Category Archives: Australia

On the road again…

After a long hiatus, I’m on the road again with my This Working Life project. This time I’m travelling with my younger brother Terry, on what is known in grey nomad circles as a “half loop”. We are travelling via Adelaide, north through the Flinders Ranges, to Alice Springs and then on to Darwin; back and east into Queensland and then down through regional New South Wales to Canberra. As in the past, I’ll post a record of the country we travel through and the places we see. In this first post, I’m offering some postcards of Western Victoria where we have been travelling for the past few days:

The Wimmera, wheat growing country of western Victoria © Rob Walls 2015

The Wimmera, wheat growing country of western Victoria © Rob Walls 2015

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An original Furphy water cart in the town of Rainbow, in the Western Wimmera. It is said that the term “furphy” originated from the unsubstantiated gossip that occurred on farms as workers gathered around the water cart. © Rob Walls 2015

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Old shed in the Victorian Western Wimmera town of Rainbow © Rob Walls 2015

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Horse trough at the Rainbow railway station in western Victoria © Rob Walls 2015

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Second hand store, Nhill, western Victoria © Rob Walls 2015

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Window of a print shop, Nhill, Victoria © Rob Walls 2015

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A modern but very retro take away restaurant in Shepparton, Victoria © Rob Walls 2016

 

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Filed under art, Australia, Australian, documentary photography, Photographer, Photography, Photojournalism, Stock photography, travel

Love affair with a camera

I’ve always thought it a little odd how some photographers have these intense love affairs with a specific camera. They become fixated on the Leica, or Canon or cheap Diana plastic toys. A sort of photo-erotic romance. For them no other camera will ever match their one true love which they elevate on a pedestal, often with the kind of hyperbole that if examined closely, should make them blush. For me, cameras and computers are simply tools of my trade. They do the job and are discarded without sentimentality if and when they fail to measure up.

In reality though, I’m not so different. I must confess that I once had a passionate affair with one particular camera. It was the Nikon SP. Manufactured in the late 1950s, it was a machine that took the best ideas from Contax and Leica and melded them into a camera that I think, was the absolute pinnacle of rangefinder camera development. I bought mine second-hand in 1971. It came with two 50mm lenses, and a 25mm wide-angle. The 50mm lenses were the superb little Nikkor 1.4 and the incredibly fast and bulky Nikkor 1.1.

So large was the front element of the 1.1 that its barrel filled most of the viewfinder area. Without a supplementary viewfinder you were practically guessing at what was in the frame. For this reason I rarely used it, but what triggered this reminiscence was seeing that there was one of these lenses on eBay the other day. It’s price tag: $40,000! I sold mine about 20 years ago for $600 (groan).

With my Nikon SP and the 25mm wide angle, circa 1977 © Rob Walls

With my Nikon SP and the 25mm wide angle, circa 1977 © Rob Walls

The Nikon SP was my walkabout camera. It accompanied me everywhere. Compared with my SLRs it was compact (when without the f1.1 at least) and with its Contax style focussing wheel next to the shutter release, was fast in use. I developed a deep affection for this machine, and still Nikon still hold this fore-runner of the Nikon F in high regard. So much so that about 10 years ago they ran a limited commemorative edition that was immediately snapped up by collectors.

When I lost my SP in a burglary in the 1980s, I went into deep mourning. For years,  I gazed into pawn shop windows, hoping to glimpse my camera again, but eventually, I came to accept that it was gone forever. You can still pick up good examples of the SP on eBay for a couple of thousand dollars and I must admit that looking at them today, I was tempted. But then reality set in. I can’t bring myself to go back to film even for the love of my life. Now if only Nikon would produce the SP as a full-frame mirrorless digital with that superb 35mm F1.8 Nikkor, I could fall in love all over again.

If you want to know more about the history and qualities of this handsome camera, go here:

Here’s a couple of pictures from my Nikon SP.

An off-duty cleaner walks her dog from the back of a station wagon, in Centennial Park, Sydney © Rob Walls 1977

An off-duty cleaner walks her dog from the back of a station wagon, in Centennial Park, Sydney © Rob Walls 1975

Circus boy

A young boy captivated by the trapeze act at a performance by Ashton’s Circus in Sydney © Rob Walls 1973

Both of these pictures are spontaneous grab shots; the picture of the boy in the audience at the circus was shot under extreme low-light conditions. With the 1.4 wide open, I remember that the shutter speed for this was 1/4 second, hand-held, with my shoulder hard braced up against a tent-pole. I got off three frames, this was the only sharp one.

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Filed under Australia, Australian, Autobiography, documentary photography, Photographer, Photography, Photojournalism, Rob Walls

My son listens…

For many years, my son has sported long hair, just as I did in the 70s. For him, it was probably not so much youthful rebellion, but a reaction to a lack of thatch in his early years. He didn’t have enough hair to comb until he was about three years old. When he was finally allowed autonomy over his hair, he grew it down to his shoulder-blades. Being somewhat handsome featured (taking after his mother), it became a bit of a joke that he was continually being mistaken for my daughter. This was before he had developed facial hair. I used to tell him that if we were to travel together in future it was either grow a beard or get a haircut.

Well he finally followed my advice. Listens to his old dad, does my boy:-)

My 19 year old son, Kim’s new hairstyle. I think it looks really cool. © Rob Walls 2012

I shot this late last year. Kim has since grown his hair back…for those of a technical bent, I lit this using two banks of fluorescent lights that I used to use as light-boxes for editing transparencies. Stood on end, they give a beautiful soft light and great highlights in the eyes.

 

 

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Filed under art, Australia, Australian, Digital photography, Photographer, Photography, portraits, Rob Walls

Street kids, Woolloomooloo, 1962

Street kids, Chapel Street, Woolloomoloo, Sydney, 1962 © Rob Walls 2013

Street kids, Chapel Street, Woolloomooloo, Sydney, 1962 © Rob Walls 2013

I made this picture 51 years ago, when Woolloomooloo was an inner-city slum of dubious reputation. Only a few metres away was the infamous red light area of illegal brothels, Chapel Lane. The poster for Vincent’s APC on the wall above the children, is of somewhat curious historic interest. Vincent’s along with Bex powders,were highly addictive analgesics containing aspirin, phenacetin and caffeine, When it was found that they caused serious kidney damage they were taken off the market in 1970.

“Time eventually positions most photographs, even the most amateurish, at the level of art.”
― Susan Sontag

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Filed under art, Australia, Australian, documentary photography, Photographer, Photography, Photojournalism, Rob Walls

This working life

Issue 66 of 40 South Magazine

The first in-print publication of pictures from my project This Working Life has just been published over 8 pages in the portfolio section of the highly respected Tasmanian magazine 40° South. If you are interested in Tasmania and all things Tasmanian, subscribe now.

To coincide with this I’ve posted some more of the pictures here. If you want to know more about this project please visit my This Working Life blog.

“Looking at pictures of work can provoke thoughts and feelings about work and life…it leads each to ponder in our own personal terms, not just the subject at hand but the universal nature of human existence.” Ferdinand Protzmann The World of Work.

Flinders Street Station, Melbourne

Gypsy Bar, Brunswick Street, Fitzroy

Kalgoorlie, Western Australia

“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” Theodore Roosevelt

Nullarbor, South Australia

Perth, WA

Hobart, Tasmania

“Finding the right work is like discovering your own soul in the world.” Sir Thomas Moore (1779-1852)

Sydney, NSW

Armidale, NSW

Byron Bay, NSW

Rottnest Island, WA

Tullamarine Airport, Melbourne

“The strongest bond of human sympathy outside the family relation should be one uniting working people of all nations and tongues and kindreds.” Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

Bourke Street, Melbourne

Job seeker, Hobart

Collins Street, Hobart

Hobart, Tasmania

Hobart, Tasmania

Brisbane, Queensland

Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it. 
- Buddha

Brisbane, Queensland

Cambellfield, Victoria

Kimberley, WA

Kalgoorlie, WA

Melbourne, Victoria

Hobart, Tasmania

“I do not believe we can repair the basic fabric of society until people who are willing to work have work. Work organizes life. It gives structure and discipline to life.” Bill Clinton

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Filed under art, Australia, Australian, Digital photography, documentary photography, Photographer, Photography, Photojournalism, portraits, Rob Walls, Tasmania

A piece of technology not yet past use-by date…

In 1964 I worked on construction progress shots on a space tracking station for NASA at Tidbinbilla near Canberra. A year later, as a young staffer on The Australian I photographed its commissioning by the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies. These are a couple of my pictures from the March 20, 1965 edition of the paper.

Sir Robert Menzies opens the NASA Tidbinbilla space tracking station. March 20, 1965 (tearsheet from The Australian) Photos by Rob Walls

If you are wondering about the significance of the thistle in the left of frame, its symbolism is now lost in the mists of time. However, the explanation is this: aware that Menzies had recently been made a Knight of the Royal Order of the Thistle, I thought the visual reference appropriate. Actually, flies being somewhat of a pest around rural Canberra, NASA had the prescience to put an aerosol can of newly invented product on every VIP seat. Aerogard. My overly literate caption was a tad too much for the subs at the paper. It began, “Knight of the Thistle and Lord of the Flies…”. They stepped on the William Golding reference.

Last month I was visiting a vineyard at Cambridge in Tasmania and saw that it was overlooked by the University of Tasmania’s radio telescope, one of a network of four across Australia. On visiting it to take some closer shots, I discovered that this was the very same dish I had photographed nearly 50 years ago, under construction and at the opening. NASA had donated it to the University in 1985 complete with a US built left hand drive truck with a cherry-picker for servicing it.

In shooting for the Day in the World project on the 15th May, I decided to include the telescope in my pictures, killing two birds with one stone, getting pictures for my Working Life project at the same time by photographing Brett Reid, the observatory manager against part of the machinery he looks after.

Brett Reid, the UTAS Observatory Manager with the ex-NASA radio telescope at Mount Pleasant, near Cambridge in Tasmania. © Rob Walls 2012

Brett, kindly took me up in the old cherry-picker to get a good angle on him, the dish and a glorious Tasmanian afternoon sky. It was great to see that something I had been involved with nearly 50 years ago, was, like me, still working.

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Filed under Australia, Australian, Autobiography, Biography, documentary photography, Photographer, Photography, Photojournalism, portraits, Rob Walls, Tasmania

Money for sh*t…

It’s been an unusual week for stock photo sales. A couple of years ago I wrote about wintering with wombats. One of the photographs I took on that field trip was of the curiously cubic crap of the wombat. The shape, it seems, serves the purpose of preventing the wombat’s droppings from rolling away as it marks out its territory.

Currently Alamy has over 30,000,000 pictures. Do a keyword search for wombat droppings and you’ll get just three pictures. All mine! All mine! My own little niche market. You might be surprised (as I was) to find that this week a publisher in the United States paid $500 to use this picture. OK, now don’t all rush out and start shooting wombat shit. For most of you, it’s going to be almost as hard to find as that proverbial rarity, rocking horse sh*t…and with this sale, I imagine I’ve probably filled all the requests there’s likely to be for this particular subject.

Money for sh*t. This picture of the curiously rhomboid shaped wombat droppings sold again this week.© Rob Walls 2011

The other unusual picture sale this week, was of this poignant memorial which was erected in the outback New South Wales town of Broken Hill almost 100 years ago.

Monument in Broken Hill, New South Wales, to the bandsmen of the RMS Titanic who went down with the ship off Newfoundland on 15th April, 1912 © Rob Walls 2011

A moving memorial to the musicians of the RMS Titanic in the Australian outback mining town of Broken Hill. This picture was licensed for use in an audio-visual in Ireland.

Now, just in case you can’t avoid the temptation, I’ll warn you in advance; comments that refer to me as a “sh*t photographer” are unlikely to be published:-)

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Filed under Australia, Australian, Digital photography, documentary photography, Music, Photographer, Photography, Photojournalism, Rob Walls, Stock photography, Tasmania, travel