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[Volume 1 Issue 2, May, 2009]

One city; three views.

This issue of altfotonet looks at Melbourne, as seen by 3 Local photographers.

Melbourne, population 3.2 million, number of photographers, unknown?

Melbourne like any medium sized city sees a heavy influx of tourists all year round, [approximately 73,000 on an average week day]. Most flock to the usual spots to photograph. These spots if photographed within a tourist aesthetic can look good, inside any tourist brochure. Southbank, The Botanical gardens, The Zoo, St.Kilda, The Victoria Markets and so forth. These places though are designed for and catered to the tourists who visit Melbourne. What of the locals, how do they see and photograph their own city? Is it clean and cosmopolitan, racy and edgy, full of life and opportunity? Perhaps, perhaps not. Not surprisingly Melbourne is seen in a variety of ways and approaches, by the locals. [see the slide show]

Barb, Chris & Rob, are 3 Melbourne based photographers, who not only share an interest in photography, and photograph their city in unique and diverse ways but are all active participants in the flickr community.

Flickr, itself, has several active and sociable pools full of many many good photographers based in Melbourne. The general Melbourne pool, the Melbourne Silver Mine Inc. and Melbourne Analogue Black and white are but 3.

All three of these stand out image makers, whose work reflects the diversity of the city they live have their own unique 'interpretation' of the place they live and call home. They are but a handful of the talent on flickr.

These three were chosen in particular because of their sense of conviction and their long staying dedication to their craft, as well as the similarities and differences in their work and approaches.


Rob's image

Rob, has been experimenting with cameras since the 1970's. His journey overseas, recently, however, changed his outlook on photographing in Melbourne. He had been chasing the elusive "big one", but the trip overseas made him see Melbourne in a different light. Combined with his new audience on flickr.com and Ipernity.com, he now had a reason to seek out the details that interested him, and make images for himself and others to enjoy.

Rob's approach relies on light, and conversely darkness. His images often allude to a hidden underbelly, a place where many are too frightened to look. When I asked Rob about his approach intentions, and ideas, he said.

This is very difficult to answer, because it is more a matter of portraying a feeling or emotion, rather than something I am trying to say. On one level, it is just the composition of shape and form that I like, the unintentional art that everyday objects create. On another level, the best way I can describe it is: if I photograph a brick wall, it is solid, it blocks the view, there isn’t anything else. But if I photograph a wall with a door or a window in it, then there is something beyond the wall, a room or possibly a larger space, something that can be explored. I like the entrances to car parks. There is a pictorial element and a symmetry that I like, then there is that ramp leading down to a large space that is out of sight, disappearing into the darkness. I like the idea that there is more beyond the image that can be explored. I like accentuating some colours and to emphasis highlights that give shape to objects.

His use of light which draws the viewer in, yet often hides as much as it reveals. The subtle interplay of light and shade, neither denies nor confirms Rob's attitude to his subject matter, and gives no clue as to the real time taken and only minimal clues to it's location. Is it dusk, the magic hour, or is it, dawn the revelers hour of return, or some other time poorly recognised.

Barb's image

Regardless of the place, the images are photographic in their intent, displaying all of the lines and angles as clearly as a modern lens can.

Where Rob's images are dark and sinister, Barb's are, light and breezy.

The differences aren't just in their choice of lighting, however. Barb, attempts to draw the viewer in on her journey of exploration, where she attempt to explore the everyday for the extraodinary it is.

I've been in Melbourne for 20 years. My interest in suburbia comes from the different way of living in Cologne, Germany, that is to say, people there live closer together in apartment blocks. Daily Life is more social but also more restrictive as far as personal freedom goes. After 20 years, Melbourne still feels less familiar than Cologne and there's a stronger sense of exploring something new. When I'm in Cologne, I'm re-discovering something that feels more archaic. I still remember a crushing feel of loneliness and isolation that I got from the suburbs when I first came here.
"I love colours, textures, shapes and light. Just love em all, if I didn't use them in my photography it wouldn't be fun. Beautiful light and colours can form a counterpoint to a bleak message."

Barb started getting serious about her photography in about 2005. Her childhood in Cologne Germany was surrounded by cameras, her mother was and still is an ardent photographer. She, like many folks, cut her teeth with a DSLR, but now favours film cameras, particularly the small point and press variety, mainly because they are easy to carry for longs hours at a time. She enjoys wandering and being delighted by her discoveries, and using light and colour and form to share her discoveries.

Prahran by Chris Smeaton

Chris, is trained formally in the arts, he has lived in Osaka, Japan, for five years. He favours holga cameras and Polaroid materials. What makes his work stand out compared to Barb, and Rob, is his fascination with what he describes as the ephemeral.

The subject matter he concentrates on, the grime and grease, the decay photographed in an un-photographic way is what separates him from Rob and Barb. He deliberately avoids re-touching the obvious blemishes out of his scans and images.

He also readily admits to being pessimistic generally, yet enjoys looking for and seeing the sublime in his surrounds. When he returned to Australia, from Osaka, he felt the change impacted negatively on his approach to making images, until he eventually realised 'the place' is immaterial, your state of mind and ability to see your surrounds is what is important.

He says, of his inspirations the crowded cities we all occupy;

" I’ve lived in the some very crowed cities, Hong Kong, Osaka, Melbourne...these places can be at times exciting, at others, goddamn lonely places. Yes, I suppose they are dystopian, but there is also beauty there in the degradation. There is beauty everywhere, it’s just that some people never actually look...they're not seeing... "

Gallery Slide show

Rob's account on flickr

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Image by Rob.
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Image by dignity in melbourne.
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Image by Rob.
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Image by Rob.
Image by Rob.
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Image by Rob.
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Image by Rob
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Image by Rob.

Barb's account on flickr

Image by Barb.
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Image by Barb.
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Image by Barb.
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Image by Barb.
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Image by Barb.
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Image by Barb.
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Image by Barb.
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Image by Barb.
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Image by Barb.
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Chris' account on flickr

Image by Chris.
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Image by Chris.
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Image by Chris.
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Image by Chris.
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Image by Chris.
Image by Chris.
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Image by Chris.
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Image by Chris.
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Curator; Stuart Murdoch.

Slide show software provided by, highslide.com.

All images are used here with permission, or we have endeavoured to the best of our abilities to contact the artists and seek their permission to publish. If you are one of the few who didn't confirm your agreement to publish here, please contact us to address this issue.

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