I first visited Lebanon in 2005. In spite of the fact that I had a brilliant time it took me 14 years to get back to Beirut for another Lebanese experience. It did not disappoint.

Whether it’s the delicious Middle Eastern food, the beautiful and changing landscapes, the ancient monuments or the most hospitable and warm inhabitants, a good time is assured. Here a few frames from my latest trip to the Jewel of the Levant.

Tia, shot at the Abroyan Factory, a disused clothing manufacturing warehouse in Burj Hammoud, Beirut. Interesting…since I shot it just prior to the popular uprising where millions of Lebanese took to the streets to signal their dissfatisaction with the present government’s management of the country. ©johnmcrae
Samer at the Abroyan Factory ©johnmcrae
Window view at the Abroyan Factory ©johnmcrae
Window view at the Abroyan Factory©johnmcrae
Abroyan Factory, Burj Hammoud, Beirut ©johnmcrae

South Border Gallery – Exhibition at the Abroyan Factoy, Beirut

The Abroyan Factory was transformed into a huge art installation to coincide with the opening of the Beirut Art Fair. It was a great event and an amazing experience to wander through the rooms and corridors of the old factory, lined with art from different corners of the world.

Study for Soap, by Emmanuel Tussore. Aleppo, Syria, is renowned for making some of the best soap in the world. This impressive work is made entirely out of soap. Each piece has been sculptured to resemble the destroyed buildings of the city, post civil war and stands as a potent comment on the Syrian destruction on all levels. ©johnmcrae

Beirut Art Fair

I had the good fortune to be in Beirut during the Beirut Art Fair. I checked it out.

Michel and Jean Claude at the South Border Gallery stand©johnmcrae
A selfie with the artwork? ©johnmcrae
Relax and discuss ©johnmcrae
Get your best girlfriend to get a selfie of you with the artwork ©johnmcrae

Baalbek, Beka Valley

Model of the original construction, portrayed as it would have looked before the centuries of invading destruction. ©johnmcrae

Baalbek is an ancient Phoenician city located in what is now modern day Lebanon, north of Beirut, in the Beqaa Valley.  Inhabited as early as 9000 BCE, Baalbek grew into an important pilgrimage site in the ancient world for the worship of the Phoenician sky-god Baal and his consort Astarte, the Queen of Heaven (the name `Baalbek’ means Lord Baal of the Beqaa Valley). The center of the city was a grand temple dedicated to Astarte and Baal and the ruins of this early temple remain today beneath the later  Temple of Jupiter Baal. Baalbek is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

These structures are magnificent and mysterious. They are still the subject of much debate in the academic community, particularly questions concerning the origins and nature of many of the enormous foundation stones in the structures, some of which are the largest in the known world.

Baalbek, Beka Valley, Lebanon ©johnmcrae
Temple of Bacchus, Baalbek. The columns, built by the Romans, are among the largest ever constructed by man. Of note is that these columns and in fact the whole temple constructions are much larger in scale than what we find even in the capital, Rome, which begs the question of why the Romans would work on a scale much larger than usual, in an outer Eastern extremity of their empire. ©johnmcrae


megalith is a large stone that has been used to construct a structure or monument, either alone or together with other stones. The word megalithic describes structures made of such large stones without the use of mortar or concrete, representing periods of prehistory characterised by such constructions. For later periods, the word monolith, with an overlapping meaning, is more likely to be used.

A particular curiosity of Baalbek is this stone in a nearby quarry (nearby…it’s 800m uphill from the ruins). The stone has been carved from the limestone of the quarry and weighs close to 1,200 tons (a larger stone has recently been uncovered next to this one, even larger, 1650 tons) suggesting that similar stones found in the foundations of the temple of Jupiter all came from this quarry. The stone is the largest quarried stone in the world and, although in some dispute, they appear to pre-date the Greeks and the Romans. It is megalithic. The question remains how did they transport the megaliths and why was this one left, unfinished in the bedrock? ©johnmcrae
With the subjects in the foreground one gets an idea of the scale of this huge sculptural stone. Another interesting point is that these stoney carvings are so precisely cut as to baffle modern concepts of construction. These stones are laid end to end, in the Temple of Jupiter with an error of 1mm. It would appear that there was a civilisation, that pre-dates the Romans, with a more sophisticated technology. The Roman stonework is comprised of smaller blocks which are not quite as precisely hewn or placed. ©johnmcrae
Here one sees the obvious difference in scale between the Roman work and the older, larger megalithic stones at the base. ©johnmcrae

The Beach in Beirut

There’s nothing like a quiet chat with a mate, overlooking the Mediterranean, along the Corniche. ©johnmcrae
Walking, running, skipping….along the Corniche is a favourite pastime of the Lebanese.©johnmcrae
Some of the locals, pictured here, are dowsing themselves from a small well, washing off the salt water of the ocean. ©johnmcrae

The Streets…..

Young Syrian Refugee sells produce from car to car in the streets ©johnmcrae

Bullet holes ect, remnants of and eery reminders of the civil war

Tia pictured in Burj Hammoud. ©johnmcrae
I’m loving the aerial spaghetti, Burj Hammoud ©johnmcrae
There’s always time for a chat at the hairdressers ©johnmcrae
Burj Hammoud ©johnmcrae
Row of apartments in Burj Hammoud ©johnmcrae
Leaving Burj Hammoud for Ashrafieh ©johnmcrae
Housing estate on the fringes of Ashrafieh ©johnmcrae
The Shia festival, Ashoura, celebrates the matyrdom of Hussein (son of Ali, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad).  He died in the battle of Karbala in 680 AD.  Many flags and banners are displayed around the city.  Above is "Ya Hussein", written in Arabic.  ©johnmcrae
The Shia festival, Ashoura, celebrates the matyrdom of Hussein (son of Ali, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad). He died in the battle of Karbala in 680 AD. Many flags and banners are displayed around the city. Above is “Ya Hussein”, written in Arabic. ©johnmcrae
An example of the electrical spaghetti often found throughout the city of Beirut. ©johnmcrae

Beit El Baraka

Maya (founder) and Rita (Manager) pictured at the doorstep of Beit El Baraka in Beirut’s Ashrafieh district. ©johnmcrae

Beit El Baraka – Our Mission is to ensure a sense of dignity to hard-working citizens once they retire, by assisting them in their struggle with the increasing cost of living. In a spirit of respect and support, we aim to provide a tailor-made accurate and beneficial response to Lebanon’s economic and multi-dimensional challenges that are depriving many retired citizens of their most basic needs and rights. 

Coffee Culture in Beirut

Coffee culture is alive and well in Beirut. Bashar is pictured realaxing after a big day at work. ©johnmcrae
Friends on the terrasse, Burj Hammoud ©johnmcrae
Tia at the local coffee shop in Burj Hammoud ©johnmcrae
A soldier kicks back and relaxes after the days work of protecting Lebanon. ©johnmcrae
The family who manages the bar in Burj Hammoud. ©johnmcrae

Treasures of the Beirut Museum

Entrance of the museum, a monument to antiquity. ©johnmcrae
Amazingly beautiful Phoenician sarcophagi at the Natural Museum in Beirut. They are breathtaking in their mysterious beauty. ©johnmcrae
The famous rock formation, “Raouche”, off the coast of Beirut, seen clearly as you walk along the Corniche. ©johnmcrae


I would have to say that portraiture is my favourite genre. Here are a few examples of recent portraits….some are commissions, some are for personal projects or simply people I wanted to shoot.

The gorgeous Alex, commissioned portrait shoot ©johnmcrae
Alex ©johnmcrae
Alex ©johnmcrae

Spot the Arab Series

I have been working on an on-going series for exhibition called, Spot the Arab. For more information click here:

Kash for Spot the Arab – exhibition work. Do you think Kash identifies as Arab….or not? ©johnmcrae
Kash for Spot the Arab – exhibition work. ©johnmcrae
Kash for Spot the Arab – exhibition work. ©johnmcrae
Lois – study of a woman combing her hair. ©johnmcrae
Katelin ©johnmcrae
Katelin ©johnmcrae
Hugh Sheridan – promotional shot, recently cast in the musical, Hair. ©johnmcrae
Dominic Desousa (DJ) ©johnmcrae
Paulini for the musical, Hair ©johnmcrae
Anne – commissioned portrait ©johnmcrae
Adrian Dickens, personal jeweller ©johnmcrae
“Coffee en terrasse” – Sydney under bushfire siege. Personal comment on the quality of the air and climate change ©johnmcrae
Fashion Shoot – Sydney under bushfire siege. Personal comment on the quality of the air and climate change ©johnmcrae
Mother and Daughter – Lena and Laura Kasparian
Katelin and Ella ©johnmcrae
John Rowe enjoys the party.....
John Rowe enjoys the party….. ©johnmcrae
Mathieu for Reform Construction ©johnmcrae
Reform Construction ©johnmcrae
Reform Construction ©johnmcrae
Kirk & Rhy’s Family ©johnmcrae
Kirk & Rhy’s Family ©johnmcrae
Kirk & Rhy’s Family – talk about taking centre stage ©johnmcrae
David Whittaker (DJ) ©johnmcrae


It’s always fun and colourful to shoot in the entertainment space. Here are a few examples of some shows that I worked on recently.

The Lyin’ Queen

The lyin’ Queen – by Phil Scott and Trevor Ashley, an ecological disatser movie remake hits the stage.

Cast on stage at the Wyong performance of The Lyin’ Queen ©johnmcrae
Promotional image for The Lyin’ Queen, performed at the Sydney Opera House in November
Production shot of The Lyin’ Queen, featuring Trevor Ashley ©johnmcrae
Promotional shot for The Lyin’ Queen ©johnmcrae

Shauna Jensen performs at the Sydney Opera House

Club Posters of Sydney Drag Shows

Hair The Musical

A new production of Hair the Musical was produced by David Hawkins. It toured the country, including performances at the Sydney Opera House.

Paulini, Hugh Sheridan, Matthew Manahan and Prinnie Stevens, the cast of Hair the Musical
Rehearsals for Hair The Musical ©johnmcrae
The above shot on stage during the dress rehearsal in Perth ©johnmcrae

Just for Laughs at the Sydney Opera House

Each year I shoot stills for the live recording of “Just For Laughs”, recorded in the studio at the Sydney Opera House. It is always a pleasure to shoot this totally entertaining event….at times the camera is shaking as I hold back laughter.

Tommi Little has the audience in the palm of his hand©johnmcrae

Latest Construction

The construction sector is still buoyant and active. Here are a few examples of the latest projects I was commissioned to work on…..

Before and After


Prime Constructions is about to work on this “artistic” office space. Left vacant and unfinished for many years, this graffiti canvas will now become a re-furbished and modern office complex. This is the “before” shot. Stay tuned for the “after” shot….sorry that one will take another 6 months to complete.

St Narsai

St Narsai Assyrian Christian College for The Prime Group, new multi-purpose auditorium ©johnmcrae
St Narsai Assyrian Christian College for The Prime Group, new multi-purpose auditorium ©johnmcrae

The Warehouse

DHL warehouse, Kemps Creek, for The Prime Group ©johnmcrae

Men at Work

Men at work, Hansen Yuncken ©johnmcrae
Inner Sydney High School, Phase 1 completion, for Hansen Yuncken ©johnmcrae
New re-branding for APG ©johnmcrae

Office Refurbishment – MSCI

Stylish office refurbishment at MSCI, for Xenia Constructions and Studio Forny NYC ©johncrae


Short term rentals is a vibrant market as more and more people make their homes and properties available. I’ve been working with a company that manages these properties for owners, Maisonnets. Here are a few examples:

A room with a view ©johnmcrae


Ryan O’Connell and Ana Dokoza ©johnmcrae

I have been on assignment at Screen Australia recently, shooting some vibrant, young creatives for various promotional initiatives.

Ryan O’Connell, writer and story editor (Will & Grace) has teamed up with Anna Dokoza, Australian director, the star of The Big Bang Theory and Netflix to create a new comedy, Special. Click here for more info

Ryan O’Connell and Anna Dokoza, with other young creatives ©johnmcrae
Young creatives, writers, at a workshop at Screen Australia ©johnmcrae

Pitcher Perfect – Screen Australia announced the finalists of the first ever “Pitcher Perfect” competition which was held at VidCon in Melbourne.

I shot some of the creatives who’s job it was to pitch their concepts to a panel of judges, for a duration of 5mins. It was their job to convince the panel to choose their concept as the recipient of the $30,000 on offer to the winners.

The winning pitch was “Return to Sender”, pitched by Amy and Pearl, two of the finalists that I photographed.

The team from the pitch for “Sweet Pea”, Hannah, Emma and Monique ©johnmcrae
Drew and Josh who pitched for “Part Time Heros” ©johnmcrae
Amy and Pearl, who pitched the winning entry, “Return to Sender” Congratulations to the team ©johnmcrae
I also managed to capture the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, The Honourable Paul Fletcher MP, pictured here with Screen Australia CEO, Graeme Mason, at the industry briefing for the Screen Australia Drama Report. ©johnmcrae

Sydney’s Inaugural International Cabaret Festival

Jennifer Holliday performs at the opening of the festival at the Recital Hall, Sydney

Sydney was the original home of cabaret in Australia; it is an artform that is truly loved by all Australians.  This year organisers decided to bring back the Sydney Cabaret Festival.

Trevor Ashley is the Festival’s Artistic Director. He assembled both International and Australian cabaret stars into a 9 day extravaganza of top class entertainment. Trevor states, “I have loved Cabaret as long as I can remember. As a confused child growing up I discovered this incredible artform that celebrated unique personalities, and more than that, an irreplaceable bond between artist and audience. Seeing artists like Lorrae Desmond, Julie Anthony and Geraldine Turner live, made me believe I could be anyone I wanted to be. It changed my life.”

Trevor Ashley, 2011 In make-up for his role of Edna Turnblad for the Australian production of Hairspray
Trevor Ashley, 2011 In make-up for his role of Edna Turnblad for the Australian production of Hairspray

The 2019 Sydney Cabaret Festival features Tony Award-winner Jennifer Holliday (pictured above), appearing for the first time on Australian soil, alongside local legends like Phil Scott and Jonathan Biggins, to New York downtown darling Natalie Joy Johnson. UK’s Frisky and Mannish return after a ten year hiatus, as does diva Alison JiearTim Draxl will appear in a world premiere of his new show, along with Kim David SmithReuben Kaye and Brian Nash, plus circus and variety show Cheeky Cabaret, direct from their home in Brunswick Heads. Tim Benzie returns to Sydney with Solve-Along-A-Murder-She-Wrote. The Festival also includes a cabaret for children, Petit Cabaret, and masterclasses with Jennifer Holliday and Alison Jiear, as well as the Grand Final of the restored Sydney Cabaret Competition.

I was the Festival’s Photographer and had the pleasure of photographing and documenting most of the action. The following is a brief visual overview of how I spent my time.

Jennifer Holliday – Headlines the Festival

Jennifer Holiday headlines the Festival, appearing at the opening night at the City Recital Hall, Angel Place, Sydney
Jennifer Holliday headlines the Festival, appearing at the opening night at the City Recital Hall, Angel Place, Sydney
Ms. Holiday is the undisputed Queen of the broadway musical, Dreamgirls.  Her show stopping number, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going", for which she won a grammy in 1983, is her signature piece.  She won a Tony award for her performance in Dreamgirls in 1982.
Ms. Holliday is the undisputed Queen of the broadway musical, Dreamgirls. Her show stopping number, “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going”, for which she won a grammy in 1983, is her signature piece. She won a Tony award for her performance in Dreamgirls in 1982.

Opening Night at the City Recital Hall

Trevor Ashley gives it his all as he channels some grand diva from somewhere.
Phil Scott and Jonathan Biggins at the Opening Night.
Reuben Kaye
Brian Nash at the keyboard
New York City goddess and diva, Nathalie Joy Johnson
Nathalie Joy Johnson
Kim David Smith
Alison Jiear at the Recital Hall
Alison Jiear

The solo Performances

The Piano Bar at the Seymour Centre

The Seymour Centre was transformed into the Cabaret Hub with solo performances simultaneously running in 5 separate performance spaces. There was a great buzz of excitement and anticipation as the audiences crowded to attend each show. I ran from theatre to theatre capturing the action. Here’s a visual overview…..

Alison Jiear

Alison Jiear

Cabaret Competition Grand Final

Australia’s next generation of cabaret superstars launched their careers at The Sydney Cabaret Competition: Grand Final hosted by ‘International Queen of Cabaret’ Trevor Ashley.

9 entertainers were selected as finalists (Nyssa Milligan, Irene Nicaola, Katelin Koprivec, Sarah Murr, Naomi Livingston, Rachael Gillfeather, Ali Calder, Billie Palin and Clare Ellen O’Connor), each performed their own short cabaret shows. The judges then selected the 2019 winner.

Congratulations to the runner up – Clare Ellen O’Conner with her show Plucked! and the Audience Choice and Winner – Billie Palin, for her incredible performance in ‘From Dubbo to Death’.

Cheeky Cabaret

Born out of the sleepy, picturesque village of Brunswick Heads on the north coast of NSW, birthed at the Brunswick Picture House, comes “Cheeky Cabaret”. Full of many flavours…..other than vanilla and very entertaining, Cheeky Cabaret ran for the entire length of the Festival in the Valhalla Room at the Seymour Centre.

Frisky and Hammish

Master Class with Jennifer Holliday

Kim David Smith

Nathalie Joy Johnson

Phil Scott & Jonathan Biggins

Reuben Haye

Tim Draxyl

Tim Draxyl dazzles his audience

Toni Lamond and the Finale

The Piano Bar

The Piano Bar was a big hit each night of the Festival
The Piano Bar, the place to be after the show

The Piano Bar was a popular venue, nestled in the Seymour Centre’s Festival hub. Each night heralded a plethora of pop-up performances from various artists.

Rhonda Burchmore lying down on the job!

The Sydney International Cabaret Festival was a big success and will be now on the Sydney cultural horizon….so watch out for it next year and don’t miss seeing a few of the performers in next years line-up.

“RAZORHUST” at the Hayes

Debora Kriszak plays Kate Leigh in Razorhust

Crime queens Tilly Devine and Kate Leigh, who were bitter rivals during the 1920s when their gangs fought it out on the streets of East Sydney in the “razor gang wars”, are a fascinating pair of protagonists for a musical currently showing at the Hayes Theatre in Potts Point.

Tilly Devine (Amelia Cormack) confronts Kate Leigh (Debora Krizak) on stage

From the 1920s until the 1930s, two vice queens, Kate Leigh and Tilly Devine, ruled the Darlinghurst underworld. Their rivalry was infamous, leading to a litany of violent crimes enacted by their razor gangs as each struggled to gain dominance in a world of sly grog, narcotics and prostitution.

In 2019, Kate Leigh’s former sly grog shop is about to reopen as a trendy coffee spot. The shop is being gutted for renovation, but there are still ghosts in the walls who aren’t done settling old scores.

Razorhurst explores what it means to be a woman in a man’s world, forced into a life of crime by circumstance. At turns crass and hilarious, Razorhurst is a “compelling meditation on the explosive cocktail of gender, class, and power underlying an infamous period in the history of crime” (Newark Star-Ledger).

Book & Lyrics by Kate Mulley, Music by Andy Peterson

Presented by Hayes Theatre Co

Director Benita de Wit
Musical Director Lucy Bermingham

Starring Amelia Cormack & Debora Krizak

Was Commissioned by and received its World Premiere at
Luna Stage, West Orange, New Jersey
Cheryl Katz, Artistic Director

Previews: Full $60 | Concession $55
Mon – Thurs: Full $65 | Concession $60
Sat Matinee: Full $65 | Concession $60
Fri & Sat Evening: Full $70 | Concession $65
Wed Matinee: Full $60 | Concession $55 | Fab Four Offer $45

Razorhurst is part of the 2011 Postcode offer. Residents of 2011 can obtain half price tickets 30 minutes prior to performances Mon-Thurs with proof of address. Subject to availability.



Paulini & Hugh Sheridan star in the new production of Hair the musical

A brand new Australian production of the much-loved rock musical HAIR will come alive in the Concert Hall – Sydney Opera House from 3 – 6 October as part of a national tour to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the show’s Australian premiere.

Leading the cast in this new production of HAIR is award-winning TV and theatre star Hugh Sheridan (Packed to the Rafters) in the role of Berger and powerhouse vocalist Paulini as Dionne. Sheridan’s one man show, Newly Discovered, sold out Adelaide Cabaret Festival in 2009 and, in 2012, he starred alongside Geoffrey Rush and Magda Szubanski in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

I recently captured some promotional images of both Paulini and Hugh at the Sydney Opera House.

Paulini is one of 10 Australian female solo artists to have a #1 album in the ARIA Charts and her critically acclaimed performance as Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard (2017) has cemented her as one of Australia’s most exciting rising stars.

With book and lyrics by James Rado and Gerome Ragini, and music by Galt McDermott, HAIR will be produced by David M. Hawkins and directed by Declan Greene. The show brings together a talented local creative team with Set Design by Michael-Scott Mitchell, Choreography by Amy Campbell, Musical Direction by Glenn Moorhouse and Costume Design by James Browne.

HAIR plays at the Sydney Opera House from 3 – 6 October 2019. For more information, visit:

HAIR also plays His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth (22 August – 1 September); Geelong Performing Arts Centre (4 – 8 September); The Art House, Wyong (19 – 21 September); Illawarra Performing Arts Centre, Wollongong (25 – 29 September); and Home of the Arts, Gold Coast (11 & 12 October). For more information, visit: for details.

I think this production will be fabulous and can’t wait to hear that rousing score….this is a must see. So Book and get yourself a ticket!

Western Sydney Performing Arts Centre

Construction has begun on a world-class performing arts centre and multi-use entertainment space in Rooty Hill. It is deemed the biggest cultural development to hit Western Sydney. The centre is set to become an icon for the West, with construction due for completion in late 2019.

The project has been designed by Cox Architecture and is currently under the construction expertise of Hansen Yuncken.

Hansen Yuncken commissioned me to capture some mid-construction images of the work in progress.

The complex which houses the Sydney Coliseum Theatre will offer some impressive facilities:

  • Multi-modes theatre capable of hosting musical, dramatic theatre, live music and more.
  • Nine metre Proscenium Arch offering the latest in front and back of house technical capabilities.
  • World’s best practise technology including full immersive sound and acoustic design
  • the latest in state of the art theatre technology and sustainable LED lighting
  • 80 line fly system (important for international standard productions)
  • Orchestra pit for 30
  • Excellent sight-lines
  • Rehearsal room and production office with stage access
  • Comfortable and spacious production amenities including 11 dressing rooms
  • Adjacent 4&1/2 star Novotel Hotel offering 164 rooms


The two leading ladies of Australian theatre and cabaret are at it again. Firstly, it was ABBA-SOLUTELY FABULOUS. You may remember……

Rhonda and Lara as Abba-solutely Fabulous

It is always a pleasure to work with these talented woman of the entertainment world. There’s no stopping Rhonda and Lara’s comic wit and sense of good fun which they freely share with all. They have a new show called “Partners in Crime” and they will be touring nationally.

Doing the photography has given me a glimpse of what’s in store and I can tell you it will be hysterical. Thanks to talents of James Carroll for the design work on the poster.

Go to: to see the venues and dates and BOOK IN quickly for a fabulous night out.