New portraits December 2018

Obed and Samuel prepare for the shoot at my Sydney studio

I made new portraits of Obed Karwhin and his brother, Samuel. Obed is a sportsman who hopes to become the first full-blooded African rugby league star to play professionally in Australia. I wish him all the best in his sporting career.

I also worked with Leigh Pritchard on shots for his modelling portfolio.

Shooting interiors for MaisonNets

The end of the year was a busy time for MaisonNets, a rapidly expanding company which manages short term rental stays on the east coast of Australia.

Here is a small selection of some of the interiors of their beautiful homes in Neutral Bay, Potts Point, Cromer, Leichhardt and Surry Hills.

New Jewellery by Circa AD

Circa AD Catalogue Shoot

The well known personal jeweller, Adrian Dickens has produced his annual catalogue and once again I had the pleasure of working with him on the 2019 edition.

Adrian Dickens (Personal Jeweller and Director of Circa AD)
A pair of drop earrings by Adrian Dickens
A handmade and enamelled 18ct/g cognac Diamond and green Australian Sapphire set “Platypus” pendant/brooch

If you would like more information on Circa AD and Adrian Dickens’ designs, click on the link below:

Circa AD Jewels

Additions to #Spot the Arab

New work from Malta & Sydney

I have recently completed new portrait sittings for my ongoing series, “Spot the Arab”, during my travel in Malta, Italy and Australia. Further exhibitions on this theme are underway.

Click for more information on “Spot the Arab”

From the series, “Spot the Arab”, 2018. Davide, Malta; Rose, Gozo; David, Malta; Bhavna, Sydney; David, Malta; and Bhavna II, Sydney.

Corporate head shots for Hansen Yuncken

New look corporate head shots


Hansen Yuncken, the largest privately owned construction company in Australia, is progressively up-dating its corporate head shots. The feel for these portraits is relaxed and at ease with a clean and fresh look. I kept the backgrounds as neutral as possible and slightly out-of-focus.

Matthew Mitcham MMXVIII

MMXVIII
Pigment Inkjet on Cotton Rag, 112cm x 80cm
Edition of 9 (2AP)
John McRae, 2018

Every year I photograph Matthew Mitcham, Australia’s gold-medal Olympic diver, award-winning cabaret performer and television entertainer, in my studio. This portrait is added to a series of similar portraits, one taken every year, which commenced in 2008, before his rise to Olympic fame.

Each portrait is taken under similar conditions. MMXVIII marks the 11th portrait and the 11th year of this ongoing series.

Thank you Matt for your support in continuing this series, in allowing a very public view of your “personal time-line”. I am still wondering if you will ever age?

The complete sequence can be seen at
http://johnmcrae.com/exhi…/annual-matthew-mitcham-portraits/

The series is printed by the artist in an edition of 9, with 2 artist proofs, and is available for purchase.

Contact: John McRae mb: 0419 619 161 e: john@johnmcrae.com w: www.johnmcrae.com

RECENT CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS

Here is a re-cap of recent shoots in Sydney for various clients.

Construction

Architectural photography is continuing to be a strong sector with development in every direction.  I enjoy working with new design projects.  You are generally working outside in the sunshine, with lots of space.  There’s a meditative aspect as you consider the structure and how best to approach the shoot.  You are alone, often in areas that are remote and new, as you wait for sun to slowly set.

Here is a selection of recent shoots:

  • Fire and Rescue, Orchard Hills, Sydney for Hansen Yuncken
  • 5 commissions for Prime Constructions at Electrolux Experience Centre, Casula; GTP Logistics, Huntingwood; George Western Foods, Macquarie Park; Iron Mountain warehouse, Horsley Park; WesTrac construction equipment, Casula.
  • Mercedes dealership, Castle Hill for SBA Architects

Inner Sydney High School

The beginning of the Inner Sydney High School transformation….

Of particular mention is the start of construction by Hansen Yuncken of the multi-million dollar project of the new Inner Sydney High School. At the corner of Cleveland St and Chalmers St, Surry Hills this new 11 storey building will be a “state of the art” educational facility.

Work commences on the ISHS. The campus will consist of new and refurbished buildings

Interior view of existing structure



Works by John McRae as part of the project: The Mother in Art by art.es magazine in Spain

John McRae’s work is featured as part of “The figure of the mother in art: an embematic representation of love” by Pepe Alvarez and Fernando Galan, published in art.es in December 2018 (pages 59-64). It is part of the special issue of the Spanish art magazine dedicated to the theme of the mother. The article discusses the broader concept of maternity in Michelangelo’s “Pietà”, the female viewpoint as presented by the contemporary artists Nathalie Djurberg, Leiko Ikemura, Francesca Marti’, Isabel Munoz, Yoko Ono and Cindy Sherman, and the work of James McNeill Whistler, John McRae, Roman Ondak and Tatsumi Orimoto. John McRae is represented by Lois (2006), a portrait of his dead mother. This work was chosen as a finalist in the 2006 Olive Cotton Award for Photographic Portraiture at the Tweed Regional Gallery in Murwillumbah, Australia.

 As the art.esarticle states, “The figure of the mother, and maternity as a concept, have played an important role in the historical development of mankind as reflected in its cultural manifestations. The cult of the mother is as old as humanity … a link to the earth, making the mother the only real and tangible point of reference.”

MALTA/ROME 2018

View of Valletta from the Lower Barrakka Gardens

I recently visited two of my favourite places in the world, Malta and Rome.  Once again they both delivered beautifully on their promise of a really good break.  

It was a last minute decision to go but I am so glad that I made the effort to get myself across to the other side of the world.  I was reminded how valuable it is to detach from the “rat race” (le train train quotidien, comme on dit en francais) of your daily life.  It gives you the chance to re-evaluate and to look at things up again with fresh eyes and fresh energy when you arrive back home…..and there’s no place like home!

I flew directly to Malta (well not so directly….I went through Abu Dhabi and then Rome….only 30 hours of travel!!!).  I arrived on this little island of 465, 000 inhabitants, living on an archipelago of 246 sq km.  To put this in perspective the greater Sydney area (12,140 sq km) is about 50 times the size of Malta. And Malta is actually made up of five islands.

Some other facts about Malta…. 

  1. Looks like there’s no water left.
  2. Bombed heavily during the 2nd World War (some people say it was the most bombed place on the planet during that time).
  3. Very rocky.
  4. The Egyptians called it “The Island of Healing”
  5. It is the home of the oldest free-standing structure in the world, Skorba Temples, estimated 5,200 BC.
  6. Malta (or the Maltese Islands, or The Maltese Archipelago) consists of 5 islands (for ages I thought it was only 3 because 2 of them are really small); Malta, the largest…Gozo, greener and more undulating, and Comino…no-one lives there but has beautiful waters all around it, including “The Blue Lagoon”.  And then there’s Cominotto (Davide had to remind me) and Filfla (which the English used as target practice durnng the war  and reduced its size considerably).
  7. Most houses have flat roofs and a flag pole.
  8. Language is mostly Arabic (Marvic would hate me saying that).  Well….a 10th century form of Arabic, with a bit of Italian, French and English thrown in.  
  9. Full of delightful contradictions…for example in what could well be the most Catholic country in the world, the word for “God’ is Alla.  (I rest my case.)
  10. You can walk from one side of the main Island to the other, easily in a day.
  11. Was the home of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem, Rhodes and Malta (now based in Rome…they kept getting ousted by foreign powers).  Given to the Knights, after their demise in Rhodes to the Turks, by the Spanish King at the time, in exchange for one Maltese Falcon a year (rent).  The Knights of St John’s original mission statement was to look after the sick and the poor.  They took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.   They originally set up hospitals, initially in Jerusalem, and along the crusade routes, to tend the sick and wounded as “The Cross” attempted to regain the Holy Lands from “The Crescent”.
  12. The Knights are an important part of the history as they built a lot of the rmassive, long-standing, impenetrable bastions and ramparts, found all around the island, but in particular, around the Grand Harbour.
  13. One of the Knights, Fra Jean Parisot de Vallette, founded the current capital, Valletta.
  14. Can’t mention the Knights without attributing the great victory that was achieved in 1565 against the full might of the Ottoman Empire and Suleiman the Magnificent, The Sultan of Turkey, known as the Great Seige of Malta.  This not only sky rocketed this little island to European fame (songs and poetry were written) but most regard this event as “the nail in the coffin” for Suleiman’s obvious plans to invade and take over the whole of Europe, thus my own history and cultural background may have been vastly different.
  15. In contemporary Australia this 900 year old medieval, crusading tradition gets a mention….our own Ambulance service is an off-shoot of this very order.  Note the Maltese cross on the sides of our ambulance vehicles…it’s the cross of St John….an 8 sided white cross, originally signifying peace, on a red background, signifying blood (the spilt blood of the crusades, I imagine).

Looking out from Mdina (centre of the island) Northward towards Valletta and the Grand Harbour. Mdina was the ancient capital of the island (until the Knights took over and chose Birgu as the new administrative centre). Apparently is has been continuously inhabited from the 8th century BC (by the Phoenicians) to the present day.

The entrance gates to Mdina, the walled city. St Paul is reported to have lived here in 60AD, following his unfortunate shipwreck at St Paul’s Bay. He called Mdina The Silent City….

Festa Madness

Following my 30 hour flight and a quick shower the “games began”.  I was whisked away to a neighbouring village callled, Hamrun.  Well….it was like walking into an “on the street” version of pop concert, meets football match, meets political rally, without the singers, footballers, or activists,  just the crowd.  People everywhere, pulsating, as men and women climbed onto the shoulders of their comrades, waving flags and shouting some kind of battle cry.  It was wonderfully strange and captivating.  I had no idea what was going on…but it was fun!

Crowd scene from the Hamrun Festa…..see what I mean.

This is the festa.  It’s a very traditional Maltese (not just Maltese) ritual where the village celebrates the Saint’s Day.  Each village usually (or always) has a particular Saint attributed.  There’s normally a statue of that Saint (be it St Patrick, St Helena, The Madonna and so on….) which resides, throughout the year, in the main church and which, during the festa,  is paraded through the streets in a formal procession.  Festas can, and do, go on for several days.  It’s the premiere event in the year’s calendar for that village….it’s a big deal. 

The streets are decorated.  Statues are mounted on pedestals.  Great flags and banners are flying.  Unbelievably loud fireworks are sounded continually throughout the day and night (forget sleeping-in), culminating in a massive fireworks display on the last night.  The streets are lined with fast food, ice-cream and candy.  The whole village pours onto the streets to congregate, socialise, be silly, soak up the vibe and participate in some way.  It’s the consumate community event.

Central to the festa is the brass band.  The streets are filled with their all-too -familiar sound.  There’s usually at least 2 brass bands in each village and they adopt a particular colour (which you paint yourself in, according to the band you support or are part of).  This dichotomy invariably creates a condition of polarisation in terms of support….”are you for the blue or the red”? Occasionally, this opposition can get really serious as in the case of one village festa a couple of years back, in a village I won’t name, where the 2 opposing sides came to blows and an out-and-out brawl resulted.  Suffice to say the church leaders, in their wisdom, cancelled the festa for the following year as punishment for such “un-churchly” conduct.  This was a heavy price to pay when you see how dear the festa is to Maltese people.

Men and women, young and old…can all play in the band….this one being the green band obviously. Birkirkara festa of St Helena.

Most of the festas occur during the warmer months of summer, for obvious reasons.   This means (on an island of 365 churches) that most weeks there are as many as 8 festas occurring simultaneously.  This is great news for avid festa addicts who can go from village to village on a single night, chasing the ultimate festa experience.   My host, Marvic, was one of those….I think I went to 5 festas during the 2 weeks I was on the island.

The following is an album of a selection of shots from some of the various festas I attended…….

 

Temples – Hagar Qim

This is the first time I visited one of the megalthic temples dotted across Malta and Gozo.  Apparently there’s about 40 of them.  As I mentioned some of the oldest free-standing structures in the world are found here, dating back to 5,200BC.  

Hagar Qim is one such site and is a particularly fine example.

 

The Capital, Valletta

View across the Western side of Valletta, the capital of Malta

I love Valletta.  When I first started going to Malta in the early 2000’s I would always stay in the capital.  I think that it is one of the great expressions of Baroque.  I love walking the long, straight, elegant, cascading streets, each street ending in a view of the ocean.  One of my fascinations with Valetta, on early visits, was the fact that the city was almost deserted.  House after house was empty, very few people living in the city.  At night, when business had closed, the city was like a ghost town, not even a stray cat.  I couldn’t fathom why such an amazing city was practically abandoned.  

Marvic explained that it was heavily bombed during the war and the wealthy relocated to neighbouring areas, such as Sliema.  

A Segue into Marvic…..

I realise I should introduce Marvic.  I keep mentioning him in my text.  Marvic is a Maltese local, living in Birkirkara.  In fact he is originally from Gozo (a true Gozitan) and this is an important point of difference as the Maltese will tell you.  Who would have thought that going one mile north of Malta (like taking the ferry from Balmain to Circular Quay) would mean you speak a different dialect of Maltese and choose to identify not as Maltese, but as Gozitan? There’s much more involved but I won’t go into it.

Marvic is a long time friend.  He was one of the first friendships I made, along with his best friend, Davide,  when I first started going to Malta…..

  1. He’s a cleaning freak as you will see in some of the photos.  Saturday mornings are reserved for a sturdy workout involving a broom and a mop.
  2. He loves going to the gym.
  3. He is passionate about Maltese culture and history and is one of the best tour guides you can possibly have on the island. 
  4. He loves his dog, Nina.
  5. He gets around on a scooter (very practical for the narrow streets of most villages).
  6. His best friend is named Davide and lives in London.  I met Marvic and Davide at the same time 17 or 18 years ago.
  7. He loves, loves, loves festas and everything associated with them.
  8. He loves getting his photo taken.  (Good for me as a photographer.  I always have a willing model which I appreciate).
  9. The list goes on…….

Here’s a pic of Marvic and I’m sure you will see him appear in subsequent photos.

Davide (taking the selfie), Marvic’s best friend who obviously shares an interest in the gym. Marvic is on the right.

Marvic loves cleaning…..

 

Back  to Valletta…..

Perhaps I will just post some shots of the city so you can see for yourself.  But I was commenting that Valletta was practically abandoned during and after the war.  However, recently there has been an absolute renaissance in the city.  People everywhere, new shops, new boutique hotels opening up all over the place, houses renovated and a vibrancy and sophistication fitting for such a beautiful city.  

Note that the city entrance has been re-designed, together with a new Parliament House by the famed architect, Renzo Piano.  In my opinion a truely great job and money well spent.  The previous city gate (which was not the original) was a bit dreary (there’s a story there, for another time).  Piano has combined “modern” with “medieval” with seamless elegance. 

 

Beaches

View of Gnejna from the hill. Note how you can lie on the smooth flat sandstone protruding into the ocean, then roll off into the cool, blue waters below.

The beaches are great in Malta.  You have the choice of sandy or rocky.  I chose rocky, for something different.  Some of them have both sand and rocks.  Gnejna, for example, is where the rocks are smooth and flat, protruding out into the mediterranean some distance above the water, so that you can be lying on the rock in the sun and then practically roll over into the water.  Gozo is full of great beaches as well.

 

What Happened to the Azure Window, Gozo?

The Azure Window, one of Gozo’s premier tourist attractions,  requires a special mention.  The joke goes that we were looking for the Azure Window for most of the time we were there….nowhere to be found.  It was perched over the ocean the  last time I visited, a huge weathered rock formation like a bridge with a hole in centre.  How could such a thing just up and vanish?

It broke off and fell into the sea one evening, earlier in the year. 

The travel brochures still picture it in place, but I’m sure within a few years these remnants of a happier time will be up-dated.  Dwerja is still a great coastal area to visit but it has one less attraction…..or perhaps it may become an attraction to see where the Azure Window used to be.

Here are some shots, before and after, to illustrate the tragedy.

The Azure Window in it’s former glory.

The BEFORE shot. Marvic was happy to pose for this shot. I must admit I was always a bit anxious when I would swim directly under the arch….you just had that feeling that it was going to fall one day, hopefully not the day you were there,

The AFTER shot. Completely gone! Marvic kindly posed in a similar manner to the shot taken 2 years prior.I didn’t expect that the whole thing would go…I assumed the bridge section would break off, leaving the 2 foundation sections. No……as you can see.

And now for a shot without Marvic. The ghost of The Azure Window.

The Kangaroo House

Is a very minor tourist attraction but yet a very important landmark.  It is the family home of Davide (see pic of Davidd and Marvic, above).  Davide’s parents lived for a short time in Sydney.  On their return to Malta they brought back a small ceramic kangaroo (had to fit in the hand luggage) as a fitting memento of their time in OZ.  Davide’s father had a larger replica made locally which they placed on the outside balcony to the entrance of their home in Xaghra, Gozo (note: festa, 8th September, if your interested) (See pic below).  

There it remained until one day Davide’s father, having decided he’d had enough of the kangaroo, took it down a put it “out in the back yard”.

Daily life went on at the Cini household until one morning a letter arrived in the mail.  It was an official letter, requesting (it could have been more a demand) that the kangaroo be reinstated in it’s usual spot on the front terrace. 

It seems that the Kangaroo had become an intrinsic landmark for navigating the winding roads of the village (remember this is pre-GPS and the house is on a corner of a cross road) and “all hell” had broken loose where locals and foreigners, alike, were losing their way, taking the wrong turns and generally having a terrible time of it.

The kangaroo (as we see pictured) was promptly put  back where it belongs, everyone happy, and there it remains to this day.  So lucky it wan’t tossed out.

Davide is photographed with the well known ceramic kangaroo of Xaghra.

Ta Giezu

Is the Maltese name given to the church in Valletta known also as “The Franciscan Church of St Mary of Jesus”.

I just realised this blog is getting a bit long…I should finish.  However, I have to mention this church because it houses a truly remarkable crucifix, in my opinion.  I attempted to visit this church 3 times prior….each time the church was closed (I didn’t check the opening times, I might add).  

It was quite late in the evening.  We had finished eating in Valletta and I thought I could try one last time to enter the church.  Naturally it was closed.  I was leaving the next day and resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t get to see the crucifix on this trip.  

As we were walking away from the church down the street I notice a huge door ajar.  To peer in…..was a temptation I could not refuse.  It was a cavernous passageway.  I could see a strange flickering light in the distance which I had to investigate.  It lead me to a couple of workmen, welding a statue, laid out in a workspace filled with other statues.  We had a brief chat which uncovered the fact that we were in the subterranean branches of “Ta Giezu”.  We were invited to continue along the dimly lit passage to enter the church and view the crucifix.  What miraculous luck!

This famous crucifix is called “The Miraculous Crucifix”.  It was sculpted from the trunk of an olive tree by the Franciscan lay brother, Fra Umile da Petralia Soprano (Palermo) in 1630.  

I am captivated by the sculptor’s ability to convey such drama, emphasising  great pain and suffering…..all the wounds, bruising and blood on show with the finest aesthetic.  

“The Miraculous Crucifix”, Ta Giezu, Valletta

“The Miraculous Crucifix”, Ta Giezu, Valletta

Rome

On the way home I dropped in to see my good friend Jonathan, an Australian living in Rome.  Rome has become another repeat destination….I return regularly to get my dose of Italian exuberance and life-force, in a city dripping with antiquity, artistic and architectural masterpieces and jaw-dropping beauty.

 

A big thank you to Malta/Rome and all the friends and acquaintances, especially to my hosts Emily and Marvic for being so fabulous.  This little island of Malta has a big heart and is ready to share it with all who wish.  It is certainly a place that I am drawn to and will continue to visit, long into the future.  And Rome is ETERNAL.

Great end to a great trip……homeward bound, but I’ll be back!

Remember to get in touch should you require any photographic work done.  You can contact me on john@johnmcrae.com or give me a call on 0419 619 161

JUNE – UP-DATE

It’s half way through the year already and I have no idea where the time has gone. 

I am embracing the fact that there is only 6 months to go until Santa comes again and looking forward to the next 6 months of interesting challenges and achievements.

Here’s a quick summary of some of the highlights from the month of June…..


George Michael – Listen to your heart  

I was asked to cover the George Michael tribute concert at the Opera House Concert Hall on Sunday 8 June.  It was truly fabulous.  I mean you can’t go wrong with a 35 piece orchestra, some of Australia’s best voices and the classic beauty of George Michael’s exquisite writing.  Casey Donovan, Rob Mills, Hugh Sheridan, Andrew De Silva, Bobby Fox and Sheldon Riley were lead by the orchestra leader, John Foreman.  The crowd was as diverse as George’s musical career, spanning all age groups and demographics.  They were united in their enjoyment of what was coming from the stage.  Here are a few pics….


James Squires Landing

I enjoyed shooting for Xenia Contructions at the Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay.  What a superb locaton.  I shot in the early morning to catch the best light and avoid some of the foot traffic in that area.  Seeing the sun rise over the Opera House was golden.  Vivid was on at the time, so I managed to get a few shots with the Vivid light show in the background.  Here are some examples.


Trevor Ashley smashes it again!

I love working with this talented and intelligent artist.  Trevor Ashley is well known in the entertainment industry for his many portrayals of famous woman such as Liza Minelli and Shirley Bassey, musical theatre roles such as Miss Understanding in the original cast of Priscilla, Queen of the desert and Edna Turnblad in Hairspray, Thernadier in Les Miserables, many cabaret performances….and heaps of other things…if you want a better bio, head to wikipedia and search Trevor Ashley.  I can’t do him justice here.

I have shot many incarnations of Trevor over the years….I love working with him because he makes things seem easy.  They are only easy because this man is a conceptual genius and enjoys what he does.

During the most recent shoot we came up with this leading image for a new production that Trevor is appearing in at the City Recital Hall on 22 September, 2018, entitled, Trevor Ashley – Double D’s – Two decades of Divadom

Lead image for “Trevor Ashley – Double D’s – Two Decades of Divadom


 

Abba-solutely Fabulous

You know you’re in for a fun shoot when you have Rhonda Burchmore and Lara Mulcahy (mega-stars and mega-nice people) coming to the studio to work on a few new shots for their brilliant show, Abba-solutely Fabulous.

We originally met last year to shoot for this new show (Rhonda and Lara were both in the original cast of Mamma Mia)….and now it has become bigger than Ben Hur, packed houses all over Australia, and they need more images to continue the promotion machine.

Apparently the show is fabulously funny and entertaining and I am looking forward to seeing it when it next comes to Sydney.  Have a look at the programming and see if they are appearing near you, because I know they would be delightful to see. Click here for dates etc.

Look at the “teaser” below and tell me you’re not going to have a good time with these two lovely larakins.

Rhonda Burchmore and Lara Mulcahy for “Abba-solutely Fabulous


 

Shauna’s new look

I always love shooting the gorgeous Shauna Jensen…amazing vocalist with a long and impressive career in the entertainment industry….again look her up in wikipedia, Shauna Jensen for the full bio….or go and see her next performance.

Shauna has a new look and here’s a sneak preview from the shoot we did together, earlier this month.

The glamorous and talented Shauna Jensen with white hair…chic!



Taboo Talk

I have been shooting for a group of young people who meet once a month, in an open forum, to discuss various “taboo” subjects.  The images from the nights are used in their social media to promote future “Taboo Talks”.   Taboo Talks are the brain child of a couple of social workers, Amirah and Kosta and have been running for a good 18 months, discussing diverse subjects, frrom domestic violence to racism and everything in between.  The idea is to create a safe space where people feel free to share ideas and experiences with each other on a given subject.  A new topic is chosen each month and the discussion is headed and administered by nominated facilitators.  If you wish to know more they have a facebook page which you are welcome to visit.

 


The Wild Sculptural Interpretations of Margarita Sampson – Honey Funus

I have been shooting for Margarita for some years now and I am always pleasantly surprised with what she comes up with.  I know that when she rings to book photography that I am going to encounter the next wonderfully weird, beautiful and strangely animated, creature she has given birth to.  

This month was no exception.  I met “Honey Fungus” in all it’s glory of gaping orange deliciousness.  Honey Fungus’ friend looks a bit overwhelmed, I must say.  I always enjoy getting to know her little creatures as I click away.  For a look at more of Margarita’s work, click here.

 

Margarita working in her studio


Abbotsford Wharf

Hansen Yuncken together with Waterways are really stepping up the pace on the wharf up-grade roll-outs.  I shot another wharf this month.  The Abbotsford Wharf up-grade was opened to the public…so I ventured along the Parramatta River to an idyllic location for a ferry terminal at the end of Great North Road.  I really like the design of these new wharfs….in my opinion they look slick.  Here’s a few shots from the shoot….

 

Well there’s a few highlights from my month.  Please get in touch if you have any questions or queries on john@johnmcrae.com