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


 

MAY UP-DATE

I feel it’s time for another blog post as a quick up-date about what has been happening in the world of John McRae Photography.

So here are some of the highlights from the past month.

Claire Munting

I photographed the amazing mezzo-soprano Claire Munting. I was commissioned to capture some portraits of this wonderful wonderful, vibrant woman and her family last year on location in a park in Balmain.  Following this, Claire asked me to shoot a new profile and stage promotional images aligned to her career as an opera singer and her numerous recitals and concerts.  

Claire suggested that she would like to be photographed against some kind of industrial background to create tension and contrast to what is generally accepted as the more conservative classical music world.  Cockatoo Island, Carriageworks and the Newtown Tram Depot were mooted as suggested possible locations.   But in the end, it turned out that the perfect location was just below my studio in a warehouse section of the building….much more convenient.

Here is one of the images from the shoot.

Claire Munting – Mezzo Soprano

Construction Abounds

With all the development going on in Sydney I am regularly being asked to shoot architectural projects.  Often I am brought in only at the very end of the project, usually in the small window of time between the completion of the construction and the handover to the client… however, jobs go overtime or the windows simply don’t exist, but you still need to make it work.

I continue to shoot wharf up-grades for Hansen Yuncken.  I will probably do a whole post dedicated to these projects one day….I find the re-designs appealing and I have been shooting them, one after another, for several years now.  The latest addition to the list is the new Birchgrove Wharf.  See below:

I have also captured the Stockland Green Hill shopping centre in Maitland as well as the new and very slick Duo Residential complex, part of the massive development at Broadway (opposite UTS).  Both are commissioned by Multiplex Constructions Australasia.  The Duo is the latest in inner-city residential living, an incredibly convenient place to live if you were studying at UTS, just across the road.

Also on the topic of building development, I shot for  Re-Form Construction. They had dug a pretty hefty hole in the backyard of a Balmain property to prepare the site for a cement pour.  I got a few shots of the Re-Form team and the hole before it disappeared under the concrete.

Next there were a few warehouses for Prime Constructions (See below)

 

Interiors

And to finish off on the construction theme…not exactly construction, but related…was a series of interiors I shot for MaisonnetsMaisonnets is a company that manages property rentals….a bit like Airbnb.  The following images are from an afternoons shoot in the Hawkesbury region.

The Hawkesbury River
A view from the balcony

It’s a Dog’s World

I also had a wonderful afternoon shooting a series of of portraits of personality-rich dogs.  I was shooting for Hamish McBeth  manufacturers of dog clothing and apparel.

Here’s a shot of one of my handsome models, sporting one of Hamish McBeth’s dog coat…..

Head Shots

My month always comprises of a number of portrait shoots, and May was no exception.  Here are a couple of recent subjects….

Martin looking good
Stefano – businessman

Minnie Cooper and her Team

I regularly shoot for entertainers who require promotional images for their up-coming shows.  Here is a shot depicting Minnie Cooper and her team, working on a “Marie Antoinette” theme…..

Pictured from centre top, Decoda Secret, Minnie Cooper and Hannah Conda

Vanity Fair

I did a grand-scale shoot for the Sydney luminary Drag Queen, Vanity Fair.  She is involved in organising an evening at the Pullman Hotel in Sydney and they required some suitably grand images for posters and advertising.  Here’s one of the shots….

Vanity Fair accepts a handsome invitation….

Fashion

Lastly, I shot for Lena Kasparian.  She is a young dress designer who is making a name for herself in the competitive world of fashion. So we devised a look-book shoot with a difference.  In this instance there was the television production team for 60 minutes  in my studio, with cameras and sound equipment.  They were interested in aspects of Lena’s world, and they were taping for an up-coming episode of 60 minutes, based on her current life.  I can’t wait until the program is broadcast to see what my studio looks like on television.  Here are some shots from that day…..

 

RAINBOW WEDDING IN A PADDOCK

Five months ago, in early November 2017, Dan and Verity said “I do”. They tied the knot on the weekend just prior to the mammoth announcement of the plebiscite on marriage equality in Australia. The ceremony and reception took place in a picturesque paddock at the foot of Mount Victoria, in the Blue Mountains, N.S.W.  Dan and Verity specifically asked their guests to dress in a single colour of their choice. Their intention was to stage a group photograph of themselves with all their guests, positioned loosely in the colours of the rainbow.  

My shot is not only a document affirming this joyful event at which Dan and Verity were free to commit their love and support for each other in front of their friends and family, it is also an expression of Dan and Vertiy’s solidarity with their LGBTQI brothers and sisters on the issue of marriage equality. This group portrait even heralds an early celebration of the positive outcome that everyone was hoping for.

I entered this photo in the 2018 Moran Contemporary Photography Prize, since for me, it follows the Moran’s mandate for images that interpret the changing reality of life in Australia today.

The Museum of Love and Protest, Sydney

The Museum of Love & Protest was an inter-active exhibition at the National Art School (NAS) in Sydney in February/March, looking back across four decades of the history of the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras. It featured original costumes, photographs, iconic posters, rarely-seen video footage, story-telling, music and artefacts. This large scale group show celebrated love, protest, diversity, humour, pride and creativity.

The exhibition included my photographs commissioned by Mardi Gras for the 2012 and 2013 official Mardi Gras posters (MARDIGRASLAND and GENERATIONS OF LOVE), and also my grinning portrait of cheesey performer Bob Downe, attached to one of his infamous cabaret safari-suit costumes.

Spot the Arab – Exhibition summary, Ballarat

Spot the Arab opened at Backspace Gallery, Ballarat on March 1, 2018 (see images below) through March 18.

Local artists, photographers, arts administrators, friends and family of the artist, journalists, and the general public from Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong, Melbourne and beyond were in attendance for the opening of “Spot the Arab” on the walls of this art space (housed in a heritage-protected, former police station), funded and supported by the City of Ballarat. 

Deborah Klein (Arts and Culture Co-ordinator), Cash Brown (Curator and Conservator at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka) and Jonathan Turner (exhibition co-curator, Rome), opened the exhibition.

In particular, the “Selfie Stand” was a huge success. This is a portable photo-booth which has been set up, where visitors to my exhibition can use their mobile phones to take a self-portrait wearing Arab head dress or costume provided, standing in front of desert landscape backdrops I photographed in Israel and Palestine.


Visitor summary – Spot the Arab, Ballarat

An estimated 3,000 people visited the exhibition inside the Backspace Gallery. Many more people saw the exterior images pasted on the Backspace building and in the square (20,000 people passed by the gallery building on the Saturday of the White Night Festival)

SOCIAL MEDIA SUMMARY

A total of 20,000 people were reached through Facebook, Instagram and twitter.

3,507 people visited the separate Spot the Arab page on Facebook

John McRae’s personal photography page was visited by a further 3,393 people

6,585 people saw Spot the Arab posts via  twitter 

5,750 people saw Spot the Arab posts via Instagram (with 965 likes)

There were a further 1,000 likes via other media, and 125 direct comments

The Selfie Stand

From at least 400 people who dressed in the Arab costumes provided and took selfies at the exhibition, 33 people posted their portraits on social media.

Chill Out Daylesford – A little rural town in Victoria has created its own Mardi Gras

I am currently visiting the lovely state of Victoria, for my current exhibition called “Spot the Arab” (see further down, earlier blog entry) at Backspace Gallery, Ballarat.

My hosts thought I should experience diverse local culture on the weekend by visiting Daylesford, a small town north-east of Ballarat.  I did!  The following images are a collection of shots I took on Sunday morning, during the Chill Out Festival Parade down the main street of Daylesford. 

The Chill Out Festival takes place over the Labour Day long weekend. The festival attracts 25,000 visitors with an estimated economic benefit of around $10 million.  When the Springs Connection – a group of lesbian and gay business people in the regional town of Daylesford, Victoria – first got together to plan a local LGBTQI festival in 1997, they had no idea just how successful it would become. Celebrating its 21st birthday this year, it’s not only the largest annual celebration in Hepburn Shire, but also the biggest queer country pride event in Australia.

John McRae in conversation with Rebecca Wilson

John McRae in conversation with Rebecca Wilson

Link to pod-cast with John McRae about his Spot the Arab portrait project and exhibition in Ballarat. Interview by artist and communications officer Rebecca Wilson, as part of her Western Connections programme.

Interview conducted in Sydney: February 12, 2018. 25 minutes.

https://onedrive.live.com/?authkey=%21AIRDJ5UAkzd8ViQ&cid=3BDE59690976ABBB&id=3BDE59690976ABBB%21148&parId=3BDE59690976ABBB%21139&o=OneUp

SPOT THE ARAB – Opens in Ballarat on March 1

John McRae – Spot the Arab – Amirah 2017 & Jaden 2018

John McRae will exhibit his latest body of work Spot the Arab for the first time in Australia.  Images from McRae’s Spot the Arab series were shown in June 2017 in Rome, at the cutting-edge Italian gallery  Il Ponte Contemporanea.  This exhibition took place in the centre of the “Eternal City”, close to the Vatican, in the heart of the Jewish Ghetto.


Name:    Spot the Arab – John McRae

Venue:    Backspace Gallery, Ballarat, Australia

Dates:     Exhibition runs from March 1-18 , 2018

                    Opening Thursday March 1, from 6pm – 8pm

Backspace Gallery hours: Thursday – Sunday, 12 – 4pm, The artist will be present for the duration of the exhibition.

The closing weekend of the exhibition will coincide with Harmony Fest (March 17-26), White Night Ballarat (Saturday March 17,  from 4pm to 2 am) and Ballarat Cultural Diversity Week (March 14 – 25).

Note: the Backspace Gallery will remain open from 4pm to 2am on March 17, as part of White Night Ballarat.

Address:          Huyghue House,

                               Alfred Deakin Place (Camp Street) Ballarat

                               Owned and operated by the City of Ballarat Arts and Cultural Development team

The City of Ballarat respectfully acknowledges the Wadawurrung and Dja Dja Wurrung people  – traditional custodians of the land.


John McRae – Spot the Arab series – Vanity Fair 2017

Artist Statement:

Spot the Arab challenges the viewer to identify who among the line-up identifies as Arab.  I query if this is such a relevant question in the first place.  How complicated life becomes when such things are treated as important.…maybe it’s more interesting to just experience the actual person in front of you, no matter how they are “dressed”, and to leave it at that.

Spot the Arab is a project based on portraiture, as a summary of various themes, ideas and concepts aligned to how I reflect upon contemporary issues of religion, race, gender, orientation, nationality and freedom. I present this work in a game-like yet very serious manner. It is a topical celebration of diversity, with a powerful message about tolerance.

Following 9/11 we have seen a growth in the stigma surrounding the idea of Arab/Muslim/Middle-Eastern, driven by incessant, hounding imagery of the “terrorist”. I resent this repeated, visual conditioning, which occurs every time you turn on the television or open a newspaper. It is easy to make fake computations and lose your ability to comprehend the subtleties and differences…so that you may no longer see the actual person standing in front of you.  How often does this occurs in all areas of our society?  How often do we close down communication as a result?  I decided to take this particular stereotype and use it to draw attention to the insanity of discrimination.

This show has been built around a photo installation, a retrospective of my portraits since 2002 on the theme of the illusions and stereotypes of what is an Arab today.  It looks at a selection of people I have photographed over the past decade in numerous countries and from different religious and ethnic backgrounds.  In most cases I have imposed Middle-Eastern clothing onto my subjects (who may otherwise wear jeans and a t-shirt) and have asked them to enact the role of what they consider an Arab might be. The sitters include men, women and transgender people in the “guise” of Arabs and dressed accordingly.  Spot the Arab focuses on social fictions of femininity/masculinity, recurring themes in my work.

At the end of the portrait session I asked each subject to exactly describe how they identify, since in this way, we can over-ride the preconceptions of imposed racism and prejudice….and whether they identify as “Arab” in any way. This gives additional weight to the complexity of each portrait.

For example, Ali, a Lebanese-Australian national raised in Paris but who is currently based in London, has frequently posed for me over the past decades. He provides a sharp description of how he defines his own identity.

“My ethnicity is Arab, I see myself as Semitic too. I also  have Persian lineage,” Ali explains. “Gender is very fluid in the male body that I adore, so I project the idea of Macho Male. My religion: Agnostic, Neo-pagan, Baphomet Worshipper, Hermetic Qabalist, Neo-Platonic, Sacred Whore (I go as ‘London Arab Master’ these days). I love Shia-Islam too.”

I tend to create works in series, often spanning different continents and time-lines. This introduces a multi-faceted and shifting perspective, never a single cultural viewpoint.  My specific fascination is to use my camera to break down stereotypes and visual codes, more important today than ever.  In my portraits, I try to capture sly or hidden messages, and then juxtapose these with more blatant aspects of drama, styling and emotion, whether it is authentic or staged.  It is always about intimacy versus theatricality.

John McRae, 2017

Lena & Obed, 2018

Spot the Arab with be running with a number of community based events which are taking place in Ballarat concurrently:

– White Night Ballarat (Saturday March 17,  from 4pm to 2 am)

– Harmony Fest (March 17-26)

– Cultural Diversity Week (March 14 – 25).


“SELFIE STAND”

Spot the Arab will challenge the viewer to identify who of the various models, dressed in Middle Eastern costume, actually identify as Arab. Viewers will also be invited to participate in the SELFIE STAND, an area in the gallery reserved for those who wish to take a selfie dressed in the Middle Eastern clothing (provided) in front of an Arabian backdrop. The viewer is then encouraged to post this image on social media with the hashtag #spotthearab. Once posted, the artist will print the resulting images and then adhere them to a wall of the Backspace Gallery, so that the visitors can become part of the exhibition.


John McRae – Spot the Arab series – Elle & Baptiste, 2015

For further information about the exhibition go to:

www.johnmcrae.com/spot-the-arab

See also the on-line article from “Genius Magazine” (European based arts and culture magazine)

John McRae: “Spot The Arab”