Category Archives: Assignment Notes

Notes taken while on assignment

I’m just finishing up a 10 day shoot in Vanuatu but, as I’m heading straight out on assignment as soon as I get back, I thought I’d quickly post these few pics (below).

It’s been a productive shoot built around Vanuatu’s competitive strength as a holiday destination – the fact you can indulge yourself with fine food, comfortable accommodation and a range of activities and, within just an hour’s flight, you can be having an amazing world-class adventure on some of the most remote islands on earth (assuming you’re flying in from Europe, he adds, as its all just an hour and a half flight from Australia).

We spent the first five days of the shoot on Efate, working with talent we flew in for the assignment. On this occasion, as we’ve already added Espiritu Santo, Pentecost and Tanna to the tourism authority’s photo library, we headed off to Malekula Island for the Nalawan cultural festival.

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I’m in Sydney airport on my way back from a photographic exhibition in Sydney of some pictures I shot of South Africa recently for its tourism authority. It was held at the Black Eye Gallery in seriously cute art precinct of Darlinghurst. The exhibition showed the work of five Australian photographers all of us sent on assignment to South Africa in May to shoot the landscape, its people and, of course the wildlife. The best of the images were to be placed on display and auctioned off to raise money for the worthwhile charity, Afrikan Tikkun which helps out orphaned children. It was an interesting experience (my second exhibition in three weeks),with the results of the “silent” auction (done cleverly through an app which allowed you to see the highest bid before deciding if you want to enter the fray). Bidding closes in three thee days so I’ll have a sense then of what people are prepared to pay for it terms of a print (I did have a peek. With a reserve price of AUD4$300, one photos up to AUD$700 and three others have had bids).
So, what have I learned about exhibition photography? It’s awkward standing in a room with people around you critiquing your work. It’s a great relief when someone actually bids/buys a photo, you need to be prepared to sell yourself as part of the picture and you need to ensure the prints reflect your own professional standards (in this case, thankfully, they did). And one final point: This exhibition was part promotion of South Africa, part raising money for charity and part looking to sell the photographs. If I was to do my own – and pay for it I might add – I would be careful to ensure the pictures I hung had the best chance of sitting in someone’s home and that they connected emotionally with the viewer – as did the pictures of the boy and an elephant and another shot of a couple of toothless women belly laughing (below) which are shaping up to be the most popular.

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Today I was travelling along in the back of a crowded open truck having my face whipped by the grass shroud of a Tambuan (customary guardian) from the Maprik area of the Western Sepik (we were transporting two of them and five performers to a nearly location where the light and background would be more complimentary).

While I’ve still got a few days to go of the Melanesian Cultural Festival, I’m down with a stomach bug so I thought I’d take the afternoon off and process some of my images before I leap into it again tomorrow. Of course, the cultural performances on the various stages have been lively and colourful, but I’ve found the venues where everyone’s getting ready (churches, schools, government offices) providing some of my best photographic opportunities.

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I reckon there would be nearly one hundred different cultural groups at this festival, including the foreign representatives of the Melanesian countries…..and Indonesia. Each of PNG’s 22 different provinces have sent at least two groups (from what I can see, most have actually sent three) and there’s a big local contingent.

Unfortunately, the daily program is a bit up in the air (you who shoot PNG look surprised). It’s only being issued at about 10 am daily, then you’re left to interpret it and work out what group is performing at which of the five city venues.

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Don’t you love it when the commissioning tourism authority sends you the travel section of Vogue Magazine as part of your brief and says, simply, match this (no matter you won’t have a stylist, you’ll have to scrounge for wardrobe and props, and that the talent will be local “ring-ins” – only available between taking the kids to school or when they’re not working. Oh, and it’s a big region; you’ll need to travel several hundred kilometres to cover everything on the eight page Shot List.

…And so began the seven day shoot I’ve just completed of the Daylsford Macedon region of Victoria which is centred about an hour’s drive north of the state capital, Melbourne.

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