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General Posts – John McRae Photography & Studio

Ned’s Place

I recently travelled to Melbourne for a break (and some welcome sunshine, much to my surprise) and to catch up with friends and family.

I stayed for a couple of nights at my friend Ned’s place in Yarraville (a great suburb, so convenient to the CBD). He has recently renovated a large garage area (previously vacant and under-used) on the ground floor of his duplex. I took some shots of the job that has been immaculately realised by Ali of Feature Point Constructions, creating a Mid-Century Modern atmosphere. Well done to all involved. Of course, the star of the shoot was Ned’s rescue greyhound Bürschi, who is rather sculptural by nature and very much part of the colour palette..

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. 

SFI Health – time for a new look

SFI Health is a global natural health care company working to market and develop natural biochemical solutions for the complex needs in the areas of microbiome and cognitive health.

I was commissioned to capture a series of head shots in their Sydney offices at St Leonards as well as to capture shots of the team in various locations within the building. The imagery is part of their global marketing direction to use a combination of different coloured backgrounds to create a cool point of difference.

NSW Ambulance – new planes take to the skies

Five brand new, state-of-the-art aircraft flew into Mascot over the Christmas break, to become part of the fleet of Beechcraft King Air 350C planes, recently purchased by NSW Ambulance.

I was commissioned to visit Kingsford Smith airport to capture this line-up of “white birds” on the tarmac … most likely the one and only time that all five planes will be in the same place at the same time.

Here’s an article published in the Sydney Morning Herald on the recent acquisition by NSW Ambulance: See Link

I was chaperoned onto the tarmac by Gael, Operations Manager at the Mascot NSW Air Ambulance base, pictured below. Two of the pilots who had just landed the aircraft at Mascot were standing across to one side. I couldn’t help asking them what it was like to fly in brand new aircraft. Luckily for us, the impending thunderstorm was delayed just long enough for me to get the shots of the aircraft that I wanted, before the skies opened up and a summer rainstorm bucketed down.

NAPWHA – the annual group shot in Newtown

Each year I photograph the hard-working team at NAPWHA (The National Association of People with HIV Australia). The shots are used for their annual report, which aims to highlight NAPWA’s policy of advocacy, health promotion, effective representation and outreach on a national level. The logistics needed to get a large number of busy people to be free at the same time for a group photo is not always easy, however Saysana (Communications and Community Engagement) manages each time. We usually set up the shoot in the laneways not far from the NAPWHA offices, where the graffiti adds to the atmosphere. The urban street-scape of the back streets of Newtown creates an interesting location, although we have to continually make way for passing cars. This year we also completed a number of individual shots of Aaron, Adrian, Brent and the team posed in front of the graffiti and ivy.

Signs of the times……

Macleay Optics features Rolf eyewear

For the discerning admirer of eyewear, Macleay Optics in the heart of Potts Point has a large range of the lauded brand Rolf. The eyewear manufacturer ROLF was founded in 2009 in the midst of the Tyrolean Alps. The family business produces its signature line of unique wooden frames – made without screws and maintenance-free – each in its own clever geometric case.

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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.

Ed Husic MP visits Signify Lighting

The Lighting Council of Australia commissioned me to document the recent visit of Ed Husic MP to the Signify head office in Mascot. The Shadow Minister for Industry and Innovation, Husic is also the first Muslim to be elected to Federal Parliament.

There was a short presentation of the latest innovations and future projects for urban lighting by Signify, formerly Phillips Lighting, as well a general tour of the facility.

During the visit to the manufacturing division of Signify, the Shadow Minister met one of his constituents, a fellow Bosnian, and they happily recognised each other. The two of them are pictured below.

Linda’s new corporate profile

Linda Karkafi is highly experienced in delivering successful communications strategies to executives from Australia’s leading financial institutions.

She has recently started her own communications consultancy practice called Commcentric. I have been helping her create imagery for her web site profile.

BRENDA, CALL ME!

One calm Friday morning in January, I walked onto a retro set which had been constructed at Sydney Props Specialists in Marrickville. I love this place. It’s like walking through the door of a “dressing cupboard” into a magical universe in a parallel dimension.

Vanity Fair and Courtney Act were putting the final touches to their make-up, as they were getting ready for their close-ups. I quickly set about constructing the lighting rig on the set so we could commence shooting. Playing the roles inspired by two friends in a 1980s chat show, Vanity and Courtney posed on the two main sets … one a “high-tech” office reception area with a huge desk-top computer and antiquated Eighties technology, and the other a pastel pink bedroom scene reminiscent of a Barbie boudoir.

These images are being used by NOVA Entertainment to promote their upcoming podcast by Vanity Fair and Courtney Act entitled “Brenda, Call Me” beginning on February 11. Here’s the promo blurb….

Drag sisters in crime, Courtney Act and Vanity have a new podcast: Brenda, Call Me! Friends for over twenty years, they’ve gone through it all together. Catch up with them each week as they let it all hang out discussing everything and nothing. It’s the Seinfeld of podcasts. Coming soon.

Vanity Fair
Drag sisters
Courtney Act

The Incomparable Bob Downe fronts the camera….again!

I have been photographing the legendary Bob Downe for many years now and I feel that I must comment on the fact that for some reason Bob never seems to age. See for yourself in the images from my latest shoot with this iconic stage, cabaret, theatre and television personality. Like many of his ilk, Bob never gives away his ageless grooming secrets, although in a recent post he did mention that he “sleeps in a rubber mould”. However, I suspect he was pulling our proverbial leg.

Bob was wearing some of the magnificent creations of Maude Boate.  Maude is one of the true originals of Australian drag, as well as an incredibly talented designer and dress-maker. Maude’s trademarked polystyrene wigs were adapted for the movie and stage-play, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

Bob’s good friend and confidantMark Trevorrow  feels that Bob should be at Madame Tussauds. In his sequinned leisure suits, sometimes he almost looks like he is. (Incidentally Mark Trevorrow is performing on March 4 at Claire’s Kitchen at Le Salonin Oxford St, Darlinghurst). Others have described Bob as “naturally fabulous”, and “ageing like indestructible Tupperware”. All I can say is that I always have loads of laughs with Bob on every photo shoot in my studio. He’s a real pro and he makes my job so much easier, despite the highly flammable fabrics.

Check out the pink track suit!

Samantha Leith updates her image

Samantha Leith, with Sarah Damichi putting the finishing touches to make up.

It was a joy to photograph Samantha – performer, business strategist and motivational speaker – who is forever on the move. She is a great communicator with a vivacious energy and we had a fun afternoon shooting new imagery for her branding and corporate profile.

As Samantha says, “If you haven’t noticed, I’ve stopped listening to the ‘experts’ that tell you to only have one business. I happen to love and excel at being a multi passionate entrepreneur.” To find out more about Samantha visit her website here.

Samantha Leith in the makeup chair, with Sarah Damichi

The First Supper – dinner with friends after lockdown

The First Supper, 2020 ©johnmcrae

It’s uplifting to see how clever businesses are able to find fresh ways to survive in the current climate, and to reward their loyal customers.

Le Coq, a well-loved restaurant in Darling Road not far from my studio in Rozelle, boasts a menu focussed on traditional French poultry dishes. Together with David Poirier, the owner of Le Coq, I recently set up a photo-shoot as a way to celebrate their regular clients at a time when business is beginning to return to normal. Inspired by Leonardo’s Last Supper, I created a series of iconic portraits of various local people from Rozelle and Balmain seated at a long dining table. The new series is called The First Supper. These culinary portraits will soon be hanging on the walls of Le Coq.

The Sydney Morning Herald published a short story in its Short black good food guide on June 20, 2020.

Mardi Gras Parade 2019

Rather than photographing the parade, this year at Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, I photographed the spectators gathered at Taylors Square, the hub of the procession.

I embraced the importance of an event where people from all different walks of life come together to celebrate a sense of community with joy and pride. It’s more than political. It not only reinforces the idea we are all in this together it provides an opportunity to shed the hum-drum and throw your hands in the air without shame.

The following crowd images are a quick selection of some of my favorites….

More images can be seen at: Click here

Shanghai – Update!

Hello Hello,

 

Well another week has passed!  And boy, did it pass quickly.  I am now on the home stretch with only little more than a week to go.

 

The teaching classes have been fantastic, with the kids moving well in terms of their understanding of photography and their willingness to take risks and find out what they can do.

 

We plan to have a small exhibition at the end of the week and invite all the parents into the centre for a bit of a look and some nibbles.  That’s going to put a bit of pressure on the interpreter.  LOL.

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When we’re not in the class situation our time is spent traveling around to the various galleries and exhibitions that are on in Shanghai at the moment.  The art scene here seems very vibrant and relatively open.  I have seen some brilliant work here by various artists and marvel at the relative freedom these guys have to pursue their work.  Firstly, they seem to take enormous risks in terms of what they are willing to pursue….many of them change style and subject as they would change their clothes, allowing themselves the freedom to pursue new ideas without considering how the market will respond.  I like this approach.  You may say that these Chinese artists have less of a free voice, with censorship present on every level of Chinese society……however, I seem to think this small barrier to absolute freedom of speech is surmounted easily and confidently by the artists who’s work I have seen, by innuendo, satire and irony.  The censorship merely forces the artists to become more creative and subtle in the way they approach the subject or comment they wish to make….the comment is still made!  Secondly, with China’s amazing industrial might, the artists here have access to materials and labour that may have been prohibitive to other artists elsewhere.  They can also not limited by scale.

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Jerusalem

Fabien & Adil in Jerusalem
Fabien & Adil in Jerusalem

“If I am not for myself who is for me?  And being for my own self, what am ‘I’?  And if not now, when?”  Hillel 110BCE – 10CE

Shooting on the Sails of the Opera House

johnmcrae _MG_9933

 

There I am, right up there with camera in hand!  Finally, got the thrill of shooting Courtney Act (Global Ambassador for Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras) perched on the highest sail of the Opera House.  Amazing experience!  With limited time and tight technical restrictions you were more concentrated on getting the shot than taking in the remarkable view.  However, it will be something I’ll remember for a long time to come.  Courtney was the consummate professional and, as always, a joy to work with.  Thanks to everyone involved in making the shoot happen, particularly the amazing staff at the Opera House for pulling all stops out to facilitate the shoot.

On the Sails of the Opera House

I had the best start to the morning, this morning.

I had to be at the stage door of the Opera House at 6.30am.  Myself and a couple of comrades prepared ourselves for an exceptional climb.  We were to view the location of a proposed shoot.

After weaving our bodies through the internal structure of one of the sails and along it’s spine, we squeezed through the last trapdoor to ascend upon the highest sail of the Opera House.  As you climb out, the view almost takes your breath away.

It took a couple of minutes for the realisation that, “I’m on top of the sail of the Opera house…..outside!”, to sink in.  How fabulous!!

Here’s a shot (below).  I can’t wait for the shoot date!

What a wonderful way to start the morning.....
What a wonderful way to start the morning…..

“Manage” à Trois

Following on from the last blog entry….here’s the final result.  David Rhys and Jeremy are cleverly rendered into poster format by the talented Richard Hughes (Designer)

Someone tell Caroline where she can get a pair of those shoes!

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You Can Never Have Enough Shoes, Belts, Hats…..etc

Had a ball working with Decoda and Rhys and Jeremy on their up and coming extravaganza at ARQ, The New Trinity Show.  It was fun to see Decoda schlepped in cases of all kinds of possible accessories!  You can never have enough, hey!  Happy to say we got some great shots out of the exercise.

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