Sydney Siege

Added on by Jon Frank.

A small crowd gathered in Martin Place during the afternoon of the Sydney Siege; a gaggle of photographers with telephoto lenses rubbed shoulders with TV crews featuring polished and shiny reporters sweating under lights. Meanwhile a casting call of drifters, bankers and office workers, most looking like they had nowhere pressing to be, were all lined up along the police tape demarkation line. On the other side of the tape Martin Place was empty but for a couple of uniformed cops patrolling the line. Further up toward the Lindt Cafe special forces members with assault weapons and black uniforms looked disciplined but itchy. I was interested in the people that decided this scene was worth sticking around for. 

*click on a picture to enlarge

Woman listening to ABC radio; Sydney Siege, Martin Place; 2014

Sharon; Sydney Siege, Martin Place; 2014


Added on by Jon Frank.

Followers of my Instagram account #AustraliansBook will recognise this pic of layouts from the 1958 book 'Someday, Somewhere' by Yasuhiro Ishimoto. Well, this morning I was scanning some negs from my trip to Summernats in Canberra last month and found my own Australian version, realised some 50 years later, complete with Hard Yakka shorts!

Hard Yakka, Summernats; Canberra, ACT; 2015

Summernats Proofs

Added on by Jon Frank.

Yeah, I know going to photograph Summernats, billed as Australia's biggest horse power party (sic), seems a tad obvious, but I just couldn't resist an afternoon featuring the world's biggest burnout battle! 

Until I visited Canberra last weekend I hadn't shot any 35mm for this project. To date it's been all medium & large format which has been rewarding but I've suffered a few notable misses due to unsuitable equipment choice (including missing the greatest photograph of my career by forgetting to cock the shutter. I'm still too traumatised to talk about this yet, so let's move on). I'm a sucker for making life hard for myself but enough is enough. So, on Sunday morning I dug out my old Leica from the back of the cupboard, threw three lenses and half a dozen rolls of film into a small bag and was away. And boy did I have fun. There is a reason that this genre of photography has almost always utilised the small camera. They work simply, reliably and reasonably discreetly. I shot 4 1/2 rolls in as many hours which totals 150 pictures. I've been away on trips for a week and not come to close to exposing half that number of frames. But as we have all learned from the digital revolution, more rarely equals better. 

Highlights of the day included witnessing young children suffering coughing fits due to the putrid clouds of smoke hanging over and around the spectators area, and a lean tattooed woman punching a photo-journalist in the face for taking a picture of her kid. But it's all set against a backdrop of burnt rubber, rock and roll, and one of Australia's biggest motor retail trade shows*, so that makes it OK by me.



Frame from proof sheet; Summernats, Canberra; 2015

Proof sheet (detail); Summernats, Canberra; 2015

2x frames from proof sheet (cloud of smoke from burnouts); Summernats, Canberra; 2015


Added on by Jon Frank.

Ellery Creek big hole / Hungry Jacks carpark (converging landscapes with figures); Alice Springs, NT; 2014

A white woman strides through an ancient Australian landscape towards an indigenous woman in the carpark of an Alice Springs Hungry Jacks restaurant. An experiment in the positioning of two photographs to create a dynamic tension not found in either individually.


Added on by Jon Frank.

The book’s large format photographs will be interspersed with words transcribed verbatim from on the street conversations with anonymous protagonists.

My other daughter is still livin’ with me, getting me grey faster she is. Oh, she’s a good girl but she’s got this new boyfriend. I dunno, he seems nice enough. It’s hard to say without going too far into it. She’s spending all her money on him. Like she drives him everywhere, feeds him all the time, she’s buying everything and he’s not putting his hands in his pockets. It’s hard to explain, there’s a little bit more to the story.

I’m just not sure about this guy. I used to be engaged to a guy like that. I used to say he’d rob his own grandmother’s grave, didn’t marry him because he cheated on me all the time. I’ve often told my daughter about things to watch out for but she’s besotted with him. As I said there’s more to the story.

This mornin’ we had the dramas at home. You don’t want her to get hurt. Like I said, she’s a good kid and studies hard. She goes to uni. That’s another thing about him, I know you shouldn’t judge but he’s got no goals in life. He’s twenty one, no direction. You want more for your daughter.
— Woolworths checkout operator


Added on by Jon Frank.

Watching the Melbourne Cup I; Alice Springs; 2014

Watching the Melbourne Cup II; Alice Springs; 2014

Lux et Nox

Added on by Jon Frank.

These film scans are straight out of the scanner so please forgive any dust, hairs or squished insects (and don't forget to click on an image to enlarge).

Woman with parasol; The Entrance, NSW; 2014

Woman with parasol; The Entrance, NSW; 2014 {detail}

Communion; Marrickville, NSW; 2014

Communion; Marrickville, NSW; 2014 {detail}


Added on by Jon Frank.

Fuji Neopan Acros 100 6x7 film developed in Pyro.

(click to enlarge)

Commuter; North Shore station; Geelong; 2014


Added on by Jon Frank.

The emotional impact of a photograph can be determined by a gesture as fleeting as a glance, a drop of a shoulder, or by the way a hand is held on a hip. We know through our own snapshots how the difference between a 'successful' picture and a 'failure' can rely upon a reflex as natural as the blink of an eye.

So, I watch and wait for a subtle and child-like instant where my subject forgets, momentarily, that they are in the world. That internal drift, where one ceases to be aware of their own physicality and transcends their body to be completely unburdened by gravity. Gravity of the Earth and also gravity of oneself, of ones consciousness.

You can see why it's a difficult dance when I am simultaneously reliant on physics, mathematics and chemistry to realise a picture with honesty and sensitivity.

(click on photographs to enlarge)


Woman by railing; Eastern Beach, Geelong, Victoria; 2012

Woman by railing; Eastern Beach, Geelong, Victoria; 2012 {detail}

Girl lit by sun reflection from glass building across the street; Melbourne, Victoria; 2014

Border town

Added on by Jon Frank.

Back in March I visited Albury and attended the annual cup day with my father-in-law. We drank several cans of beer while enjoying the festive atmosphere. It seemed the entire town had taken the day off work.

Country race days are an important date on the calendar for regional Australians. Punters make an effort to put on their best suits and frocks for these traditionally boozy affairs.

(click on photographs to enlarge)

UDL; Albury Cup, Albury, NSW; 2014

Alpha; Albury Cup, Albury, NSW; 2014 {detail}

Sore foot; Albury Cup, Albury, NSW; 2014

Boom boom boom boom

Added on by Jon Frank.

Last post I left you with a vision of Perth illustrated by a man in the street on a Sunday morning smoking a bong made from a Ribena bottle. This week let's see how WA's other half live.

We encounter a Rolls Royce stuck in traffic and visit Australia's most affluent suburb, Peppermint Grove. Guess it doesn't matter which socio-economic demographic you belong to though, if Admiral Wags poops, bag it.

These film scans are straight out of the scanner so please forgive any dust, hairs or squished insects (and don't forget to click on an image to enlarge).

High Roller; Perth, Western Australia; 2014

High Roller; Perth, Western Australia; 2014 {detail}

Peppermint Grove; Perth, Western Australia; 2014

Peppermint Grove; Perth, Western Australia; 2014 {detail}

Sit Boo-Boo sit, good dog; Perth, Western Australia;2014


Added on by Jon Frank.

(continued from previous post)

Gentleness, kindness, self help, giving not taking, empathy, forgiveness, trust, respect. I’ve been saying that since I was 12. Always the same. On drugs. On alcohol. The last time I drank I almost died. Fell down, missed a big rock by this much. Broken glass, all broken, got cut up, all in tiny bits. I was already dead, from the alcohol.
— Craig*

Untitled; Perth, Western Australia; 2014 (click to enlarge)

There was a car rally in the city that I figured might be worth a look. On my way through the city's quiet Sunday streets I cut down a one way to get down to the next main road. Sitting in a doorway, holding a Ribena bottle bong was a man who looked to be asleep. His eyes were closed anyway. I walked straight past him and stopped a few steps further on.

This is where things get complicated from an ethical perspective. Immediately I felt a strong urge to photograph this man in his present situation. As a photographer, when the hair stands up on the back of your neck, you are compelled to attempt to record what is in front of you. I have a general rule to shoot first and examine my ethics for doing so later. The world moves quickly and I have had far more regrets from not lifting my camera to my eye than by doing so.

What about his rights though? The rule of Australian law is clear that if someone is in a public place then it is not illegal to take their photograph. Where it gets more complicated in this situation is that this man was, at the time I encountered him, homeless. So he did not have the ability to go back to his private residence to live his private life there. He has to live his entire life in public. So what is considered a public space to most of us, could in fact be a private one for him.

I walked back a few steps and said hello. We ended up chatting for about half an hour about his life and mine. I recorded a few minutes of this conversation which is where the above quote comes from. Word for word. He was affected by substances as we talked but incredibly lucid and philosophical. Craig* told me he is sleeping rough right now. And that he looks out for the younger kids around the city streets who also have found themselves homeless. He talked a lot about love and how important it is.

Craig then said I should take a picture of him having a smoke. I was carrying an old large-format camera that morning which exposes one sheet of film at a time. There is a lot that can go wrong when photographing like this, hand-held and all, just trying to obtain something as simple as correct focus is a desperate proposition. Craig wanted me to take the picture when he was exhaling the smoke as he thought that would be most effective. We made an attempt, but something wasn't working properly and I missed the moment. I had the feeling that he thought he was dealing with a bloody amateur at that point.

As it turned out, I double exposed one sheet of film and to me this fortuitous accident provided the picture that described our meeting best of all.

*name has been changed

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the ethics, or lack of, in street photography.

Leviathan with an irritable bowel*

Added on by Jon Frank.

* description of Western Australia from 'Eyrie' by Tim Winton

The Stockade; Perth, Western Australia; 2014

Having landed in Perth en route elsewhere on a dozen prior occasions I knew little of the city itself except for the fact that each visit seemed to reveal a newly built highway out of there. This trip would facilitate no such escape. M & I (with baby Freya in tow) rented a small apartment on the main drag inland from Scarborough Beach and posted up for a week of public transport and people watching. The two go perfectly together actually, being on foot an essential requisite for the street photographer.

I rose at the crack of 8 the Sunday morning these pictures were taken, drank two cups of black coffee and hopped the #990 bus into the city. I was the only passenger on this service, and was to discover this was no anomaly. Perth's efficient public transport network seemed thoroughly under-utilised. 

To be continued...

(click a photograph to enlarge)

Redheads; Perth, Western Australia; 2014

Redheads; Perth, Western Australia; 2014 {detail}

Welcome friend and stranger to 'Australians' - the book

Added on by Jon Frank.

Welcome to 'Australians'.... the making of. Some of you may have joined us from my earlier blog iteration 'The Diary of Jon Frank', others might be first time visitors. No matter, as this marks the beginning of an exciting new project.

During the next twelve months I invite you to become part of my creative process. Join me as co-pilot on an unscripted creative journey, last stop being a book of photography and words that can hopefully do justice to its ambitious working title.

We will explore a range of topics from the technical (photographic technique, film processing, scanning & book printing) to the artistic (philosophy, ethics, picture editing and book design).

If there is somewhere in Australia you think I need to explore and photograph then let me know. There is no better way to observe the world than by hitting the street with a pair of comfortable shoes, one eye open and a few rolls of film.


(click a photograph to enlarge)

Youth; Eastern Beach, Geelong; 2014

Youth; Eastern Beach, Geelong; 2014 {detail}