Since 2008, every year I have taken an “official” annual portrait photograph of Matthew Mitcham, Australia’s gold-medal Olympic diver, award-winning cabaret performer and television entertainer, in my studio in Sydney.
Facing the camera with a direct, unflinching manner, each consecutive portrait is added to the growing series of similar portraits, which commenced when Matthew was only 20 years old, before his rise to Olympic fame.
Each portrait is taken under identical conditions, plotting the changes in his physical appearance and growing self-assurance. MMXIX marks the 12th portrait and the 12th year in this ongoing series.
I thank Matt for his support in continuing this series, in allowing a very public view of his “personal time-line”. Matt intends to marry this year in Europe, and I wish him and Luke all the very best.
The complete sequence can be seen at
The series is printed by the artist in an edition of 9, with 2 artist proofs, and is available for purchase.
The year is almost over, Xmas looms in a couple of days and I have a bit of time on my hands.
Yesterday I made the annual Xmas pudding. I enlisted the help of my Tasmanian friend, Rob, who dropped in to pay his respects. We both set about creating the 2019 version of my mother’s Xmas pudding.
I thought it may be a nice idea to share the recipe on my blog page, together with a pictorial explanation of the necessary steps. Rob agreed to be photographed for the exercise.
6 Table spoons of Butter
2 Small Cups of Brown Sugar
3 Cups of flour
1 Cup of Sultanas
1 Cup of Raisins
1 Cup of Mixed Peel
1/2 Cup of Currants
2 Oz Blanched Almonds
2 Tsp Bi-Carbonate of Soda
6 Tsp Mixed Spice
2 Tsp of Cinnamon
1 Tsp of Nutmeg
1 Tsp Ginger
Pinch of Salt
1 Tablespoon of Treacle
Essence of Brandy or in fact Brandy. You choose
4 Tablespoons of Apricot Jam
1/2 Cup of Orange Juice
Additional notes on ingredients: I don’t add the orange juice in my version of mums recipe….doesn’t make sense to me. I also add prunes to the mix. Cut up quite finely of course. I also put in 3 eggs, rather than 2….creative license. You can add and substitute different fruits, such as glazed cherries (I don’t like them), apricots, pears….etc.
Actually you can take quite a bit of creative license with a plum pudding…..it’s not like the delicate sponge, souffle or cream puff, where too much variation may result in tears. So feel free to add your own personal touch whatever that may be…..
Gather all the ingredients….
Prepare the fruit: Measure it out, chop where necessary and put it all into a large bowl
Almonds need to be cut up into smaller pieces
Sultanas don’t need to be cut…put them in the bowl directly
Currants are already very small so no cutting required
Raisins should be cut into thirds (in my opinion)
put all the fruit together in a bowl and mix
essence and or alcohol can be added at this stage to the fruit
Some recipes advise soaking the fruit for a day or two in the alcohol/essence before preparing the rest of the pudding. But who has 2 days to spend on making a plum pudding?
Beat the butter and sugar in a bowl, either with your hand, wooden spoon or in a mix-master type beater. See pic below: The butter and sugar is beaten until the consistency becomes homogenous and creamy….in fact one says, “cream the butter and sugar”.
Next: Add the eggs Note…..the eggs should be added at room temperature. Take them out of the fridge well before (if you keep your eggs in the fridge). I put the eggs in a bowl and beat them a little first before I put them in the pudding mixture. I add half the quantity of eggs and stir them until they are blended into the mixture….I then add the rest of the eggs and beat them similarly.
At this point you can add the vanilla essence….a couple of tea spoons.
We’re up to the mid point of the process….the adding of the dry ingredients and the fruit.
Make sure you sift all the dry ingredients together before you add them to the mixture….see pic below.
Add the flour…..about half the quantity. Once that is well combined into the mixture you then add around half the quantity of fruit. When the fruit is mixed in you may add any alcohol or essence that you decide to put in for extra flavour. You repeat the process until all the dry ingredients and fruit are combined.
For this process you can shed the electric mixer and use your hands or a wooden spoon to hand mix the flour and the fruit. Some die-hards would never use the electric beater….they feel you get a better result if hands or a wooden spoon are enlisted. I’ll leave it up to you.
Lastly, once all the ingredients so far have been successfully stirred together, you add the final ingredients, being, the treacle and the apricot jam. A note: these two things are optional, in my opinion. I do add them but if you chose not to….it’s not like you going to ruin your pudding. It will still be a good pudding.
Finally, it’s time to pour your pudding mixture into the centre of a square piece of calico. The calico is pre-cut and also soaked in cold water. Wring out any excess water from the calico….pour out the mixture….then gather the rag and form a closure, a bit like a “money bag”. Make sure all the sides of the rag are gathered together and you haven’t missed a bit.
Then tie off the top of the rag with string . Make sure you tie it well….go around several times and tie it off several times. Don’t be stingy on the length of the string….hopefully there will be a good bit of it left after tying which can be used to hang the pudding.
Important….leave a bit of space at the top between the mixture and the level of the rag you tie off…..that is, allow a bit of space for the pudding to expand in the rag…it will.
Now you need to boil your pudding. Gently lower your pudding into a pot of boiling water. Make sure your water is boiling on the stove and that your pot is big enough to comfortably accommodate the size of your pudding.
Boil your pudding for approximately 3 – 4 hours. It’s a bit of a process because you can’t really leave it during that time. You will need to keep an eye on the water level….continually topping up so your pudding doesn’t boil dry.
Note also….put a small saucer at the bottom of pot so that your pudding is not sitting directly on the bottom, but cushioned from direct contact with the heat.
At the end of 4 hrs take your pudding out of the hot water. It is now ready to eat…..un-peel the calico and serve with fresh cream or brandy sauce.
Or…..as it usual, you eat your pudding at a later date. Hanging the pudding for a period of time is suggested as it allows all the flavours and spices to penetrate the whole pudding. Some people hang theirs for months.
A “hung pudding” will require re-heating. Although the pudding is cooked when you go to re-heat it you will need to re-place it into a pot of boiling water, as before. In order to re-heat the pudding thoroughly you will need to leave it for at least 2 hours….for the heat to really penetrate the mass of the object. The water should already be boiling when you add the pudding.
You can cheat and take it out of the rag, cold and put cut pieces in the micro wave….this is not as dramatic and nowhere near a nice. But go ahead…..
So that’s it! That’s one version of a plum pudding recipe. Let me know how you go.
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.
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.
Beirut Art Fair
I had the good fortune to be in Beirut during the Beirut Art Fair. I checked it out.
Baalbek, Beka Valley
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.
A 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.
The Beach in Beirut
Bullet holes ect, remnants of and eery reminders of the civil war
Beit El Baraka
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Men at Work
Office Refurbishment – MSCI
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:
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
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.
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.”
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 Jiear. Tim Draxl will appear in a world premiere of his new show, along with Kim David Smith, Reuben 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
Opening Night at the City Recital Hall
The solo Performances
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…..
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’.
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
Toni Lamond and the Finale
The Piano Bar
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.
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.
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.
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
RAZORHURST Was Commissioned by and received its World Premiere at Luna Stage, West Orange, New Jersey Cheryl Katz, Artistic Director
TICKETS* 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.
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 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: www.hairthemusical.com.au for details.