboriginal children in the communities she visited. To say that she is a hero to these people is like saying Superman is a little bit special. They were all waiting down on the beach when we arrived and a quick yell from one of the elders and they just came running from everywhere.

We filmed it in quite a secluded location because, basically, we didn't need a riot on our hands! But to see the absolute joy, pride and honour on these kids' faces was very humbling. And Cathy took it all with total aplomb. Cathy is quite a shy person and seemed to feel uncomfortable with all the attention, until she started playing with the kids and organizing running races on the sand. Then the fun was on for young and old.

Fishing with spears, face painting, totem pole painting. We crammed a lot in in a short period of time but it was an experience I will cherish forever. The camera really is an amazing gate key to so many incredible experiences and this truly is an incredible part of the world.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The art of collaboration

For many years (more than I care to remember!) I have been both a photographer and writer. Sometimes I do one or the other, many times I do both. But whenever I do both - ie create an article package - it's always travel or photography related. That's where my strengths and my knowledge lies. Whilst I enjoy photographing lots of different things I enjoy writing about just two things - photography and travel.

So that's why I actively seek out writers in the local north Queensland area, and beyond. To collaborate. There are writers out there with some weird and wonderful specialties who cover topics that I have no knowledge of whatsoever.

Take this image here of a young lady in a pathology lab. Making the photos and meeting the people is the best part of the job. But while I love reading about the research being done, I'm not particularly interested in writing about it. Best to leave that to the experts.

A writer friend gave me a call to let me know she had an assignment to write about university graduates working in the pathology field and whether I'd like to take the images. There's nothing I love more than creating compelling images of ordinary people in their work environment. It's just so much fun and always really challenging. How to make four pathology labs which are all basically the same visually (to the untrained eye!) look individual.

Next week I'm off to photograph a bio-dynamic dairy farmer on the Atherton Tablelands for a national business publication. How did that come about? A local writer I know gave me a call. He'd gotten an assignment to write the article and the editor said he needed a photographer for some professional shots. So by me knowing the writer I get to work on a great collaborative project, and I get to work for publications that would otherwise never have heard of me.

So if you love editorial photography like I do, but you have no particular desire to write, then look at hooking up with some local writers. You'll find the scope of your assignments will really broaden and you just might discover a passion for a totally new industry.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Teach what you know and pass it forward

This post is inspired by a Facebook message I just received. A good friend of mine, Clive Hutchison, used to be the head of the photography department at James Cook University in Townsville.

We met when he was doing a thesis and his subject was local photographers in the far north Queensland region. He would interview us and spend a day with us out in the field to photograph us as we worked. You can see a PDF of his interview with me on the Mirror to Mirror page at the JCU website. Scroll down to page 112. There's some great interviews with other local photographers there as well so definitely take the time to look at the other PDFs.

Anyway every year Clive would fly me down to Townsville to speak to his graduating class about travel photography. I used to prepare a slideshow of my work and talk about what it was like to work in the industry.

One year I couldn't get time off to fly down there so I did my talk via video link. It was great fun and quite a few of the students sent me email questions afterwards, as they do most years. I always give freely of my time and advice for those who want to make their way in this crazy game. I think it's really important that we educate up-and-coming photographers about what it means to be a professional. Too many photographers complain about how screwed up the business is but do nothing to help those who might not know any better improve their own business practices.

One of the students at that video link, Heather Grant, just sent me a wonderful message to let me know that she had taken all my advice on board and had just spent a long period of time travelling through Canada, the US, Europe and Thailand photographing all these projects. Now she's planning on heading back to Canada at the end of the year and spending her weekends seeking work in New York. She still references the big, long email I sent her when she makes career path decisions and just wrote to thank me for being so sharing with her.

From my perspective it was nothing. Happy to help. But to receive such a lovely letter and words of thanks was truly humbling. And to know that I've just helped one person follow their dreams is a truly amazing feeling.

So I would encourage you to share your knowledge with those who would seek it. Whether it be business-related, photography-related or just life-related. Pass it forward. Remember what it was like when you were learning and pass your knowledge on. The rewards will come back to you tenfold.