Tag Archives: portraits

Hot photography…

While in Perth a couple of weeks ago, I had the dubious pleasure of being on the other side of the camera when I was photographed by Nic Ellis, a photojournalist with the West Australian newspaper. He had generously organised a foundry for me to shoot in for my long-term project, This Working Life and had also deemed my project newsworthy enough for the paper.

For a photojournalist, being photographed from time-to-time is probably good for the soul, a pin-prick to the balloon of our vanity and certainly good for understanding of what we often put our subjects through. Now I’ll do anything to help a fellow PJ get the picture they want, but I found this particular instance especially uncomfortable.

This was nothing to do with Nic. He is a sensitive and highly skilled shooter. It was more to do with the particular subject matter we were dealing with. It was hot in that foundry. After all they were melting steel. To get the particular effect he wanted meant placing me very close to several furnaces. The peculiarly pained expression on my face is just that: pain. I was waiting for my shirt to start smouldering and smoke to curl around my head.

Portrait by Nic Ellis © West Australian Newspapers 2011

Don’t get me wrong, Nic. I’m not complaining. It really was a great experience being photographed by you and it added to my fund of anecdotes from this trip to Western Australia. That foundry also provided be with some fine pictures for my project. Thank you, and I hope to return the favour when I come back in September. Maybe you could pose for me up to your neck in freezing water at an oyster farm, or something like that?

For the full story in the West Australian go here.


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

Being Petty…Bruce that is…

In 1964, as I left my first photography job as an assistant at the Australian News and Information Bureau in Canberra, to join the staff of the new national daily newspaper, The Australian, one of my former colleagues called out, “You’ll be back. That paper won’t last six months.” The Australian, of course is still going nearly 50 years later…so is my subject of this photograph…and so am I.

Back then, as a newcomer to newspapers in those hot-metal days, I was fascinated by everything about the process of getting out a daily. I was also fascinated by the kind of people that worked in this crazy world. One of these, a tall, lanky, quiet individual seemed to spend his days in a corner of the editorial floor, doodling with pens on large sheets of paper while drinking muddy looking instant coffee from an old jar. This I discovered, was the already legendary Bruce Petty, the doyen of Australian cartoonists.

Between assignments I would stand and watch fascinated as ideas flowed from his head, down his arm and through his pen, an instrument that rarely seemed to leave the surface of the paper. Yet, there it would be half an hour later, a fully formed incisive, funny comment on the news of the day. Even in the clatter and noise of a busy editorial section, Bruce seemed to be able to drink coffee, conduct a conversation in his slow, low, laid-back drawl and simultaneously produce his brilliant drawings. The reason he gave for drinking coffee from a jar was that he could always rely on it being there when he needed a drink, whereas coffee mugs had a tendency to “walk”.

A recent cartoon from Bruce's pen illustrating Australia's escape from recession.

A recent cartoon from Bruce's pen illustrating Australia's escape from recession.

In the years after we both left The Australian, we came across each other from time to time, at book launches and at galleries, but it had been some time since since our paths had crossed when The Good Weekend Magazine asked me to photograph him in 1989.

We met at his terrace house in Birchgrove, an inner city suburb of Sydney and after a bit of catching up and discussion, I settled on this little verandah alcove, where he stored his bicycle. I chose it for two reasons; firstly the window light was good,  but even better was the eccentric arrangment of his bike hanging on the wall and the snaking line of the blind cord in the window. These accidental props were so like the style of his cartoons, Wildly bizarre bizarre mechanical arrangements and wandering lines that all connect in some way to make some kind of anarchic sense are a characteristic of Bruce’s unique style. It was only when I put him in front of the camera I realised that the juxtaposition of the bicycle wheel behind his head was a perfect prop to portray him as Saint Bruce, the patron saint of Australian cartooning; another of those serendipitous photo moments when all the elements seem to fall into place. Luck? Accident? Planning? Perhaps a bit of everything, mixed in with the ability to recognise and use a bit of blatant symbolism…

If you are interested in seeing more of Bruce’s recent work the following link will take you to a gallery at the Sydney Morning Herald: Bruce Petty Gallery

For those interested in technical matters,  both the portraits of Bruce Petty and Michael Kirby were made with a Toyoview 5×4 studio camera and were shot on T-Max 400 with a Nikkor 150mm W lens.

Bruce Petty portrayed as the patron saint of Australian cartooning © Rob Walls 1989

Bruce Petty portrayed as the patron saint of Australian cartooning © Rob Walls 1989


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

One for Dr Who fans – from the archive

John Pertwee as the third DCtor Who

John Pertwee (7 July 1919 – 20 May 1996) as the third Doctor Who, 1971

Leave a comment

Filed under Australian, Photographer, Photography, Photojournalism, Rob Walls, Stock photography

More please…

Last year this simple, straightforward picture of my daughter was licenced for over $US9,000. Used on billboards throughout Germany in advertising for Germany’s biggest health fund, it was the probably best stock photo sale I’ve ever had. While it is obvious that Rights Managed licence fees are declining, I’d be well content with a couple more sales a year at this level. Let’s hope that the market can still sustain them.

Cassie V signlr

For those of you who might be concerned  that I am exploiting my children, we have a deal: they get 5% of the gross fee.  Cassie’s $450 that week was pretty good pocket money for an 11 year old. She spent it wisely buying herself a plane ticket to the mainland to visit her aunt and on a shopping spree in Melbourne. Please note: No children were harmed in the making of this ad.

Billboard in Germany

To see more of my stock photography go to here.


Filed under Australian, Photographer, Photography, Rob Walls, Stock photography