My Texan uncle often asks, ‘Where’re you at?’ on the phone. Lately I’ve been using his twangy accent to ask myself what I’m on about these days with my creative work.
Since moving to Sydney I’ve been rethinking how and what I shoot. It’s confronting. I didn’t want to make images like I have been.
When I started a mentorship that completely questioned my style and approach, I began to shoot differently, but still didn’t have footing.
I’d say things like… I’m not that anymore, but er, ah, what kind of photographer am I now? Meanwhile, with every month my ‘About Me’ page became a carbon date of me before.
So I decided to rewrite my bio - but with the help of Ann Bolch at A Story To Tell. Why not tough it out myself? I had done this previously, and my profile reflected who I was for a while. But at this stage of my life I needed a deeper exploration as the words were a bit thornier to work out. I needed someone else to see what I couldn’t.
The process gave me space, time and emotional distance to ask the tricky questions. I’ll emphasise the giving of time, here. In the busy of everything that so many of us have, each ‘free’ amount of time becomes a log jam of which-thing-to-complete. For me, carving time from first thing in the day is one of the most successful ways to actually get this hard shit done.
The profile writing was made up of a series of exercises, some to complete ahead of the prompting exercise, so that you’re clearer on your knowns and fecked-if-I-knows.
The first part of the exercise involved quiet, slow breaths and sinking into the space. I heard the waves lapping nearby on the waterfront, the café’s afro-Cuban music, felt the chair underneath me, my feet on the ground. It was lovely, like a gift to me from me.
When I was ready, I could open my eyes.
Complete this sentence. “I’ve always thought …” Scribble scribble scribble. Breathe. “…but then it seemed…” scribble scribble scribble. Breathe. Don’t question, just write. Writer in, editor out.
It was important to not know what the next question would be.
Sitting back, I noticed themes that had been covered for so long, like my work desk with books, bills and toys obscuring the many notes I’d written to myself on ‘what I’m doing next, what I did before and how it’s all connected’ that I’d lose and write all over again …
Going through the bio writing with Ann helped me dig out that repeated message, have an outside ear help make sense of it, and nail that sucker to the wall! Now I look at my bio and think – yes. That’s where I am, for now. And I proceed.
Artwork by John L. Curtis for Pictorial Australian Education, September 1963.
This blog originally appeared over at A Story To Tell, here.
When Jennifer Anderson ran for mayor (and won!) she needed a decent headshot.
Here’s a few of what we captured. Bonus images: Jen showing what she learnt about posing, and her partner doing his best moon impression with the silver reflector.
Anyone on location is put to use, yo!
EXHIBITION:: The Colenso Series, as part of the Woodend Winter Arts Festival, opens this Friday 9 June at Colenso, 42 Anslow St, Woodend and runs through June. The Series includes portraiture, still life and low light installations. It is a collaboration between myself and chef Kathryn Russack.
Kathryn says: "I contacted Alina Golovachenko late last year with the intent of producing a photographic presentation of Colenso that was not site specific, given that we are to move in 2017. I had noted her gentle ways with natural light and I hoped for powerful, atmospheric works that captured the mood, peace and depth of the business but without reference to the physical space."
This is what we created.
I'm excited to say I've had a story and images published in the Planthunter on the Jacaranda Festival in Grafton, northern NSW. I grew up in the area and will willingly admit am pretty attached to it. Particularly as Victoria descends into the endless grey winter...
My best friend from high school, Shelley McPhee and I decided to meet up and shoot the festival - and you can see some of her gorgeous photos in the story.
We snorted and chuckled our way around the Clarence Valley. I hadn't been there in over 20 years, and Shelley patiently sat next to me in the car while I said things like "the Grafton Bridge! I've never driven over it as an adult! Here I go.... weeeeee!!"
Both being photographers, we also had an unspoken 'wandering off and taking photos' clause. See evidence below :)
That's right folks - I'll be a part of a pretty impressive collection of artists starting this Friday at the Cope-Williams Winery in Romsey.
All details on the images!
Alina takes photos of food vans for a website. She likes taking the photos. And she also likes eating the food. What have you done with all the Portuguese tarts, Alina?
I recently had the very great pleasure of creative custom stock photos of food vans and market stalls for the Victorian Department of Health's Streatrader website. This is the place you go if you need to get a permit for a mobile food trading situation of any sort, in Victoria.
We had a city mouse, country mouse situation with two photographers. One of us photographed the city vans, and my job was to capture the rustic and the country vans. I was happy with that!
My favourite opening gambit was "Hi, I'm Alina. I'm here to take some photos for the Department of Health. NO no no! *waves hands* Not for an inspection!"
By the time I photographed my last stall at the Daylesford Market, my reputation had preceded me and folks already knew who I was. And then I just sort of rolled out of there. Well, it was only fair that I bought produce from the good sports I took photos of.
What's that you say? You don't like having your photo taken? Everyone likes having their photo taken. And by 'everyone', what I mean is...
Sure. I have come across perhaps one or two people who do. I'm not one of them. It's kind of like aerobics classes to me - I don't want to feel like I'm prancing like a tit.
Recently, my friend Lee Sandwith needed some actor headshots, and I, professional headshots for my website and social media channels. First, we had our hair and makeup by Danee Sunshyne. Both being quite busy with little people, it was relaxing to sit and talk and have our hair curled and liquid eyeliner applied by an expert, who knows photography. And is a lovely person.
It was also a fun experience being both photographer and photographee (?) for the day. We learnt a lot from each other - our lens choices, what backgrounds we preferred, how we direct and get to that happy place where the shots work. This means for us a better understanding of what the experience is like in front the camera.
I'd like to welcome Ann Bolch from A story to tell... as my first guest poster!
If you had the choice, what age would you be?
Would you want to be that cute six year old, just started school and full of curiosity? What about the strapping young thing in their early 20s, vigorous and virile? Or would you return (or even leap forward!) to your mid-30s with that feeling of being just that little wiser than before?
Theoretical question, clearly! Can’t do it. Why bother pondering?
Because the other day during a Creative Connections conversation someone asked Alina how often we should update our professional headshots. It was a good question and the answer matters less than you think.
As the conversation continued, it evolved that the person who asked the question had a professional headshot that she was really happy with. She looked good, which, for her, was combination of skilled, trustworthy and warm. But she was scared that the next one wouldn’t look so good. Why? Because she was five years older.
I jumped in straight away! This is one of my favourite topics … I’ll tell you why.
I do care about how I look and how this makes me feel but, to me, aging is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a good thing because I’m wiser, fitter and take less crap. I’m in this fortunate position mainly because I was extremely unwell in my late 20s and early 30s. I had an illness so debilitating I imagined a healthy 90-year-old woman would walk, breathe, concentrate and sleep better than I could. With a lot of work, the illness went away. And I don’t take my health for granted.
The upshot. It’s within my power to feel good about myself. If there’s something to work on, I need to do that work. If I don’t do it, clearly I had other priorities. But I don’t fear the older headshot.
PS – the answer to the question is: whenever you feel that your looks have changed, probably inside of five years is a good rule of thumb. Or you can think of it this way: do I want to convey something different? Show it through a professionally taken headshot.
If you'd like to see the evolution of Ann's headshot over time, check out this blog post over at A story to tell!
Shooting with Flavia of Atelier Nomada has a special meaning to us. We were both working in the same university office in jobs we liked, but in a toxic environment. We left at the same time and worked in creative businesses. She started taking her jewellery more seriously, and I worked with an editing and writing business A story to tell..., and my growing photography business.
Recently we collaborated with another work friend, Sarah Zappia, to model for us. The university brought us together!! Ah dear. The idea behind the shoot was to round out our existing custom stock photography images with some lifestyle shots, so that Flavia can use them on her website, social media, posters, whatever she needs to market her business.
Especially in three days. A surprise from my husband - the time frame short to maintain the rouse without my needing to take leave. I read Bourdain's 'Tokyo Redux' chapter last time I was here, and this felt about right. Having never been out of Australia at that point, the sudden blackness for me was a daily afternoon Nana Nap as a rest from the newness and excitement and straight up confusion of everything. I remember waking up from said nap with Nick handing me takoyaki from an alley stall. Oh man, was that a good food memory.
I mentally ticked off familiar cultural references: I noted cast members of Monkey Magic now with fishing and cooking shows; absorbed the disorientating otherworldliness of the 1983 Chris Marker film Sans Soleil, while at other times I felt like I was in a 1960s National Geographic - the taxis were metal, angular, green, black, Kodachrome orange.
That initial newness is a great place to take pictures from. If I hadn't have taken these photos, at least half of it would have filtered down into the silt pool of memory by now. I see things in them I didn't notice at the time... it is like extending the experience.
This time last week my friend Jenny and I went for a walk on Mount Macedon. The whole week had been misty and cold after a long and luscious Autumn. It gets dark on the mountain. It is beautiful there.
"Does a voice call to you when the charcuterie is out?" head chef/owner/sommelier Tim asked, as I photographed him for around the fourth time slicing chilli-infused salami. I hadn't realised, but yes. Yes it did.
La Bonta is in Kyneton, Victoria. This is one of those places that allows you to sink into the experience: the Chesterfield, the wisecracking staff (hi Adam!), the clear pride in good wine and Italian food.
Janet and Tim have a great thing going here. While editing the photos it all got a bit much and I had to book a table - true story. Beetroot risotto, pumpkin gnocchi, the charcuterie...
I was there to take some 'natural, candid photos of a busy night during service. Nothing set up' for their website and social media. This is my happy place. Photography Ninja.
The personal, grounding moments during the peak of a busy night were familiar from my own experience in hospitality. A space to sharpen your knives, survey the room and wipe the counters before diving in for more of the action.
And a knock-off glass of red.
Robin Schmidt is one of my oldest and dearest friends and lives in 'Booktown', aka Clunes, Victoria. He has had an online shop called Huc & Gabet for a few years now and has added a new, third (!) dimension* to his business.
Beyond the country corrugated iron lies... the Bookotorium!! (I feel there needs to be a special font to go with this).
The interior is unexpected, and exciting! The clean lines of the shelves let the books do the inviting.
It's a different type of distraction in a bookshop, to a screen. Once in front of the computer there are various notifications, emails, links, etc. (ahh... where we are sitting right now, perhaps?!). In a bookshop it is a tactile and narrowed distraction to browse the shelves and be drawn to cool cover designs, and interesting subjects.
You may have come for the photography books, but you find yourself checking out Gough Whitlam, or trams in Germany, or flicking through a children's book of psychedelic cat illustrations by a guy who apparently went insane from the bacteria in feline poo. That particular book, 'Playtime in Pussyland' by Louis Wain, Felix insisted on reading. He has expensive taste - it is extremely rare!
To browse the Bookotorium when next in Clunes, get in touch with Robin and he'll hook you up!
*Probably best that it isn't a fifth dimension, otherwise we would lose all sense of time and space! Although...
Flavia and I worked in the same office in the university sector until recently. This is a nice project: I've taken photos for her website and to tout her wares as Atelier Nomada at design markets (see her profile here for the Sydney Finders Keepers market), and she is designing me a pendant of a callistemon slowly flowering (see image below with tiny pot of red paint).
Some outtakes and favourites from a recent headshot session I did with Kristi & Woody here in Woodend. They both have a number of things going in their work life... all of which we took shots for.
It's often the inbetween moments I like the most - see below!
Afterwards Kristi said "well, that wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be, and it was almost fun." I'll take that from someone who doesn't like having their photo taken! (Which, by the way, is most of us). Now... to work that into a testimonial...
Paul is a lifestyle and interiors photographer who shoots for Vogue Living, Frame, Lucky Magazine... and undertakes personal projects such as the workshop spaces in Where They Create. His documentary reportage style, and use of natural light are what drew me to hang out with a bunch of photographers for the weekend.
There were so many head-nodding moments and little nuggets of stuff-to-do-next-time. Oh, like what?
- You don't need loads of lights and gear to take great photos. No really. He'll often turn up to shoots with three lenses, two cameras (well, okay) and maybe a reflector. And not use the reflector
- Blown highlights and dark shadows: how do you feel when you look at them? Good? Then go with that!
- Prime lenses are your friend (zooms are problematic). Particularly, a 50mm 1.4. Baby
- Back up to FOUR places
- For portraits of people, set things up to unfold. Let people inhabit their space. He often doesn't shoot 'to camera' portraits very often, unless required
- It is difficult to recreate that feeling of walking into an environment for the first time and being in wonder: capture it then, as you see it
- How does the shot make you feel?
- Learn the rules, and know when to let them go
The gold was in the viewing of a professional at his level covering a job - what the first camera does (it may be on a tripod for that bathroom shot), what the second camera does (mounted with a different lens for mobile, spontaneous shooting), what moments he picks, but most of all, at what points to implement the above.
I can read articles and follow online tutorials - but it does not replace strolling around watching how someone with this level of experience would choose to respond in each situation.
In the above image he was showing us his workflow and editing techniques, in situ at our location, the Robin Boyd designed Walsh Street House in South Yarra, Melbourne. We all then dispersed around the property implementing what we'd learnt.
There were a lot of chairs!
When photographing kids, I like it best when they have something to do. Pose them and that vital energy has been replaced with cheesy grins and fidgets. Give them a balloon, cake and plastic animals, set your shutter speed on 'basketball players', and you're in business.
With each portrait session, I'm never quite sure where the gold is going to be. That's the fun and nervous-making part... finding the light, the angle, the pretty, the connections. And of course, the propellor spins really fast on my head as I bring together the amassed knowledge on the fly in whatever situation I'm in.
This is Sarah. She asked me to take some head shots. I took a few more than that, just for fun.