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Thursday, January 27, 2011

She's a Winner

Francine Cain

A few months ago, a lovely young woman by the name of Francine Cain won the Rob Guest Endowment 2010 award. Francine is a lovely young woman whose talents will soon be very evident as she plays Regina in Rock of Ages. I am sure that will prove to be the beginning of a long and wonderful career for her. Among her many prizes as winner of the Rob Guest award was a day having her photographs taken by Shelton Muller, Photographer. Second prize was two days. 

Sorry folks. Its an oldie but a goodie. It was there. I had to use it.

ANZ Trustees, for whom I do my fair share of commercial work, made my photography part of the package she so deservedly won. There are times when doing photography for a bank can be somewhat...mundane. Not that we ever take our work opportunities for granted, but its true. However, I was really looking forward to this creative opportunity, and the chance to be one of the photographers who helps someone along a the outset of their illustrious career. It also means that I might score some tickets to the show. Maybe even a backstage pass!

Well, one can hope...

Anyway...after months of trying to synchronise our schedules, Francine and I were finally able to meet in the city for a shoot. She had been to New York (where she bought that leopard print coat!) and was now back, so we got a few free hours together. We met in the old city square for coffee and then started our shoot in and around Hosier Lane in Melbourne. Photographers in our fair city know this lane well. It is perhaps the most colourful place in the entire city, with building walls filled with artful graffiti that is constantly updated and encouraged. I thought it a perfect match for Francine's colourful personality and her ideas for some 'different' photographs to the ones she already had. 

Francine had already had some very beautiful studio photographs taken and so we thought we would do some location stuff - a little bit 'street' with a few variations on a theme. I kept it simple, using single off camera flash techniques and available light. Francine brought a few different outfits and we had some fun together for a few hours, laughing through each setup and telling passing Chinese tourists that Francine was a famous singer. Clamouring to be photographed with her, they passed their cameras to me and posed for their snaps with a celebrity.

Well, Francine is not quite world famous yet. But as my friend Glynn Lavender says - its not lying. 
Its 'futurespeak'.
I wish you every success Francine. It couldn't happen to a nicer person. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Simple Light

Model: Sarah Hardy

Of all the photography workshops I have the pleasure to run, our Natural Light People Photography Workshop is my favourite.As much as I love to create light,  I think I prefer working with the light I am given. Perhaps it is for this reason that I in the process of writing an e-Book on the subject. More on that in weeks to come. 
Available light is a challenge for the imagination and the eye. It provides the photographer with the challenge of spontaneous creativity, forcing his or her mind to see light and create from it. Studio lighting has the advantage of being completely created and tweaked. Available light provides the photographer with much fewer options.
It is also beautiful for its single-light simplicity. This portrait of young model, Sarah Hardy, bears that out. One window was all we used to demonstrate the beauty of available light at our workshop on Saturday. That simple light combined with the vision of an 85mm 1.8 Nikkor is enough to create a beautiful portrait. 
For me it is a reminder - a reminder not keep it simple. One light is often enough for beautiful portraits. Actually, often it is simply perfect. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Making Love in a Church

Sorting through hundreds of discs the other day, I found this image from a shoot I did a few years ago. It was a moment of capture that I remember for two reasons. Yes, I am pleased with the image, but it has even greater meaning to me than that. Its all about making love in a church.

Please. Allow me to explain.

I was excited to have been commissioned by the ABC to photograph a training session for young and upcoming conductors. An Italian maestro had been invited to Australia to run a series of workshops for these young men and women. Their toolbox was the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, renowned worldwide as being among the orchestras of choice. I had the privilege of standing right smack bang in the middle of this world famous orchestra and listen to several renditions of a Mozart piece - the name of which eludes me now. Its rather well known and rather beautiful, but I can't remember its name. I like Mozart. He was an interesting dude. His is a very sad story, the ending of which is even sadder. Genius is not always a blessing. 

Anyway, what surprised me was the difference in the response to each conductor by the orchestra. Sometimes the orchestra responded with such an audible glow that I was taken upwards by it. At other times, it was just...played. Between conductors I asked members of the orchestra why they responded differently, even though the notes on the paper were the same. It was all about the manifest passion of the conductor. In the end, the maestro took control, leading the orchestra without a single movement of his hands. By his face alone, he made them play that piece better than any of those whose hands had waved about in fervent endeavour like Robbie the Robot. 
In the image above, I distinctly remember the Italian maestro becoming so frustrated by this young conductor's rather academic approach to the music that it became impossible for him to contain it. Sure, the young man knew the piece, he knew the notes, he knew the timing. But he lacked feeling. In this image the maestro is trying everything to make this young man feel the piece, not just know it. 

"Feel it! Feel it! Pretend you are....making love! You are making a church!" he pleaded with this young conductor. Alas, it made little difference. Even I could hear that all his pleadings were falling on someone who needed more life. There is no replacement for that.

Without doubt, photographers are conductors also. They conduct orchestras of their own and the instruments are the elements within the frame. It is irrelevant whether they be the elements within a landscape or still life, the bridal party at a wedding or the corporate leader whose portrait needs updating for an annual report. Without passion applied to each, the music will change. Sure, the little black notes will be the same, but the feel will be different. 

I once knew a young man who played the violin. He knew the notes very well, but his instrument sounded like a strangled cat. He knew the notes, not the intention. By all means, learn the little black notes that belong to each image you create, but get in touch with the reason for the image, the message within it, the desired result. Apply your head to its science, but your heart to its creation. If you have to, pretend you are making love in a church. 

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

California, Here I Come!

There are times you wonder if you have made the right choices in life, realising that there is little you can do about some of them if indeed you even wanted to. Time takes care of them. But there are others that you never regret or feel differently about in any way. For me, one of those decisions was to build my secular and creative life with a camera in hand. And, as a result, another 'once in a lifetime' opportunity has again come my way. I have been invited to travel with my old friend, Ian Rolfe and legendary Australian landscape and commercial photographer, Peter Walton, to run a photo tour through some of California's most incredible locations. This tour will run in May, 2012 and I have to admit - I can't wait.
Now, I am not a landscape photographer as such, but its not because I don't know my way around them. I actually do, and I am very proud of the landscape images I have created over many years of traveling and running photo tours. Our recent Creative Photo Workshops MeaWannaShootaLotta tour in New Zealand in 2010 was just one of those. For me, being primarily a people photographer is a creative choice and a personality based one at that. I am a people person. I enjoy connecting with people even more than I do the earth. That said, I have stood in awe and watched the sun rise and set over some of the most incredible places this beautiful planet has to offer. I have breathed those moments in and realised that I was experiencing something so wonderful it could not be put into words. More than that, I have created some of my most memorable images ever in those moments. So, perhaps my contribution to this tour will be different to the other two gentlemen of note. I imagine I will be adding some 'people elements' into those locations. Then again, I imagine I will also have my own experience in the landscape to offer. Thirty two years with a camera in hand has taught me much about each photographic opportunity. Much of my landscape and travel work is on my website - Shelton Muller, Photographer
Ian Rolfe and I have been friends for over 25 years. We have photographed and traveled together many times and photographed the same places from different perspectives on many occasions. I have known of Peter Walton's work from a time even before I knew Ian. It was some 30 years ago that I came across the work of Peter Walton in an issue of Minolta Mirror, a now defunct annual photographic publication that was a must have in its day. Peter's commercial work was amazing, but his love for the landscape is reflected in his work. I had the honour of being on the same lecture bill with him in Auckland at a photographic convention a few years ago. A nicer fellow would be hard to find and I am looking forward to traveling with him very much.
For information about our Californian Wonder Photo Tour, click the image posted above left.. If you are interested in coming along, contact Ian Rolfe in an email. Click here for that.
As per usual, Creative Photo Workshops has many events planned for 2011, one of which is our photo tour through Egypt, which is also now in the planning. I will keep you posted very soon about the details on that incredible event also! I have been to Egypt twice, and it is a land of intrigue, history and photo opportunity that is simply mesmerizing and unforgettable. 

The Life, Times and Images of photographer, Shelton Muller

Images on this blog are copyright Shelton Muller