Tag Archives: Australian

Melbourne…wear anything as long as its black…

This week The Economist voted Melbourne the world’s third most liveable city in the world, narrowly beaten by Vancouver and Vienna. The Melbourne newspapers have run hot with the news, mainly with the emphasis that the city beat Sydney, which  had to share ninth place with Zurich. As far as I can tell, the Melbourne/Sydney rivalry is only in the mind of Melbournites. Sydney, blessed with its magnificent harbour, draped with the arch of the Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House,  doesn’t even have to try.

The blogs and newspaper commentaries have been running even hotter with commentary, for and against, mostly from Melbourne residents. Those against complain about the transport system; those for, seem to place a rather strange emphasis on the quality of Melbourne coffee. It’s as though they believe urban sophistication can be attributed to the quality of the bean roast and the skill of its baristas. Is this why Vienna beat them on the leader board?

One particular commentator, wrote this:

“I call Melbourne BLACK, BLAND MELBOURNE. Just walk into the city whether winter or summer and all you see is men and particularly women dressed in black. Go into a department store or any restaurant or any shop for that matter and every employee is wearing black. Boring and bland. Go to Paris and women wear all colours, hardly any funeral black. So Melbourne needs to brighten up.”

This prompted me to dive to my picture files. I was in Melbourne two weeks ago and took these picture. I love Melbourne, it’s a bright, colourful city, but that writer is right, there is a pre-occupation amongst its inhabitants to wear black. If only Melburnians would learn to relax…but it must be hard when you are continually being pumped with all that caffiene…

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Filed under Australian, Digital photography, documentary photography, News, Opinion, Photographer, Photography, Photojournalism, Rob Walls, Stock photography, travel

My Freo view…

My good friend and colleague, Roel Loopers, regularly documents his love of Fremantle through his blog Freo’s View.

Inspired by his devotion to that beautiful city and also by a long and very fine lunch with him and some friends at ECCO a couple of weeks ago, I wandered around the city for a few hours to put together my view of his home town. Here’s my perspective of the place affectionately called Freo. If this modest taste of Fremantle intrigues you, and you want more, you can see Roel’s take on the city and its vibrant life here.

Moonrise over the Fremantle Hotel

Moonrise over the Hotel Fremantle © Rob Walls 2009

A fine lunch with good friends on a sunny Saturday afternoon © Rob Walls 2009

A Fremantle wedding photographer at work on a busy Saturday © Rob Walls 2009

Sunday brunch at Gino's on the cappucino strip © Rob Walls 2009

Beans on toast and fruit juice at Gino's on Sunday © Rob Walls 2009

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Behind the mask…picturing politicians…

A triumphant Bob Hawke on the campaign trail in Sydney, 1983. I shot this on assignment for Newsweek. © Rob Walls

A triumphant Bob Hawke on the campaign trail in Sydney, 1983. This was shot on assignment for Newsweek. © Rob Walls

I’ve been photographing politicians in office and on the campaign trail since the time of Sir Robert Menzies. That was so long ago, I wore a suit and was still using a Speed Graphic. It would be three more years before I switched to more casual clothing and the ease and immediacy of the Nikon F.

While many photographers find political photography boring, I delight in the sport. And damned fine sport it is; working like a hunter, seeking that ephemeral split second, when the subject might inadvertently slip out from behind the polished public persona.

Photographing politicians needs the same finely tuned reflexes required for photographing sport. But I think it needs a much more highly developed recognition of “peak action” than is required in sports photography. The peak action of the political moment is far more subtle than the titanic, bone-crunching clash of footballers or the soaring leap of an athlete.  Blink and you miss it…and unlike sports photography, the players don’t repetitiously try to re-create that moment. The reality of politics for the photographer is that there are teams of minders running interference between you and the subject trying to ensure that the moment is not repeated.

If you need convincing that our quarry is aware of the power of the unguarded political moment, you need look no further than the attempt by politicians to rule that the only legitimate subject to be photographed within the Australian Parliament was the politician speaking at the despatch box. All those SMSing, snoring, yawning or otherwise diverting themselves were ruled out of bounds. Of course the photographers of the press gallery ignored this.

These are some of my pictures of Australian Prime Ministers of the last few decades…

John Howard in opposition circa 1984, before his advisers smoothed the rough sartorial edges © Rob Walls

John Howard in opposition circa 1984, before his advisers smoothed the rough sartorial edges © Rob Walls

Paul Keating wth that particular twinkle in his eye often displayed when taking delight in verbally skewering an opponent.

Paul Keating wth that particular twinkle in his eye, often displayed when taking delight in verbally skewering an opponent. © Rob Walls

Bob Hawke in vindictive mode. I always thought that underneath the smooth exterior lay one very good hater. I think I caught it here. © Rob Walls

Bob Hawke in vindictive mode. I always thought that underneath the smooth exterior lay one very good hater. © Rob Walls

Malcolm Fraser during the 1983 election campaign. Paul Keating described him as "Like an Easter Island statue...". Out of office, he revealed a much warmer personality.

Malcolm Fraser during the 1983 election campaign. When in power he was expert at maintaining the mask. Paul Keating once described him as "Like an Easter Island statue...with an arse full of razor blades". Out of office, he revealed a much warmer personality. Two weeks after this picture was taken, having lost the election, he actually wept on camera. ® Rob Walls

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Filed under Australian, Photographer, Photography, Photojournalism, portraits, Rob Walls

Australian government publishes up-skirt photos…

Through regulation, restriction, misguided legislation and baseless fear, the documentary photographer’s world is shrinking apace. Corporations and government instrumentalities have commodified our landscape in ways that make spontaneous photography in many precincts illegal.

National parks, beaches, shopping centres, rock concerts, railway stations, airports and schools are all off-limits for a variety of reasons, some of which I have touched on elsewhere (Uluru and photography restrictions…). Throw in an ill-informed public, uneducated security guards and police misquoting half understood laws and no photographer today raises his or her camera without a sense of unease.

Which makes the publication of these photos in 1991 by Australia Post, as part of an issue of five stamps, to celebrate 150 years of photography, all the more ironic.

Bondi Beach, 1939 photo by Max Dupain

Bondi Beach, 1939 photo by Max Dupain

The beach photograph by Max Dupain epitomises the Australian beach lifestyle. It rightly occupies a place of honour in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria. But can you imagine shooting something like this today without being pounced on by over-zealous beach inspectors or the police being called?

In 2006 Max’s son Rex was detained and threatened with arrest for shooting pictures on Bondi Beach. http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,20895457-2,00.html

The Wheel of Youth, 1929 by Harold Cazneaux

The Wheel of Youth, 1929 by Harold Cazneaux

Crouching down low to capture the curving energetic sweep of The Wheel of Youth, as he did in 1929 at Dee Why, would almost guarantee Harold Cazneaux’s arrest if he was making that picture today. After all there are children in the frame. The pedophile alarm bells would be ringing loudly.

The reality is, that no photographer in 2009 could expect to make pictures like this and not be challenged. But were times so very different? I’d be interested in your thoughts…

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Uluru and photography restrictions

Uluru, © Rob Walls Photographed on Kodachrome with a Widelux camera

Uluru, © Rob Walls Photographed on Kodachrome with a Widelux camera

Parks Australia has recently released a draft park management plan for Australia’s Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park, which places quite onerous restrictions on photography within the park. Part of the problem stems from the all-encompassing definition of commercial photography as defined in the report.  In most international jurisdictions “commercial” photography excludes editorial photography. It is generally used to define filming or photography where props, models, lighting and a production crew are required; photography that would interfere with the normal operation of a park and a visitor’s enjoyment.

Parks Australia for reasons they state, of “protecting the natural and cultural values” of the site chooses to institute regulations where all professional photographers must apply for permits and approval to shoot pictures in the park precincts. There are no exceptions. (I should add that these regulations have, in similar form, been in place for some years. The draft report however, seems to indicate a hardening of stance, for reasons not at first, obvious.)

The justification given for the restrictions is based on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Regulations 2000 which states under the heading Deriving Commercial Gain from Images Captured:

(1)    A person must not use a captured image of a Commonwealth reserve to derive commercial gain.

(2)    For sub-regulation (1): captured images include an image that was not captured for a commercial purpose or in contravention of the Act or these regulations.

What the prevention of ” image capture” (i.e. photography) has to do with environment protection and conservation is beyond my understanding.  It also effectively makes criminals of every photographer who has ever distributed for publication a photograph made of a Commonwealth reserve.

Now, contrast this with the simplicity (and generosity) of the equivalent US regulations on Commercial Filming; Section 1(c) of Public Law 106-206 signed by President Clinton on the 26th of May, of the same year:

STILL PHOTOGRAPHY

“…the Secretary shall not require a permit nor assess a fee for still photography on lands administered by the Secretary if such photography takes place where members of the public are generally allowed…”

If it applies these regulations Parks Australia is choosing to ignore the traditional symbiotic relationship between national parks and landscape photographers, whereby photographers publishing pictures of a park provide free publicity and help generate park attendance. Of course, one could be cynical and suggest that using the EPBC legislation is an effective way of eliminating competition for the parks management’s declared intention of establishing a commercial image library within the park (Section 3.97 6.6.8 of the Uluru Kata-Tjuta Draft Management Plan ).

If these regulations are imposed  they will generate a lot of friction with photographers. They will also create a ill-will from magazine editors, who faced with deadlines, are expected to get approval to use pictures of Uluru. The overall result will basically be counterproductive as there will be a reduction in publicity for the park.

The reality is that there are currently innumerable pictures of Uluru, from every angle and aspect, available from a multitude of sources.  How Parks Australia imagines that it can control how the park is portrayed defies common sense. A search on Google returns 479,000 hits for pictures of the site. The photo sharing site Flickr turns up 82,127. Both of these could be defined as commercial use of photographs of the park. A keyword search of one of the largest UK based picture agencies returns 3,082 photos.  Almost any photo library of reasonable reputation would have anything from 50 to several hundred pictures on file. There are literally millions of pictures out there.

Google image search showing some of the over 400,000 photos of Uluru

Google image search showing some of the over 400,000 photos of Uluru

These are the resources that travel and feature writers, use for publication in magazines, and newspapers throughout the world. They are part of the traditional way in which interest is generated amongst travellers to visit a site. For Parks Australia to come up with ideas that use tax-payer dollars to inhibit tourism promotion, especially in a climate of declining visitor numbers, defies common sense. Asking photographers to apply for permission to take photographs is like asking musicians to apply in writing before they can play music; a process guaranteed to stifle their creativity.

Uluru was handed back to the indigenous community with reassurances that under Aboriginal management it would not be alienated to access by the broader community. That now appears to be happening.   To read the photography guidelines go here. You’ll have to go to page 95, as parks management have, within recent days, taken down the direct link to its image capture guidelines.

Your comment would be most appreciated, as I’d like the opinions of the photographic community before drawing the attention of the relevant ministers to this issue.

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Filed under Australian, News, Opinion, Photographer, Photographers' rights, Photography, Photojournalism, Rob Walls, Stock photography, travel

Great camera, great stove, great house…

Last month, in Broome, I was invited to photograph the recently completed home of Trish Pepper. Trish, a superb cook, is one of the caterers on the television production I was working on. Her house is an excitingly designed and dramatic statement that uses large open spaces and decks to take advantage of Broome’s tropical climate. The bold and bright colour scheme picks up its notes from the red pindan earth of the surrounding desert. There’s even a boab tree growing through the courtyard deck.

Trish Pepper's home in Broome, Western Australia

Trish Pepper's home in Broome, Western Australia

While showing her the results of the shoot on my laptop, Trish commented, “They are wonderful pictures. What a great camera!”. I couldn’t resist it! I just had to re-cycle/re-use that old and probably apocryphal story about the photographer and the titled lady admiring his pictures after dinner.

Having had dinner at Trish’s house and enjoyed her food every day while I was there, I could not hold back:  “…and your food’s wonderful too, you must have a great stove”. Her response, “Oooops!”…I think we are still friends.

The delicious (groan) irony was that Trish really does work with a great stove. The production company had just installed a professional grade, La Germania and I can guarantee it’s good.  On the Sunday I photographed her house, it was her day off and so for fun, I cooked in it for the crew,  roasting five large chickens stuffed with lemon slices and rosemary.

If anyone is interested my “great camera” was a Nikon D300 with the Sigma 10-20mm wide-angle zoom lens. The chickens were served with a Greek avgolemono sauce (recipe here). And it’s a great looking house, Trish…

PS Special thanks to that consummate continuity person, Lesia Hrubyi, who hustled around ensuring that everything was neat and tidy.

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A Saturday afternoon near Broome

Red pindan dust on the road to Crab Creek

Red pindan dust on the road to Crab Creek

Working on children’s television series in Broome in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Not much time to blog, not much time to shoot for myself, but caught this shot on the road to Crab Creek this morning.

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