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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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In a departure from the more traditional corporate headshot required for company portfolios, the architectural firm Hansen Yuncken has decided to approach this genre differently, aiming for a more relaxed and natural look during our recent photographic shoot of some of their Sydney team..
The idea has been to capture the individual subjects with various backgrounds and in informal poses, as opposed to having a standard plain background, with each portrait photographed from the same angle. Where conditions permitted, I used natural light as the main light source. The emphasis was on diversity, and a less contrived atmosphere and posture. Of course the mere fact that the subject is having a portrait photograph taken can work as a barrier … not everyone likes being put in front of a camera for that “close-up”. It is always the photographer’s challenge to make the experience as easy and relaxed as possible, to achieve a more natural image (in spite of the very “un-natural” situation). I think we succeeded with the task at hand.
I captured images of a recent installation at Allianz Stadium, at the head office of the Sydney Roosters NRL team. The designers at Sydney Commercial Interiors created an impressive display with furnishings to house the many trophies and important football memorabilia collected by the club over the years.
Sydney Commercial Interiors is a Sydney-based company which leads the field in commercial interiors, spanning a broad spectrum of activities designing for office, hospitality, industrial and medical projects, as well as sports and recreation.
Feature Point Constructions is a boutique construction and building company based in Melbourne, specialized in shop and office fit-outs and home renovations. Its hallmark is precision and quality finishes. The company is run by the well-presented and professional master tradesman, Ali Yucel (pictured above).
I spent the afternoon in Torquay, Victoria, photographing a home renovation that had recently been completed by Feature Point Constructions.
Torquay holds a special place in my heart as it was the “go to” holiday spot for my mother, aunty and us children. I have lots of fun memories of frolicking endlessly by the beach, long sunny days and loads of oysters and crayfish at the end of day in the hotel room.
I was impressed with the clean lines, rounded corners and beautiful finishes on this renovation. The following is a gallery of some of the shots.
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.
I was commissioned to document changes in the “under-construction” landscape at the new airport at Badgery’s Creek on the outskirts of Sydney. I have been photographing aspects of the construction to date, as well as taking working shots of various Multiplex employees. The scale of the project is huge and the sky is full of cranes as the work progresses rapidly.
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.
The team at Hansen Yuncken is about to start work on a new project at Trinity Grammar in Summer Hill, Sydney. To mark the occasion it is customary to stage a ceremony where the first “sod” is turned on the site of the construction.
Happily on this occasion the grown-ups had some welcome help from a few younger “construction workers” in long-fitting hi-vis and spacious hard-hats. Perhaps the new cadets of the future.
A number of my clients are in the construction business and occasionally I am asked to go on-site and produce images that can be used for marketing purposes. One such occasion arose recently at one of Hansen and Yuncken’s building sites at Meadowbank TAFE. I was commissioned to capture a series of images of their staff, on site and at work, that could be used for marketing purposes such as tenders.
Unless there is a concise brief, in which the client requests specific shots, my general approach is to go on-site and to work in an impromptu but professional way. It is not always necessary to direct the subjects when setting up the shot. I prefer to wait for the right moment and then step in to take the photograph. Besides, it’s not as if my subjects are paid fashion models. They are usually the employees of the company, photographed by me as they go about their normal day-to-day duties.
I enjoy this type of photography, since it allows me to step into the universe of construction and to see how a large-scale operation works from a human point of view.
I recently returned to Anglicare Minto Gardens where I had shot a number of images for Hansen Yuncken of their build for this sprawling retirement facility in the western suburbs of Minto.
The first shoot I concentrated on the exteriors however this time it was all about the recently completed interiors. The Hansen Yuncken business development team required shots of the interiors which could accompany presentations that may make in the future for related work.
Producing multiple head-shots can be both a challenge and a rewarding exercise. It is challenging in the sense that you have limited time available with each subject and within that short time frame you must capture the best possible photograph of that person. Part of the task is to make the person feel relaxed and confident in front of the camera. Every photographer has his or her own individual “bag of tricks” to make sure that this happens. I enjoy this challenge as much as I like the chance to meet the many diverse human faces behind the organisation you are working for … from the personal assistants to the senior executives. You have the privilege of photographing a vast range of people, although you don’t always know their professional roles within the company . While the days can be long, they are, at the same time, invigorating.
I recently completed the task of updating head-shots and corporate portraits of Multiplex employees. It was a complex job spanning numerous days over a period of months, based on setting up a series of mobile studios in different offices in Sydney.
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.
I recently photographed studio portraits as corporate profiles for the team at Prime Constructions. For the occasion, a studio set-up was temporarily installed at the company’s Artarmon offices, as pictured. Sometimes as a photographer, the key is to be mobile.
Prime chose a standard grey background with a slight gradient for the portraits. The subject was seated, to create a corporate mood that was relaxed and open. The images are all shot in a landscape orientation, rather than portrait. This choice was made based on the proposed layout of these profiles on the Prime Constructions website. The main lighting is high key with not too much contrast on the face, and I added a hair-light to separate the sitter from the background.
In 1983, Ron Masters & Phil de Gail established Prime Constructions, now regarded as one of the leading building contractors in New South Wales. Paul Christopher joined Prime in 1988 as a cadet and John Drake commenced as a general foreman in 1989. Having prospered and developed within the increasingly expanding company, John and Paul became directors and shareholders in 2000. In 2010, they became joint managing directors.
Prime’s services include new construction, refurbishment and fit-out for projects up to $80m, offering innovative construction solutions and undertaking industrial, commercial, retail and institutional projects. Over the past several years, I have photographed many building sites overseen by Prime, documenting each stage from the earliest preliminary phases to completion. With a proven record of successful project delivery for over 35 years, Prime is one of my long-standing architectural clients.
Three years ago, when I first photographed the site of the Inner Sydney High School on the corner of Cleveland and Chalmers Streets in Surry Hills, it was a series of traditional brick classrooms built in the late 1800’s. Now thanks to the design by FJMT Studio and the high tech building efforts of Hansen Yuncken, it is a magnificent contemporary campus amid heritage architecture, and an example of a new direction in public education.
Apart from the classrooms, the school features an enviable array of facilities including media rooms, fully-equipped kitchens, science labs, woodworking rooms, a sky-high basketball court, library, lecture halls, assembly areas and loads of cool spaces to hang out and be educated.