Tony Stephens, a very talented artist I’d known from art markets, has extended an invite to the launch exhibition of a new gallery that was opening up in Prahran. He’d told me that this gallery utilises a large space and there is a dance group next door that can be collaborated into the installation… curious.
Rather than boring you with my talk, scroll on, and see how the night played out. There were exhibitions by a dozen or so artists on the wall, and then there was the dance group, from The Space: Dance & Arts Centre (in which The Knowles Gallery is hosted), plus Hernán Lopera did a live installation production.
If you are following my Facebook page, you would’ve seen MOST of the images. I think I added one or two back in here from the photos I’d taken (but not selected for posting to Facebook at the time…)
There was a black sheet and a white sheet, formed in a shape of lying persons. It looked like somebody was sleeping underneath, and she (looked pretty skinny so I’d assumed she) would just stretch out and get up, out of the sheets. Then this took place in front of us…
I had a pleasure of photographing the wedding of this lovely couple.
It is funny how things happen sometimes. I was out on Lygon Street one weekend catching up with a friend. The cafe was pretty crowded so when another group came in just behind us, we offered the larger table to them and moved indoors looking for a small table enough for my friend and me. In the end, we ended up coming back to this group so we could share the table.
As it turned out, they were Japanese, and with my friend and I both speak Japanese, we chatted a bit. One person in the other group lives here in Melbourne, and looks after small events and stuff. Oh, my friend here is a musician and I am a photographer… let us know if you need a help. Oh, actually there is a wedding of friends coming up but they haven’t found a photographer yet. And it was only weeks away.
That’s how I got an introduction. I explained the style of my wedding photography, which is the same as my other event photography – documentary snaps. I imagine many couples expect more commercial/fashion shoot style wedding photographer, especially those who ask for pre-wedding shoots (popular in Asian countries – not Japan but seen a lot in other countries). They make saturated colourful images of the couple dressed up in dramatic, romantic setup, with relatively dramatic lighting and composition, and have the images done weeks or months in advance, so that they can be shown at the reception or used in invitational material and a wedding album. That is not what I do. Miwa and Jun had a look at sample images I have in public, on this blog and Facebook page, and agreed that they would be happy with my approach.
We initially discussed a possible 4-hour shoot but turned out to be a full-day work starting from 9:30 in the morning and finishing past 6:30pm. But thanks to some delays and the extra opportunities to shoot in the afternoon light, I was able to take advantage of the warmer late afternoon light for the street shots, which I thought I would have to struggle under the harsh mid day sun. In that sense, we were lucky things did not quite go according to plan and we were both flexible enough to make the best of the fluid nature of the busy day.
Miwa and Jun have kindly given me a permission to share some of the images with you, so here they go…
So there you have it. They are really lovely, relaxed couple, just enjoying their day to the fullest. I’m looking forward to meeting them again, perhaps at another major family event in their life together…
When I arrived in my old room at my parents’, this was waiting for me on the desk. My mother had recently been to an exhibition of his works and absolutely loved the works.
Some of you probably know his name. He was one of the photographers at Magnum agency, and was known for his style in street photography that was full of wit, fun and story.
While little book which was the collection of works that were displayed at the exhibition, and the exhibition was over by the time I reached Osaka, yesterday when I walked past the gallery shop in NGV where I took a refuge from the heat outside, I sat down and flipped open this book:
It is a thick, big print book, but the images in there are just amazing, and I couldn’t help laughing out at some of the images. It is just so funny! Have you watched the recent comedy film “Crazy, Stupid, Love”? Kinda like that!
That was one of my favourites in the college years. I used to hum along to it as Billy Joel sang his romantic message to his (former) wife through my walkman’s headphones. Maybe I love the words so much, but I cannot explain any other way to describe my philosophy towards photograhing people. I just love you just the way you are, and that is what my photography captures.
This post is lots of words, but if you don’t mind it, please read on:
Mixi is a popular Japanese social network site. On the main page after log in, for the past few weeks I always see the same ad on the right hand side. It is an ad of the lip sticks called ‘Rouge Automatique’, with a slider on the side that reminds me of those ’80s big music stereo component and their equaliser sliders. Anyhow, I have problem with this photo, the one that is on my face as I log on every day.
The first word that comes to my mind is ‘ooh, what a fake!’. Sure, MAYBE, she actually looks like this. Maybe she actually has those deep true-blue eyes. If that is the case, I’d say, that is a fake-looking face. In any case, it is quite obvious that this ad was not made for Japan market. You don’t find women with skin tones like her. And you don’t find women with such striking pinkish rouge on, unless you go back to the ’80s when she had a big stereo system in their living room, complete with 10-point sound equaliser sliders. When I saw this oddly placed unfashionable ad, it reminded me of a video I’d seen many times before. It was rather sensational and it was well received in creative world, so you might know this.
I believe it received a number of creative awards. It was not shown in the places I’d lived in, or when I was regularly watching TV any way, and I saw it for the first time in some meeting in an ad agency when I was working there in Singapore. It has a strong brand message, the kind that appeals to the user’s loyalty. But when I see this ad on Mixi, what I remember is the end product of the process, the manufactured face.
It was probably 4-5 years ago, when many of the photos used in printed advertisement were fake. With multiple lighting to create a sense of the place, rather than shooting in a real environment, the image was ‘improved’ heavily on Photoshop, removing irregularity from the skin, hair and shape of the body. It has become more of an issue since they have negative impact on the teenagers with their perception of an ideal adult woman. We adults know that there is no way such a human being could exist or considered ideal, but kids don’t know that yet and they are bombarded with such manufactured extreme images through media.
If you look at ads of automobiles on magazines these days, most, if not all, are manufactured images of cars driving smoothly in an impossible situation. They are products of 3D imaging and the amazing technology in texture graphics. They are there to impress potential shoppers with positive feelings, so that they actually go to the point of sale.
In fashion, perhaps as a rebound from the extreme length it’s once gone to manufacture perfect images, or as a simple change in trends, many images are made in a natural, simple manner. Even in the top fashion magazines, many photos are made with a simple single-lighting set up, and the photos are often used in print with very little modification.
I personally enjoy shooting in a documentary style, so I normally do not modify my images much. One exception would be one time when I was working on a mother-and-child series. The mother came in and said she hasn’t got a make-up on but she wouldn’t worry too much about it. I prefer to keep that mood going on, so we got right into it. Of course I took care in choosing the lighting, but there was a moment where the emotion was visible and I could see the connection between her and her baby. The lighting was not ideal but to me the main thing is capturing the real feeling rather than takng ‘pretty’ pictures. So we pressed on, and it turned out to be a beautiful image. The lighting, however, emphasised the skin texture a bit and made her look more aged than she was. After all, she, just like many women out there, would put a make up on before being out in public, and a photograph, by nature, is something that should be displayed in public, among their other family photos. So I put the image in Photoshop, and assumed the role of the make-up artist. I lightened the wrinkles ever so slightly, and also powdered the spots around her nose. It is just so light and natural, rather than manufacturing something artificial. It looked like she had her make-up on, and others may not notice it from the natural image. I delivered the print in 6″x9″ which is not a small print, and I’m sure she would have noticed the make up that somebody else put on her face, but there was no mention of it. It was me who encouraged to proceed with the shoot right there and then, and it was my job to ensure she doesn’t look older in the frozen memory called photograph.
Any photographer with proper image editing skills can do that much. Controlling the tonal contrast in parts of an image to draw viewers into it more strongly is something photographers are used to doing. But fundamentally, it is about what and how I, the photographer, capture. What I really care about is the integrity in the reality, the real feeling, the real memory at the real place in the history of people I photograph. That is why I normally go to the customer’s house or some place that is familiar to them, dressed up like they normally would, and use the lighting of the location as much as possible, to make photographs that look just like how everyone in the family would remember how they are in that place and the point in time. I photogrpah just a day in life of a family, birthday party, gathering of relatives and friends, to weddings, as well as other, more corporate or creative photographs. If you like to have photographs of your history, your family and friends, just the way you are, please speak to me. I’ll work according to your schedule and location as much as possible.