1. Early Beginnings
So we're going to be talking about your autobiography, a labor of love and let's talk about why you decided to write an autobiography in the first place how did the book come to be? You know, it was an idea that my husband came up with and and I was like, well, I'm always like this, you know, when when something comes up that seems a little overwhelming, I was that what? Well, it's too early in my career to be writing something like this in or made every excuse in the world and it's it's to really I'm not a writer, I wouldn't want anyone else to write it, so is that will best you? Right then I said, well, you know, I've got so much more to do, which I do, but it was cathartic and a lot of wise too, because I spent twelve months actually looking back over my career and and my early childhood all the way through to you know how it got started obviously, um and the reasons why I do what I do and sometimes, you know, I'm sure it happens with a lot of people who sit down and write their mem...
oirs or the order biographies, you know, things reveal themselves to you that you a little bit a little bit surprised about yourself especially you spend a lot of time um writing and thinking and when I wrote this book we rented a small apartment for me to just go to all the time and just spend days there at a time and just, you know, actually really a missed myself in its own way it was very interesting, very interesting what was the biggest fear that you had about writing the book? It wasn't fear so much is you know, I just saw what what if I got that interesting to say on and, you know, I mean, I think a lot of people are like that and some of the things that should I speak about this and sure I speak about that um you know, my past and so many other people are involved in a lot of these things and my initial fears when I started out as a photographer, my insecurities all of this sort of thing it's it's kind of it feels quite strange to think these things yourself and then write them down and and have them out there for the world to see but it's actually you're exposing its yes yes in a way but you know, I think through my career it's it's just gradually evolved to be like that because, you know, I don't think anybody never stops anyone who's successful in anything you know, photography, writing any in any sort of korea at all or nobody starts out actually knowing how you're you're going to end up to be for me like I consider myself midway through my career and you just can't see that on dh. So it's it's a really nice way to think about how everything actually did evolve on the reasons for why I do what I do know so let's start at the beginning because you say that you you d'oh expose yourself and as you're going back to your childhood, which is where you start let's talk a little bit about those photos that you have in the book and what those brought up for you. Yes, well, you know, I started I started the autobiography with all you have to start with your early childhood and and a lot of the reasons why I, um I started to become a photographer and what things that I'm fascinated with in terms ofthe what I do, you know, photographing new human beings, you know, at the beginning of their lives is that I do not actually I have a photograph of myself as a newborn and you know the circumstances, of course I was born in nineteen fifty six not every family had a camera, right? Um I visited, um a five daughters and so, you know, I guess for the time you get to number three the one camera that you did have this kind of government where it is and that's why you oh yeah yeah I'm something bill of five girls and but you know, I just didn't if I have a picture of myself as a baby, I've got two or three photographs that I have in a labor of love um that were taken of me when our sort of maybe six months old but you know, when these days and over the last eighty years and under, whenever I look at the detail in pictures of newborn babies, you know, it has to be in the dark room, you know, in this wonderful, dark, grim days and my doctor is being dismantled now, um, because we've moved so often, but just looking at the detail on the skin of this beautiful newborns it's incredible, you know, the detail in the lips and the beautiful hair and this the new skin, everything about new life is incredible and and ice to think, how awesome is this going to pay for these babies when they're older to look back on that sort of thing? And I think people who says take a lot for granted, you know that you know, probably this generation maybe some of you on the sofa here and they have video footage of yourself as a baby and hearing your baby voice you know, hearing your baby cry and all the people from my generation, we don't have any of that. You know what? What did I look like? What did I say on life? All of those sorts of things are so important. That's why I consider what I do. Storytelling? Yeah. What did you find out? What did you discover when writing the section that influenced your work? Well, you know, it's very interesting, because when I when I was writing this book, um, I thought we'll do a helmet. How far do I go into my childhood and the motivation for doing what I did? And I thought, well, if you're going tio, boys, may not this everything that I do if you're going to write an autobiography you have to be truthful about, um, um what you're doing and, you know, I grew up in the nineteen fifties in north queens and in the north of australia, um, on a cattle station, which is what they call it, you know, strider kettle session, what do they call it here? Wrench wrench? Um and, um, it was that sort about bringing, you know, in a lot of wise, it was wonderful, you know, and I always considered myself, um to be a country girl who would go out to be a country woman on dh you know, live that sort of lifestyle and it's really been titled the opposite to me because I've lived all my life in cities and marries a married to a man who won't go outside in the dark in the country in case of more attacks him with something in saying I'm like god is like, you know, it's just a more and and then I've got a daughter who's the same so you know, so here I am but you know, it was one of those it was the nineteen fifties, you know, to be honest, you know, we five girls grew up um they're not feeling appreciated for being girls as such, you know? And I'm always a thrill to see father's relating to their daughters and I have friends in my teams, you know, there was there was a point where, um, one of my dear friends in our teens, I was staying at her house one day and her father came home from work and went up and gave her a hug, and I was like, I've never seen that before, you know, really because it was just not part of my upbringing, you know, and we kind of felt really had the feeling that, um my father tried five times oh boy you know and so you know, I was trying to please him and and be that boy that he wanted and impress him and everything and it's just you know, it comes to be pointless after a while, you know? And I think that's one of the reasons why I am so motivated to photograph in your life is that you know, that they're pre session for new life is so so important but, you know, I went through the normal country school years and, you know, a little I went to a little country school with two classrooms and went on to high school and they were just no photography courses, you know, I I had no clue that photo was really existed on dh you know, when I first started picking up a camera aren't just going for a little bit, you know, I was twenty five and I I always joked there on the first photographer that I ever met because, you know, I never went to college because I was so just so obviously trying to get on with my life, you know, I wanted to leave home, you know, I wanted to leave home as soon as I could and just get on a plane and get out of there and um and I did I did a lot about my age teo and work in a hotel china in new zealand, you know, waitressing and doing all that sort of thing, having a big adventure, so you had to be eighteen and are still seventeen, but I lied about my age and I just got out of there, you know, there was nothing that colors that really appealed to may on dh, you know, I'm still a great believer, I know there a lot of people disagree with me, I don't think that you can really teach someone how to take a great photograph, I think it has to come from your heart, you can you can teach people the system, you can teach people camera systems, you can teach people how to do further shop and I cannot do photo shop that's, right? I'm terrible cannot do it, it's not their character, it it's just that it's not what motivates me, it's like I'm not going to do it, I'm not interested, I'm happy to sit next to the person who has been doing my father's shop fears and I love it. I think it's a creative process, but I don't want to do it myself, all those buttons and things and with you it's don't want not interested, but you know, I think that you have to photograph from your heart and everyone is a photographer needs to tell her own story with the camera and so that's what I started to do so in a lot of ways my path was a little bit unusual because completely self taught and but I can't see that it could have bean any better for me in so many ways because you know the path that I took has led me to where I am today and um uh a so far as I'm concerned you know that's just exactly where I want to pay I think it's so interesting that you're in your childhood when you talk about not feeling love and yet that is what your core values is love nurturing protection things that absolutely could directly sort of see what you from what you came from you know early on yeah that's that's exactly right that's my message and it's like look at these look at this beautiful baby look at these beautiful children your media portraiture for ten years and we can talk about that but you know it's it's always been that message and how look how beautiful and look at these look at these babies right at the beginning of their lives you know nothing has happened to them nothing good nothing barrett they're just perfect and and that from then on things got a good to go well or they go badly and you know and you look at what's happening in the world today and you can see exactly how this has happened to a lot of children you know who have been brought up in cultures you know to um just height constantly height you know, you see what's happening to this whole generation of children in countries like syria and I'm just going to grow up to want revenge for all these terrible things that have happened to them that I've seen and and and so on and I keep staying back with these newborns and that moment right when there's so much potential for goodness yeah and they are always like that in that photograph yeah right then and there that that's it and that is never going to change that sent it comes from the heart yes absolutely all through my childhood you know this now this is going to seem really old because we used to have national geographic magazine delivered in the mail you know and we used to collect the magazines and I couldn't wait for them to arrive because I love looking at the images and in particular I love looking at images off people and when I was old enough to have some pocket money and things are that are used to by life magazine and life magazine when it was in its heyday was just or some you know and power very, very powerful and the the total concentration on telling a story with imagery was really incredible for me that you can actually just just even in documentary photography or portrait photography you can just capture this single moment that's there forever and and you know, I even saw a couple of nights ago on television you know the you know with all this terrorism that's happening at the moment and and you know not to date this conversation but you know there was and for this twenty four hour news cycle that's happening now there wasn't footage off it was the gunman who was going into power the candidate in canada yeah they didn't have footage inside but they had still images off people reacting outside and so they played this still image is over the sound of the gunman in near and I looked at my eyes and I thought yes still photography still rules you know, because it just captured the moment and the looks on these people's faces and and the emotion of everything is still images just you can just look at it for such a long, long time and that's what I used to do I steer that these images in life you're saying and you know, I was always fascinated with images of people on dh images of children in particular u s so I think that's what really got me started you know, but it's never occurred to me that I could do this myself you know, I wasn't brought up in a situation where we were actually encouraged to be anything you know what you think about this? You know, just clear value you know you're so good at this maybe you want to think about that? It just wasn't an option, you know oh, did you think about your future? What did you think you were going to do or did you not even think that far I always I always knew in myself that I would do something um not special that there I was here for a reason and I feel a lot of people say that who really passionate about what they do and, um but I have this moment and I talk about it in the book andi was about seven or eight years old and are standing in the but the front garden and my mother was hanging the laundry on the closed sign and I remember exactly where I wass and it was a hot day and where the sun was on that day maybe it's a visual thing so maybe that's you know why I went on to become a photographer? I just remember I can feel the moment right now and I was standing there I walked about laundry and I standing there and I said to her there's something that I need to do but I don't know what it is and she kind of she was hanging a shape and she looked and she said, well why don't you ride your bike or something you know on and which is what you would say you know, no play or something you know and and I said no that's not what I mean and she looked at me really strangely um and it was just you know and and I say in here you know, there's said there's always a time in childhood were a door opens and lets the future in and that's exactly what happened to me and then of course it close and I went on about my life but I always had this sense about myself that that there was something that I needed to do and that there was something that I would actually do but you know, if anyone's watching this you know and they're in that situation where they're struggling a little bit with what I do at college or you know and I didn't go to college but and I hear people asking, you know, the's kids their high school so what you want to be and I don't ask that you know, don't because a lot of time they just don't know you don't even know what the realm of possibility and I don't know you don't you don't even know and you know, as I said in my girls who know city and twenty eight who both photographers and which I think it's yeah, no one was more surprised than me on its seriously maybe them yeah well yeah that's true yeah e I never had expectations and put your husband and I never put expectations on their children you should be doing this or you should be doing that um because you know we're just like them find their own way um and there but just to speak to young people out there or in young photographers who are looking to find their way there so many different roads that you can travel and everybody knew to find their own road you know you don't feel if you don't feel that it's right for you then choose your own way you know? Listen tiuna voice and it's really, really important one of the things that you talked about in the book that that really resonates with me is that you talked about that there isn't just one way as well for yourself so you start going one way and then the path changes success changes and you have to be open to that well, you definitely have to wrap it and really for everybody life is accidental, you know, your mother made your father or you wouldn't be here and all of these things, you know and you can think back and go crazy over well if I'd have done this, if I've done that, you know, and sometimes I do think well if I'd have bean brought up like we're living in new york now you know and you see a lot of these kids um um which is interesting you gotta moma and you see the little children in classes and there walking and look at this fabulous works about and at the mit and things like that and I just think how lucky are you how lucky are you? I remember going you know, tio seymour, nice paintings and oh my god in paris one r and this was when ours would have bean twenty three twenty four that's the first time I ever saw them and I was standing up so close thinking you can see the brushstrokes you know, for a girl from the country in australia who was never exposed to all of that it was just awesome, you know? And so this kids are just so fortunate but that doesn't mean that if you're a little kid from a small country town in in any little small country town anywhere that something fabulous isn't going to happen to you because you're looking at things in a different way and in a lot of ways that's helped me in my career you know? I just had a thought outside of the box you know, things that are normal to some people are not normal to others and that's all that you know and that's what we all know our own experience that but yes, exactly so let's talk about how you got into we've got here on the page or garage so I was just reading business on getting into the portrait years and you garage business how many businesses started in garages steve jobs did I think he did yeah because it's generally when you're starting it's the first space that you have you know when I first picked up a camera, you know realm relatively seriously when I was twenty five as I said and I had gone with my husband killed to hong kong on dh he was he went over there to run a television station news he was intelligent for thirty years and so I got over to hong kong and I thought, you know, I've been doing p r and I was I went from being waitressing in in new zealand coming back to you know, having my own clothing stores was a disaster because I don't know anything about this, you know, like for love that I know you know, I was just in those days you could actually do that you know, life is a structured for a lot of people he says I think that's what I was trying to say about you know, kids get channel through oh, you goto primary school, you go to high school, you go to college, you have a career and I'm like no it's not necessarily, the white news debate, you know, I mean, I had I had a period of three weeks in new zealand when I didn't have enough money, I was nineteen oil tell me didn't have enough money to come back to australia, so I wrote, which is what we didn't know, saying to my father saying, could I borrow money for your fear? And you said no, and so I had to work in an egg factory for three weeks on a conveyor belt where they had an ultraviolet light underneath the eggs, and we pick out the ones that looked a bit suspect, you know, for three way it's to earn my effort to get back to australia, and it was a good thing for me, you know, I mean, it's everything's character building and, um, everything's for a reason, you think when you look back, you know, and so I did that I came back and I randomly opened this clothing store, which as I say, was a disaster. Then I took a job in television, I saw a job advertised for an assistant there secretary in those days to the program manager off channel seven in brisbane and I thought, excellent chris, I really want to get into television, right? And that was a door, so I went there and was interviewed and by my future husband yes you know, of course I was married at the time was it was scandal and well little over here but um and so you know that's that's how we met and so that was when that door opened and I was worked there for two or three years and then I went into public relations and all that sort of thing was just an organic road so anyone think l was over this job in hong kong and I've got to hong kong when I was twenty five and I thought okay, well if you really I want to be serious about photography and you know I was gonna hear myself back at the television station there was a dark room right outside where my office was and I could smell the chemicals god yes you know it's like I've got a friend who loves the smell of petrol so stiff like like really and she said, yeah I don't know why but I just don't it doesn't see friend or anything she just like when she feels like a car you know fills up a conscious like this is so cool but the smell of victim the chemicals in the dark room and everyone every photographer who's ever processed and develop anything a doctor let's just awesome in there you know it really is and so this was back before I ever thought I'd be a photographer but I win border book on dr imprinting, you know, and just understanding the process and things like that. So it kind of got my mind thinking, I've got to hong kong, and kelsey said, look, you know, you've got to revive your head, go do it, you talk about it forever, and so here's my camera, which was old pain text, k one thousand, which I still have now, and so I learned to use it, and I I thought, well, what I'm going to do, I'm going to take pictures of gonna be a portrait photographer, and so in my local supermarket, I put a sign on the notice board and that's how it started, you know? And I was terrified I was absolutely terrified as to carry around this camera case with nothing much unit except this little pain tex play one thousand there was it actually, and some film, and, you know, I was really actually terrified going to each portrait sitting because, um, I'm like this people really don't know that I don't know anything, you know, but it really didn't matter because it was my vision of how I wanted to actually photograph children and that's what started to came through, come through and that's, what canada, the confidence if if I think if it had been any other way if somebody had said to me well, this is the way you'd be a portrait photographer then I don't know whether it would have worked so well for me but I was photographed literally photographing uh and nervous children in back yards and things like that, you know? And I was struggling a lot because it it was just not something that, um I could connect with it and I think every young photographer or anyone really he's starting out in your sort of creative endeavor um needs to find their own style and needs to find their own way and to get them going you know? And so I double for a couple of years I know what I'm not struggling I was just sort of, you know, look at my work I know, but this is not really I want to be better than this issue say searching yeah, you're definitely searching you know, I want to be better than this hell, why my image is looking like the images said I so admire you know? And um then a moment came because we came back to australia and I was living in melbourne and you know, it had stiffen email just daughter who was two years old at the time and I was pregnant with kelly and I was reading them newspaper one morning and I saw an image off a little girl who was standing in a against the background very simple image andi was an embarrassment for a portrait photographer and melvin colin timmy and um I just looked at the image and also and I called her and I was eight months pregnant or something. You know, I called her and just out of the blue and said, you know, I'm really interested in photography and I've been doing, you know, just telling my story a little bit do you need an assistant an unpaid assistant um and for all the hundreds of persistence who want to come and assist me these days who I always have to say no to she said why not in and the moment that when it all came together for me as a photographer was the moment when I first stepped in to a photographic studio video and I've never been in one before and and I walked in there and I looked around and I still get the same feelings like I came in here yesterday I love walking into a photographic studio I just love it and because it has this sense off uh oh something is going to happen in here you know, something creative is going to heaven in here I can make something creative added these four walls lengths like it's a blank site yes and you can I have a simple background, you know and you can control all of that because so they were the images that I could see in my mind in my imagination so I stepped into a studio and it was like coming home I know it sounds like a cliche I was just harm and ever since then you know I'm just from the studio based photographer let's go back to the demo image. Oh, yeah are you gonna go out with the pills? Yes, the little with the tm in iran? Yes, everyone yeah, I've got it here. You want to go back and talk about tear? Yeah, there we go. This image was supposed to be black and what I think I put the wrong film in the camera really, really another was really about the little things that happened that was because it was in I head of many basic seven and you know, all you young digital people in those days we had a you had color film in one back and back and one in the other one and you needed to know what you're putting on your camera on or what you're loading into your camera. This is one of my portraiture images from nineteen ninety and she was just sitting upon a box and um I the flesh she was a little bit on sitting about the flesh and so she was just a little bit teary and I thought and this should happen this time little smile, you know? And I created the image and it was for the years when I was entering print judging, okay, is this what you mean? And I cropped it in a controversial way with all of the head space above it and because I didn't I know that there was a rule about how you cross picking on like, what? Um, I don't know what I don't know what the rules are now anyway, and there are none and there are some you can break him, I know, but, you know, some people have caught up with the rules, and so the judging panel there were a few or there was one judge in particular who was really outraged that this was cropped in this way and should this image one the portrait section and then it came the time for judging the champion print, and I think the categories were, you know, landscapes and portraiture and commercial and something else I can't remember, and I could see this judge who was sitting there with four judges and you could vote nice to be a judge for myself, you know, but I wasn't at that stage and I was watching everyone and she just went bam and press zero right and I'm done you know I didn't so I didn't win I mean people get caught up in things really that important and actually and there's an interesting point from this in terms of what I'm saying about how baby photographer photography was um um construed, you know, and if I had one port the champion print every year and it was it's such a big thing for photographers, you know, when kodak was in its heyday and the cardiac headquarters were, you know, museum credit headquarters who were in auckland just down the road and those to display the champion print on the border and wall at kodak right and had expansive the event in irving and so there I was I got massive food in the judging for champion print and the guy from code it came up to me at the time and it was like it's like a male dominated thing, I don't think the photography world is six s it'll have never really had that I just it comes from you come from people were sitting board rings and do things that they do in boardrooms interview whatever they do and anyway he came up to me and he said, god, thank god you didn't win how could we have a picture of a baby on the border war war coda? And he was laughing and I'm really speechless and for the all of the years since then, I've always thought of, you know, how you think of these lines after, I wish I'd said, based on right, what would you have said, uh, I still don't know, I'm like, you're kidding me, like you think the baby is not important, he'd be like, I would say, how many babies do you have it harm you, tell me about them, you know, they were about their wallets and show you. I just never understood it that's on your gun store, but that was a good story. Thanks again, I'm sorry that a lot of gone past, you have to catch me out on anything.
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