Weekend Portrait Series: Day 11

You see, that's the problem with hiatuses: they always travel in packs.

Apologies once again, as between a week away, then more busy work stuff and waiting on responses, I've left this far too long. Luckily, unlike previous weeks, I took notes after each shoot, so I will remember what I talked about some three weeks ago.

So! Saturday morning. I had multiple shoots booked in again, but this time I had arranged them in a line, so I could easily transition from one to the next without hauling my gear all over Newtown, the city, and who knows where else.

I was even mildly late for my first subjects. THey had chosen a location near to my house, and I took a little too much time walking up Wells St to King St, and they were waiting on the footpath to begin.

Dan Binns and Jess Degasgirl, Saturday, 10:00am, Newtown

Dan is a writer and filmmaker who teaches folk about film and media. He tweets at @binnsy, and is a voice on The Culture Squad, a podcast for people who think deeply about shallow things.

Jess was an almost-lawyer, but is now an almost-art curator. Once she shuffles off the 'almost', she hopes to work in the art field as a registrar or collections manager. She tweets at @degasgirl1.

I had arranged the meeting at Parliament on King, a tiny local cafe known for its walls (made of books), its lunch bagels (which are cheap), and introducing Emma Stone to fairy bread (really). I related all of this information to Jess and Dan, who inquired as to why I did not actually live here. 

We ordered coffee, and Jess received her hot chocolate in a Will & Kate Royal Wedding cup. She quickly identified that the picture on the mug was from their engagement party, and rattled off several other facts. 

“Jess,” I inquired, “are you one of those Royal Lovers?” She denied the allegation, stating she only watched it for the dresses.

Dan, meanwhile, was eyeing my cameras, as he often does. I showed off my digital carry-everywhere, a Sony RX100 Mk ii, and my refurbished Impossible Project Polaroid. Dan nodded along to the facts I rattled off, though didn't seem impressed. The silence clearly meant something to Jess though, as she commented: "You're getting one, aren't you?". Dan nodded.

Some patrons sitting outside moved on, so I took advantage and shuffled my subjects out the door to sit on the tiny outdoor stools in the full sunlight. We knocked over a sugar bowl in our rush, spilling some onto the sidewalk. Is that bad luck? I don't think it is.

I bid Dan and Jess farewell, and trekked to my next location…a grand total of 10 meters up the street. I made myself comfortable near a giant pair of multicoloured Rolling Stones Lips and awaited my next subject.

Kate O'Keeffe, Saturday, 11:00am, Newtown

Kate O'Keeffe is an early years teacher with a keen interest in theatre and the arts. She can often be found making a fool of herself on stage in an improv show or in a vinyassa flow yoga class.

Kate had previously assisted with my Playtime photoshoot, and then I had cast her in the role of a shocked relative observing my friend Craig (who is now, ironically, a nurse) as he operated on an Operation board game near RPA Hospital. Yeah, it makes just as much sense in context. So when she volunteered for this shoot, I was happy to be portraying her as herself.

There was one hitch, however. “I never feel natural not smiling!” she protested. I acquiesced, taking as many natural, smiling shots as I did those in repose.

I had chosen the spot for the interesting street art on every wall, but I found myself hardly using it, except as a backdrop. As Kate stood by the wall, near the outdoor wares of a furniture store, the owner of the store came out to eyeball us. I presume it was meant as a warning to keep us off the wooden benches for sale.

Kate had to go, as she had to prepare and host a Grand Final dinner in Mosman. I confessed that, not being from here, I didn’t even know it was Grand Final day, nor which Grand Final it was (and now I forget which it had been). She bought a me a coffee before she went, making it three for the morning.

I continued along King Street towards Newtown Station, realising that I had some extra time before my next shoot. I loitered in a junk shop, buying a heart-shaped mirrored compact, which would come in handy later. When the time came, I waited outside the button shop for my next subject.

Cindy Tonkin, Saturday, 11:00, Newtown

Cindy Tonkin is an artist, consultant, and long-standing member of the Sydney improv community. As well as appearing in OTB Theatre shows, Cindy is a regular performer in Sketch: Art Improvised, as well as her own shows, including Likewise.

Cindy had originally suggested the button shop as a setting, but after a brief discussion, it was decided the shop was too dark and the weather was just a touch too glorious, so we went for a walk through Newtown.

Despite our not even entering the button store, Cindy had somehow procured me some camera shaped plastic buttons, which I, delighted, stashed in a pocket of my camera bag. Most subjects don't bring me gifts! As a wind picked up, we discussed the perils of curly hair, and how curly hair in adds is straightened, then re-curled, leaving the top straight.

Cindy asked after the camera I was using, and I bashfully admitted its name was Glory. I went through a few more names (Yuri Gagarin, Galatea, Tarot, Sasha), explaining that any black-and-silver SLRs were given women's names beginning with G, though Grace, a Konica Rangefinder from the early 60s, was classic enough to be included. Cindy and I differed on our favourite Grace Kelly movie, though. I prefer Rear Window, she preferred High Society (though neither of us cared for Dial M For Murder). 

For some reason, among my notes of the day, I have written "Russian summer houses in Nice” and I don’t know why. I suppose we’ll call that a mystery of the past, then.

Next stop was Hawleywood’s Barbershop for a haircut and a beard trim. I’d left the beard trip go for too long, though, and it was a veritable hedge to hack through. Trimmed and clipped, I turned down Erskineville Road towards Hive Bar. It was hot, and I was very glad there was beer on tap by the time I arrived. I had time to enjoy that beer as well, due to my next subject running late.

Andrew Wowk, Saturday, 1:30pm, Erskineville 

Andrew is just a guy who has a lot of interests. He has an Honours degree in Psychology and is making plans to return for postgraduate studies. He DJs and produces electronic music, hosts a radio show on Bondi Beach Radio and loves Reel Big Fish. He studies and performs improv comedy around Sydney, and his favourite animal is the penguin. He also loves video games, burgers, writing (he is a freelance music journalist and has a gaming blog) and any YouTube video by Jason Steele, the guy who wrote Charlie The Unicorn.

Andrew was running late due to marking students’ work and losing track of the time. He sat down as I was finishing my beer, regaling me with his (mostly stressful) experiences marking, and competing with his team in the Cranston Cup (the local TheatreSports Championship).

We got rather involved in the conversation, and it took a moment for me to remember that I was supposed to be shooting. Knowing Andrew's experience as a DJ, I directed him to Hive Bar's turntable and mixer.

AW3

I explained that Hive had bring-your-own vinyl nights on Wednesdays, and that it was a good time. He began to investigate the mixing board, being careful not to touch it, as he was unfamiliar with that model.

It was at that point the bar staff approached, wanting to “make sure you guys are okay”. We assured that we were, and that Andrew wasn’t touching anything. As it was, we packed up and wandered up the block to Revolve Record, and Andrew dug through the crates, finding a NAS & RZA white label 12” single.

He found other stuff too.

Unfortunately, all this good shooting left me late for my next appointment, all the way down in the Rocks. Andrew kindly offered to give me a lift, and we barrelled down Elizabeth Street towards the city. He let me out on Market Street, near Town Hall, but I had miscalculated. My destination was a 20-minute fast walk North, and I got moving, arriving 30 minutes late to the Museum of Sydney.

Craig Coventry, Saturday, 3:00pm, The Rocks

Craig Coventry used to be a guide, but is now a visitor interpretation officer and curriculum program deliverer for Sydney Living Museums. He is an actor, writer, guitar player, and enjoys manoeuvring elongated platforms made of polyurethane foam, covered with layers of fibreglass cloth and epoxy resin so that their momentum is equal to disturbances of variation within the ocean as they approach shore, and standing upon said platform. No-one knows why. 

I arrived at the museum and breathlessly asked if Craig was free. I had barely finished the sentence when the man himself came out of a backroom, said hello, and said I was just in time for his tea break, did I want to shoot now? Yes. Yes I did.

Craig lead the way out front, picking up a water can, advising he needed to water the wild herb garden out front. I followed, snapping as I went. He threw himself into a deck chair. "How’s this? Maybe I could pretend to be asleep! Or like I don’t care!” 

He poured water with affected disdain, as the sun lit his hair from behind, making him resemble no one more than Paul McGann as the Doctor.

We wrapped up. The entire shoot took less than ten minutes, and was one of the easiest of the entire project. Go figure!

I retraced my previous mad dash at a more leisurely pace, stopping outside the McDonalds on Pitt St to wait for a message from my next subject. It came, and I crossed the street, and took the lift to the 45th floor (or at least it seemed that high), emerging on the roof.

Kierra Thorn, Saturday, 3:30pm, Sydney

Kierra Thorn is a photographer, assistant and editor/retoucher, a nail artist, a blogger and a purveyor of the dark arts. She has spent the majority of her adult life as a photo lab rat huffing chemistry and thus can develop film at the speed of light, which may explain the erratic twitching. She also shoots live music and was recently a co-curator for a music photography exhibition "The Accredited" at 10x8 Gallery. Her going-ons can be found at @kierrathorn. She has an obscene amount of nail polish, and writes about it on her blog lookwhatthebatsdraggedin.com and on instagram @battylacquer

Kierra used to work at Foto Riesel, the photo lab I patronise. Funnily enough, my relationship with the place was sealed when, after only a few visits, she remembered my name and greeted me as I came in the door. As someone who frequented the same bakery every Sunday for 3 years and didn’t get so much as a glance of recognition, this made an impression.

We were shooting on the roof, with an unparalleled view of the city skyline. We also had a merciless amount of sun beating down upon us, so I resolved to work quickly. I made zero jokes about goths in the sun. I didn't have to, as Kierra made them for me.

We chatted, talking about Borderlands 2 (she was playing on PC, me on PS3), mutual friends, and wondered about the look on her former boss’ face as he developed my negatives and saw her looking back at him. We imagined it’d give him a bit of a turn.

KT4

Kierra, like nearly all the photographers with whom I have shot during this series, voiced some nervousness at being in front of the camera. I asked why she had volunteered, and she said that she had seen it pop up on Facebook and that "Lucas is laid back and always happy” so why not? I think I’ll have that on my next set of business cards. 

KT5

Kierra also became the first person in the entire series to BLINK during her pre-shoot Polaroid. Luckily I had seven shoots that day and eight shots in the pack, so she got a retake. 

I said goodbye, but did not go directly to my next subject. First, I had to stop at JB Hifi, as my earbuds had come to bits in my pocket. Secondly, I needed to get to a train station. My next subject lived a ways away. Far enough, in fact, that I had booked out a whole extra slot before his shoot for travel time.

Blake Howard, Saturday, 5:30pm, Berala

Blake Howard is a writer, a podcaster, the editor-in-chief & co-founder of Australian film blog Graffiti With Punctuation, but above all he's a son of Batman. Beginning as a padawan co-host of That Movie Show 2UE and now a member of the prestigious Online Film Critic Society; swaying the Tomato Meter with Rotten Tomatoes approved reviews; Blake loves nothing more than to watch and share the effects of movies. See his articulated words at Graffitiwithpunctuation.net, and hear his rants and girlish shrieks on Pod Save Our Screen. He tweets and instagrams as @blakeisbatman.

Blake Howard is a writer, a podcaster, the editor-in-chief & co-founder of Australian film blog Graffiti With Punctuation, but above all he's a son of Batman. Beginning as a padawan co-host of That Movie Show 2UE and now a member of the prestigious Online Film Critic Society; swaying the Tomato Meter with Rotten Tomatoes approved reviews; Blake loves nothing more than to watch and share the effects of movies. See his articulated words at Graffitiwithpunctuation.net, and hear his rants and girlish shrieks on Pod Save Our Screen. He tweets and instagrams as @blakeisbatman.

Blake's house was roughly 15 minutes from the train station. As I walked, I noticed the sun was setting, leaving long shadows across the road. I walked faster, racing the sun as it sank.

Blake welcomed me, introducing me to his flatmate (whom I had met before) and he dogs (whom I had not). I chatted for a moment, then unceremoniously dragged him from the house and out into the neighbourhood, chasing the light. “It’s magic hour.” I explained. “Cool,” he said “we’ll be in a Terrence Malick film."

I knew Blake had recently returned from overseas. What I hadn’t know was that a) the trip was his honeymoon, and b) exactly what it entailed. The trip spanned England, Scotland, Africa, France & Spain. And when I say Africa, I mean an exhaustive overland bus journey. Suddenly I didn’t feel so annoyed by my trip to the wilds of Berala.

So after two months away from Sydney, what was the first thing Blake did when he got back? “Hugged the dogs, of course.” Of course.

I took the train back to Newtown and put down my camera bag for the what seemed like the first time in a long time.

And so, officially, ended the Weekend Portrait series. I'll be posting an epilogue and a postscript soon, but my project is over. 7 weeks, 10 cameras, 23 Polaroid, 30 rolls of film, 40 shoots and 49 people. It's been a hell of a thing.

Polaroid gallery:

Gear:

  • Olympus OM-1 + Kodak Tri-X 400 black-and-white 35mm film
  • Minolta XG-1n + Ilford PAN F+ 50 black-and-white 35mm film
  • Nikon FG-20 + Kodak Portra CN 400 colour5mm film
  • Lubitel 166+ + Lomography Redscale CN 100 120mm film
  • Horizon Perfekt + Kodak Gold CN 800 (expired) 35mm film
  • Polaroid Close-up 660 + Impossible Project 600 black-and-white film, Black frame

Special thanks to Dan Binns, Jess Degasgirl, Kate O'Keeffe, Cindy Tonkin, Andrew Wowk, Craig Coventry, Kierra Thorn and Blake Howard for their time. Developing and scanning by Foto Riesel, Sydney.