It is my first week back at work after some wonderfully relaxing time off. I am now ready for the exciting challenges that the new year will bring. I wish everyone a fantastic 2023 and I look forward to perhaps working with you on something photographic.
On Friday night (December 9), I had the extreme pleasure of being entertained by Trevor Ashley’s production of Moulin Scrooge at the Seymour Centre in Sydney. Only a week prior, I was backstage photographing the performers during their preparations for the dress rehearsal of this new adult panto, which I also recorded.
When it’s possible, I like to capture informal shots in the dressing room, with the actors applying their makeup, prior to the main shoot. This helps to establish a good working atmosphere. Trevor said to me: “Come a bit earlier, if you like, because I know how you love to get a few shots backstage”. And it’s true, I do find these behind-the-scenes photographs and outtakes fascinating.
Now a week later, as an audience member, I thoroughly enjoyed the production, cleverly written by Trevor Ashley and Phil Scott. And performed beautifully by Trevor, his “high-kicking” supporting trio of Jakob Ambrose, Jarrod Moore and Stephen Madsen, and of course his magnificent co-star Carlotta (“the Queen of the Cross”). I also have to mention the fabulous costumes by Angela White.
Carlotta’s show-stopping performance of the Sondheim classic “I’m Still Here” (with a poignant libretto rewritten by Ashley and Scott), tracked her journey from a vilified Balmain schoolboy to national icon. Her rendition moved the audience to their feet for a well-deserved standing ovation. It is a testament to why Carlotta is considered one of Australia’s ground-breaking treasures and why Ashley so generously provided a new platform for one of his all-time “drag mothers”. Nearing her 80th birthday, Carlotta especially came out of retirement to perform as the club-owner of Moulin Scrooge.
The season for Moulin Scrooge has been extended so get in fast to buy tickets here:
A stately Vaucluse residence set the scene for my latest fashion shoot for the label So French So Chic. My trusted team of Valeria Sizova (model), Kevin Vella (MUA & stylist), Valerie Tsoukaris (client & creator), Caro Davis (styling) and Nick Jones (photographic assistant), worked together to create our vision of the upcoming autumn range.
It was a fine Sydney day, so it was wonderful to be working outside on the verandah of the house, and taking photographs down into the landscaped gardens. We all worked hard and the crew produced a strong series of images … see our contented faces in the group shot at the end.
Now that the autumn fashion range has been photographed, we are working on a selection of images for inclusion in the new published catalogue. For a look at the entire So French So Chic collection, follow this link: So French So Chic
Upcycling an existing 1970s office block paid off for the architects behind Sydney’s new Quay Quarter Towers, which won the World Building of the Year in late November 2022, the second major international award in less than a month. I photographed the project management team and the final stages of construction for Multiplex back in March 2021, when it was clear that the redesign would have a huge impact on the city skyline.
Designed by Danish architects 3XN with BVN architects in Sydney, Quay Quarter Towers was announced as the world building of the year at the annual world architecture festival in Lisbon, which attracted nearly 800 entries across a range of categories. The shortlist of 252 completed buildings included diverse projects, ranging from homes to museums around the world. The 206-metre-high building at 50 Bridge Street in Sydney’s CBD, which was developed by AMP Capital, also won the award for the world’s best new skyscraper.
The construction of Quay Quarter Towers retained two-thirds of the beams, columns and floor slabs and 95 per cent of the original core built for the AMP Society in the 1970s. Adapting the earlier skyscraper was a smart financial decision because repurposing a building rather than demolishing it to rebuild meant a faster return to market. It was also smarter for the planet because it saved more than 7 million kilograms of carbon. That’s equal to 35,000 flights from Sydney to Melbourne.
“Moulin Scrooge” has opened at the Seymour Centre in Sydney to wild laughter and much merriment, both on-stage and off. I have had the pleasure of photographing the various stages of the production, including the poster and the dress rehearsal, which gave me a sneak preview of Trevor Ashley’s latest parody. This pre-Christmas spectacle features the iconic Carlotta, known as The Queen of Kings Cross, who shares the stage with Trevor, Jakob Ambrose, Stephen Madsen and Jarrod Moore. The mood is fiery and fierce.
Playing the role of club-owner Astrid Zeneca, Carlotta is a force to be reckoned with. As Australian entertainment royalty, Carlotta is an original cast member of the long-running Sydney-based male revue Les Girls cabaret show, which established an international following starting in 1962. Although best known as a cabaret performer, Carlotta appeared in the television series “Number 96” in 1974 as Miss Robyn Ross, in a storyline where she reveals that she is transgender. Her ground-breaking appearance in the show is the first time a transgender actress played a transgender TV character anywhere in the world. We need to applaud our true legends.
Meanwhile Trevor Ashley is known for his irreverent revues which include the likes of “The Bodybag”, “Little Orphan Trashley”, “Fat Swan” and “The Lyin’ Queen”, some of his long line-up of stage hits. Now, together with Phil Scott, Ashley has written a madcap adults-only panto as a satirical twist on a beloved Dickensian tale.
Here are a few images from the fast-paced show, with choreography by Rhys Bobridge, costumes by Angie White and lighting design by Sam Wylie. Book a ticket and treat yourself to a hilarious evening of stirring musical extravaganzas, purposely bad jokes, salacious dance numbers and lots, lots more.
“From the moment audiences set sail with us…they can expect a night of camp glamour, sizzling jazz music …flowing champagne and, of course, diamonds.” – Richard Carroll and Victoria Falconer.
I was commissioned to produce the poster and publicity material for the show being staged early next year, with Georgina Hopson and Emily Havea as Lorelei and Dorothy. We used the grand marble staircase at the State Library to replicate the decor of the luxury cruise liner The Ile De France, setting sail across the Atlantic in the company of two of musical theatre’s most dazzling heroines.
GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES tells the raucous and subversive story of Lorelei Lee and Dorothy Shaw – two smart young single women with a burning desire for experiences beyond the conventions of the 1920s. Armed with only their vitality, ambition, quick wits, and above all their unshakeable friendship – these thoroughly modern women play the men at their own game.
The creative team that brought you the critically acclaimed, sold-out season of Godspell take the leap from grunge to full glamour to bring you a glittering production of this beloved classic starring Hayes favourites, Emily Havea (Caroline or Change) and Georgina Hopson (Merrily We Roll Along).
“We’ve had our eye on this diamond of a show for years now, and we couldn’t be more excited to finally bring it to the Hayes stage in conjunction with Sydney World Pride in 2023,” said Co-Artistic Directors Richard Carroll and Victoria Falconer.
Featuring songs like Bye Bye Baby, I’m Just a Little Girl From Little Rock, and Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend, prepare for a wet and wild voyage of self-discovery through a queer lens. And remember – in international waters, all the usual rules are suspended – indefinitely.
Richard and Victoria added, “We’re thrilled to have Emily Havea and Georgina Hopson as our two fierce, fabulous, and fashion-forward heroines, leading a cast of hilarious performers.”
GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES plays Hayes Theatre Co in Sydney from February 16, 2023.
More than 300 people came together at the Ivy Ballroom in Sydney on 17 August to celebrate LGBTQ community members whose work has made a difference to the lives of sexually and gender diverse people in NSW.
The Sydney Star Observer printed my portrait of Laura Hart, winner of the Arts & Entertainment Award, on the cover of the September issue of the magazine. Laura was acknowledged for her contribution to nurturing and developing “drag king” culture in NSW. After the ACON award presentations, I photographed Laura and several other winners in a make-shift studio I set up in the foyer area of the Ivy.
I was going through a long-forgotten trove of family photographs which had been hidden away in the attic of my aunty’s house in Melbourne. She was doing a spring clean and she decided to transfer ownership of the box to me.
Amongst the hundreds of faded images of my childhood was one image that I had totally forgotten. It was a photo that I had taken when I was 7 years old. My aunty Jo (famous in the family for diarising, noting and archiving all things) had marked this image as “Gates Paddock Matthews, 1967, taken by John”, written on the back of the photo. So this would have to be the very first photograph that I ever made.
The image shows a dead kangaroo lying at the gated entrance to a paddock (presumably “Matthews” is the name of the owners of the farm). I must have been fascinated by the majesty of the animal that was lying dead and motionless on the grass.
I vaguely remember the experience … but only very vaguely. I don’t think I was impressed by the gore or shock value – it was much more about contemplating the idea of death. It also reminds me that, even at this early stage in my life, I had discovered how the camera lens and photography can provide you with another way of looking at something, a different point of view … and that there are so many different points of view.
So there you go … you never know what little personal treasures you may find in abandoned boxes laying around in attics … always worth a closer look.
On October 15 2022, Australian diver Matthew Mitcham will be officially inducted as a 2022 Honoree into the International Swimming Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Fort Lauderdale in Florida.
Brisbane-born Matthew Mitcham is credited with having received the highest single-dive score in Olympic history. At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Mitcham chose to execute a two-and-one-half somersault with two-and-one-half twists in the pike position for his last dive. The dive had a high degree of difficulty with 3.8. Mitcham scored four 10’s, giving him not only the highest score on a single dive ever, but the gold medal for the 10-metre platform event as well. By winning the 10-metre platform dive in Beijing in 2008, Matthew Mitcham became the first Australian to win an Olympic gold medal in diving since Dick Eve won gold in the high-diving event at the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris.
Although the platform was Mitcham’s favoured event, he was also highly-skilled on the springboard. At the 2009 World Championships in Rome, Mitcham won the bronze medal on the 1-metre springboard, and the next year he was ranked #1 in the world. At the Delhi Commonwealth Games (2010) he won silver on the 1-metre, synchro 3-metre, 10 metre and synchro 10-metre, and at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, he took gold in the synchro 10-metre platform and silver medals in the 1-metre and synchro 3-metre.
“In China, 8 is a lucky number, and I know China was hoping to win all 8 diving gold medals in Beijing 2008,” said Mitcham today, from Florida. “Having won the first 7 of them, I remember hearing that the Chinese team were already celebrating winning the 8th medal before we had even dived the final. It still feels like an extra incredible feat that I was the only person to beat the best divers in the world at their home Games and prevent China from getting that lucky 8th gold. There have been other gold medalists since then, and my Olympic record was finally beaten 13 years later at Tokyo 2021, but the thing I’m most proud of is that I was the first ever openly gay Olympic Champion, and that’s forever.”
In 2012, Mitcham published his autobiography “Twists and Turns”. It was turned into an award-winning cabaret show starring Mitcham himself, which travelled around Australia to rave reviews in 2014-2015.
Now in 2022, with nine other sporting icons, Matthew Mitcham will be inducted as an Honoree into the International Swimming Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Fort Lauderdale in Florida, on October 15, 2022.
This year’s International Swimming Hall of Fame Honorees are: Craig Beardsley (USA) – Swimming, Marilyn Bell (CAN) – Open Water Swimming, Ursula Carlisle (AUS) – Coach, Natalie Coughlin (USA) – Swimming, Peter Hürzeler (SUI) – Technical Contributor, Michael Klim (AUS) – Swimming, Matthew Mitcham (AUS) – Diving, Jon Sieben (AUS) – Swimming, Daichi Suzuki (JPN) – Swimming, and Mirko Vicevic (YUG/MON) Water Polo.
MMXXII – Matthew Mitcham’s official 2022 portrait by John McRae
Australian artist John McRae releases his new photographic portrait of Matthew Mitcham, the 15th image in a striking series of annual portraits produced since 2008.
“Every year since Matthew Mitcham was 18 years old, even before his momentous achievement of winning the 2008 Olympic Gold Medal for the 10-metre diving event with the highest scoring dive in the history of the Olympics, we meet up in my Sydney studio to create an “official” annual portrait. It is also a symbol of our ongoing friendship. Each consecutive work is added to the growing line-up of portraits which plot the subtle changes over time, both physical and in terms of attitude.
Each portrait in our series is akin, not identical, but similar in terms of lighting, cropping and symmetrical pose, devoid of costumes or props. This year, the 15th version mirrors the formula we have established. Except I wanted to create a point of difference to underline the fact that in 2022, Matt has the great distinction of being officially inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame at Fort Lauderdale, at a presentation ceremony on October 15. Symbolically I chose to introduce green and gold lighting into the colour palette as a reference to Matt’s record-breaking feat, synonymous with the national sporting colours he wore during his time representing Australia on the world stage.
I had thought that our 2021 portrait might have been the last in our series due to the fact that Matthew has moved to the UK where he is now living with his husband. I had considered that the tyranny of distance may have become insurmountable. Much to my joy and delight, Matthew and Luke decided to take a short break in Sydney in 2022 on their way to the ceremony in the USA, so our sequence of annual portrait photographs continues.
The portraits are a fascinating record of Matt’s journey since he was a teenager. Not only do they create an expanding document which exists through time, but it also provides me with a kind of test tube to conduct my own particular experiment with portraiture. As a photographer, I am convinced that the essence of the human being in front of the camera goes far beyond what is merely physical. Of course, for many this may be a natural observation of the human condition … but this series with Matthew Mitcham places it firmly in focus, in front of the lens.”
“Originally, I thought it would be neat just to see how I age over the years, but the series captures a lot more than just changing hairstyles and facial features. I’ve gone from a teenager to an Olympic Champion; from a drug addict to a happy, healthy man; from an elite athlete to a cabaret performer; from a Sydney boy to a married man living on the other side of the world.
Each portrait is a reflection of what was happening in my life at the time. This year, my portrait coincides with my being inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame, a fabulous honour. As time goes on, this portrait series becomes more significant for me.”
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 monograph 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 captured a few images from the launch (selection pictured below). The book is available from Charle’s website: www.charlescooperartist.com
Trevor Ashley is at it again! This Christmas will see Trevor flying high in a raucous parody called “Moulin Scrooge” being performed at the Seymour Centre in December, 2022.
I had the pleasure of working with Trevor again on the photography for the poster work. We hadn’t seen each other for some time so it was great to have him in full make-up and drag, bursting into the studio for the shoot.
We set up a mock trapeze in the centre of the studio as the main prop to recreate the illusion of “Nicole Kidman”. 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Bridge, a 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
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
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.