Man & Vauxhall Victor a Portrait of Ian Bunzli

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Man & Vauxhall Victor a Portrait of Ian Bunzli

An osmotic process occurs as the portrait evolves and is distilled and imbued with a humanity and surreal majesty…

In 2002 I set up our studio in East Brisbane and began working across the road from the house where Ian Bunzli parked his 1962 Vauxhall Victor. The car had been in the family since new, Ian’s dad bought it and later Ian became custodian. For about four years Ian and myself would exchange a quick greeting on the street and every now and then catch up for a roadside chat. For a long time I’d thought of photographing Ian with his Vauxhall Victor, but always was too busy, and the timing never seemed right. It took a nervous Ian to setup the photo shoot, he approached me and it turned out we’d both been thinking the same thing for quite some time.

Most of my work is never what it appears. The building in the background was my studio at the time, in the image the building was replaced with an earlier version of itself when it was new, about 100 years ago. All of the instruments were shot separately then styled to bind the portrait of man and car together. I’ve never been one for heavy handed vignettes blackening the edges of images, here the vignetting is subtle and introduced through selective backgrounds and the car interior, all via cutting and pasting. For example the rear seat was made larger and the trees behind had some extra foliage added.

Here’s a quote from a press release when the image was first launched. An osmotic process occurs as the portrait evolves and is distilled and imbued with a humanity and surreal majesty that anyone can empathise with. Later, some close to Ian were amused at how the distilling and imbuing of Ian might have occurred – “distilled and imbued …. with a surreal majesty”.

The image was published in the limited edition art book by Ivory Press titled Horizons in 2008. A book about travel. Man & Vauxhall Victor a Portrait of Ian Bunzli is the first image to illustrate the section titled The journey, with an accompanying essay by Alvaro Mutis. In his essay Mutis writes about a train, lovers, bluebirds, the demise of the train and it’s subsequent decay. All reminiscent of the effects time have taken on the family owned and loved Vauxhall with a special place in the heart and mind of the Man and Vauxhall Victor himself, Ian Bunzli.

John Whip the cyclist is another Brisbane identity, you might enjoy reading about his life on the bike at Velo Aficionado


Retirement Bliss

Retirement Bliss 2007

Retirement Bliss

Retirement Bliss was included in the finalist exhibition for the Moran Art prize in 2008. “This image was shot with the camera resting on the 1970’s high pile carpet, the low wide angle serves to highlight the sparsely furnished room. I spent two days with this couple, so by the time I took this shot, I was rewarded with the wry smile and the old man and his shadow had forgotten I was there. Proud and happy, after a lifetime of hard work and devotion to family, this image tells a story repeated throughout Australia.”

Shot in Inverell northern New South Wales, February 2007.

Defiant Survivor

 

Defiant Survivor

A cancer survivor, these near death experiences on the sea seemed to be all part of the plan.

Keith arrived on my doorstep with stories of near death at sea, exposed to the elements in giant storms when no one else was sailing. Cashing in and setting himself up for the lifelong dream of sailing the globe wherever and whenever he pleases. Keith went and bought the boat, learnt all of the skills he’d long wanted to learn and just sailed off into the distance. One night through the eyes of a novice sailor he almost ran his boat aground near a headland in the middle of a storm. Lights appeared out of a vast ocean of waves and wind, to the uninitiated this appeared to be a lighthouse perhaps, as Keith sailed on into the storm the lights kept changing position, moving, dancing somewhere in the dark. The uncertainty played with his mind until exhausted he finally made safe haven in a harbour. Later Keith found out that the lights were not a lighthouse or anything out of this world as he’d imagined, just cars driving round a headland.

A cancer survivor, these near death experiences on the sea seemed to be all part of the plan. Just get out there and enjoy life, every moment of it. The portrait of Keith was shot one day when he showed up out of the blue. I listened to the stories of survival, first in the operating theatres and then on the ocean. All the while I was listening I was shooting images of a man who’d stared death in the face, fought back and was now loving life more than ever. At the moment I shot this image he was reflecting on the battle with cancer that he’d won, in defiance of all odds.

Defiant Survivor was included in the  Nominees for people / portraiture at the 3rd Annual Photography Masters Cup

 

Haroldton Faux New England Landscape

Haroldton

The “Haroldton effect” is so complete it’s as if you’ve been transported to a far flung corner of England.

The Australian landscape transformed into a faux European scene. When shooting  this series of New England landscapes I deliberately chose  locations and views which obscured the Australian bush. This was easily achieved at Kelly Plains adjacent to Armidale, an area heavily planted out as a reminder of an earlier European home. The scene repeated along the long winding driveway up the hill to “Haroldton”, achieves a tunnel like appearance.

Founders Creek

Founders Creek Uralla

The creek is not forgotten, stories abound of lost souls, ghosts and murder.

Founders Creek” could easily be called the creek with no name. I’ve conducted a poll of local residents and no one seems to know  if the creek running through their town has a name. Yet the creek is not forgotten, stories abound of lost souls, ghosts and murder.

Driving along the New England highway I thought it was too late for the early morning light and fog that had been hanging around Uralla all week. A couple of days earlier I’d made a plan to shoot the leafy trees and meandering stream of the popular Uralla park. My sister was married there at the white bridge and my father lives in a cottage across the road, when I arrived for the shoot my brother was there ready to plant out native trees. Sheer coincidence two brothers converging on the same park at the same moment in time, working on a similar theme.

I was there to record the historic planting of European trees by the forefathers of the town, and my brother to restore native trees for the first time since they were obliterated in the 19th century. The town founders stripped bare the landscape removing the native forest and re-created a facsimile English garden. A constant reminder of the English countryside in the middle of the tablelands of northern New South Wales.

Edwards Lane

Bald knob is the nearest recognisable landmark on the road which leads to Dangars Falls, if you weren’t looking for it you’d barely notice the tree lined corner.

Silver birch, pine, and hawthorn at the intersection of Dangarsleigh Road and Edwards Lane.

In the 1960′s and 1970′s I used to visit the house across the road from this scene and as a teenager I’d
cycle past the tree lined corner most afternoons, yet the trees had not drawn my attention like they
did thirty years later. In 2011 I was forced to stop and take pictures, whatever I’d missed growing
up in the district was erased and arrested, replaced with a sudden burst of new found enthusiasm
for the sunlit curved, bent and intertwined silver birch grove at Edward’s Lane. The images later
worked in the studio to form a 360 degree view in six vertical panels.

The pioneers of the New England area brought with them the notion of planting out “New England” as a replica of the English countryside. This series of landscapes explores the effect created by combining the Australian bush with more than 150 years of planting English trees, the imagery translated as a nostalgic homogenous binding of 19th century ideas together with modern photo technology.

The entire construct for the New England series was to amalgamate the past with the present. The final images printed on Hahnemühle FineArt paper, presented as if they were remnants from the same time and place as the trees themselves. The premise being that they could have been paintings left to hang for a hundred in fifty years in very homes of the farmers who planted the trees. Veneered with layers of the past, hung on walls lit with kerosene – then lamps filled with whale oil, followed by gas. A dark patina building with the passing decades.

 

Platform Road

The plant that is universally used for thorn hedges is the white thorn, hawthorn, or may-thorn (Crataegus Oxyacantha). There are three varieties of it. “This plant, branching out into innumerable ramifications, and armed in all directions with strong thorns…”

The Platform Road corrugations are unrelenting along the graded dusty dirt road linking the New England Highway to Kellys Plains near Armidale. Hawthorn bushes strung out alongside the rusty wire fence line in dense thick impenetrable hedgerows or scattered back into the paddocks beneath trees and fences, anywhere a bird can perch and spread the bright red Hawthorn berries.

Platform Road

The early settlers of the New England area planted the hawthorn into cottage gardens and hedgerows throughout the district. The slow suffusive march of the lichen and moss covered Platform Road Hawthorn hedgerows continues almost unnoticed, accidental remnants of a colonial pastoral heritage, exemplified by Judith Wright in The Hawthorn Hedge.

She has forgotten when she planted the hawthorn hedge;
that thorn, that green, that snow; birdsong and sun dazzled across the ridge-
It was long ago.

Her hands were strong in the earth, her glance on the sky, her song was sweet on the wind.
The hawthorn hedge took root, grew wild and high to hide behind.1

Today the legacy of colonial tree planting in the district is seen by some as an invasive act. In certain instances the process is being reversed with the restoration of native trees. For others the practicality of using European trees, outweighs any argument for preservation of native trees in all instances. Especially when the total area of land covered by European trees is insignificant by comparison to native trees. Imported species are especially suitable to New England conditions, as well as being spectacularly beautiful in town and country gardens.

Below is an account of how to prepare Hawthorn for planting from the Quarterly Journal Of Agriculture Vol.1. May 1828-August 1829.

Journal of Agriculture Hawthorn Hedge

Journal of Agriculture Hawthorn Hedge

Journal of Agriculture Hawthorn Hedge

The complete account on planting Hawthorne can be found on pages 575 to 624 of The Quarterly Journal Of Agriculture Vol.1. May 1828-August 1829
William Blackwood, Edinburgh ; and T. Cadell, Strand, LONDON.
You can search through the full text of this book on the web
at http://books.google.com/

1. Wright, Judith. (From The Moving Image, 1946.) Collected Poems. Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1994.

The Boxer

The Boxer 2007

The Boxer is the focus of a simulated reality where the Boxer represents the “everyman”.

In the early nineties I’d traveled to Birdsville with fellow photographers studying at the Queensland College of Art, for the annual Birdsville races. Jimmy Sharman’s Boxing Tent took up a commanding position adjacent to the Birdsville Hotel. Ever since that trip the image of the archetypal Australian tent boxer had become one which I’d sought to capture.

The final image was the result of collaboration with colleagues and “the boxer”. In January 2007 we were sitting around the kitchen table when my brother began to talk about how his son sometimes grabbed him by the ears, while he made a similar gesture to illustrate, I took a quick snapshot. The resulting image became the basis for the Boxer shoot.

Once I’d reviewed the original image I found the old Steeden gloves in my mum’s shed, asked my brother not to shave and to dig out an old blue singlet. The location was a shed at the back of his house. Once converted into a makeshift studio, the inside of the shed doors became the background and the small window at the other end the main light source. Harking back to the days when I was a lighting designer I grabbed an old Patt 23 profile spotlight with a wide angle lens fitted. The Patt 23 was suspended above the boxer, then all he had to do was lean into the light. The third light source was the reflected tungsten from a white sail cloth, laid out on the table which the boxer was leaning on. The mixture of tungsten and daylight plus the reflected light gives this image the dramatic affect of the washed up and tired boxer.

 

In 2007 The Boxer received the highest score in the Portrait Contemporary Award at the Canon AIPP Australian Professional Photography Awards. In the same year Robert achieved the level of Master of Photography at the AIPP APPA awards.

 

Initial Concept shot in the kitchen

The Oxley

The Hipstamatic images didn’t excite me when viewed individually, yet put them together as a disjointed long thin view of the Gostwyck creek bed and the never ending view appeared.

The Oxley highway in New South Wales between Walcha and Wauchope is a narrow strip of
bitumen which attracts motorcyclists like moths to a flame. I mentioned to a friend last year
that I’d be taking my motorcycle to the Oxley, he’d driven cars there and confirmed, like it was
some kind of torture session, that the bends never end, “It just goes on and on and on you think it
will never end,  bend after bend on and on forever!” Like a red flag to a bull myself and a couple
of mates couldn’t wait to go and find these bends that go on forever. A couple of us had tried the
year before and failed because of the weather and poor planning, this time we weren’t going to
miss out. We made it to the Oxley on the second “Ice Ride” in May 2010 for one day only, then
the weather closed in.

Forced to stay indoors we decided to borrow a car and take a tour around the district. Stopping at
Gostwyck, a picturesque destination near Uralla out came the cameras. I had the iPhone with the
popular Hipstamatic app installed, these Hipstamatic pictures had appeared everywhere especially
on social media sites. Finding my favourite Hipstamatic setting I reeled off a loose hand held 360
degree pano. At the time not a fan of holiday snaps nor Hipstamatic photos, the images were filed away once
home and forgotten. Then David Hockney appeared on the tele talking about Chinese landscapes
with the never ending view. The wet day in the New England Tablelands came to mind and I
tracked down the Gostwyck images. The Hipstamatic images didn’t excite me when viewed
individually, yet put them together as a disjointed long thin view of the Gostwyck creek bed and the never ending view appeared.

I’d found a use for the Hipstamatic, plus it’s a bit like the term Hipshots, converted.

The concept evolved into a series of images first exhibited at Queensland Centre for Photography
in May 2011.

The pioneers of the New England area brought with them the notion of planting out “New
England” as a replica of the English countryside. This series of landscapes explores the effect
created by combining the Australian bush with more than 150 years of planting English trees, the
imagery translated as a nostalgic homogenous binding of 19th century ideas together with modern
photo technology.