We recently returned to the offices of Screen Australia in Ultimo to set-up for a series of corporate head shots.
I love shooting head shots because I get to meet and interact (for a brief while) with members of various companies and organisations who commission me to produce portraits. Often, in my role as a photographer, I might work with only one or two people from a company – be it the PR person or the head of marketing. However, when staging head shots, I am able to meet other professionals within an organisation, and establish a different rapport.
I maintain a lot of respect for my subjects and for each situation. To be in front of the camera, and under the spotlights, is not the most comfortable position for many people. It is my job to make it as pleasant an experience as possible, also for those people who are not normally on the screen themselves.
My friend, the Palestinian artist, Emily Jacir has a solo show at her Turin gallery, Galleria Peola Simondi, Italy (until 14 October, 2021). The photo based works, film and texts are her response to the ongoing conflict between the Israeli state and the Palestinian people in and around her ancestral home and artist’s studio in Bethlehem. Jacir’s house is 200 metres from the “Apartheid Wall”, the imposing security barrier which was supposedly designed to protect the Jewish Israeli population but instead serves to isolate and and antagonise Palestinian communities. As Jacir states in the text by Francesca Comisso, “the wall does not separate us from Israel, it separates us from ourselves”.
I have photographed Emily several times over the years and one of these images was used by La Repubblica newspaper in the review of her current show at Galleria Peola Simondi.
At the lofty heights on the 22nd floor of the Multiplex headquarters in King Street in Sydney, I spent the day photographing the diverse and cheerful team of this global construction company.
The idea was to capture how individual personalities can shine through in a standardised corporate pose. My challenge is to portray each person as interesting and engaging in their own unique way. For me it is really cool… not many assignments give me the opportunity to interact with so many different people over the course of a single day.
On a perfect autumn day in Parsley Bay (although admittedly it was a bit cold for the model) we shot next season’s summer range for So French So Chic. Valeria Sizova, originally from Vladisvostok (eastern Russia) was a joy to work with. Sydney is full of these treasures of nature and the sandstone parkland, bridge and wharf provided a stunning backdrop.
We present our unique blend of A-line silhouettes and soft, falling fabric. This year, our summer range is a mix of bold colours and gentle neutrals. Bright tones of fuschia, coral, turquoise and burnt orange are mixed with fresh pastels, or crisp, maritime white. Be part of our own French identity, adapted to the Australian climate and outdoor lifestyle. This includes loose tops with twin front pockets and large mother-of-pearl buttons, an asymmetrical sundress, a bolero jacket and wide-legged pants reminiscent of French sailor wear.
Trevor Ashley, the Australian musical theatre actor, cabaret and drag artist based in Sydney, is continually inventing new characters and new looks.
Currently he has been working on the Drag Hag podcast and providing re-caps of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under (to see episode 4, click here).
At the studio Trevor posed under the lights showcasing a series of vibrant, extravagant and fun new alter egos with costumes by Frida Las Vegas, under the master touch of Daniel Cater (aka Dallas Dellaforce) who took care of hair, make-up and styling.
As a chameleon and from my experience of working with Trevor since the early 2000s, I never quite know who is going to be channeled on set…..Liza, Shirley, Edna or one of his brand new superstars.
TV & Radio personality Angie Kent (Gogglebox Australia, I’m a celebrity…get me out of here!, The Bachelorette and Dancing with the Stars) has recorded a series of podcasts for NOVA Entertainment, Sydney. She presents a whole array of weird and wacky therapies – past life regression, yoga laughter, fear of spiders, BDSM – in a light hearted manner. In her podcast, Angie Tries It, she debunks myths with irreverence.
I arrived at the 38th floor of Tower III at Barangaroo, the Sydney offices of the international consulting group KPMG. I had been asked to take corporate portraits of the team. These shots are being used as part of an upcoming tender for a project. The look was for an uncomplicated and clear representation of the people involved.
We set up the shoot in one of the many meeting rooms at KPMG offices. We constructed a white paper background and set up two strobe lights to photograph each person, under the competent guidance of Emma (Senior Personal Assistant) who managed the logistics of the shoot. It was hard not to be distracted by the amazing view from the window.
Multiplex decided to update their banner imagery using photographs taken at their soon-to-be completed construction site at the skyscraper on the corner of Bridge and Phillip Streets in Sydney.
I took photographs of various employees from different fields of construction, be it engineering or project management. Throughout the building, from the street level to the 40th floor, I photographed the Multiplex crew in their lofty work environment.
I recently visited two of my favourite places in the world, Malta and Rome. Once again they both delivered beautifully on their promise of a really good break.
It was a last minute decision to go but I am so glad that I made the effort to get myself across to the other side of the world. I was reminded how valuable it is to detach from the “rat race” (le train train quotidien, comme on dit en francais) of your daily life. It gives you the chance to re-evaluate and to look at things up again with fresh eyes and fresh energy when you arrive back home…..and there’s no place like home!
I flew directly to Malta (well not so directly….I went through Abu Dhabi and then Rome….only 30 hours of travel!!!). I arrived on this little island of 465, 000 inhabitants, living on an archipelago of 246 sq km. To put this in perspective the greater Sydney area (12,140 sq km) is about 50 times the size of Malta. And Malta is actually made up of five islands.
Some other facts about Malta….
Looks like there’s no water left.
Bombed heavily during the 2nd World War (some people say it was the most bombed place on the planet during that time).
The Egyptians called it “The Island of Healing”
It is the home of the oldest free-standing structure in the world, Skorba Temples, estimated 5,200 BC.
Malta (or the Maltese Islands, or The Maltese Archipelago) consists of 5 islands (for ages I thought it was only 3 because 2 of them are really small); Malta, the largest…Gozo, greener and more undulating, and Comino…no-one lives there but has beautiful waters all around it, including “The Blue Lagoon”. And then there’s Cominotto (Davide had to remind me) and Filfla (which the English used as target practice durnng the war and reduced its size considerably).
Most houses have flat roofs and a flag pole.
Language is mostly Arabic (Marvic would hate me saying that). Well….a 10th century form of Arabic, with a bit of Italian, French and English thrown in.
Full of delightful contradictions…for example in what could well be the most Catholic country in the world, the word for “God’ is Alla. (I rest my case.)
You can walk from one side of the main Island to the other, easily in a day.
Was the home of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem, Rhodes and Malta (now based in Rome…they kept getting ousted by foreign powers). Given to the Knights, after their demise in Rhodes to the Turks, by the Spanish King at the time, in exchange for one Maltese Falcon a year (rent). The Knights of St John’s original mission statement was to look after the sick and the poor. They took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. They originally set up hospitals, initially in Jerusalem, and along the crusade routes, to tend the sick and wounded as “The Cross” attempted to regain the Holy Lands from “The Crescent”.
The Knights are an important part of the history as they built a lot of the rmassive, long-standing, impenetrable bastions and ramparts, found all around the island, but in particular, around the Grand Harbour.
Can’t mention the Knights without attributing the great victory that was achieved in 1565 against the full might of the Ottoman Empire and Suleiman the Magnificent, The Sultan of Turkey, known as the Great Seige of Malta. This not only sky rocketed this little island to European fame (songs and poetry were written) but most regard this event as “the nail in the coffin” for Suleiman’s obvious plans to invade and take over the whole of Europe, thus my own history and cultural background may have been vastly different.
In contemporary Australia this 900 year old medieval, crusading tradition gets a mention….our own Ambulance service is an off-shoot of this very order. Note the Maltese cross on the sides of our ambulance vehicles…it’s the cross of St John….an 8 sided white cross, originally signifying peace, on a red background, signifying blood (the spilt blood of the crusades, I imagine).
Following my 30 hour flight and a quick shower the “games began”. I was whisked away to a neighbouring village callled, Hamrun. Well….it was like walking into an “on the street” version of pop concert, meets football match, meets political rally, without the singers, footballers, or activists, just the crowd. People everywhere, pulsating, as men and women climbed onto the shoulders of their comrades, waving flags and shouting some kind of battle cry. It was wonderfully strange and captivating. I had no idea what was going on…but it was fun!
This is the festa. It’s a very traditional Maltese (not just Maltese) ritual where the village celebrates the Saint’s Day. Each village usually (or always) has a particular Saint attributed. There’s normally a statue of that Saint (be it St Patrick, St Helena, The Madonna and so on….) which resides, throughout the year, in the main church and which, during the festa, is paraded through the streets in a formal procession. Festas can, and do, go on for several days. It’s the premiere event in the year’s calendar for that village….it’s a big deal.
The streets are decorated. Statues are mounted on pedestals. Great flags and banners are flying. Unbelievably loud fireworks are sounded continually throughout the day and night (forget sleeping-in), culminating in a massive fireworks display on the last night. The streets are lined with fast food, ice-cream and candy. The whole village pours onto the streets to congregate, socialise, be silly, soak up the vibe and participate in some way. It’s the consumate community event.
Central to the festa is the brass band. The streets are filled with their all-too -familiar sound. There’s usually at least 2 brass bands in each village and they adopt a particular colour (which you paint yourself in, according to the band you support or are part of). This dichotomy invariably creates a condition of polarisation in terms of support….”are you for the blue or the red”? Occasionally, this opposition can get really serious as in the case of one village festa a couple of years back, in a village I won’t name, where the 2 opposing sides came to blows and an out-and-out brawl resulted. Suffice to say the church leaders, in their wisdom, cancelled the festa for the following year as punishment for such “un-churchly” conduct. This was a heavy price to pay when you see how dear the festa is to Maltese people.
Most of the festas occur during the warmer months of summer, for obvious reasons. This means (on an island of 365 churches) that most weeks there are as many as 8 festas occurring simultaneously. This is great news for avid festa addicts who can go from village to village on a single night, chasing the ultimate festa experience. My host, Marvic, was one of those….I think I went to 5 festas during the 2 weeks I was on the island.
The following is an album of a selection of shots from some of the various festas I attended…….
Temples – Hagar Qim
This is the first time I visited one of the megalthic temples dotted across Malta and Gozo. Apparently there’s about 40 of them. As I mentioned some of the oldest free-standing structures in the world are found here, dating back to 5,200BC.
Hagar Qim is one such site and is a particularly fine example.
The Capital, Valletta
I love Valletta. When I first started going to Malta in the early 2000’s I would always stay in the capital. I think that it is one of the great expressions of Baroque. I love walking the long, straight, elegant, cascading streets, each street ending in a view of the ocean. One of my fascinations with Valetta, on early visits, was the fact that the city was almost deserted. House after house was empty, very few people living in the city. At night, when business had closed, the city was like a ghost town, not even a stray cat. I couldn’t fathom why such an amazing city was practically abandoned.
Marvic explained that it was heavily bombed during the war and the wealthy relocated to neighbouring areas, such as Sliema.
A Segue into Marvic…..
I realise I should introduce Marvic. I keep mentioning him in my text. Marvic is a Maltese local, living in Birkirkara. In fact he is originally from Gozo (a true Gozitan) and this is an important point of difference as the Maltese will tell you. Who would have thought that going one mile north of Malta (like taking the ferry from Balmain to Circular Quay) would mean you speak a different dialect of Maltese and choose to identify not as Maltese, but as Gozitan? There’s much more involved but I won’t go into it.
Marvic is a long time friend. He was one of the first friendships I made, along with his best friend, Davide, when I first started going to Malta…..
He’s a cleaning freak as you will see in some of the photos. Saturday mornings are reserved for a sturdy workout involving a broom and a mop.
He loves going to the gym.
He is passionate about Maltese culture and history and is one of the best tour guides you can possibly have on the island.
He loves his dog, Nina.
He gets around on a scooter (very practical for the narrow streets of most villages).
His best friend is named Davide and lives in London. I met Marvic and Davide at the same time 17 or 18 years ago.
He loves, loves, loves festas and everything associated with them.
He loves getting his photo taken. (Good for me as a photographer. I always have a willing model which I appreciate).
The list goes on…….
Here’s a pic of Marvic and I’m sure you will see him appear in subsequent photos.
Marvic loves cleaning…..
Back to Valletta…..
Perhaps I will just post some shots of the city so you can see for yourself. But I was commenting that Valletta was practically abandoned during and after the war. However, recently there has been an absolute renaissance in the city. People everywhere, new shops, new boutique hotels opening up all over the place, houses renovated and a vibrancy and sophistication fitting for such a beautiful city.
Note that the city entrance has been re-designed, together with a new Parliament House by the famed architect, Renzo Piano. In my opinion a truely great job and money well spent. The previous city gate (which was not the original) was a bit dreary (there’s a story there, for another time). Piano has combined “modern” with “medieval” with seamless elegance.
The beaches are great in Malta. You have the choice of sandy or rocky. I chose rocky, for something different. Some of them have both sand and rocks. Gnejna, for example, is where the rocks are smooth and flat, protruding out into the mediterranean some distance above the water, so that you can be lying on the rock in the sun and then practically roll over into the water. Gozo is full of great beaches as well.
What Happened to the Azure Window, Gozo?
The Azure Window, one of Gozo’s premier tourist attractions, requires a special mention. The joke goes that we were looking for the Azure Window for most of the time we were there….nowhere to be found. It was perched over the ocean the last time I visited, a huge weathered rock formation like a bridge with a hole in centre. How could such a thing just up and vanish?
It broke off and fell into the sea one evening, earlier in the year.
The travel brochures still picture it in place, but I’m sure within a few years these remnants of a happier time will be up-dated. Dwerja is still a great coastal area to visit but it has one less attraction…..or perhaps it may become an attraction to see where the Azure Window used to be.
Here are some shots, before and after, to illustrate the tragedy.
The Kangaroo House
Is a very minor tourist attraction but yet a very important landmark. It is the family home of Davide (see pic of Davidd and Marvic, above). Davide’s parents lived for a short time in Sydney. On their return to Malta they brought back a small ceramic kangaroo (had to fit in the hand luggage) as a fitting memento of their time in OZ. Davide’s father had a larger replica made locally which they placed on the outside balcony to the entrance of their home in Xaghra, Gozo (note: festa, 8th September, if your interested) (See pic below).
There it remained until one day Davide’s father, having decided he’d had enough of the kangaroo, took it down a put it “out in the back yard”.
Daily life went on at the Cini household until one morning a letter arrived in the mail. It was an official letter, requesting (it could have been more a demand) that the kangaroo be reinstated in it’s usual spot on the front terrace.
It seems that the Kangaroo had become an intrinsic landmark for navigating the winding roads of the village (remember this is pre-GPS and the house is on a corner of a cross road) and “all hell” had broken loose where locals and foreigners, alike, were losing their way, taking the wrong turns and generally having a terrible time of it.
The kangaroo (as we see pictured) was promptly put back where it belongs, everyone happy, and there it remains to this day. So lucky it wan’t tossed out.
I just realised this blog is getting a bit long…I should finish. However, I have to mention this church because it houses a truly remarkable crucifix, in my opinion. I attempted to visit this church 3 times prior….each time the church was closed (I didn’t check the opening times, I might add).
It was quite late in the evening. We had finished eating in Valletta and I thought I could try one last time to enter the church. Naturally it was closed. I was leaving the next day and resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t get to see the crucifix on this trip.
As we were walking away from the church down the street I notice a huge door ajar. To peer in…..was a temptation I could not refuse. It was a cavernous passageway. I could see a strange flickering light in the distance which I had to investigate. It lead me to a couple of workmen, welding a statue, laid out in a workspace filled with other statues. We had a brief chat which uncovered the fact that we were in the subterranean branches of “Ta Giezu”. We were invited to continue along the dimly lit passage to enter the church and view the crucifix. What miraculous luck!
This famous crucifix is called “The Miraculous Crucifix”. It was sculpted from the trunk of an olive tree by the Franciscan lay brother, Fra Umile da Petralia Soprano (Palermo) in 1630.
I am captivated by the sculptor’s ability to convey such drama, emphasising great pain and suffering…..all the wounds, bruising and blood on show with the finest aesthetic.
On the way home I dropped in to see my good friend Jonathan, an Australian living in Rome. Rome has become another repeat destination….I return regularly to get my dose of Italian exuberance and life-force, in a city dripping with antiquity, artistic and architectural masterpieces and jaw-dropping beauty.
A big thank you to Malta/Rome and all the friends and acquaintances, especially to my hosts Emily and Marvic for being so fabulous. This little island of Malta has a big heart and is ready to share it with all who wish. It is certainly a place that I am drawn to and will continue to visit, long into the future. And Rome is ETERNAL.
Remember to get in touch should you require any photographic work done. You can contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call on 0419 619 161
It’s half way through the year already and I have no idea where the time has gone.
I am embracing the fact that there is only 6 months to go until Santa comes again and looking forward to the next 6 months of interesting challenges and achievements.
Here’s a quick summary of some of the highlights from the month of June…..
George Michael – Listen to your heart
I was asked to cover the George Michael tribute concert at the Opera House Concert Hall on Sunday 8 June. It was truly fabulous. I mean you can’t go wrong with a 35 piece orchestra, some of Australia’s best voices and the classic beauty of George Michael’s exquisite writing. Casey Donovan, Rob Mills, Hugh Sheridan, Andrew De Silva, Bobby Fox and Sheldon Riley were lead by the orchestra leader, John Foreman. The crowd was as diverse as George’s musical career, spanning all age groups and demographics. They were united in their enjoyment of what was coming from the stage. Here are a few pics….
James Squires Landing
I enjoyed shooting for Xenia Contructions at the Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay. What a superb locaton. I shot in the early morning to catch the best light and avoid some of the foot traffic in that area. Seeing the sun rise over the Opera House was golden. Vivid was on at the time, so I managed to get a few shots with the Vivid light show in the background. Here are some examples.
Trevor Ashley smashes it again!
I love working with this talented and intelligent artist. Trevor Ashley is well known in the entertainment industry for his many portrayals of famous woman such as Liza Minelli and Shirley Bassey, musical theatre roles such as Miss Understanding in the original cast of Priscilla, Queen of the desert and Edna Turnblad in Hairspray, Thernadier in Les Miserables, many cabaret performances….and heaps of other things…if you want a better bio, head to wikipedia and search Trevor Ashley. I can’t do him justice here.
I have shot many incarnations of Trevor over the years….I love working with him because he makes things seem easy. They are only easy because this man is a conceptual genius and enjoys what he does.
You know you’re in for a fun shoot when you have Rhonda Burchmore and Lara Mulcahy (mega-stars and mega-nice people) coming to the studio to work on a few new shots for their brilliant show, Abba-solutely Fabulous.
We originally met last year to shoot for this new show (Rhonda and Lara were both in the original cast of Mamma Mia)….and now it has become bigger than Ben Hur, packed houses all over Australia, and they need more images to continue the promotion machine.
Apparently the show is fabulously funny and entertaining and I am looking forward to seeing it when it next comes to Sydney. Have a look at the programming and see if they are appearing near you, because I know they would be delightful to see.Click here for dates etc.
Look at the “teaser” below and tell me you’re not going to have a good time with these two lovely larakins.
Shauna’s new look
I always love shooting the gorgeous Shauna Jensen…amazing vocalist with a long and impressive career in the entertainment industry….again look her up in wikipedia, Shauna Jensen for the full bio….or go and see her next performance.
Shauna has a new look and here’s a sneak preview from the shoot we did together, earlier this month.
I have been shooting for a group of young people who meet once a month, in an open forum, to discuss various “taboo” subjects. The images from the nights are used in their social media to promote future “Taboo Talks”. Taboo Talks are the brain child of a couple of social workers, Amirah and Kosta and have been running for a good 18 months, discussing diverse subjects, frrom domestic violence to racism and everything in between. The idea is to create a safe space where people feel free to share ideas and experiences with each other on a given subject. A new topic is chosen each month and the discussion is headed and administered by nominated facilitators. If you wish to know more they have a facebook page which you are welcome to visit.
The Wild Sculptural Interpretations of Margarita Sampson – Honey Funus
I have been shooting for Margarita for some years now and I am always pleasantly surprised with what she comes up with. I know that when she rings to book photography that I am going to encounter the next wonderfully weird, beautiful and strangely animated, creature she has given birth to.
This month was no exception. I met “Honey Fungus” in all it’s glory of gaping orange deliciousness. Honey Fungus’ friend looks a bit overwhelmed, I must say. I always enjoy getting to know her little creatures as I click away. For a look at more of Margarita’s work, click here.
Hansen Yuncken together with Waterways are really stepping up the pace on the wharf up-grade roll-outs. I shot another wharf this month. The Abbotsford Wharf up-grade was opened to the public…so I ventured along the Parramatta River to an idyllic location for a ferry terminal at the end of Great North Road. I really like the design of these new wharfs….in my opinion they look slick. Here’s a few shots from the shoot….
Well there’s a few highlights from my month. Please get in touch if you have any questions or queries on email@example.com
Five months ago, in early November 2017, Dan and Verity said “I do”. They tied the knot on the weekend just prior to the mammoth announcement of the plebiscite on marriage equality in Australia. The ceremony and reception took place in a picturesque paddock at the foot of Mount Victoria, in the Blue Mountains, N.S.W. Dan and Verity specifically asked their guests to dress in a single colour of their choice. Their intention was to stage a group photograph of themselves with all their guests, positioned loosely in the colours of the rainbow.
My shot is not only a document affirming this joyful event at which Dan and Verity were free to commit their love and support for each other in front of their friends and family, it is also an expression of Dan and Vertiy’s solidarity with their LGBTQI brothers and sisters on the issue of marriage equality. This group portrait even heralds an early celebration of the positive outcome that everyone was hoping for.
I entered this photo in the 2018 Moran Contemporary Photography Prize, since for me, it follows the Moran’s mandate for images that interpret the changing reality of life in Australia today.