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August 2021 – John McRae Photography & Studio

Lauren – a stylish buyer’s agent

Lauren Goudy is a buyer’s agent working in the buoyant Sydney real estate world. She works as part of the Rose & Jones team of property managers and vendors’ advocates, out of their offices in Double Bay.

Lauren required fresh content for her various promotional platforms. So she asked me to take a series of casual shots of her going about her daily routine, which included meeting with clients, visiting prospective properties and traveling to sites of interest around the Eastern suburbs. We included a couple of fun portraits with the same mood of those old films about the Pink Panther, Modesty Blaise, James Bond and Swinging London.

Lauren (see her profile) is a Licenced Real Estate Agent with a 14-year career negotiating the sale of homes in some of the most prestigious suburbs, firstly in Melbourne, now in Sydney. She prides herself on her ability to help her clients to make smart property decisions and her own knack of securing quality real estate in the competitive Sydney market. 

Fashion statement face-masks

The fashion world is constantly evolving. Over the years I’ve photographed a heady selection of haute couture design, casual street wear and accessories,  both in Australia and overseas, including in Paris, Hong Kong, Beirut and Rome. Recently I photographed the novel range of face masks designed by the label Hygiene to a T (www.htoat.com.au).   Each mask is handmade, washable, reusable and reversible. 

Hygiene to a T has launched its range of colourful, Australiana masks which are stylish and still highly protective. Their beautiful fabrics feature cockatoos, wallabies, bandicoots, wattle and banksia, but also more funky urban patterns, including a comic-book Spiderman. Wearing a mask of a masked superhero has its own ironic, Pop culture edge. Hygiene to a T cleverly encourages you to stay safe with style.

New textile works by Rhonda Pryor

Rhonda pictured with one of her recent works

I’ve been photographing Rhonda Pryor’s works and exhibitions for many years.  Originally Rhonda was my studio buddy when we both worked in the same warehouse building in Lilyfield – me with my photography and Rhonda in her painting studio. Rhonda has since moved on to work in a studio closer to home, but she continues to commission me to photograph and document her eye-catching works, which combine painting and textiles, both hard-edged and shadowy.

Rhonda writes about her work: “While studying for my master’s degree at Sydney College of the Arts, my media of choice evolved to photography and textile work. However, I feel my work still suggests a painter’s sensibility in many ways and has influenced me in working with oils yet again after a long break. Recent textile pieces range from tight, abstract and amorphic shapes with linen, to more fluid, evocative manipulations – like catching sight of something but not quite seeing or understanding it (much like the process of remembering).”

See more of Rhonda’s work at www.rhondapryor.com

Corporate profiles for The Prime Group

I recently photographed studio portraits as corporate profiles for the team at Prime Constructions. For the occasion, a studio set-up was temporarily installed at the company’s Artarmon offices, as pictured. Sometimes as a photographer, the key is to be mobile.

Prime chose a standard grey background with a slight gradient for the portraits. The subject was seated, to create a corporate mood that was relaxed and open.  The images are all shot in a landscape orientation, rather than portrait.  This choice was made based on the proposed layout of these profiles on the Prime Constructions website. The main lighting is high key with not too much contrast on the face, and I added a hair-light to separate the sitter from the background. 

Pictured above from left to right: Paul Christopher (MD Construction), John Drake (MD Pre-Construction) and Phil De Gail (Executive Chairman)

In 1983, Ron Masters & Phil de Gail established Prime Constructions, now regarded as one of the leading building contractors in New South Wales. Paul Christopher joined Prime in 1988 as a cadet and John Drake commenced as a general foreman in 1989. Having prospered and developed within the increasingly expanding company, John and Paul became directors and shareholders in 2000. In 2010, they became joint managing directors.

Prime’s services include new construction, refurbishment and fit-out for projects up to $80m, offering innovative construction solutions and undertaking industrial, commercial, retail and institutional projects. Over the past several years, I have photographed many building sites overseen by Prime, documenting each stage from the earliest preliminary phases to completion. With a proven record of successful project delivery for over 35 years, Prime is one of my long-standing architectural clients. 

St Narsai Assyrian Christian College, Horsley Park by Prime Constructions

The joy of coincidence – similar pose, different continent

Ceramic figure by Dutch artist Frans Franciscus, 2021

Sometimes in the art world, coincidences can be a great joy. I just received an invitation to a solo presentation of new ceramic sculptures by Dutch artist Frans Franciscus (www.fransfranciscus.nl), showing one of his elongated, nude figures. Franciscus has posed his male subject upside-down, like a naked totem. Immediately I was reminded of one of my own works, a surreal portrait of Olympic diver Matthew Mitcham. In my photograph taken in Sydney ten years ago, Matt poses in his diving trunks, balanced on his hands in the abandoned rail yards at Lilyfield.

John McRae, Matthew Mitcham, Lilyfield, 2011

The silhouette and mood are very similar in both of our works. Franciscus says he “combines or re-arranges compositions of old masters depicting biblical stories in an up-to-date and idiosyncratic fashion.” Using sculpture, paintings, drawings and photographs, his art tackles racism, discrimination and social discomfort. I sometimes do the same thing in my photographs. Frans Franciscus, who is also a great friend of my mate the Dutch artist Erwin Olaf, will be featured in “This Art Fair” to be held at the Kromhouthal in Amsterdam, August 26-29, 2021, with seven new sculptures presented in his solo called as “Clay Only”. Inspired by medieval and Renaissance painting, Surrealism, religious iconography and classical mythology, Franciscus’ artwork always tries to create space for a broader view on humankind.

My portrait photograph of Matt was taken in the industrial area still “under development for the West Connex”, at the site next to the Lilyfield light rail, from where you can see the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It was taken as part of a fashion shoot that I was staging for the Australian label “Gossip”.  I had decided to incorporate different narratives into the fashion shots … to that end I enlisted “extras” to appear in the backgrounds. Matt, who at the time lived nearby, was included as part of this concept. 

John McRae, Fashion shoot for Gossip Couture, 2011

This was only three years after Matt had won his gold medal at the Beijing Olympics in the 10-metre diving event, with what is still the highest-scoring single dive in Olympic history.  My photos were taken in March, 2011.

And now for something completely different……

Adam Lee

Now and then it can be great to have a bit of fun in the studio and just see where things take you. Adam is a friend who was keen to play along. We raided the costume box and this is what we found. The results are a bit of Goldfinger, and Madonna, and Shirley Bassey, and Liberace, and Moulin Rouge, and James Bond.

Winter Collection – So French So Chic

For this shoot for So French So Chic, we decided to photograph the winter collection of jumpers and knits in a neutral warehouse setting.

With more than 20 years of experience So French So Chic is focused on stylish but casual clothing made from knitwear and all-natural fibres. Designed in France and produced in Italy for the Australian climate, the new range for SFSC features cable knit, bold colours and soft fabric.

Model: Brooke Garvey

Hair and Makeup: Michael Wolff Salon, Potts Point

My Green Zone

Callan Park, a large parkland on the Sydney foreshore, borders the suburbs of Rozelle, Lilyfield and Leichhardt. Just across the road from my photography studio, the park stretches down to the water’s edge. I regularly go for walks on the lawns, amidst the centuries old trees and the heritage buildings. It’s both a sanctuary and an oasis.

Over the years I have photographed the interiors of different buildings within Callan Park, especially the abandoned psychiatric wards, which featured as a backdrop for my “Looney Bin” and “Ward 17” series. These sandstone buildings have been shown in my exhibitions in Rome, Ravello, Trieste and Sydney.

One of the original buildings in Callan Park officially entitled the house of “The Master of Lunacy”

Documenting the Manly Ferry

The four 40-year-old Freshwater-class ferries churning the waters from Circular Quay to Manly are about to be replaced by a fleet of new 1000-seat, double decker vessels. I have been commissioned to photograph these iconic beasts before they disappear from service.

I have been venturing down to the harbour at different times of the day to capture the MV Freshwater, MV Queenscliff, MV Narrabeen and MV Collaroy as they near their retirement. The Manly Ferries provide one of the world’s most beautiful public transport services, operating since 1855.

The Port Jackson and Manly Steamship Company that operated the Manly ferries for nearly a century famously coined the expression about Manly being “Seven miles from Sydney and a thousand miles from care”, a phrase that became part of Sydney’s popular culture.

New paintings by Phil Stallard

Sydney artist Phil Stallard is know for his spontaneous landscapes of coastal Sydney. Describing himself as an “Emotional Abstractionist”, Phil dedicates himself to creating exuberantly coloured paintings with Sydney harbour and swimming pool iconography. The theme of water has been a prominent reference point for Phil, drawing on his personal memories of the city and the Hawkesbury.

Currently Phil is working on an upcoming solo show at Rochfort Gallery in North Sydney.

“My work has echoes of improvised jazz, where the artist interprets compositional themes through the act of painting. The result is carefully thought out but with spontaneous elements that give the painting vitality and life.”

The natural world in jewellery by CircaAD

Following 30 years in the world of fine jewellery and decorative arts both in Europe and Australia, Adrian Dickens from CircaAD specialises in objects of intrinsic beauty and good craftsmanship. This ranges from South Sea pearl pendants and diamond cluster brooches, to reinvigorated family heirlooms.

For the last 8 years, I have been working with Adrian, whose business is based in Melbourne. My work has been photographing his collection of high quality pieces for his annual catalogue and documenting his fine jewellery, created thanks to his specialised approach.

The Valletta Swimming Pool

Sometimes archeology is not about ancient history. The public swimming pool in Valletta, one of my favourite informal places in Malta, is for me a site of extraordinary memories. I have spent 20 years meeting up with friends around the deck, swimming laps for exercise underneath the ramparts of the old city. On the right of the pool is baroque architecture and on the left is the Mediterranean. There has always been an endearing atmosphere of mild neglect, which adds to the attraction.

As I write this, I have heard that the pool is being demolished. Sitting here in winter in Sydney I am full of nostalgia for scorching summers by the blue waters of this magical place.

The local children who live in the area have used the pool as their social club. Over the years I saw many of them grow up.

Currently I am revising and editing the various images I have captured of this iconic public meeting point, with the idea of creating a monograph as a tribute to this slice of warm humanity in Valletta.