To Be Seen

For both the individual and artist, what is more important, the connection through the experience or the final image? An ongoing project.

I want to explore the importance of the visual impact of an image vs the experience of authentic connection between photographer and subject. So much importance seems to be on the beauty of the image that I wanted to shift the need for impact to the experience and not the resulting images. I’ve been craving connecting with people, in real life, not behind a screen. Through the time I’ve spent with each woman, I discovered that for me, the shoots were also about shutting out the noise and climbing away from the need for the resulting images to be validated and liked by others – something I’ve struggled with on a personal level. I was also interested in finding out what the shoot meant for each subject.

The series began in 2019, before I even knew what it was. I embarked on a series of portraits of Hannah Jones while we were in Italy together. It was a month before Jones’ wedding and it felt an important space in time to capture Jones, on her own, on the eve it seemed of embarking on a lifelong union. At first it was strange. I felt strange. Jones felt strange. A fellow photographer, Jones was also caught up in how the image would look, moving into poses she had seen on others. And then I felt the pressure to create something authentic and beautiful. But as time passed we bonded and marinated in the art of Venice, the pretence fell away and we felt freer and more exploratory, no longer caring so much how the images would turn out.

A few months later, I was at the last Camp COMMON FOLK in the southwest of Western Australia.  I asked some of the women who attended the photography camp if I could photograph them, but I knew I didn’t just want to take their portraits.

They were women I admired, and I felt slightly intimidated by the prospect of performing well. I wanted to explore whether if I spent time with them prior, as I had with Jones, even just an hour or two doing an activity they loved, if the walls of intimidation would crumble. And I wanted to find out if this experience would be shared by the subject – would this ease their own nerves? If the shoot became something glorious and fun, would either of us care so much about how the images turned out? I hoped they would be a marker of an experience and connection between two people, rather than purely an aesthetic product.

The project had three rules.

Firstly, as with most of my personal projects, it had to be shot on film. This would separate it from my digital commercial work, and connect me back to the original process of photography.

Secondly, each shoot would start with an activity the subject loved.

Lastly, each subject would send me some thoughts following the shoot. How they’d felt before and after, and how they felt about the images. These words have been shared with the images below.

For my own part, I came to realise that the series was about finding a place of peace and happiness in the experience of shooting. It also surprised me to learn the value each of the women placed in just simply being seen, it was powerful to read that it almost gave the women permission to let down walls, to just be and not try and even if some didn’t fully it was the realisation that they could and should that was equally powerful. I don’t consider the resulting sets of images to be perfect, but I treasure them all the more because I adored spending time with the subjects. I discovered so much more about these women, layers of complexities that surprised me to know. More of this project to come.

The Essays—