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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Qween Lear as part of the Sydney Festival – Ruled by drag qweens, fuelled by love.

I was asked to produce imagery for the production of Qween Lear which will be one of the headlining performances in the 2022 Sydney Festival. So along with Dee Dee as a fierce Sydney drag identity, we set up a photo-shoot in the mens toilets of the Cricketers Arms pub in Surry Hills to promote this immersive theatrical performance. As part of the festival programme, Qween Lear will take place in the Hordern Pavilion, itself the site of so many parties in the age of excess and ecstacy.

Part rave, part theatrical extravaganza, Qween Lear explores the demise of Sydney’s party era through the tale of an ageing drag matriarch played by Minnie Cooper (AKA Aaron Farley), abdicating her nocturnal throne. Set over one night around the turn of the millennium and stacked with Australia’s fiercest performers, a dazzling light show and throbbing original score, it’s a joyous love letter to the legends and legendary stories of Sydney’s lost nightlife.   

The story of Sydney’s nightlife is inseparable from its queer history. Sparked by the 1978 Mardi Gras protest, the birth of house music, and a flourishing queer counterculture, our fair and feisty city gained an untouchable reputation for hedonistic nightlife in the eighties and nineties. Hordern Pavilion parties were the red-hot and sweaty epicentre of this fantasy world of love, fetish and house music.  Now it will the home of a queer version of the Shakespearean tragedy King Lear.

Producer, Adam Lowe (ALG – art and culture events management), prompts Dee Dee on set.
Sydney Festival Guide, Sydney Morning Herald, 20 November, 2021

Post-show Exhibition:  At the conclusion of the Qween Lear performance in the Hordern Pavilion, ticket holders are invited to a free digital photography exhibition representing some of Sydney’s most iconic parties from the late twentieth century. This project has been proudly supported by the Powerhouse Museum.

Book your tickets here: https://www.sydneyfestival.org.au/events/qween-lear

Lorraine updates her image

Lorraine Chai (see link here) is a young, dynamic musician who not only teaches and plays music but has formulated her own instructive method for musical education. I first met Lorraine 8 years ago when she came to my studio for a series of head shots and recently she returned to update her image portfolio.

Although classically trained, Lorraine has extensive music skills having studied with many renowned jazz teachers such as Judy Bailey, Sandy Evans, and Kerrie Biddell and music theatre with Pat H. Wilson.

Having grown up with a musical family, Lorraine began playing and performing from the age of four. Lorraine has studied the Guitar, Percussion, Oboe, Violin, Clarinet, and Voice. She is an international multi-talented instrumentalist and educator.  Lorraine graduated from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music with a Bachelor of Music Studies in 2008 and then completed her Graduate Diploma of Education at the Australian Catholic University a year later. In 2009, Lorraine completed the ATCL Recital (Associate Diploma Trinity College London) in classical singing and in 2011, completed a certificate of conducting from The Australian Band and Orchestra Director’s Association (ABODA).

Lorraine Chai with some of her teaching guides for musical education

New talent for the Christmas show at the Beresford

It’s coming up to that time of year once more in Sydney … yes it’s the Beresford Hotel’s annual Christmas show. Under the direction of Minnie Cooper, the forthcoming pageant features some of the bright stars of the Sydney drag scene. 
Surrounded by tinsel and diamonds, Fran and Coco came to my studio to pose for a series of Hollywood glamour shots for the Beresford’s poster, accompanied by dancer Hayden dressed as the Little Drummer Boy.

Fran Giapanni
Hayden as the Little Drummer Boy
Coco Jumbo

In 2021 The Beresford continues its tradition of Absolutely Xmas. Joining Minnie Cooper, and Tora Hymen is Coco Jumbo, Fran Giapanni and Hayden as the new talent.

Prinnie Stevens – Lights, Camera, Action!

There’s excitement in the air. Prinnie Stevens, Australian singer, performer and all-round entertainer extraordinaire is gracing the stage for brand new productions. She came to the studio with her team (hair, makeup and styling) to create new, vibrant imagery for upcoming shows as we all rocket out of lockdown. Her performance in “Sisters are doing it for themselves” begins at the Brisbane Powerhouse in February……see Link here

Outtake, Prinnie on the set in my studio

Prinnie shot to fame for her amazing performances as a contestant on “The Voice” and subsequently she has appeared in several major stage productions including Rent, Thriller Live, The Bodyguard, Hair and Oh, What a Night! and many other theatre, cabaret and television appearances. On her instagram bio, Stevens describes herself as “Polynesian RnB Soul Singer”.

Prinnie Stevens in “Sisters are doing it for themselves”

Mid-construction photography and head shots for Hansen Yuncken at their Meadowbank site

Hansen Yuncken is well underway into the construction of their extension to the Meadowbank TAFE. I was asked to document the current state of the building project and to highlight the diversity of their workforce, including such technological innovations as 3-D modelling, computer visualisations, the use of i-pads and drones.

On the same day we organised additional corporate head shots of several site executives, for the Hansen Yuncken corporate profiles, see below.

“The Lyin’ Queen” hits the Opera House with Todd McKenney joining the cast.

Todd McKenney

At the end of November, the new season of Trevor Ashley’s production of “The Lyin’ Queen” begins at the Sydney Opera House.

Trevor came to the studio to complete a series of new publicity shots with Todd McKenney (Dancing with the Stars, The Boy from Oz and numerous TV and stage productions) who has just joined the cast going into the new season in Sydney.

Todd as eccentric billionaire Dr Richard Rabbitborough and Trevor as Gaye Wray

The day after the shoot, the Sydney Morning Herald published a story (30-31 Oct, 2021) promoting Trevor’s show and the return to normality in the theatre world, reproducing a still from our shoot (see below).

The Weekend Telegraph ran an article in “Sydney Shortcuts” on the weekend with a one of my production images from last year’s sell-out season to promote the 2021 season (see below).

Production still of Trevor Ashley on stage as Gaye Wray, The Lyin’ Queen.

As Trevor says; “I couldn’t be more thrilled that Todd has joined the cast of the show. He’s an Aussie legend and has the best sense of humour, so I can’t wait to be on stage with him in this outrageously hilarious comedy.”

Expect dinosaurs, politics, parodies and an inflatable gorilla in this laugh-a-minute musical extravaganza and wild romp.

Todd McKenney and Trevor Ashley ham it up in my studio for The Lyin’ Queen

Book a ticket now! Follow this link to The Lyin’ Queen at the Sydney Opera House

Memorial Sculpture at Tamarama

Urban Arts Project (UAP) was commissioned by ACON and Waverley Council to create the Bondi Memorial to victims of LGBTQ hate crimes in Marks Park, Tamarama.

The Bondi Memorial public artwork honours the victims and survivors of homophobia and transphobic violence along the Sydney coastline. It acknowledges and heals the significant community trauma caused by these events, it raises greater community awareness of this issue and promotes the continuing need for relevant information to be brought to police attention.

Mark’s Park was selected as the location for the permanent memorial given its place in international history as the site of numerous attacks. Many gay men and transgender women were assaulted, and in some cases murdered, at Mark’s Park. 

 UAP’s design for a six-level stone terrace represents the six bands in the pride flag, and was seen as wholly embracing the memorial’s guiding principles of remembrance, diversity, inclusion, justice and acceptance.

Paula Masselos, Mayor of Waverley Council & Nicolas Parkhill, CEO of ACON

Voices from the gay community have said:

“It’s been too long in recognising these terrible events from our not-so-distant past,”

“Finally, we will have a permanent reminder by which we can pay respect to these men, their families, friends and the LGBTI community.”

Pictured below is Reg Domingo (ACON Communications) together with the rest of the team from ACON documenting the completion of the Bondi Memorial Project.

Hansen Yuncken completes Anglicare Minto Gardens

Hansen Yuncken Pty Ltd recently completed a large scale aged-care and residential facility in Minto, in Sydney’s west. I had photographed this site during its construction phase and Hansen Yuncken asked me to document the finished project prior to the residents moving in. Anglicare Minto Gardens features independent residential living, outdoor community areas and pockets of native bushland. It was great to track the project from the early stages to its completion.

Meat – the art of the cool room

Augusto De Romanis and me in front of the Five Dock Meat Market, Sydney

Several years ago, while I was working on a photographic project exploring the subject of “meat” and butchery, I was introduced to Gus, the proprietor of the Five Dock Meat Market. Graciously Gus not only allowed me to organise a photographic shoot at his premises, but he also became an integral part of my series by agreeing to play the role of the gourmet butcher, a role for which he was more than qualified. With a sense of humour, he lent an air of professional authenticity to my surreal imagery.

John McRae, Gus, 2012 Finalist in the 2013 Head On Portrait Prize, State Library, Sydney

Happily some of the resulting photographs from the shoot reached critical acclaim – one was selected as a finalist in the 2013 Head On Portrait Prize and another was a finalist in the Blake Prize, a national competition for spiritual and religious art.

John McRae, Meat, 2012 Finalist in the 2012 Blake Prize, S&H Ervin Gallery, Sydney

Nine years on, I visited Five Dock and dropped in to say hi to Gus. He greeted me with the warmest of Italian welcomes. I even bought a whole rabbit to cook later at home based on a traditional Maltese recipe.

From the series Meat, 2012

Audrey Rhoda – Looking for authentic

Audrey Rhoda in her Katoomba studio, 2019

My colleague and friend, Audrey Rhoda is a painter who lives in the Blue Mountains where she has created her latest body of work for her November exhibition at the M2 Gallery in Surry Hills.

For many years I have been documenting her work and I helped her design the publicity for her upcoming solo show. Audrey works in various media and some of her paintings include wax to give her colours a jewel-like quality.

Audrey’s exhibition opens at M2 Gallery in Surry Hills on November 4 and continues through to November 16 (Opening hours 11am – 5pm).

Audrey Rhoda, Congregating in a liminal state of mind, 2021, Oil on linen, 95cm x 114cm

The Minnie Cooper Super-Highway

Over the years, Sydney drag identity Minnie Cooper has been a frequent visitor to my studio, posing for numerous publicity shots and posters for cabaret shows. Her photogenic skills as actress, tap-dancer, choreographer and showgirl have also been showcased when she performed as a returning contestant on Australia’s Got Talent.  In spite of closures and restrictions in Sydney, Minnie’s exuberance reveals that there still exists a world of life, colour and creativity, all part of the queer expression of liberty.

Minnie came to my studio to document elements from her wardrobe and to produce new footage for projects for next year. In the studio, we made a series of videos to highlight different Minnie Cooper drag looks, and to showcase her charisma, uniqueness, verve and talent. One look was plush and operatic, another was sculptural and stone-coloured and a third was a contemporary take on an evil fairy-tale queen. 

While drag sometimes exists in a world of its own, the exaggerated, camp glamour promoted by Minnie Cooper also manifests its strong political and social connotations. Hers is a sign of resilience. In Sydney, the best drag queens are community leaders who represent different forms of activism, while helping to break down barriers.

“It’s part of your DNA being a drag queen,” affirms Minnie Cooper.

Shooting fashion in the studio

For the new look book of the autumn range for So French So Chic we organised a shoot at my Lilyfield studio to compliment the location shoot we completed in Parsley Bay the week before.

Client: So French So Chic (Valerie Tsoukaris), Model: Valeria Sizova, Hair and makeup: Kevin Vella, Styling: Chris Becker. Photographer: John McRae.

Booty Shoes prepares for summer

Just in time for summer and the re-opening of retail in Sydney, Booty Shoes launches their latest arrivals from Europe. My latest images of their sandals, pumps and various footwear are already appearing in their on-line catalogue.

Promoting diversity at Multiplex

I was contacted by the marketing department of Multiplex to photograph members of their work force at the construction site of the new Sydney Fish Markets in Pyrmont on the edge of Blackwattle Bay. Work is well underway on the upgrade of this Sydney landmark.

I was tasked to create images that reflect the diversity of their employees. For example Multiplex actively promotes more women in construction as a core part of its inclusion commitment.

Autumn linen shoot for So French So Chic

Together with my crew of assistants I photographed the new autumn line of linen designs by So French So Chic under the trees at Parsley Bay, Sydney. The native bushland and forest streams matched the cool shady look of the simple dresses and tailored shirts.

We had a great team which included our Russian model Valeria from Vladivostok. Of course Parsley Bay is a beautiful setting for a fashion shoot with stately Morton Bay figs, ghost gums and tree ferns. It combines lush rainforest with a sandy beach overlooking the harbour.

Client: So French So Chic (Valerie Tsoukaris). Model: Valeria Sizova. Styling: Chris Becker. Hair and Makeup: Kevin Vella. Photographer: John McRae. Assistant: Jonathan Turner.

Lauren – a stylish buyer’s agent

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

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

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

Fashion statement face-masks

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

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

New textile works by Rhonda Pryor

Rhonda pictured with one of her recent works

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

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

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