I knew I had not updated this blog for some time. Now that I looked back, I realise it has been a month (though it felt a little longer than that), with the last post being a series of photos of Katei, the Rock Violinist, in action on Melbourne street. Today, I caught up with him, over a cup of coffee, on a Tuesday afternoon when business tends to be slow for buskers like him. I had a chance to hear his feedback and how he responded to my images. I was curious, as he is used to having photographs taken from years of his professional work. We also talked about life as artists, as individuals, and how we open it up to the world.
Just looking back to what I’ve been up to since I last photographed him… I went for a quick trip to Sydney on a weekend, to have coffee with a few people.
A couple of photo shoot jobs came my way. (Thank you very much!)
Photographing Natalie’s First Communion Day gathering was a lot of fun. Google Map had a wrong block pinned so I was in a building 200 metres up the road talking to my client before I could figure out where they actually were, although I got there 15 minutes early and sent an SMS saying I was outside the SMS was never seen as they did not have that phone! Despite the late arrival, people were kind and accommodating. I got to photograph this family’s little princesses a few years back but this time they have grown up, and surrounded by loving family and relatives. I focused on capturing the candid shots, and I managed to come out with absolute classics.
I particularly love those photos. Oops, there goes your balloon!
This is one of my favourite shots in a long time. There are so much message in the body language, empty plate, a folk in hand, her arms spread in a classic ‘what have I done?’ protest posture, and a man’s finger pointed right at her, while she’s got a back against her wall… I’m really pleased I was able to respond to this moment.
And I love this shot for a different reason. I just think it is so funny! What do you think?
Thank you so much Milad, for the opportunity. I hope to work with you and your family again soon. Just love your beautiful family!
Then October came. It got very warm. We pulled out T-shirts from the back of wardrobe. And it got not so warm, again. We were back wearing coats and glad we did not put away the warm blanket. Typical Melbourne.
Then I had an opportunity to photograph a function that was held in this beautiful venue.
That’s me standing in for my own test shot after the lighting was set up before guests arrived. Do I look okay?
Well, you won’t see me in a suit like that very often! When you’re running around a venue with one or two cameras down your neck, this is really not a practical working outfit. You’re more likely to find me show up in dark jeans and dark polo shirt. But if you need me dressed up for your event photo shoot, please discuss with me before hand. At the end of the day, if I am comfortable, I am more prepared to focus on making great images for you…
The sun was back to the city. Everyone was hanging out in the sun.
… or riding in it.
People like to pose when a photo is being taken. They force a smile. Cheese!
But really, how often do you find yourself looking into such a photo later and say, well, that’s me in a picture. Not, ‘ah, that’s me!’.
I get tense and nervous when people take a picture of me. I try to relax, I try not to force myself to smile. But some girls tell me I should smile more often, I look really good when I smile. So… clearly there is that natural expression and there is that ‘for the photo’ fake one.
My approach to people photography, on family snaps, functions, or even something that sits more in ‘portraiture’ in classification, I aim at capturing people when they are paying very little attention to me or my camera. Generally I work in close distance, using relatively wide angle lens, so it’s not like I can stay out of their peripheral scope. But as many street photographers in history sited, it is possible to become invisible by having them aware of you all the time, get used to your presence, and you just become part of the surroundings…
I aim to make that happen when I’m working with people like Katei, an artist who is conscious of photographers around him, who is performing his work when I’m pointing my camera at him, and has audience to worry about. He says he likes photos I took of him relaxed and chatting with his audience. I also catch him from just behind his shoulder in some shots, looking for his sense of the world, how the strings and audience beyond sit in his view, but at the same time, I am not within his view so I can just capture his body language, the way he really feels, without putting up that fake smile.
In Natalie’s Communion Day shoot, I used a zoom lens a lot. While I capture the sense of space using wide, I was also working with people who’s never seen me before, and did indeed put up that ‘photo smile’. I focused on capturing them during their conversation with each other, their interaction with their babies, or even choosing the moment when they were laughing about something among themselves rather than all of them smiling obligatory to my camera, looking down on them from me standing on top of a chair. At the end of the day, I think we all agree which photo is more attractive. Which photos show more of real you. I do not think we need to look like we know how to stand straight and smile at the same time so a camera can go ‘click’. My task is finding a way to catch people off guard, so I can capture them as they look most beautiful.
Billy Joel’s old song comes back to my mind. He did not like singing it on live performances because it was a very personal song about his relationship, which later ended with a divorce. But hey, we still love how romantic he was, and I just have to agree with him: I love you just the way you are.
It’s been a pretty good month. I hope I have something interesting and more exciting photos to share with you by the time I write another blog post. It could be a picture of you and your loved ones. Please let me know if you want me to cover your family or organisation event. Just book me early as I’m (belatedly) planning a trip to get away from here (and get to update my travel blog for once!).
I almost passed him by. He was just another busking artist, one of many that fill every block of Swanston Street in the centre of Melbourne. It was late on Friday night. I had a dinner on my own in Chinatown, sat down in a coffee shop with a book for a while, and just about ran out of ideas to kill any more time. I plugged in with something of my ‘walking’ heavy rotation through the in-ear Bose, volume turned up a bit high, pushing my way ahead of half drunken, half touristy crowd slowly moving down to Flinders Street station. First my eye caught the sight of the ‘cowboy photographer’ Kazu standing there, which made me stop to say hi, then I realised what he was there for. The sound of violin came in to my system as I pulled off the ear-plugs. It was not one of those amateur musicians.
At a break between songs, I walked up to him and asked if he would mind me photographing him at work. He was cool with that. I guess it is a matter of respect – many people just start snapping away, and maybe it was the way things are with many people with mobile phones. But I often get a lot more involved, moving around in their sight… and I would like them to be comfortable with it, and hopefully see the images and give me comment later. So it’s far better to just ask – all they can say is ‘no’. Then I would have just packed away my camera and enjoyed the music.
Even in Melbourne where people are generally appreciative of public art, a crowd around a musician is a sign of something real. People may be generous and paying attention to the performance around them, but they are also exposed to a lot of them and know the difference between something that is not worth their time and a few that they want to stick around while they last.
When the song finished, the applause rises from the crowd. He opens up his eyes wide and smiles. He almost looks like a totally different person – a craft man at work is not a friendly approachable young man! Not a few drops coins, some leave notes and grab a CD on the stand.
Then he focuses his mind to the voice of his trusted instrument again…
Are you now curious what his music sounds like? Well, as with many musicians, I find his live performance far better than what I hear on the CD or on YouTube. So make your way down to the city in the evening, when the sky is clear, and look out for a violin player with his own world about him…
… having said that, if you do not live in Melbourne, you may want to check out his YouTube and Facebook page to get started. Once he is back in touring, he may re-appear in Japan as well as other countries. So stay tuned!
Follow his performance schedules, send enquiries to
KATEI’s Facebook page
Another weekend, another outing on two-wheels. This time I did not go far from home. Up along the river one day, down towards the bay another.
Starting off as a fine, warm morning, I would venture out in T-shirt and shorts. But then again, this is Melbourne. The city of ’4 Seasons in One Day’ (yes, Crowded House must have written many of their songs here, on a weekend like this.)
The temperature would drop away, sun fading away replaced by cold wind… I pull on my 20-year-old LL Bean wind pullover, and still I cannot shake off the chill.
Oh well, before you know it it would be real warm, and we can really put away our winter clothings… but not just yet here.
So the spring was here. The air felt much more ‘loose’ or ‘soft’. Hay fever and skin cancer are back on conversation again. My friend and I dusted the bike and went out to make the best of the beautiful sunny weekend.
We even drove down to my favourite ‘quick trip’ destination down on the Great Ocean Road.
I even spotted a griffin venturing out in the sun!
We just knew we had to make the best of the weather… because we know what they call this city we live in…
Little did I know it at the time, but a couple of weeks ago I was walking in the last week of winter in Melbourne.
It was dark, heavy and wet.
Some days, the cloud seem so heavy. You could see the spots of heavy rain across the horizon.
I realised that the art-filled winter is coming to an end. I jumped in to NGV to have a quick look at their Monet’s Garden exhibition. They are rather good. I’m hoping to check out again this weekend, before it closes on Sunday.
And one day, we woke up, to see the soft light shining through.
No more harsh cold wind. It’s just soft, hazy air out there.
People are starting to dress in shorter clothes.
Even the arrival of the night is not as depressing…
And we know…
The winter is gone.
Let me also share some of my recent works.
First up, it’s Yukiko and Hiro. Back in 2011, this couple asked me to photograph when they tied the knot. We had fun photographing them before they were officially married, shooting on the typical Melbourne graffiti lane ways, then ‘just married’ couple on Melbourne street, before ending up on the tram restaurant. Check out some of the photos here. This time, I was asked to photograph them with their first baby, Sota-kun.
Next up, this is also a family I’ve photographed a few times in the past. I photographed Eisuke-kun for the first time when he was still a new born baby of one month back in early 2011 (photos here). Then the parents, Kumiko and Keisuke, have asked me to photographed them again when Eisuke just turned 1 (photos here). This is the first time we meet in the hot Osakan summer, and instead of shooting in their store or out in the park on a humid day, they suggested their favourite aquarium, ‘Kaiyukan’. They have annual membership and visit the place quite frequently. It makes sense to record the growth of their son in a place that has been a part of his life so far.
As you can see, my approach to family photography is candid snaps using natural light, not formal portraiture. I believe people will show their natural, ‘real’ expression in such a set up, and I am able to capture the way they look, as their loved ones know them.
If you like your family and loved ones photographed in your family home, favourite hangout, or just at family milestone events, please enquire by email, including brief description of what you want photographed, date start/end time, location and your contact details (phone number). I can produce an enlarged print, photobook or any other format that you wish.