MMXII – Portraits of Matthew Mitcham

At the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008, young Australian diver
Matthew Mitcham won the gold medal in the 10-metre platform event, with the highest-scoring single dive in Olympic history.

Now in the lead-up to Mitcham’s participation in the Summer Olympics in London, after scoring perfect 10s from all seven judges on one of his dives at the recent Olympic trials in Adelaide, this solo exhibition by Sydney photographer John McRae presents a personal view of the many facets of the life of one of this country’s leading athletes, the winner of 2008 Sportsman of the Year.

This series of 20 images presented in varying formats, ranges from formal studio portraits and costumed shots to playful images taken over the past five years in different settings and in different cities. As close friends, Mitcham and McRae share a unique relationship. Their work together as model and photographer has created a visual archive characterized by honest, candour and intimacy, but also sometime given the veneer of slapstick or the sheen of glamour.

Matthew Mitcham is both an icon and a chameleon, able to change his attitudes with the dexterity of an actor. In his photographs, McRae captures the ever-changing moods of his subject, variously portrayed as a shy youth, a Hollywood cover-boy. a confident role model, play-acting as a bumble- bee (Mitcham performed in costume as a stunt-diver at the Royal Easter Show several years ago) or a comic French aristocrat, dining at a restaurant in Rome or posing as a classical figure in stylized compositions.

Many of these images have never been previously exhibited, although a selection of McRae’s larger portraits have recently been shown at both Lipanjepuntin Artecontemporanea in Rome and Ausin Tung Gallery in Melbourne. In Mid-June, John McRae’s work will also be featured in a solo show at Galleria Il Ponte Contemporanea in Rome. Matthew Mitcham is currently completing his autobiography, to be published by HarperCollins in November, 2012.

Curator: Jonathan Turner, 2012

Artist Statement

MMXII – Portraits of Matthew Mitcham is an exhibition which documents the relationship between me as a photographer and Matt as a model. The photographs have been taken over a period of five years, dating back to 2007, not long after I first met Matt.

Our working relationship has formed very naturally and easily, as did our growing friendship. In a sense these images are snap-shots of our interaction as photographer and artist’s muse. I’m keen to investigate these viewpoints … I turn the camera in that direction.

The process has been a very interesting one. The mere fact that, as a photographer, I have informal access to an Olympic Gold Medal Diver at the highest level of international sport, and who already at a young age achieved ground-breaking achievements, is a privilege in itself.

Matt is extremely flexible in front of the camera, a joy to work with. He is camera-ready, and he requires little direction. However, when direction is given, he duplicates perfectly. This contributes to the development of new ideas. The moods change, sometimes over-the-top and playful, sometimes more reserved, but still revealing so much. I found that when I put Matt in situations with other models, he has an ability to flow easily with others in a group set-up. He would often bring out the best in the other models, helping to invent dynamic poses.

I thank Matthew for his generosity during the times spent with me in front of the camera, both in the studio and beyond, and for allowing these images to be shared with a viewing public as part of the Head On Photo Festival.

John McRae, 2012