The First Supper – dinner with friends after lockdown

The First Supper, 2020 ©johnmcrae

It’s uplifting to see how clever businesses are able to find fresh ways to survive in the current climate, and to reward their loyal customers.

Le Coq, a well-loved restaurant in Darling Road not far from my studio in Rozelle, boasts a menu focussed on traditional French poultry dishes. Together with David Poirier, the owner of Le Coq, I recently set up a photo-shoot as a way to celebrate their regular clients at a time when business is beginning to return to normal. Inspired by Leonardo’s Last Supper, I created a series of iconic portraits of various local people from Rozelle and Balmain seated at a long dining table. The new series is called The First Supper. These culinary portraits will soon be hanging on the walls of Le Coq.

The Sydney Morning Herald published a short story in its Short black good food guide on June 20, 2020.

The Geometry of Warehouses

Some people may dismiss them as big, rectangular boxes built as part of the landscape of a city’s outskirts, not so interesting nor engaging. However, I am often commissioned to photograph the best designs for newly built warehouses in Sydney and beyond. They are essential structures which are rapidly demarcating the fringes of our urban sprawl in Smithfield, Minto and Kemps Creek.

Like many people, I tend to live in my inner-city bubble. Specialist food shops, cafes and “take-away for days” line my suburb. It’s easy to forget how important the infrastructure to support this life-style is. I am reminded when I venture out to photograph the massive, multi-purpose “boxes” that make this lifestyle possible. The best are examples of innovation in landscaped settings with native vegetation. 

I particularly like the abstract nature and repetition of some of the construction details. The following is a visual display of features which have taken my eye while photographing these warehouses in Casula, Eastern Creek, Minchinbury, Moorebank and Yennora, produced as documentation for the construction companies that are building them.

Exterior Geometry

Goodmans, Eastern Creek for Hansen Yuncken
Yennora Warehouse (Prime Constructions)

Exterior Features

I have developed a great respect for the sharp lines and primary colours used in the design of a simple, functional, hi-tech warehouse. I continue to expand in this genre of photography. 

Moorebank Warehouse (Hansen Yuncken)
Manfreight Warehouse (Prime Constructions)
Sharp lines and primary colours

Portals to another world

Interior Abstraction

Interior Geometry

If you have any enquires please feel free to send me an email on john@johnmcrae.com

Linen Collection – So French So Chic

I shot the new linen collection for So French So Chic on a timber-decked yacht in Rushcutters Bay on Sydney harbour. The shoot was relaxed and breezy, to reflect the clothes.

See the product description below:

Good style is effortless.

Our beautiful linen and easy-to-wear designs are created with an attitude of casual chic, inspired by the breezy ports of the Mediterranean. Designed in France from linen sourced in Bandol near St Tropez, and tailor-made in Italy, our range breathes with stylish simplicity.

Dress up or dress it down. Feel free and relaxed.

We present our unique blend of A-line silhouettes and soft, falling fabric. Summer is colourful. Bright tones of watermelon, azure, turquoise and tangerine, are mixed with gentle pastels, or such neutrals as anthracite, pale mint and charcoal, or crisp, maritime white. Be part of our own French identity, but adapted to the Australian climate and outdoor lifestyle. Welcome aboard.

Construction Continues…..

Warehouse, Minto for Prime Constructions

We are all grappling with the new Covid-19 threat and changes to our life-styles and livelihoods. The construction industry continues under new guidelines. With restrictions, building and documenting can continue.

Here are a few of the warehouse projects in western Sydney I have worked on during the past few weeks.

DHL, Erskine Park for Prime Constructions
DHL, Erskine Park for Prime Construcitons
Sunny Queen, Minchinbury
Sunny Queen, Minchinbury
DHL, Kemps Creek for Prime Constructions
DHL, Kemps Creek for Prime Constructions
DHL, Kemps Creek for Prime Constructions
DHL, Erskine Park for Prime Constructions
Warehouse, Minto, for Prime Construcitons
DHL, Kemps Creek for Prime Construction
Warehouse interior, Minto for Prime Constructions
Sunny Queen, Minchinbury for Prime Constructions
Manfreight, Smithfield for Prime Constructions
DHL, Kemps Creek for Prime Constructions
DHL, Kemps Creek for Prime Construction
DHL, Kemps Creek for Prime Construction
Inner Sydney High School, mid-construction for Hansen Yuncken
Inner Sydney High School, mid-construction for Hansen Yuncken

Olympic Gold Medalist -Matthew Mitcham Marries

Chateau de Halloy ©johnmcrae

After the Australian Olympic gold medal diver Matthew Mitcham announced he was engaged to his partner, Luke Rutherford, the couple married in a public ceremony in Belgium in late February, followed by a honeymoon in Amsterdam.

As an old friend of Matt’s I was invited as the “Official Photographer”.

Matt and Luke married at Chateau de Halloy on the out-skirts of Ciney in the South of Belgium. Chateau de Halloy is a majestic castle which was once a residence used by the Bishop Princes of Liege….rather grand indeed.

Matt in preparation ©johnmcrae
Matt – almost ready, flanked by his family ©johnmcrae
Finishing touches for Luke ©johnmcrae
A quick, private word before the formalities begin ©johnmcrae
Last shot as a single man ©johnmcrae
The Guests await the entrance ©johnmcrae
©johnmcrae
©johnmcrae
©johnmcrae
Luke’s mother officiates as the Celebrant ©johnmcrae
It’s done! Married. ©johnmcrae
The Wedding Party ©johnmcrae
Cutting the cake ©johnmcrae
The couple take to the dance floor. ©johnmcrae

I wish Matt and Luke all the very best in their future life together.

A Short Trip to Europe – Work Holiday

Paris, City of Lights – looking towards the Concergerie. ©johnmcrae

Because I had been booked to shoot a wedding in Belgium late February, I decided to stay on for another 10 days in Europe to work and catch up with friends I hadn’t seen for quite some time.

Of course the trip was overshadowed by the pandemic that was quickly gaining momentum around the globe. Given the situation, I was relieved to be able to arrive back in Sydney by early March

Here are a few shots, taken during my time away…….

Paris rooftops, overlooking the Marais. ©johnmcrae
View across Paris from Sacre Coeur ©johnmcrae
La Tour Saint Jacques – I love this weird Gothic tower in the middle of Paris. All that’s left of a 16th century church that once dominated the site. ©johnmcrae
La Grande Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris, after the fire. ©johnmcrae

Munich, Germany

After Paris I spent a few days visiting a friend in Munich. It was the first time I had been here. I was impressed. Impeccably ordered and clean and so, so European. I was completely enthralled by the Pinakothek der Moderne. I’ve never seen so many paintings by Max Beckmann in one place. I spent the entire afternoon in this magnificent building and lost myself completely.

Pinakothek der Moderne ©johnmcrae
Pinakothek der Moderne cieling ©johnmcrae
View of the foyer ©johnmcrae

The French Countryside

Le Grand Etang, La Clayette. ©johnmcrae

Next stop was the French countryside in Burgundy (La Bourgogne). A friend recently moved back to France after 19 years living in Australia where he has purchased a delightful, picture-card-perfect farm house near a small village called, La Clayette.

This village is dominated by the impressive chateau, Chateau de La Clayette, that was built in the 14th and 19th Century as a fortress, surrounded by a moat. It has had a long and illustrious history and it remains in private hands.

Le Chateau de La Clayette

Meanwhile here are some shots of the farm……

The Farmhouse.
Morning view from the front door of the farmhouse

These are a few images of my new Burgundy friends…..the Charolais cows. They are a local breed of cattle renowned for their meat (although I wouldn’t mention that to them). They are a creamy, milky white colour and have a amicable nature. They are part of the local landscape.

The French obsession with Protest

I returned to Paris from the south of France before returning to Australia. However, no trip to Paris would be complete without experiencing what the French call, “Manifestation”, or protest. The French are famous for going out on the streets to protest their displeasure with the powers that be. For many centuries, this has been a well known French past-time. The protest on World Woman’s Day was a healthy display of active feminism, accompanied by a rather heavy police presence.

©johnmcrae
Marching towards Place de La Republique ©johnmcrae
Reminder of the impending Covid-19 threat – access to the Louvre Museum was limited
©johnmcrae
The Tuileries Gardens, looking towards La Palais du Louvre.

New Coliseum Theatre

©johnmcrae Coliseum Theatre, Rooty Hill

The Sydney Coliseum Theatre is a multi-mode lyric theatre designed by award-winning architects, Cox Architecture, construction headed by Hansen Yuncken, and the first of its kind in the rapidly growing region of Greater Western Sydney.

Located within West HQ – Sydney’s leading landmark destination for entertainment, fitness, lifestyle, and accommodation – the Sydney Coliseum Theatre features a 2,000-seat auditorium and can accommodate theatrical performances, corporate events, conferences and more.

The theatre officially opened on 21 December 2019 with Grammy and ARIA award-winning artist Keith Urban performing, following a star line up of unique performances from David Campbell in collaboration with the Sydney Symphony OrchestraDame Edna Everage, award-winning performer Tina Arena, and talented musician John Butler.

You may remember that on a previous post I covered the mid-construction shots of this brilliant cultural addition to Western Sydney. I captured the construction progress around April, 2019. Here are some shots….

Mid-construction in the Coliseum Theatre

Now, over a year later, Western Sydney has it’s own, “state of the art”, international standard, performing arts centre. This facility is poised to attract the cream of the worlds talent and the pinnacle of the worlds top shows to Rooty Hill.

Having built a certain rapport with the physical structure of this building, inside and out, photographing it on several occasions, I am looking forward to visiting the theatre to see my first show there. I have heard that the acoustic performance of the auditorium is excellent and I am excited to experience this.

Western view of the Coliseum Theatre

The interiors are particularly impressive with a large coloured chandelier in the main foyer, suspended from the ceiling. Stairs, white walls, vaulted vertical windows and wood panelling ascend the central atrium that leads to the various entrances of the auditorium.

©johnmcrae
©johnmcrae
©johnmcrae The Auditorium and main curtain
©johnmcrae Backstage view
©johnmcrae The various fly lines that raise and lower the sets

MMXIX – Matthew Mitcham Annual Portrait

MMXIX
Pigment inkjet on cotton rag, 112cm x 78cm
Edition of 9 (2AP)

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.

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

MUM’S XMAS PUDDING RECIPE

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.

Let me introduce you to Rob. He’s a young doctor working in a remote area of Tasmania and is very happy to help out on the Xmas pudding front on his time off from the hospital emergency department. I thought the Maltese apron very appropriate since we both met for the first time on the island of Malta back in 2008. ©johnmcrae

Ingredients:

  • 6 Table spoons of Butter
  • 2 Small Cups of Brown Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 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
  • Vanilla Essence
  • 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…..

Procedure:

Gather all the ingredients….

Make sure you have all the ingredients ready at your finger tips ©johnmcrae

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
Rob cutting the almonds into smaller pieces. Note the body position for better leverage. You will find your own style and best practice for this activity. ©johnmcrae
Close up of Rob’s almond cutting style with his “healing hands”. ©johnmcrae
In this frame Rob has decided to sit down as he further completes the task of cutting the almonds into smaller pieces. He looks very happy with the way things are going so far. ©johnmcrae
  • 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)
Rob showing how he has measured out 1 cup of sultanas, as the recipe suggests. ©johnmcrae
Rob making very sure he has delivered the required 1 cup of sultanas. His scientific training has given him an appreciation of sticking to the recipe and the suggested amounts. ©johnmcrae
I suggest using home grown Australian fruit for your plum pudding. Why go for that more expensive imported produce when it is simply not necessary. ©johnmcrae
As mentioned raisins need to be cut into smaller pieces. I would say thirds is what you should aim for. Here Rob is happily cutting the raisins into thirds. ©johnmcrae
Prunes are large. They certainly need to be cut into smaller pieces and be careful to remove the stone….Rob, completely focused, is showing his brilliant technique of “prune stone removal” in the above pic. ©johnmcrae
  • 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?
The bowl containing the mixture of fruit and essence/alcohol ©johnmcrae

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”.

This is the mix-master we used to beat and mix our pudding. It’s an old kenwood that I purchased in my first year of university many, many, many years ago….it’s still going. ©johnmcrae
View of the butter and sugar ready for mixing ©johnmcrae
Here the butter and sugar is creamy, well mixed and ready for the next step ©johnmcrae

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.

Rob is adding the last of the eggs to the mixture. ©johnmcrae

At this point you can add the vanilla essence….a couple of tea spoons.

Rob displays the vanilla essence©johnmcrae

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.

Rob is sifting together all the dry ingredients: the flour, soda and all the spices. ©johnmcrae

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.

Rob is adding the sifted flour etc. ©johnmcrae
Rob is adding the last of the fruit. ©johnmcrae
At any point you may take a break and have a short rest. Here Rob is reclining in the chair and having a chat to our friend Mimi who dropped in to say hello. ©johnmcrae
Rob and Mimi are being silly….sometimes a bit of playfulness breaks the tension….making a plum pudding requires a great deal of concentration and commitment. ©johnmcrae

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.

Rob hand mixing the final ingredients, treacle and jam, into the mixture, flanked by Mimi who is holding the jar of treacle. ©johnmcrae

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.

Rob pouring out the pudding onto the square of calico. ©johnmcrae
Here’s Rob with the final product, after tying off the top of the pudding. ©johnmcrae
Rob reminds us that leaving a long piece of string is a good idea because it can be used to suspend the pudding if you need to store it. ©johnmcrae

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…..

If you are not going to eat the pudding straight away you can store it. Find a place you can suspend your pudding. My safe place is the bathroom.

So that’s it! That’s one version of a plum pudding recipe. Let me know how you go.

Finally I’d like thank Rob for his good nature and sense of fun in allowing me to photograph him preparing the pudding….much better to have a few visuals. Thanks to Mimi for dropping in and offering her brand of assistance. ©johnmcrae

Lastly…….