Portfolio Published in f11

It was with some pleasure when I read the current issue of f11 :: for photographers and aficionados.    With a substantial number of contemporary photographs to view it was a joy to see them presented with such care by Creative Director Tim Steele.

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The process of arriving at this point was both interesting and laborious.  My initial idea of submitting a grab bag of images from a checkered commercial career was ruthlessly rejected  (fortunately) by the editorial board.   I was forced to regroup and reassess the work to be presented and be also constrained by the publishing needs of a journal that is produced eleven times a year.

I am in good company with Stephen Robinson’s delightful memories of vintage New Zealand architecture, the NZIPP Iris Award winners and of course the essay by Tony Bridge and equipment review by Gary Baildon.   I am almost embarrassed to mention a column by yours truly amping up the debate about whether photography award entries should (or should not) be the sole work of the entrant.

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……and one of the photos that didn’t make the cut –

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New Otani; © Ian Poole, 2015.

The Way to Art is through Craft

The way to art is through craft; not around craft – Ansel Adams

I was reminded of this cryptic comment whilst attending the recent Iris Awards held in Wellington New Zealand by the NZ Institute of Professional Photography.

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Piper and Posers; © Ian Poole, 2016 (IRIS Silver Award)

With over 1,200 photographs judged in various categories over three days by local and overseas photographers, this was an event of resounding success.  Some great images were viewed, discussed and awarded.  With this access to vast riches of both imagery and photographic knowledge, all gathered together in a couple of small rooms, it was an opportunity to absorb creativity beyond compare.

It was not the fact that there was an audience – it was the composition of that audience that surprised me.

The judging of the wedding and portrait categories were unsurprisingly a case of a full house at every session.  Hardly to be marveled at when the photographic industry is largely constructed on the business of domestic image making.  My surprise was that these people disappeared from the rooms when other apparently unrelated categories were being considered.

This is the age where few domestic photographers maintain a formal studio, preferring to work from a home environment, with resulting wedding and portrait images being taken in informal outdoor surroundings.  For example the family group in a park setting, or the wedding couple being dwarfed by a large factory wall.   These good uses of the natural and urban landscape are part and parcel of the 21st century portrait or wedding photographic experience.

So, I wondered, where were all the wedding and portrait photographers when the Landscape Category was being judged?

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Hong Kong; © Ian Poole, 2016 (IRIS Silver Award)

Where did they go? There were many entrants in the room but nowhere near the number of practitioners in evidence when the domestic genres were being assessed.  Many a time I have observed the plaintive cries of wedding photographers on social media agonising over an upcoming wet weekend and seeking fresh ideas and secret locations to use while documenting their brides and grooms.  It occurred to me,  wouldn’t observing the locations chosen by landscape workers be potentially useful for placing your bridal couples within their context?  Or a factory, or some city hall steps, or a strange dark and moody alleyway?  These are all locations where I have seen portraits produced for bridal couples working under a photographer’s direction.

A further cause for concern for me was the surprising comment by some audience members during the judging of the Documentary Category that men were assessing birth photographs!  This ironic observation would have had the potential for humour in times other than the politically correct ones we live in today, but the strength of such comments was a little daunting.  The category quite reasonably embraces the idea of the camera as a means of recording (documenting) the human endeavour.

A broad ethos at best.

The criticism was two pronged.  Firstly that male judges had no understanding of the birth process and that they were unaware of the degree of difficulty involved in this area of photography.  This seemed a somewhat sexist approach.

However, putting that aside, my first response would be that the judges (male and female) were briefed to find the best photographs showing a documentation of the human condition.  Note the requirement to arrive at a winning photograph.  All the judges came from different areas of the industry but carried with them skills and abilities to assess and arrive at a conclusion.  Some were skilled practitioners in documentary photography, and all possessed that necessary ability to assess, analyse and score a photograph within the constraints of a well-documented and rigorously maintained process.

The degree of difficulty argument is not new in the awards system.

The wedding photographer working in the pouring rain, the newborn photographer with the wailing baby, the architectural photographer without a cloud in the sky, the commercial photographer with a rubbish skip in front of a building at 5am, the medical photographer with surgeons and anaesthetists in front of their view –  these and many other obstacles are part and parcel of a professional photographer’s daily life.  To imagine that judges are unaware or unable to acknowledge these challenges is misguided and a sad slight on the skills and experience of the judges who worked tirelessly to ensure that high standards ensued.

Fortunately with some long hours, some diligent consideration, some robust discussion and eventual collegiate agreement, the 2016 NZIPP Iris Awards were a resounding success – congratulations to the Institute and their many workers on a job well done.

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Nagano; © Ian Poole, 2016 (IRIS Silver Award)


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This essay first appeared in f11 Magazine :: for PHOTOGRAPHERS and AFICIONADOS, p146, issue 56 :: July, 2016.

 

 

 

 

 


 

Decisions

My long ‘to-do’ list of photographic chores has been a subject of great contemplation and some inner turmoil.  There are entries to be finalised for a couple of professional awards programs which I am keen to enter; several folders of work created on a month-long trip away from home still to refine; a portfolio of personal work for a submission

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Vintage Negative Collection; © Ian Poole, State Library Queensland, 2016.

and a vast archive of my life’s work of negatives that I am slowly archiving into the Queensland State Library data-base.  In spite of my well-documented history of procrastination I felt that it was time to take a more positive and proactive approach to this lethargy and work towards some quick but nonetheless worthwhile solutions.

The competition award entries were tackled first.  I am more than aware that my role in both of these events is clearly defined within the role of an assessor and as one of the judges.

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Hong Kong Monsoon; © Ian Poole, Brisbane, 2016.

But in that role it is equally important that I am seen to be entering and supporting the organisations involved.  Besides which, like many creative sorts, I also have an ego that needs to be stroked and maintained!

Some years ago I was given a format that I have now adopted.  This is based on the firm premise that I am not in competition with any of the other entrants.  Instead, I endeavor to compete against my own performance from last year.  The peer assessment manner in which these awards are judged ensures that my standard is not limited by my own inadequacies.  It meant of course, that when I failed to achieve silver awards with any my entries a couple of years ago I had a period of serious soul searching to endure. I soon realised that my best for that year was just not up to scratch.  It was of a professional standard, but it was clearly not award worthy.  Whilst I am comfortable with the strong and consistent possibility that I may never stand at the podium receiving trophies and accolades, I am also conscious that I want my entries to be of a standard that enables me to confidently and comfortably feel able to construcively criticise the work of other entrants.  For the record, and as is the case for all judges, I am never in the position of judging my own work, this does not happen with well organised and scrupulously managed awards programs.

So the first edit has been made and some test prints nailed to the wall so that I can live with them for a little while.  This is a great way to assess if I am bored with my own work – a sure sign that other judges may come to that conclusion much faster than me.

Several folders of a couple of thousand files have now been sorted in a rough edit to find a collection of photographs that may be useful as award entries, or suitable for the personal project I am working on.  This is followed by a longer period agonising over those thus sorted.  Doing this over several sessions means that I have time to contemplate my choices.  I also have access to one or two trusted and highly valuable mentors with whom I can share a few of the more difficult choices.

The personal project continues with a similar approach to that of finding award images.  A steady process of post-production followed by either elimination or acceptance of photographs worthy of the presentation I wish to make in the next few months.

Then comes the sorting of my entire professional life’s output of negatives and transparencies.  This is a job that has a certain amount of tedium that comes from peering at the results of some fairly banal commercial assignments, then followed by happy trips down memory lane as I re-discover other, long forgotten but far more interesting assignments.  Of course the recurring theme of rampant sexism in some of the photographs was just a by-product of the ‘anything goes’ 1970s.

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612 ABC Radio; © Ian Poole, Brisbane, 1976. (courtesy of John Oxley Library historical collection)

I do now wonder why it seemed necessary to have so many girls in bikinis draped over washing machines or gas stoves.  In my defence, all I can say is that, at the time, it was entirely at the direction of various art directors at whose pleasure I served.

It is possible that your own ‘to-do’ list could be similarly reduced or tackled with a clear cut analysis of what needs to be done, and a rational approach to sorting the tasks slowly and steadily.  My list, made a couple of weeks ago, is now under control.

Though I must admit that it did take a few sleepless nights to work out precisely how to achieve all of this within a tight time frame.


Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 10.51.51 AMThis essay first appeared in f11 Magazine :: for PHOTOGRAPHERS and AFICIONADOS, p154, issue 55 :: June, 2016.

 

 

The Failed TV Campaign

 

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Channel O; © Ian Poole, Brisbane, 1980.

When you work closely with one or two major clients it is possible to become part and parcel of their visual sounding board and assist in producing new ideas or presentations.

Such was the attempt at winning the sales and promotion account with the Brisbane TV station Channel O.  (Now Network 10, Brisbane)

My good friend (and valuable photography client) Gary Edgar, was Art Director at the Brisbane office of the Hertz Walpole Advertising Agency.  As was the case then and now, agencies would regularly pitch ideas to clients seeking to gain their advertising budget.

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Gary Edgar; © Ian Poole, Brisbane, 1980.

Whilst elsewhere in Australia the Channel O network had become Channel 10 in January 1980, in Brisbane the network still traded under the Channel O banner.  A situation that continued in Brisbane until 10 September 1988.

This campaign had everything going for it.  The art director and the photographer playing major roles.  A friendly TV cameraman (he had access to a camera) and of course that staple of the 1980s – a pretty female face wearing a swim suit!   This was August 1980 after all.

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Channel O Model; © Ian Poole, Brisbane, 1980.

The model’s name has been sadly lost over the decades, but it is highly likely that she was the receptionist at the advertising agency.

Gary was a keen sailor and it naturally followed that both he and his 14′ Hobie Cat had to feature in a proposal that was aimed at sun, sand and water loving Brisbane audiences.

The water activity shots were photographed at Shorncliffe on the Redcliffe Peninsula during one of our regular Sunday afternoon sailing sessions.  Gary wasn’t the only one with a Hobie Cat – it was an activity that we both indulged.

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Shorncliffe; © Ian Poole, Brisbane, 1980.

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“O” for the Glasses; © Ian Poole, Brisbane, 1980.

The studio photographs were taken at the Old Pink Church in Warren Street, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane.  The electric motorised Hasselblad (500EL – same as the one taken by NASA to the moon) in the top photograph, was a cantankerous old beast that was used mainly in the Studio.  Too big, too heavy, too unreliable to take outside!

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Eyewitness News; © Ian Poole, Brisbane, 1980.

 

 

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Gary Edgar (alternate); © Ian Poole, Brisbane, 1980.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


These photographs form part of the Poole Collection held by the John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.  #5072 – Hertz Walpole Advertising, these transparencies (and thousands of other negatives and transparencies) will be available for public access within the next twelve months.   These materials, as well as films and digital stories are available for viewing in the John Oxley Library Reading Room or online via their catalogue OneSearch.


 

In Defence of the Cliché

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Louvre Sunrise; © Ian Poole, Paris, 2016

Avoid imitating a cliché – is the oft loudly exclaimed cry from art teachers, creativity lecturers and judges at photographic competitions.  So why should I buck the combined wisdom of teachers and mentors with far greater stature than me?

It was a reluctant first-time visit to the Musée Rodin in Paris that did it for me.  I certainly have no difficulty in recognising that Auguste Rodin was an artist held in the highest regard, but my reluctance to visit it was based on the anticipation of feelings of intense déjà vu.

How could I not be impressed with the image of sculptures as well known as The Thinker or The Kiss?

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Rodin’s Thinker; © Ian Poole, Paris, 2016

When I realised I was comparing the shape of my hand with that of Rodin’s sculptured artwork, I knew that I was hooked and engaged with the artist’s masterpiece.  No catalogue, no wikipedia entry, no poster, was ever going to illustrate the power and emotion that he had crafted into each piece.  And whilst I had never sculpted in my life, I realised that I had photographically mimicked the poses and hand gestures from both pieces without much regard from whence these concepts had come.

After looking first hand at examples of photographs by Ansel Adams and Richard Avedon I started to understand the power contained within the images.  I had always thought that the landscapes of Adams were a case of hard hiking and early mornings, but to my horror I found a conscious thought process underlying his many images.

In the case of Avedon, my cavalier response had been that anyone with a few lucky breaks and access to ‘big’ names as subjects could produce great shots.  How wrong was I?  Avedon had a wonderful knack of reproducing and inserting the soul of his sitter into a photograph. Neither photographer had lucked onto a quick fix.  They had learnt their craft, worked hard within their genre, and consequently produced images that appeared to be effortless when viewed.

Clichéd – almost!

In case there is a misconception out there in reader-land that a rush trip to Paris or New York is required to look at cliché driven images to promote one’s own creativity, examples are happening all around.

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The Wanaka Tree; © Tony Bridge, New Zealand, 2016.

My respected fellow f11 correspondent Tony Bridge has been leading a workshop at the prestigious 27th Wanaka Autumn Art School in New Zealand and he was goaded by some of his friends to lead his group of students to that well-known location, The Wanaka Tree.  Tony’s response was to give his students a master class in landscape creation with a totally new interpretation.  I trust they were impressed, because I certainly was.

A further opportunity exists for some Australian readers to visit the National Gallery of Victoria and view James McNeill Whistler’s Portrait of the Artist’s Mother, 1871  (more commonly referred to as Whistler’s Mother).  This work is currently on loan from the Musée d’Orsay, in Paris.  The portrait painted in a stoic palette of grey and black, portrays a character vastly different to that of the artist – who was noted for his flamboyant dress and outgoing social personality.  The painting, having been mocked and parodied for decades, is still a powerful depiction of personality and emotional representation.

Having viewed photographic interpretations of these (and many other art works) frequently in my career, I am now of the opinion that a greater knowledge of so-called clichéd images is valuable in the extension of one’s creative development.  Studying why such pieces have become so hackneyed, even banal, is a step further in creating a personal style.

Maybe the clichéd road is the road to creativity.


 

Previsualisation

A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera…’ – Dorothea Lange

How could an early twentieth-century photographer be so aware and conscious of the power of photography without possessing any of the knowledge we now have at our fingertips, in our case thanks largely to the information age of the internet?

Lange was from that famous school of American documentary photographers during the early twentieth century which included, amongst many others, Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand, James Nachtwey, W. Eugene Smith, Nan Goldin and Mary Ellen Mark.

Seeing without a camera is also described as pre-visualisation. Ansel Adams was a great proponent of getting the image clear in his head before exposing a sheet of film.  There might have been monetary constraints behind such a process, but I like to think it was then, and still is now, all about searching and finding the photograph before letting the camera perform its very mechanical and technical thing, the job of making an exposure.

At this time of the year when the photography calendar has started with the WPPI convention in Las Vegas now completed, the various Australian state professional awards commenced, nominations for entries into the New Zealand professional awards having been called, and mumblings already starting about the Australian awards later in the year; discussion is rife about creativity, and the creation of great photographs.

Whilst some photographers maintain that a good photograph can be created via careful post-production of an image (either digitally or in the darkroom) I am strongly of the opinion that great images have their genesis in a process involving careful thought.  That superb reaction shot taken by a wedding or documentary photographer is more than just the tangible evidence of good reflexes, it is the sum total of years of experience, of getting into the right position, of thinking about new angles or approaches and having the presence of mind to be ready for the unexpected.  Luck plays very little part in it.

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Migrant Mother; © Dorothea Lange, 1936

The power of Lange’s photographs is as strong and compelling today as they were when she worked for the US Farm Security Administration and created the iconic photograph, Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California (1936).  This image has little to do with technique and a lot to do with the gentle but determined desire of the photographer to observe and then capture a scene that she felt needed to be seen by a wider audience.

The focal length of her lens, her choice of film type, or the length of time it spent in the developer are rendered irrelevant by the choice of angle, the humanity contained in the eyes of the subject, a poverty-stricken mother, and the fact that her children, huddled in their tent do not make face contact with the camera.  Their eyes are unseen.  The power of the back story to this photo is compelling but it is the photo that takes you to that place in an unwavering way.

Whilst I now own up to looking for more books about photographs than I do for books of photographs, it was through my early career period spent studying photographs that I started preparing my eyes for seeing without a camera.  This was a difficult period because I was hooked on the mechanical process of creating photographs.

A period of time we all must pass through in order to reach the other side, I hasten to add!

But it slowly dawned on me (cheerfully admitting to being one of the world’s tardiest learners) that the content, the construction, and the creation of the photograph was more important than the delivery of the image.

This applies equally to the commercial image sold for money, and the fine art print created for aesthetic and stylish reasons.

The brain behind the eye behind the viewfinder is more powerful than any of the metrics we use to measure the calibre, quality or resolving power of the lens.

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Outside Portrait Gallery; © Ian Poole, London, 2016.


Screen Shot 2016-04-30 at 6.10.45 pmThis essay first appeared in f11 Magazine :: for PHOTOGRAPHERS and AFICIONADOSp156, issue 53 :: April, 2016.

 

 

 

 

 


 

Mongkok, Hong Kong

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Mongkok – a View; © Ian Poole, Hong Kong, 2016.

A brief stopover in Hong Kong not only broke the Australia-Europe journey, but gave me a few moments in one of my (many) favourite cities.

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Raise the Red Flag; © Ian Poole, Hong Kong, 2016.

The artwork in the Cordis Hotel appears to be revolutionary and following the China Party line.  I have a feeling that it is just a little less than that and has a tinge of unorthodox about it.

These artworks by Jiang Shou, variously titled Red Guards – Going Forward! Making Money! were scattered around the hotel.  Featuring featureless faces with wide open mouths shouting slogans, these child-like guards illustrate the blind worshippers of capitalism.  The use of the Little Red Book of Mao and a mobile phone locate the artwork into a contemporary period.

Shou uses sarcasm to report the changes in culture over the years.

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Red Guards #1; © Ian Poole, Hong Kong, 2016.

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Red Guards #2; © Poole, Hong Kong, 2016.

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Red Guards #3; © Ian Poole, Hong Kong, 2016.

Hong Kong Airport is a great people watching space and waiting for my hotel shuttle bus was a perfect time to indulge.

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Airport; © Ian Poole, Hong Kong, 2016.

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Hong Kong Harbour; © Ian Poole, 2016.


 

Sabcar – a Brisbane Model Agency

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Cheryl and Andrena; © Ian Poole, Brisbane March 1977

An opportunity to re-connect with the Principals and members of the Brisbane based model agency Sabcar , is also an opportunity to see some old photographs.

Most of these shots were taken to produce a major poster promoting all the talent at the Agency at that time – March 1977.

Produced at my studio at the old pink church in Warren Street, Fortitude Valley, it was a major exercise in logistics.

The negatives from this (and all my other commercial photographic output) is now stored at the John Oxley Library within the State Library of Queensland.

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Cigarette; © Ian Poole, Brisbane, March, 1977.

Any assistance in putting names to faces would be greatly appreciated.

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Denise Moran; © Ian Poole, Brisbane, March 1977.

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Narelle Meuller; © Ian Poole, Brisbane, March 1977.

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Gloria McQuilty and ?; © Ian Poole, Brisbane, March 1977.

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Karen Radel; © Ian Poole, Brisbane, March 1977.

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Julie-Anne Ross; © Ian Poole, Brisbane, March 1977

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Michelle Calcutt and Denise Moran; © Ian Poole, Brisbane, March 1977

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Albert Park; © Ian Poole, Brisbane, March 1977

 

On a technical note, the majority of portraits in this very large project were shot on the medium format Hasselblad camera system using a 6x6cm black and white negative.  Both Kodak and Ilford films were used.  There were some shots taken using a Nikon 35mm outfit.

Additionally the bulk of the assignments were taken in the Warren Street Studios with a handful of sessions taken at Albert Park.

 

 

Further stories featuring Sabcar Model Agency are told here:

 


 

 

No Time Like the Present?

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2016 Hair of the Dog; Photo courtesy of Queensland AIPP.

As a well known and committed procrastinator, it was only a few weeks ago that I realised that a couple of 2016 projects and goals were going to need quite a number of new, exciting and creative photographs taken.  Creativity is one of those skills that has never come easily to me – and probably never will.  So delaying making plans to fulfil the requirements of my own needs was another stuttering step embedded in my procrastination.

I was brought back to reality when a week out from a long-planned speaking engagement I realised that the details loosely floating around in my head needed to be set in audio-visual concrete and speaking notes were required to keep me within the tight time constraints nominated by conference management.

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Portfolio Review, Hair of the Dog; Photo courtesy of Q’land AIPP.

This flurry of activity then generated the realisation that other projects needed just as much urgent attention.

Coinciding with my small commitments to the photography convention was the visit of a couple of international friends who were key-note speakers on the same bill.  My hosting them during their Brisbane stay was one of those privileged benefits gained from having access to peer review from long time friends.  I have banged on often enough in this column about the value of mentors, and peer review to enhance your understanding of your own work, and so here was my opportunity.

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Mike and Jackie; Photo courtesy of Queensland AIPP.

It soon became obvious that it wasn’t the chilled Chardonnay being taken to ward off Brisbane’s humid summer that was doing the talking – but that I had some mental blocks that required re-adjustment.  A lot of the current images that were being compiled to complete these projects were taken on overseas jaunts.  Certainly an obvious way to seek out new visual interpretations, but not necessarily the only way of completing assignments.

NIMBY – not in my back yard – had become part of my raison d’être.  I had become the very person I have spent most of my teaching and mentoring career warning students against.

With some firm and pointed observations my friends noted loudly that I wasn’t spending much time documenting my beloved home town.  ‘Where are the photos of locals and familiar scenes?’ they asked.  Another good friend is working on a personal project titled 500 metres from my desk and I have been giving him strong encouragement on seeing his powerful and creative images.

I was obviously having difficulty in seeing 5 metres from my desk, much less 500!

With these thoughts pulsing through my brain I attended the opening of an exhibition that had had its genesis during Australia’s bi-centennial back in 1988.   The re-hanging of this show would give me a chance to revisit the prints that I had processed for one of the six artists being shown.  A chance to review my processing skills after almost 30 years. They were still in good condition!

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Glen O’Malley + Subject; © Ian Poole, Brisbane 2016.

More importantly I took a camera with me to the gallery.  Now there is a radical thought.  Well for me it was – I know I tell every one else to carry a camera, yet often I am not one to do so.  To my absolute surprise a couple of shots jumped out in front of me.  One or two are tolerable and may well end up residing in a presentation portfolio.

Several conclusions were reached in the past few weeks.  Good photographic friends are valuable beyond words, even if their comments are sharp and cutting and a little too close to the bone; interesting photographs are sitting, waiting for all of us very close to where we are at this very moment; and having a challenge and being challenged is the quickest way to lift the quality of one’s visual output.

I’m on to it now! Stay tuned…


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This essay first appeared in f11 Magazine :: for PHOTOGRAPHERS and AFICIONADOSp152, issue 52 :: March, 2016.

School of Hard Knocks

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Robbie and Margaret Bruce; © Ian Poole, Brisbane, 24 June 1967.

It is not commonly known that I had a reasonably extensive background in wedding photography prior to moving through to the commercial and advertising genres.  With hindsight I was probably not the greatest exponent of the craft at that time.  But I do look back with a little fondness at the skills that I learnt during those development years.

The late 1960s, in yet to come of age sub-tropical Brisbane, Australia, was not a hotbed of creative energy.  Powerful flash units semi-permanently fixed to medium format cameras and driven by the equivalent of a motor cycle battery draped over one’s shoulder were the norm.  It was a time of cameras manufactured by Rollei and Mamiya and Yashica, and flash guns by Metz and Braun. We had moved past flash bulbs, although I did for a while work for a photographer who supplied me with a 2×3 Century Graphic – the roll film version of the Speed Graphic.  I was then able to get my New York press photographer fantasies out of my system.  (Wow, you must be very old… – ED)

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Catholic Leader-Birth Control; © Ian Poole, c1966.

No it wasn’t the equipment that was paramount in my early training but the people skills I observed and learnt from clients and other photographers.  Remember I was the classic back-yarder.  No formal training, no tertiary education; just a man with a Nikon F and the desire to earn some extra money.

The Nikon was the first mistake!  No photographer employer was interested in 35mm. It was far too small a film size, ignoring the convenience of a smaller camera.  After investing in the Nikon all I had money for was a second-hand Yashica 635 twin lens camera using the 6x6cm 120 format film.

But the real training came in having to interact with clients who had not booked my services.  It was a time when following a reading of the Saturday morning wedding column in the daily newspaper, I made a list of weddings and times and locations and passed them out to a small group of ‘Spec’ (speculative) photographers who would set off with rolls of film (but not many) and business cards (lots).  Our job was to garner photographs of the wedding guests, and one or two of the bridal party.  Our sales came from family groups dressed in their Sunday best, hair combed and faces cleaned attending a formal gathering, possibly for the first time in a while.  As well as taking photographs, our job was to sprinkle the wedding guests with business cards encouraging them to visit the Studio in the following week.

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Gay Walker, Miss Australia 1972 (Woman’s Day Magazine); © Ian Poole, Brisbane.

My job was to create photographs that sold.

This most basic of all marketing business premises was hammered into me.  Family groups lined up in an aesthetic, but well lit, group were only successful if all faces were towards camera and had NO blinks.  Finding a grandmother with a cute grandchild was like striking gold.  These moments had to be exploited (in the nicest most professional photographic way) and turned into ‘must have’ photographs.  Remember I only got 10% commission on SOLD photographs.

This later translated into a formulae that was useful when covering more hectic and fast moving events like the foyer of the theatre holding a Saturday afternoon ballet matinee or in the crowded foyer outside the university graduations.  The Grandmother Formula was a pure gold mine at ballet performances.  Smooth talking little old ladies became my stock in trade.  A sharp, but polite and respectful, repartee was developed.

 

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Sterling Studio Staff (author far left), University of Queensland Graduation, Brisbane City Hall; c1966. (note ties, sombre suits and respectful haircuts)

I was working with one or two older photographers who became my mentors – and such was their silver-tongued monologue delivered in the space of 3 metres and 10 seconds.

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Mrs Poole and #2 Son, Her Majesty’s Theatre; © Ian Poole, Brisbane, c1967.

Lighting was always easy – blast at f11 with flash.  But posing had to be controlled and arranged and done in moments.

Working the graduating crowds as the completion of the awards ceremony was a short timed photographic feeding frenzy that required similar, but slightly different skills.  The robed and mortar-boarded graduate had to feature prominently, but the cluster of family needed to be respected and appropriately arranged.  Groups of graduate friends could not be ignored, but family groups must come first.  This was all in a time well before such institutions stepped in and arranged a single entity to do this documentation and usually well away from the hurly burly of the public entrance.

The skills gained were many and varied.  Recognising a saleable shot from 20 metres was a requirement.  Using the right language to greet, slow down, stop and interact with a prospective subject was critical.

Ian-Poole-Brisbane-Photographer

Carol Stratford at the Theatre; © Ian Poole, Brisbane, c1966.

Posing, rearranging, grouping, checking for bra straps, fly-away hair etc – all of this done on the run and with great respect, was as critical as getting the correct exposure.

Any wonder I regard this 5-6 year period of my life with fondness and a gratitude to those unnamed fellow photographers who shared a few of their secrets.  What they didn’t tell me I learnt from the School of Hard Knocks and Dreadful Mistakes, I’m sure you’re familiar with it?

That period, that school, those learnings would be enduring components later to combine with an understanding of aesthetics gained through post-graduate study.  Together they prepared me for new and exciting opportunities within the photographic profession.


 

NB: all these photographs will be part of the Ian Poole Archive shortly to be accessible at the John Oxley Library within the State Library of Queensland.

 

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 4.14.49 pmThis essay first appeared in f11 Magazine :: for PHOTOGRAPHERS and AFICIONADOSp156, issue 51 :: February, 2016.