Category Archives: documentary photography

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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Fire escapes

Fire escapes, Greenwich Village, New York, (c) Rob Walls

Fire escapes, Greenwich Village, New York, (c) Rob Walls

Fire escape, Kodak House, Hobart, Tasmania (c) Rob Walls

Fire escape, Kodak House, Hobart, Tasmania (c) Rob Walls

 

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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

Street photography, Barcelona, 1969

Street kids, Barcelona.1969 © Rob Walls 2013

Street kids, Barcelona.1969 © Rob Walls 2013

Vinatero, Barcelona, 1968 © Rob Walls 2013

Vinatero, Barcelona, 1969 © Rob Walls 2013

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Street photography, London 1967-69

Publishing that 1960s photo of street children in Woolloomooloo a couple of days ago, led me to look through other pictures of mine from that period. In 1966 I travelled to London looking for experience on Fleet Street. I stayed five years, returning to Australia in 1971. Here are three pictures from that time. Never without a camera, pictures 2 and 3 were shot almost from exactly the same spot, within metres of the door of the basement studio I rented in Soho. Both were made in the moment I emerged into the street, on my way home.

I wonder, was the street life richer and more varied then? In hindsight, it seems so.

Busker, Kings Road, Chelsea, 1966 © Rob Walls

Busker, Kings Road, Chelsea, 1966 © Rob Walls

Gerrard Street (edited)

Outside the offices of Tailor & Cutter magazine, Gerrard Street, Soho, London © Rob Walls 1968

Rosie (edited)

Rosie, a well known Soho street character of the 60s, Gerrard Street, Soho © Rob Walls 1969

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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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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

50 years on and still rocking…

This year is my 50th year as a professional photographer. But more importantly, today is also the 50th anniversary of the Rolling Stones first gig at the Marquee Club in London. To celebrate our mutual longevity, I thought it might be appropriate to again post my picture of Mick Jagger, taken at the Hyde Park free concert on July 5, 1969.

Mick Jagger, Hyde Park free concert, July 5, 1969. © Rob Walls 1969

Brian Jones had died only two days previously and this was the first concert for replacement guitarist, Mick Taylor. And so here we are both still rocking on 50 years down the track…long may we continue…

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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

Just five more days to the Day in the World project…

I know I’ve posted this before…but it’s worth a reminder. May 15th 2012 is the day of the Day in the World project

In five days this project will become reality. Be a part of it along with thousands of other photographers across the globe, documenting your world in what is probably the largest project of its kind ever attempted. On this one single day we ask you to pick up your camera and help us photograph daily life. What is close to you? What matters to you? We will connect your images to those of millions of others around the world, creating a unique online experience where photographs will be shared, compared and explored. Your view on life will be preserved to inspire generations to come.

But why?

Our mission is to use the power of photography to create, share and inspire perspectives on daily life – today and tomorrow.

And who are you?

This project is initiated by the Swedish non-profit foundation Expressions of Humankind and supported by a highly respected global advisory council and a special scientific council.

Who can join?

Professionals, amateurs, school children, farmers, social media fans, astronauts, office workers and you. Cell phone camera, Hasselblad, home-made or borrowed. We are looking for the perspective of everyone who enjoys photography.

What will happen to the photos?

All images will be displayed online for you and everyone to explore. Some of them will be selected for a book, A Day In the World, to be published in November 2012, others shown in digital exhibitions. Every single one will be saved for future research and inspiration. The photos will never be used for commercial purposes. They will always be treated with care and respect. Should your photo be selected to feature in a book, we will try to contact you beforehand.

Why should I join?

Because you love photography. Because you have something to say. Because your life matters. Because the idea of doing something together with millions of others is thrilling. Because you like the thought of saving a little something of yourself for generations to come. Because your take on daily life is part of a much bigger picture.

Come on! Sign up! Be a part of this history making record! To find out more about this exciting project, go here: www.aday.org

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