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John McRae Photography & Studio – Page 2 – Sydney Professional, Commercial & Corporate Photography

Sod turning in Blacktown and Eastern Creek

Sod turning, also known as groundbreaking, cutting, sod-cutting or “turning the first sod”, is a traditional ceremony in many cultures to celebrate the first day of construction of a building or other large-scale project. Such ceremonies are often attended by dignitaries including politicians and financers. In two recent ceremonies in Sydney which I recorded as photographer, the dignitaries were various business people associated with the developments, namely the developer (ISPT) and the two respective builders (Prime Constructions and Texco).

The actual shovel used (see above pic) during the groundbreaking is often a special ceremonial shovel, sometimes coloured gold, and it is meant to be saved for subsequent display. It may also be engraved. Sometimes a bulldozer is used instead of a shovel (but not at these two events, although an excavator was moved into the background at the Eastern Creek site for dramatic effect).

Sod turning at Eastern Creek with ISPT and Prime Constructions
At Eastern Creek golden shovels were used for the sod turning

Groundbreaking ceremonies have a long history, celebrated for centuries  to officially mark the beginning of construction of a new property, partly to thank those who made it possible (noting that the people concerned may have already been working for years to finance, design and develop the project to the point of actual construction). The first documented groundbreaking ceremony took place in ancient China, in 113 BC. Many early groundbreaking ceremonies were intrinsically linked to religion, however this is not necessarily the case in modern times.

In November, I attended two ceremonies on the same day … both featuring the developer ISPT, who partnered with Texco (builders for the Bessemer Business Park in Blacktown) and Prime Constructions (builders for the Eastern Creek site). I appreciate how important it is to acknowledge the hard work and achievement of people through these “rites of passage”, such as sod turning. Of course this is just the start, since these men and women are about to embark on a new phase of hard work, in the building of these new structures and warehouse facilities, due for completion in late 2024.

Much to my delight both ceremonies included cakes and coffee following the speeches and formalities.

Nancye Hayes shines in Sondheim’s, “A Little Night Music” at the Hayes Theatre

Nancye Hayes as Madame Armfeldt

Stephen Sondheim’s acclaimed and seductive musical farce, A Little Night Music, opens tonight at the Hayes Theatre in Sydney.

Winner of the Tony Award for Best Musical, Sondheim’s A Little Night Music is a wonderfully witty and deeply moving romance, exploring desire, passion and regret. IN this new Sydney production directed by Dean Bryant, the audience is swept away by classic songs like “A Weekend in the Country”, “The Miller’s Son” and the iconic and pensive “Send in the Clowns”.

I ventured to the Hayes Theatre for the final dress rehearsal last week to photograph dramatic moments of the players on stage. Although most of my attention was on capturing the best images, I couldn’t help being carried away to Sweden in the 1900, caught up in the drama of the suspicious trysts and love triangles of these engaging characters.

Desiree Armfeld (Blazey Best) with Count Carl-Magnus Malcom (Josh Robson) with Frederick Egerman (Leon Ford) hiding in the corner.

I loved seeing Nancye Hayes on stage as the stylish doyenne, Madame Armfeldt. She certainly defines stage-presence with panache.

If you are in Sydney, I suggest you see this magnificent performance…..a great night out, witty, entertaining, clever use of language, with captivating music and lyrics. Playing until November 11, 2023 Book here:

More production and rehearsal images below…..

A man, a saw and a shed

I visited the Megalong Valley in the Blue Mountains near Sydney to capture mid-construction images of a large hospitality complex for a building company known as Re:Form Construction. Apart from documenting some of the recently constructed buildings, including a high-end restaurant, I also individually photographed several of the workmen.

Pictured above is Kurt, a talented carpenter with Re:Form. He asked to be shot in front of a refurbished shed that he had worked on. This barn was completely ruined, then after extensive rebuilding it was brought back to life (pictured below), with added character.

Roberts & Co update their marketing imagery

I recently spent time documenting a couple of sites in Sydney that are currently undergoing construction by Roberts & Co. The first site is part of the upgrade and on-going infrastructure expansion at Westmead Hospital and the other is the massive extension to the Wentworth Point Public School at Wentworth Point.

The brief was to work on collecting more personalised imagery for marketing purposes, including for their web site. There is a move away from using stock imagery for these purposes. Instead, several companies now prefer to produce their own branded images, and to focus on the many people who are working in a creative manner. 

It fascinates me to go onsite for such clients. I get to see a professional, fast-paced environment, involving many aspects of the building industry. There’s continual movement of people and construction materials, which for me creates a dynamic picture of activity and growth. I aim to capture this in my photos for Roberts & Co, and I walked away inspired by the commitment of the people involved in their work.

Trevor Ashley and the legendary Carlotta team up in “The White Mermaid”

Following a recent photoshoot with Trevor in my studio (see blog entry 15 August, 2023), it has been announced that a raucous team of intrepid thespians are returning to entertain audiences at the Seymour Centre in Sydney, starting from December 7, 2023.

Not remotely referencing a beloved musical film or a cult TV show, the vivacious Tania McMermaid (Trevor Ashley) is checking-in to the underwater hotel The Little Lotus. It doesn’t take long for Tania’s bedazzled fins to catch the attention of the handsome Character Formerly Known As Prince (Jakob Ambrose), but beware – lurking in the shadows is the malevolent sea witch, Gaviscon (the legendary Carlotta AM).

Curtain call from “Moulin Scrooge”, performed at the Seymour Centre in 2022 with Jarred Moore, Carlotta, Trevor Ashley, Jacob Ambrose and Stephen Madsen

For 18 performances only, the full cast of Moulin Scrooge! are reunited for The White Mermaid, under the sea in a musical dose of the ridiculous – starring Trevor Ashley, Jakob Ambrose, Stephen Madsen, Jarrod Moore and the legendary Carlotta AM, with dazzling costumes by Angie White, lighting by Sam Wylie and choreography by Heath Keating.

Angie White (costume designer extraordinaire) puts the finishing touches on Trevor’s costume before the shot
We produced a series of other looks during our photo-session

Tickets for the White Mermaid can be purchased at the Seymour Centre here:

“High Scrollers” on NOVA

We ventured to an inner city hotel for a recent shoot for NOVA Entertainment in Sydney. High Scrollers is the latest addition to the company’s line-up of vibrant podcasts. It features Brittney Saunders and Matt Hey, best known for his online persona, Alright Hey.

Brittney is a business and entertainment powerhouse. Her meteoric rise started as an influencer through her YouTube channel, where she “vlogged” and documented her everyday teenage life, amassing over one million followers. Now at 30, Brittney is at the forefront of several successful business ventures – FAYT The Label, Form Active, Staple Swim, Outdo Collective, Outdo Espresso and Flamingo Coffee.

Once we set up lighting in the bedroom area of the hotel suite we went to work on the High Scrollers photoshoot. Both Brittney and Matt knew exactly what to do and how they would like to be portrayed. It was great to see the two friends bounce energy off each other, keeping the mood playful yet professional, often saying things that had each other in stitches. Suffice to say they were having a lot of fun while I captured each frame.

A Little Night Music – at the Hayes

Hayes Theatre Co has announced the cast for the acclaimed Stephen Sondheim musical A Little Night Music, which opens in October. Winner of five Tony Awards including Best Musical, A Little Night Music is a wonderfully witty and deeply moving romance, exploring desire, passion and regret.

As previously announced, Australia’s favourite leading lady and namesake of Hayes Theatre Co, Nancye Hayes plays the role of Madame Armfeldt. The recipient of many industry awards, including three Lifetime Achievement Awards, three Helpmanns, four Green Room, two Glugs and a Mo, Nancye Hayes AM takes on her favourite role for the third time in her illustrious career.

Members of the cast and crew came to my studio to capture a promotional image for their media efforts. We photographed each cast member separately firstly and then set up a group shot for the final capture.

Kiana Daniele, Leon Ford, Nancye Hayes, Blazey Best and Jeremi Campese to star in A Little Night Music

For more information on this wonderful production and the entire cast and crew see the following link: A Little Night Music – Limelight

Portrait of Nancye Hayes taken during the photo session in my studio with the cast of “A Little Night Music”.

Polly shows at new Sydney gallery

Polly helping me out by holding up the colour card for our shots in her Balmain studio.

Pollyxenia Joannou-Reddin is an award-winning Sydney-based contemporary artist working in painting, drawing, sculpture and installations.

She has only recently returned from spending a couple of years with her partner in London. London, however, is no stranger to Polly as she completed her MA in Communication Design at Central Saint Martins (UK).

The breaking news, however, is that Polly is having a new exhibition in a gallery on the fringe of the Sydney central business district, opening 23 August, 2023.


The work or process is a path that evolved rather than a conscious, academic process. I see the world or landscape as structured architectural codes; the repetition of lines; 3D structures of an urban landscape and what I perceive as unnecessary, I discard. I seek in my work a quiet corner. The work provides a pause or a resting place before moving on. I try and achieve this through colour palette, a balance of aesthetics via shapes, line, repetition, and materiality.” (Pollyxenia Joannou-Reddin)

I love Polly’s clean, intelligent work…so it’s a pleasure to photograph and contemplate each piece as we manoeuvre it into position for the final capture.

Check out Polly’s work at CBD Gallery in the city (until 23 September), a relatively new space which also runs workshops in various topics.

Trevor Ashley sets sail on a new voyage

Trevor as one of his creations. Dress made and designed by Angie White. Wig by WigsbyVanity & Kellie Ritchie (wig stylist)

Watch this space!

There’s more new ideas and creations coming from Trevor Ashley as we approach the Australian spring, if the recent shoot at my studio is anything to go by.

Trevor is one of Australia’s most creative musical talents with a string of hits and accolades under his belt, including singing, acting, directing and writing. As well as performing in some of the countries biggest musicals such as Hairspray, Les Miserables, Jesus Christ Superstar, Priscilla Queen of the Desert and more recently as Pharaoh in Joseph and his Technicolor Dreamcoat, he also creates his own, original brand of cabaret and musical performances (in his spare time), inventing characters larger than life.

Many of you will have seen his brilliant live singing productions as part of the recently televised “Queen of the Universe” where he slayed both the judges and the audiences.

Trevor creates the character

Prior to leaving to Europe for work we organised a shoot at my studio to record some of his new characters. Angie White (costume designer) and Kellie Richie (hair/makeup/wigs) were there to lend a hand with WigsbyVanity. Angie is a talented costume designer who has created many of Trevor’s extraordinary looks over the years. Kellie is a wig expert and makeup artist, known for weaving magic with hair.

There’s no stopping Angie as she applies the finishing touches to one of Trevor’s costumes

As always, I really enjoy working with Trevor. He brings a great energy to every shoot as he unfolds each new character in front of the camera. From femme fatale to ditsy heroine, it’s a joy to watch and document each emerging look.

Keep an eye out for his next adventure when he returns from Europe.

Flick through the slideshow below for more out-takes of the preparation:

Charles Cooper – Outdoor installations

A snap of Charles looking on, in the reflection of the window, as I set up for the shotA photo of Charles looking on, as seen in the reflection of the window, as I set up for the shot of his latest work

Charles Cooper, artist extraordinaire, has brought his talents out from his studio to create contemporary works of art in public spaces.

Based in Sydney, Charles is a well-known, mid-career artist with a long and impressive exhibition history. Click on this link to his website address. Another link is to the page of Charles Cooper at Annandale Galleries, where his works have been seen in different exhibitions for the past two decades. Charles is also a resident lecturer at the National Art School in Darlinghurst.

Charles’ drawing at Nurse’s Walk, the Rocks

It has been my pleasure to photograph the development of Charles’ paintings, drawings and installations over many years. This time it was a little different … recording his artworks on public display, as part of two outdoor installations. This situation brought its own technical hurdles in terms of light and reflections, particularly as his drawing at The Rocks was displayed behind a deep-set glass window, which was also unevenly lit (a challenge for any photographer)

Installation at 42 Botany Road, Alexandria

However we managed to get good results and Charles’ large-scale works have now been properly documented. If you are near either Botany Road in Alexandria or Nurse’s Walk at The Rocks, look out for his two installations. 

All about the boy – a new look for Michael Griffiths

On a recent trip to Sydney from his home city of Adelaide, prior to his departure on a working tour of Europe, performer Michael Griffiths came to my studio for a photoshoot. We worked on creating a new series of  imagery for the promotion of upcoming shows on which he is currently working. .

His pedigree is recognized. For example, in 2016 Michael Griffiths won the Helpmann Award for best cabaret performer for his Cole Porter tribute. As a graduate of the well-known West Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), he is a talented singer and musician who has been performing non-stop since his graduation in 1999.

It is always a joy to work with Michael. Not only is he a talented musician, piano player and performer but he’s got a great sense of humour. This helps to make any shoot good fun. He usually brings a quirky idea or two to the studio, and we go from there.

Michael has recently been performing at El Piano cabaret club in Sitges in Spain (see this link). If you happen to be in that part of Europe, check out his schedule. For the rest of us … we’ll have to wait until Michael returns to the land of Oz.

Kitty Glitter tours the world

DJ Kitty Glitter has spread her wings again and is touring the world as an “Alien of Extraordinary Ability”, a title unironically given to adventurous USA 01 visa-holders like her. Nowadays Kitty is busy traveling through the US, Canada, Europe and Australia, adding colour everywhere she goes.

As one of Australia’s most successful international DJs, she was also invited to perform at the Australian Embassy in Washington to mark the beginning of Pride Week (and photographed with Kevin Rudd), and rightfully announced as an icon of the Australian LGBTQI community. See news article here which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, on 5 June, 2023.

She was also invited to perform at the Australian Embassy in Washington to mark the beginning of Pride Week (photographed with Kevin Rudd), saying that she is an icon of the Australian LGBTQI community. See news article here which appeared in the SMH, on 5 June, 2023.

I wish Kitty all the very best during her journeys around the globe. As part of her current promotional push, she is using some of the imagery we created together in a recent shoot at my studio. All that glistens is Glitter.


Paul Capsis visits the studio for a new head-shot

I love, love, love the work of Mr Paul Capsis. It seems everything he touches he brings to new life….it moves and emotes with a depth of soul.

For anyone who is not familiar with Paul’s body of work, he is an award-winning Australian actor of Maltese/Greek extraction, a singer and playwright who has been working consistently for decades. He has released four albums, appeared in several films (for example alongside Alex Dimitriades in Ana Kokkinos’ 1998 film “Head On”), appeared in countless theatre productions in Australia and Europe, written and performed in his own auto-biographical play and is a regular in musical theatre and cabaret. In 2012, he won the category of “Best Male Actor in a Play” and “Best New Australian Work” at the 12th Helpmann Awards, for his one-man play “Angela’s Kitchen”, with Capsis portraying multiple roles from his childhood. For more details on his body of work visit this link: Paul Capsis..

It was time for Paul to sit for an updated head shot, so he came to my studio. Usually when I shoot Paul, he undergoes a transformation into some other-worldly character, complete with makeup and costume. In the past, I have captured images of Paul as part of the various productions with which he has been involved, including as the cynical Emcee in the stage production of “Cabaret” (he was amazing in this role) and more recently, in the flamboyant role of Albin in David Hawkins’ Sydney production of “La Cage Aux Folles”. As a chameleon, Paul magically disappears into the skin of his different theatrical personas. This time we aimed to create a simple and more natural portrait of Paul, without makeup or any glitzy trappings. Paul Capsis “unplugged”, if you will.

Paul as Emcee in “Cabaret”
Production shot for “Cabaret”, Hayes Theatre
Paul as Albin in The David Hawkins production of “La Cage Aux Folles”, with a new season at the Arts Centre Melbourne from November 9, 2023
Paul as Albin – see what I mean when I say it’s not often that I have the chance to photograph Paul without makeup and glitz.

We had a great time catching up during the photo-shoot. Shooting one-on-one, as in this situation, allowed us more time to reminisce and to have a chat. Normally, with a whole production attached, there is little time and since many more people are involved, you need to keep focused to get all the shots in the limited time-frame. Our recent shoot in my studio was far more relaxed.

Paul is an exciting performer who never sits still, so I can’t wait to see what professional challenge he will tackle next.

Sydney International Piano Competition at the Opera House

Photographing at the Sydney Opera House is always a great pleasure. No matter what the occasion, the view is always amazing. One is always struck by the beauty and grandeur of this impressive structure.

Virginia Braden OAM (Chairman) & Gerard Willems at the media wall prior to the start of the concert.

I was commissioned by “Piano +” to photograph the media wall and VIP reception. Piano + is the entity that has been newly formed to organise and stage the long-standing Sydney International Piano Competition, a program that has been operating annually since 1977. Every four years a competition is held, open to international performers, to compete for a prize money purse. Held in July/August, the prestigious competition is broadcast nationally and internationally.

This year’s competition was won by Jeonghwan Kim (article here:). Kim takes home a $50,000 cash award, as well as being invited to perform at different concerts, a national tour of Australia, a digital and CD release of his performances during the competition, and further recording engagements.

Marcus Barker (Chief Executive Piano +)
Piers Lane OA, Artistic Director
Guests at the reception before the concert
Shane & Andrew Scanlan at the media wall

Bek Jensen releases new album

The fabulous Bek Jensen stepped into my studio recently to work on some images around a new album that she is about to release.

Bek is a talented singer/songwriter and from the age of 16 she has been working professionally as part of the Australian music scene. She comes from a very musical family with both parents also working as musicians….. so it’s no wonder that this enthusiasm has been passed on.

Bek has recorded and toured nationally with many of Australia’s iconic artists including Cold Chisel, Jimmy and Mahalia Barnes, Tina Harrod, The Sleepy Jackson, Paul McDermott, ALPHAMAMA, Morganics, Jackie Orszaczky and Clayton & Lachy Doley. She has released numerous original recordings, both signed and unsigned, under different guises.

The new single from the album is called “Energy”…..available on AppleMusic here: Listen to the music of Bek Jensen now!

You can also hear more on soundcloud

All the things you need for a shoot….
But the most important is chocolate!!!

Multiplex completes addition to Mosman High School

View of part of the new outdoor rooftop play space

The first phase of an extensive upgrade to Mosman High School has recently been completed by Multiplex. I was commissioned to photograph the completion of this initial part of the project which extends along Military Road, between Avenue Road and Belmont Road, Mosman.

View of the rooftop multi-purpose courts.

The build comprises of 16 new flexible learning spaces, new staff and administration facilities, new library, a beautiful new, extensive multipurpose gym/hall, a new canteen and a wonderful outdoor and rooftop play space.

Interior view of one of the many flexible classrooms
Mid-construction NE corner
View of completed wing from NE corner

This has to be state-of-the-art learning facilities and as I was traveling through the building with my camera I felt a bit of FOMO coming on as I was reminded of the not-so-state-of-the-art learning facilities I experienced, back in the day, at Horsham High School.

Erick’s Ark

Luciolle and I bonded immediately. I know one shouldn’t have favorites but sometimes it just happens.


My long time friend Erick lives in Burgundy in the east central France. We met years ago in Australia, not long after he had arrived to forge a new life for himself in the Antipodes. After nearly 30 years in Australia, Erick decided to return to live in France. He purchased a wonderful old farm in Bourgogne.”

Bourgogne is a rich farming region of southern France, famous for its Burgundy wines (as the name suggests) and also for its Beaujolais. At one time the Duc de Bourgogne was touted as the richest man in France, better financially endowed than even King Louis XV, which must have irritated the King to no end. This wealth attracted even more wealth, as many of the aristocracy from the time moved to the region. The dinner parties were legendary. Hence there are amazing chateaux and country mansions dotted all over the countryside.

Erick preparing endive for some of the tortoises

Erick has a particular penchant for looking after animals. Partly to satisfy this nurturing need for his fellow creatures he has created what he calls “Erick’s Ark”. The farm caters to animals which have been abandoned or are destined for the meat-works. Erick intervenes, for the most part, by purchasing as many of these animals as he can, providing a caring, peaceful life on his farm where they can live out the rest of their lives.

Some of the Breton Draught horses as well as the 2 mules (front)

For example, when he hears about a horse destined for the Japanese sushi market, he mobilises and pays the “meat price” (usually 3.50 Euro/kg) to rescue the animal. He then organises transport to his farm, so it can frolic in the pastures of his Burgundy sanctuary. A normal sized Breton Draught horse (he has four or five of them) can sell for up to 3,500Euro, depending on the weight of the animal.

If I remember correctly, Erick’s family now consists of various tortoises (I keep getting confused between turtles and tortoises – Erick set me straight with the fact that turtles live in water and tortoises live on land), 5 dogs, 4 pigs, 6 peacocks, 14 donkeys, 2 mules, 12 horses and 3 Spanish mountain goats … and growing.

Some of the 14 donkeys. Of course Erick has names for all of them….I wouldn’t even try to keep up.
Elle at the local cafe
Elle being followed by Luciolle

It was also really cool that my niece from Australia, Elle, was traveling from the French Alps to England, and Erick’s farm was on her way through. So I was able to spend a couple of days with her. She has known Erick since she was an infant. We hung out in the nearby village of La Clayette and travelled around on a sight-seeing/sugar pilgrimage adventure to various local patisseries. I am sure that the further you travel from Paris, the more butter and sugar goes into the local patisserie. Heaven!

Feeding time for the tortoises

Feeding time at the farm is quite the event, particularly for the tortoises, which consume mountains of fresh greens which need to be specially prepared. They are avaricious in their approach to food (not uncommon for any animal, I suppose)…they may be slow to move but they are certainly not slow in finishing a meal.

Elle feeds Lola, the pig.
Valerie with her killer tart, freshly baked in the morning.

Erick and I were invited for a scrumptious lunch in a nearby village. One of my fashion clients, Valerie, has a house in the area and coincidentally she was also visiting France while I was there. Valerie is originally French and grew up in the region. After marrying an Aussie, she set up her new life in Australia. As the saying goes, you can take the girl out of the French countryside but you can’t take the French countryside out of the girl! We had the best lunch in the most immaculate French provincial setting.

How cute is this house, so French provincial.
Valerie feeling very patriotic. Allons enfants de la……
Erick says hello to his donkeys
Erick talks about the animal refuge he has established on his farm.

Here are the details:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100089560924981

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/larchederick

Bank Details:

IBAN: FR76 1780 6003 5004 1877 8690 382

BIC: AGRIFRPP878

Pride – Roman Style

In summer, Pride marches happen all around the world … you can catch one soon in a capital city near you. Well, not only in the capitals, but everywhere where activism and politics make a difference.

Rome is no exception. I was so lucky to be in Italy with my trusty camera for the RomaPride March on June 10. You couldn’t miss such a colourful event, especially when it’s a once in a year chance to walk the streets of Rome from Piazza della Repubblica where the parade has its genesis, through the majestic streets, as the crowd finally descends on the area around the Colosseum and Piazza Venezia. The appearance of this giant amphitheatre as you walk down the Via Labicana towards the Piazza del Colosseo, is breathtaking. What makes the experience entirely “inclusive” is the way the RomaPride marchers, the deejays, the floats, the friends and the general public all mix, to form a general melee of colour and movement and happiness. This year, special attention was paid to fighting against the new social limitations imposed by the right-wing government of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

What would Rome Pride be without drag queens and a Colosseum
There’s a happy participant
A gender fluid statement by this participant
Profile of my friend Jonathan who loves to bring out a cowboy hat on such occasions.

I had an amazing time walking through the ancient streets of Rome in the late afternoon, with more than one million other participants. It was also great to be with my close friends Marvic, Davide, Samuele and Jonathan, who’d all agreed to meet up together in Rome for the week. There was a discreet and friendly police presence, and some very advanced sound systems on the floats. As dusk approached, the light in this beautiful city took on a luminous pink glow. There was a shared feeling of celebration, not only with the other people in the parade, but throughout central Rome as we headed back to our apartment in Trastevere. And the beat goes on.

One of the more colourful participants. He was popular for photos.

For more photos click through the following slide-show (below)…..

Paying my respects in Armentieres

Over the next few blog entries I will post various segments from my recent overseas trip to Europe. Yes, I recently spent 3 wonderful weeks in sunny France and Italy. Now that I am back in the icy cold (I’m exaggerating), I’m lamenting the fact that it’s winter in Sydney, and why didn’t I stay away longer.

With this entry I am going to share the experience of traveling to the north of France to a place called Armentières. 

View of the train station at Armentieres

The above image is the train station at Armentières. Some things in France are all shiny and new … this train station is not one of them. When I got off the train I was desperate to go to the toilet … no, this was a train station without a public toilet and so the attendant suggested I find one in a cafe in the centre of town. I laughed.

The purpose of this trip was to locate my great-uncle’s grave. The name of the war cemetery is “Cite Bonjean”. I had no idea where to go once I exited the train, so I headed to the nearest cafe. I found a coffee shop not too far away and as I was finishing, I noticed a conveniently located florist right next door. I had intended to buy some flowers to bring with me, so this was fortuitous

The story became magical once I entered the florist. A lovely man greeted me and helped me choose a floral tribute for my great-uncle’s grave. As we spoke I asked him if he could possibly give me directions to get to the cemetery, to which he replied, “No, hop in my car outside and I will drive you myself”. He called his wife to mind the shop and he took me to his florist van. I offered to pay extra for the service but he refused, saying if it hadn’t been for men like my great-uncle, they would all be speaking German today.

The florist next to the cafe, where I bought my flowers
Row after row of graves are laid out with 2 head stones backing each other and facing out.

He kindly dropped me at a small gate to the side of the cemetery and then departed. In this one section there were more than 1,500 grave sites. Each fallen soldier had a headstone and these were arranged in long rows of two headstones, backing each other and facing out. The cemetery is huge. I was alone in this memorial cemetery and had no idea of where I might find my great-uncle. So I just started to walk towards the centre. I thought I would look around before working out a strategy to locate the grave site. Less than minute had passed when I looked to my left and there I found the tombstone of Pvt Murdoch McRae. How wonderful was that! It was a moving moment.

My great uncle Murdoch’s grave in Cite Bonjean cemetery

I spent time reflecting on the sacrifice of not only my great-uncle but also all the other men (and women) who had died during the Great War. As I walked through the rows of well-tended graves and read the epitaphs, I was reminded of just how young these boys were at the time … 21, 23, 26, 24, 28, and on and on.

I spent a couple of hours at the cemetery. It was solemn and peaceful. There was absolutely no-one else around, so I could lay on the grass, still and meditative. I left the bunch of flowers by the headstone, and a print of an old portrait photograph of Private Murdoch McRae, who died on January 16, 1917, and whose christian name is my middle name.

Murdoch McRae, taken just before leaving for the war, 1916
There was a visitors book which you could sign.

A Roman terrace, a portrait shoot and an immaculate view of the Eternal City

PierFrancesco – Italian author and part-time Trastevere local

PierFrancesco Grasselli is a Rome-based author/novelist and local personality in the charming inner city locality of Trastevere (note: Tevere, is the Italian name of the river that runs through Rome; we call it the “Tiber” and “tras” is the prefix for across) which not surprisingly is the area “across the river”, at the level of the Ponte Sisto. Trastevere is a vibrant meeting place for young and old, with wall-to-wall restaurants and bars. During most evenings the streets are teaming with people.

Street scene in Trastevere

View of the Tevere from Ponte Sisto

I was staying with my friend Jonathan, an Australian who has lived in Rome forever. He happens to have the most magnificent terrace overlooking Trastevere and the many churches and cupolas of the inner city (not to mention he is an amazing cook, his table being one of the best in Rome). A perfect backdrop for a portrait shoot.

With his tongue-in-cheek, PierFrancesco Grasselli’s books and self-proclaimed trash novels include All’Inferno ci vado in Porsche (“I’m going to Hell in a Porsche”), Ho Scaricato Miss Italia (“I Dumped Miss Italy”) and his erotic autobiography I Maschilisti (“The Male Chauvinists”).

The weather was great. I used natural light to shoot PierFrancesco. The set-up was very simple and basic – sometimes this is all that is necessary.

We shot this image on the internal staircase leading up the apartment. I think this is PierFrancesco’s favourite shot.
Here I am with PierFrancesco (photo: Jonathan Turner)
View of Trastevere from Jonathan’s terrace…..magic!