Charles Cooper launches his monograph at Annandale Galleries

Charles Cooper is a well known, accomplished, incredibly talented artist who has an impressive CV and career. For many years he has been part of the permanent stable of artists showing at the prestigious Annandale Galleries, Trafalgar Street, Annandale. Charles also works as drawing lecturer at the National Art School

On Saturday 10 September, 2022 at the Annandale Galleries Charles launched a monologue of his work over the last 40 years. Dr Michael Hill, Head of Art History and Theory at the National Art School, spoke at the launch together with Joe Frost who contributed the accompanying text in the book. John McDonald (Art Critic) wrote, “”It’s illuminating to read Joe Frost’s description of Cooper’s career and trace the evolution of his work. While the artist’s themes and ideas have remained consistent, the formal innovations have never ceased.”

I managed to capture a few images from the afternoon (selection pictured below). The book is available from Charle’s website: www.charlescooperartist.com

Moulin Scrooge at the Seymour Centre this December

Trevor Ashley is at it again! This Christmas will see trevor flying high in a raucous parody called “Moulin Scrooge” (name says it all!), being performed at the Seymour Centre in December, 2022.

I had the pleasure of working with Trevor again on the photography for the initial poster work. We hadn’t seen each other for some time so it was great to have Trevor in full make-up and drag burst into the studio for the shoot.

We set up a mock trapeze in the centre of the studio as the central prop to recreate the illusion that Trevor was after. As you can imagine the whole shoot was hilarious. Trevor has a natural capacity to keep you giggling even when you should be concentrating on more serious concerns.

Minnie Cooper “kills it” on Ru Paul’s Drag Race

Costume: House of Priscilla, Wig Styling: @wiggedoutau

Minnie Cooper is one of Sydney’s most eminent drag queens. Her career spans decades and she hails from the flamboyant, golden years of drag in Sydney in Oxford Street. Most recently she has done a sterling job starring in the latest series of Ru Paul’s Drag Race Down Under (currently showing on Stan). Minnie made it through to the fourth episode, before she was ceremonially ejected from the line-up by Ru Paul herself. She departed with enviable glamour and style.

Minnie asked me to organise a shoot to document some of the original looks which “she rocked” during the four episodes of Drag Race Down Under. Here are some images from that shoot. Think Lucille Ball, operatic diva, Madame Butterfly, Penelope Pitstop. It is always great to work with Minnie, who is a real pro, an authentic Sydney icon and a generous mentor to upcoming talent. I know that Minnie has further show-stopping looks which deserve to be properly documented, and so I look forward to our next photography session together.

Costume: Dallas Della Force, Wig Styling: @wiggedoutau, Jewellery: House of Priscilla
Costume: Kirsten Damned, Wig Styling: @wiggedoutau, Boots: House of Priscilla
Costume: Kirsten Damned, Wig Styling: @wiggedoutau
Costume: @grantmargetts, Wig Styling: @wiggedoutau
Costume: Kirsten Damned, Wig Styling: @wiggedoutau, Boots: House of Priscilla
Costume: Mitzi MacIntosh
Pictured with Fran Giapanni, costume: Kirsten Damned
Costume: Kirsten Damned, Earrings: Miss Madinson 3D

Flashback – SX covers from the past

From top to bottom (Mitzi Mackintosh, Pam Ann, Alex Perry, Charlotte Dawkins, Julie McCrossin and Ruby Rose (SX cover for March, 2009)

As a “flashback” moment I went through a few images of shoots I have done for various covers of SX, the Sydney weekly magazine. SX no longer exists, having halted operations in 2017 but I do remember having a great time with the broad selection of people with whom I had the privilege to make portraits in my studio and on location.

Behind the scenes with the Foxtel broadcast line-up of talent for the 2009 Mardi Gras parade

The very first cover I did for SX was in February of 2008. Brad Johnston was the editor at the time and he asked me to shoot a series of images of Verushka Darling, the well-known drag identity in the LGBTQI community. Brad said about her; ” When is a drag queen not just a drag queen? When she’s also a model, corporate MC, TV presenter, producer and scriptwriter”.

Verushka was performing that year at Mardi Gras (30th anniversary) and SX had devoted an article to her take on fashion.

Verushka Darling (My 1st cover, February, 2008)

Another early cover was of the well known DJ Kitty Glitter, who used to hold court as resident DJ at the rooftop club at Home in Darling Harbour. This cover was shot in my Lilyfield studio for the September 2009 issue.

There were so many covers and so many wonderful experiences. Now and then I am going to post flashbacks from some of my old shoots. Below are out-takes from studio visits by Verushka Darling and Amelia Airhead. Sometimes it’s great to be able to re-visit the past.

Girls in property at Meadowbank TAFE

The Girls in Property program is organised by The Property Council of Australia. It raises awareness amongst high school students about the extent of possible career paths the property industry, encouraging greater female participation in the property industry.

One of the initiatives included Hansen Yuncken organising an on-site visit and mentoring sessions for a number of high school students from various colleges in the Sydney area. They visited the construction project, nearing completion, at Meadowbank TAFE.

Hansen Yuncken completes Iglu at Summer Hill

With international students again on the march towards higher education in Australia, student accommodation has become an essential part of the process of welcoming this incoming community.

Iglu Student Accommodation is a developer of purpose-built facilities intended for student-living. The company develops and manages residential properties for rental purposes close to university campuses, colleges, public transport, shopping, eating and entertainment facilities along with support services across Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. Iglu is a consortium owned by GIC (Government Investment Corporation of Singapore) and Macquarie Capital.

Recently Hansen Yuncken (construction) has been involved in the re-development of a site in Summer Hill in Sydney, for the latest addition to the Iglu line-up across Australia.

Here are some images of the funky environment that has been created for our new wave of tertiary students.

“Sod-Turning” & smoking ceremony at Prestons in NSW

You may well ask….what is a “sod-turning”. I did. Well it is when a construction company starts work on a new project and the occasion is marked by a mound of dirt being turned ceremoniously with a shiny new shovel. This marks the beginning of the construction work on the site.

Aunty Gail

It is common to also include a smoking ceremony as a mark of respect to the traditional owners of the land with an Acknowledgement of Country. The smoking ceremony, according to the traditional owners, is a way of cleansing the area by smouldering native plants to create smoke which wards off any “bad” spirits and at the same time purifying the area both physically and spiritually. This is performed by an elder of the indigenous community. Today it was Aunty Gail. She was joined by Brandon and Jetsyn who were also part of the Gandangara Local Aboriginal Land Council.

Hansen Yuncken (construction), One Five One (developer) and Chemcorp (client) celebrated the start of their new warehouse project at Prestons in NSW in mid-July. Their brand new warehouse will be completed by February 2023 and Chemcorp will have a state-of-the-art facility. The project involves construction of two new warehouses, with over 22,000m², designed to achieve a 5 Star Green Star rating.

Not So PG – Nova Podcast

Brooke Blurton and Matty Mills have joined forces to create a new podcast with Nova Entertainment called, Not So PG.

Each week Brooke and Matty will deliver an unfiltered version of their world and their experiences being part of the First Nations and LGBTIQ+ communities, while navigating mainstream media. 

Entrepreneur, influencer and reality TV icon Brooke Blurton and TV presenter and actor Matty Mills grew up without standard parental guidance. Not So PG is a podcast and guide for anyone who has pulled themselves up and taken control of their life. 

It was rewarding to meet both Brooke and Matty and to work with the NOVA team once again, plus the wonderful Ariela Dundovic (hair and makeup). To create promotional images for their podcast, we shot in my studio at Lilyfield, capturing a diverse series of images.


Sydney World Pride 2023

WorldPride is a global Pride celebration that in 2023 is coming to Sydney. Previous WorldPride celebrations include the first in Rome in 2000, New York in 2019 marking 50 years of the Stonewall uprising, and Copenhagen in 2021 celebrating both WorldPride and the EuroGames. 

As part of the early ticket marketing of the event, the organisers arranged a photoshoot at my Lilyfield studio. My brief was to capture a diverse selection of individuals who could communicate the joy and vibe of this unique celebration. In doing so the models including Sveta, Faustina, Jules, Maria, Paul & Johnny and Sina, help to motivate both Sydney-siders and the international public to attend one or several of the line-up of events.

From left to right: Milo, Faustina, Matty, Jules, Maria & Sam

It was a vivacious day with great energy. The studio was humming with creativity … from stylist Hannah Cooper with her racks of clothes and accessories, to the vast array of colours splayed out on the table by make up artist Yvonne Trans. The team from MC Saatchi watched the results unfold on the computer screen while coffee and sandwiches arrived at appropriate moments. It was inspiring to be part of a team completely focused on creating the best possible results.

Sydney WorldPride events will take place from February 17 until March 5, 2023. The official Opening Ceremony will take place on February 24. Other events include a First Nations Gathering Space, a game-changing Human Rights Conference, an unforgettable Pride March across the Sydney Harbour Bridgea closing ceremony and a sensational party on Sydney’s iconic Bondi Beach (plus many more events still to be announced)!

For more information visit: Sydney World Pride

Sina, Frankie, Melissa, Sveta, Paul & Johnny & Jules

Le Coq – Your Kitchen Rules!

Le Coq is a traditional French restaurant just down the road from my studio in Darling Street, Rozelle. It serves uncomplicated, traditional French food, which is absolutely delicious, specializing in anything to do with chicken.

David Poirrier, the owner, approached me to create some images for a campaign that the restaurant is running during the month of July called: YOUR KITCHEN RULES. Le Coq has decided to open up their kitchen to non-professional chefs (especially significant for those souls who had FOMO on MKR). The idea is that you can “take over” part of the restaurant, kitchen and staff to cook and host a culinary event for your family and friends.

There’s a special menu that you can choose from and you’ll be guided through the preparation of the various dishes. For more information visit: https://www.lecoqrotisserie.com.au/events

CABARET – Hayes theatre production with Paul Capsis

One of my favourite photo commissions this week was shooting the very talented Paul Capsis for the cover image for SX magazine.

As well as being a ground-breaking actor/singer and all-round performer, Paul is cheeky and fun to be around. Over the years, I have photographed him in numerous disguises. The new portraits of Paul show him in the role of the unhinged, slightly diabolical Master of Ceremonies, from the stage production of Cabaret. They were staged at my Lilyfield studio, which overlooks Callan Park. (It’s only a coincidence that I work in a studio which overlooks an abandoned insane asylum).

“Wilkommen, bienvenue, welcome,” sings the MC. “Leave your troubles outside! Life is disappointing? Forget it!”

With Mariel McClorey on make-up and Drew-Elizabeth Johnstone on hair, excellent results were assured. Here are some shots of the preparation in my studio and three finished portraits which demonstrate Paul’s dramatic flair.

 

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Hansen Yuncken – ceremoniously turns the first shovel of dirt (with help from some young students) at the site of their new construction at Trinity Grammar

The team at Hansen Yuncken is about to start work on a new project at Trinity Grammar in Summer Hill, Sydney. To mark the occasion it is customary to stage a ceremony where the first “sod” is turned on the site of the construction.

Happily on this occasion the grown-ups had some welcome help from a few younger “construction workers” in long-fitting hi-vis and spacious hard-hats. Perhaps the new cadets of the future.

For more information on the extent of the renewal project, click on this link:

Marketing images – construction

A number of my clients are in the construction business and occasionally I am asked to go on-site and produce images that can be used for marketing purposes. One such occasion arose recently at one of Hansen and Yuncken’s building sites at Meadowbank TAFE. I was commissioned to capture a series of images of their staff, on site and at work, that could be used for marketing purposes such as tenders.

Unless there is a concise brief, in which the client requests specific shots, my general approach is to go on-site and to work in an impromptu but professional way. It is not always necessary to direct the subjects when setting up the shot. I prefer to wait for the right moment and then step in to take the photograph. Besides, it’s not as if my subjects are paid fashion models. They are usually the employees of the company, photographed by me as they go about their normal day-to-day duties.

I enjoy this type of photography, since it allows me to step into the universe of construction and to see how a large-scale operation works from a human point of view.

BRENDA CALL ME – Season 2

Courtney Act and Vanity are at it again. Following their very successful first season of the NOVA podcast of Brenda, Call Me, where our two partners in crime would meet each week to “chew the fat” on what had got them all fired-up, Courtney and Vanity will be back on the airwaves from this Thursday, May 19, 2022. 

In mid-April, we shot these promotional images at Sydney Props with the team from NOVA, as well as Stephanie Liebeck (On-site Stylist) and Russall Beatie (Head Stylist), both from Giant Panda King, who were responsible for the concept, set design and additional photo re-touching.

But wait…..there’s a narrative!

According to Courtney’s instagram (@courtneyact), while she was exploring the planet Octopoda, Courtney “has gotten herself into trouble” while on an Intergalactic Lady Grindr date gone wrong. 


“You don’t look anything like your picture! You have 9 arms instead of 8! BRENDA, CALL ME!”
“Don’t worry Brenda, I’m coming to save you.!”

While aboard the USS Brenda, in orbit around the planet Octopoda, Vanity hears a distress call from Courtney, whose intergalactic Grindr date has gone horribly wrong. “Don’t worry Brenda, I’m coming to save you!”

Vanity finds Courtney hand-cuffed to a Chick-Feather-Boa Tree and tells the 9 armed catfish, who looks more like an octopus, to scarper before she zaps him with her stun-ing gun.
Courtney and Vanity beam back up to the “USS Brenda” to relative safety.
Finally, the two friends celebrate in the safety of the mother-ship.

Catch these two characters from this Thursday on a weekly basis at NOVA Podcasts (Brenda Call Me). As Courtney states….”Vanity and I are bringing you more astounding honesty, friendship and some queer history!”

Prime Constructions builds new hall at Jamison High School

Prime Constructions was established in 1983 by Ron Masters & Phil de Gail and is now regarded as one of the leading building contractors in NSW. Paul Christopher and John Drake have joined Ron and Phil as the current executive management team.

I was commissioned by Prime to document a recent construction at Jamison High School in Penrith. This educational facility will enjoy the benefits of a brand new, state of the art, multi-purpose hall.

Screen Australia – Further Head Shots

We recently returned to the offices of Screen Australia in Ultimo to set-up for a series of corporate head shots.

I love shooting head shots because I get to meet and interact (for a brief while) with members of various companies and organisations who commission me to produce portraits.  Often, in my role as a photographer, I might work with only one or two people from a company – be it the PR person or the head of marketing. However, when staging head shots, I am able to meet other professionals within an organisation, and establish a different rapport.

I maintain a lot of respect for my subjects and for each situation. To be in front of the camera, and under the spotlights, is not the most comfortable position for many people. It is my job to make it as pleasant an experience as possible, also for those people who are not normally on the screen themselves. 

NSW Ambulance – welcomes their new aircraft with a smoking ceremony

Rex subsidiary Pel-Air and New South Wales Ambulance organised an official hand-over ceremony, smoking ceremony, and blessing of the new aircraft fleet after Pel-Air commenced operations for the NSW Ambulance Air Ambulance. This follows the arrival of their fleet of brand-new Beechcraft King Air 350C planes at Mascot on January 1, 2022 (see my previous blog entry:  https://www.johnmcrae.com/nsw-ambulance-new-planes-take-to-the-skies/ )

The event was attended by Rex Group Deputy Chairman, Hon John Sharp AM and NSW Ambulance Executive Director, Dr. Sarah Coombes (pictured below), and other key staff.

NSW Ambulance Executive Director, Dr. Sarah Coombes and Rex Group Deputy Chairman, Hon John Sharp AM
The fleet of 5 new planes on the tarmac at Mascot

La Boite announces Courtney Stewart as the newly appointed Artistic Director

In late April I had the pleasure of photographing Courtney Stewart. Courtney has recently been selected as the incoming artistic director of La Boite in Brisbane. She is currently working on an STC production in Sydney but will be heading back to Brisbane to take up her role at La Boite in July.

Courtney required some updated portraits to accompany the official announcement and press release. With Courtney’s busy schedule, as well as juggling a family, there wasn’t much time. We ventured into the “textured” back streets of Marrickville on this occasion.

For more information on Courtney and her appointment visit: Limelight or ArtsReview

Upstaged – by the star of the show!

I recently photographed the legendary singer/entertainer Shauna Jensen in my studio. Shauna and I got together with Kerrie Stanley, the make-up artist, to create images of some new looks that Shauna will use to promote up-coming shows and performances.

I have been photographing Shauna for many years both on stage and in my studio. However on this occasion she brought a very special friend with her for her studio shoot. His name is Bucky and he’s the cutest thing. Of course it would be rude not to get a few shots of Bucky and Shauna together, so I asked Bucky to “strike a pose”, and he obeyed. There is a common saying that you should never appear on stage next to children or dogs … they’re bound to upstage you.

If you want to catch Shauna at her next appearance for a night of fine food and wonderful entertainment (great voice and stage presence) she is appearing at Claire’s Kitchen on 27 May, 2022. See below for details:

Shauna receives the finishing touches by Kerrie Stanley (MUA)
Go and see Shauna…”she’ll tear your heart apart with her talent”.

Maisonnets – when you’re searching for that get-away shangri-la

If you’re looking for a perfect place to get-away, a short-term rental for any reason, look no further than Maisonnets.

I’ve been shooting for some time now the various properties that become available under the Maisonnet banner. Maisonnets is a company that manages properties for owners in the short-term rental market. They manage a concierge, cleaning and maintenance service, a kind of middle man between the owner of the property and the various clients decide to rent the properites.

It has been interesting to see the interior of all the homes I have photographed.