Recently I had a photo exhibition at Melbourne’s Brunswick Street Gallery which finished this week. Two weeks fly by pretty quickly. This exhibition is a series of portraits of Wellington’s Kink (BDSM) community that I have been working on for over four years. For stylistic purposes, I chose to shoot this subject matter using constructed portraits and to emulate a cinematic lighting style. This project has been quite a labour of love: as well as spending many hours crafting each individual portrait – including multiple interviews with subjects, location scouting, testing lighting set ups, finding props and roping-in random helpers – I also raised the $2500 exhibition costs through a crowd-funding campaign, along with arranging for the printing, and packaging and shipping of the finished works to Melbourne.
When I arrived at the gallery two weeks ago, I was worried that the images would not fit well in the space. I had printed the images double the size I originally planned for (good thing too as they looked great as A2 prints) and I thought they would be a bit squished in the small space. Melbourne is a long jump over the Tasman from Wellington, so there was no way I could visit the exhibition space beforehand to see how the images would fit. However using my well-honed Blue Peter skills and rummaging through the recycling for a couple of cereal boxes, I managed to craft a scale model of the exhibition space, and quickly found the best layout for the images.
The evening I arrived in Melbourne, after having only three hours sleep the previous night, my curating and hanging skills were a little uncoordinated! Only the next morning, once the images were equally spaced and securely fixed to the wall (thanks to
a little a lot of help from one of the gallery elves) was I relieved to see that they actually looked pretty darn good (and not too squished).
Come the afternoon of the big exhibition opening, as I was preparing the finishing touches to the exhibition space, I was starting to get a little nervous about how the subject matter might be received.
And finally, after a quick clean and polish, things were looking rock steady…
It was a huge relief to see people spending time in the space and reading the captions and information sheets that I had provided. It shows people took a real interest in the work and the story that was being told. It was also very uplifting getting feedback from visitors, with one middle-aged lady thanking me for bringing this work to Melbourne and commenting “it was great to learn about a sub-culture that was so far outside of my realm of experience”. The value of this work was further reinforced by positive feedback the gallery curator had been receiving from visitors throughout the duration of the exhibition:
“I hope all is well! I just wanted to pass on that I have had an incredible amount of visitors express a great deal of gratitude for your exhibition. Our visitors have been learning, and feeling inspired. Your work invites a real personal experience and this has been really meaningful! It’s been exciting to receive all of the feedback.”
With the success of this Melbourne exhibition, I’m still hopeful that I can exhibit this work in Wellington as soon as I’m able to find a gallery space that is willing to show this work.
OK. As you might have noticed by now, this is going to be a rather long blog post, so if you’ve read this far, the actual portrait project as it (for the most part) appeared in the gallery, is shown below:
My background in documentary and editorial photography informs my work as a photographer, and fuels my interest in using visual imagery to tell stories. Curious by nature, I often find myself drawn to subjects that sit outside of cultural norms, or that are socially or environmentally topical. As a photographer, I am driven to make a difference in the world in whatever small way I can, and producing visual stories to provide a platform for discussion and engagement is one way in which I can do this. If people see my images and it has a positive impact on them, or provokes a response, or makes them think, then I believe I have succeeded as a photographer.
BDSM is often perceived as a deviant sexual practice, bordering on pornography. This work is an attempt to defy stereotypes, to show the diversity of individuals that make up the Kink community, and the benefits these practices can bring. Ultimately it is an affirmation of the diversity of sexuality and human relationships. The portraits shown below are a collaboration, and have taken many hours to construct. The exhibition of these images was designed to be the endpoint of this project (and this is the first time that they have been shown on the web).
As the Kink/BDSM community is rife with its own language and terminology, I have include a BDSM Glossary and an Introduction which is intended to be read with the image captions, to understand the accompanying story.
BDSM roles: Sub
Into: Sensation play – touch and sensations, scratching, fingernails, biting, temperature play (ice)
Describes herself as: Introvert, perfectionist, writer, feminist.
“Sexuality in contemporary society can be very confronting and repressed. In the kink community, you are naked. This is everything you represent, accept me as I am, warts and all”.
“Normal social boundaries do not exist in the Kink [BDSM] scene. Breaking these social norms in a community that is supportive and accepting is hugely freeing. The idea of giving up control to another is liberating and simultaneously empowering. You need to be a strong-willed individual to hand over control to someone else”.
Collar: the collar is a very important symbol in the Kink community and there are protocols on it’s meaning and display: it can represent the binding of two partners together; the Sub and the Dom; the Slave and the Master; or simply an artifact representing commitment and deep friendship between two partners within the kink community. It is also used indicate that a ‘play scene’ is about to start and that the ‘sub’ is partnered for the evenings play.
BDSM Roles: Sub, dom, switch
Into: Masochism, impact play, bondage, shibari, kidnapping play.
Describes herself as: Positive, open-minded, happy, quirky.
“I love living a double life in an environment that is non-judgemental, safe, and positive, with trustworthy, open and honest people. It’s nice [being part of the Kink scene] to be surrounded by like-minded people”.
“Pain (see good pain) is a gateway to go through to cleanse the mind, you come out almost being reborn. The negative stresses of everyday life are released. You see things from a different perspective. All mental clutter is gone”.
“It’s about forgetting yourself. Forgetting that you have an ego, that you have thoughts or feelings, it’s almost a religious experience”.
Special thanks to SFX artist Sonia Edney for creating the FX work for this image.
BDSM Roles: Sub, sadomasochist;
Into: Monogamy, edgeplay, needle play, sadism, masochism
Describes herself as: Secret geek, dabbler in many kinks but master of none.
A total of 152 sterile, fine-gauge hypodermic needles are inserted through Melancholiq’s skin. Pierced through rather than into the skin, the needles trigger the release of endorphins in response to the pain they create.
Needle play is becoming one of the most popular forms of BDSM play. A form of Edgeplay, needle play can be used as a form of self-expression, imitating tribal rituals for the purpose of spiritual self-discovery, or for sexual pleasure. As part of BDSM practice, needle play can produce an intense natural endorphin high which can last for hours and can induce orgasm in many of the people who experience it.
“The main attraction to [needle play] is the endorphin rush that I get from it. It is painful, but more or less so depending where the needles go in. Areas with more fat hurt less whereas areas where the needle accidentally hits muscle hurt a lot as muscles are particularly sensitive, and can cause intense pain. I try to keep them just under then skin”.
“What I also like is the challenge. I like to see if I can outdo myself from last time”.
Lexa and Damien
BDSM roles: Sub, dom, polyamory
Into: Impact play, bondage, wax play
Describes herself as: Over-thinker, caring, involved, sexy
Describes himself as: Hard working, adventurous, sexual, affectionate
“At a time in my life when work was very demanding and stressful, I found that the play scenes in the kink community were a good way to release the tension from my work life and to help relieve the anxiety which I have recently begun to experience”.
“We began exploring group play and this led to finding FetLife and the local kink community. We began experimenting with flogging, chains, ropes and other types of restraints, plus sensation play such as using wax”.
“The sense of welcome that we felt from the community was great and it was a very safe place to explore and discover what we liked”.
“I am also polyamorous and have another male partner. The polyamorous side of my relationship I have had to learn how to manage with timing, communicating, emotional needs and also considering the impact this has on our son, aged four, with another man being involved in his life”.
“BDSM and being submissive really supports the management of my anxiety. By giving up control to one of my lovers completely and being restrained, I trust them to follow the preset boundaries and I don’t have to worry about being on top of everything. I can give myself up to the play”.
BDSM Roles: Top
Into: Shibari, Flogging, Needle Play
Describes himself as: Kinkster who lives the life when I can
Duncan hangs from four large hooks temporarily pierced into his upper back, known in the trade as a suicide suspension. The hooks are attached to ropes strung through a rig. The fresh piercings bleed a little, but the rush of endorphins the brain produces in response numbs any pain, and under the guidance of fellow practitioners, Duncan is slowly and carefully lifted into the air. After the apprehension and the pain, comes an intense euphoria, a blissful state of being.
Skin suspension, a subset of the growing practice of body modification, has its roots in native traditions and tribal ceremonies – from the ancient Hindu festival Thaipusam, to the Mandan tribe on the banks of the Missouri River – and has been practiced for at least 5000 years.
Was this your first attempt at skin suspension and have you tried anything similar to this before?
“Yes, it was my first skin suspension. I had been suspended in rope before this, which I think is totally a different beast itself”.
What is it that interests or attracts you to perform skin suspension?
“Over the years, I have seen several suspensions around the kink scene in Wellington, my interest has grown over the years from “God that must hurt” to “Why?” to “Why do they look so peaceful and happy while they are suspended?”.
In the image, you look pretty blissed, can you describe your experience of skin suspension, the state of mind you experienced and what the practice/experience means to you?
“The endorphin rush was huge and I was up on a high for at least a couple of days. I think some people would relate this as a spiritual experience . I found it to be an inward experience as your mind is saying your skin is not supposed to be doing this, but you know it will, so it is a bit of mind fuck. Other than that all I remember was relaxing in to the slight discomfort at the time”.
Many of these body modification practices have their roots in ancient tribal cultures and customs, why do you think there’s a revival and growing interest in these experiences in modern day culture?
“I think the revival of these practice is a good thing, whether you are in it for the spiritual side or you do it as a rite of passage, as long as it is done safely with sterile equipment and all the other rigour that makes this a safe experience”.
“Why do I think there is a revival? I think people are lost in the impersonal fast paced world and are searching to find themselves, not a bad way to centre you self, in my opinion”.
BDSM Roles: Sub, dom, switch, transgender
Into: Impact play, flogging, bondage, sensation play
Describes herself as: Exhibitionist, husband, father
Diane has felt the need to be a woman all of her life. As a woman, she becomes a different person. She feels more comfortable and more herself. Living a transgender existence has its emotional challenges as Diane is forced to live a dual life: loving husband and devoted father, while dabbling in her transgender identity when she is away from family and friends.
Diane tried to live a ‘normal’ life, but the expression of her feminine side was too hard to resist. The first few public outings as ‘Diane’ were terrifying but she felt compelled not to hide her true self. Websites like FetLife helped Diane to find a community of people who also felt trapped by their own gender. She soon realised that she was not alone and found the opportunity to meet people in the BDSM scene who were more open-minded and accepting, which enabled Diane to live out her dream of being the hostess of a dinner party, and to indulge in her family fantasies of cooking, cleaning, and shopping for other people.
“I’ve always felt this way, but I always knew that I had to hide it. I’ve known this since I was eight years old and it’s fundamental to my being. I can’t repress this forever”.
“As a woman, there are more clothes to choose from to express yourself. The colours make me feel so happy and alive”. “If you are constantly wearing the wrong clothes, it’s difficult to be yourself”.
“It’s not just dinner. Afterwards somebody gets tied-up or spanked, and everyone else watches. There’s lots of fun and laughter. There are no inhibitions and people are not afraid of their imperfect bodies”.
“What I’m looking for is acceptance, so I expect everybody else to be accepting”.
BDSM Roles: Switch
Into: Dressing up (high-heeled boots, corsets, leather, bondage gear), heavy impact play, sensation play.
Describes herself as: Vivacious, bookworm, bold, fun, alternative, exhibitionist, flamboyant, extrovert.
Whips, corsets and high-heeled PVC boots are some of the things Chrissi loves about being part of the kink scene. “Dressing up is all part of the fun”. Her first experience of BDSM and alternative lifestyles was from attending the ‘Southern Exposure’ conference in Christchurch in 2006.
“Something just clicked. I met all sorts of interesting twisted and kinky folk, and have never felt more open and comfortable with myself”.
After sleeping in bed with a dog lead attached to her ankle and having to ask permission to go to the toilet, Chrissi soon discovered that being submissive is not part of her personality.
“It was an interesting journey. We worked out that I have submissive qualities but I’m not a submissive person.” “The relationship didn’t work out too well. It was definitely a control thing (dominance/submission) for him. I learned a lot about myself though and met a lot of good friends along the way”.
Chrissi is a “switch” so is equally comfortable being tied up and beaten, or doing the tying and the beating. Roles between playing tops and bottoms change depending on play partners and their dynamic.
“It all comes down to the dynamic”.
“It can be very liberating having a group of friends where you don’t need to hold back on conversations and pushing boundaries and exploring limits”.
“Your body is in a super-sensitive state for up to an hour after a play scene, like heavy impact flogging, so the endorphin rush, or subspace as it is known in the trade, puts you in an interesting place”.
“The bruises are like a trophy or memento of the play”.
BDSM roles: Sub, bottom, switch.
Into: Shibari, bondage, sensation play, wax play, polyamory
Describes herself as: Mother, playful, cheeky, energetic.
Often abbreviated as ’poly’ in the kink scene, polyamory is the practice, desire or acceptance of having more than one intimate relationship simultaneously, with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved. With polyamorous relationships, the complexity of human relationships and dealing with the web of emotions can add significant challenges to poly relationships. Rules and boundaries are established for the multiple relationships to co-exist and function fluidly and each person in the relationship commits to values such as openness, acceptance, and honesty. Through the practicing of these values, powerful bonding may occur between the individuals in the poly relationships.
As Bex points out from her own experience, “polyamory requires a strict set of rules if the relationships are to flourish and each partner must establish their reasons and requirements for going into the relationship”. “It can be a balancing act, as strong emotions arise when dealing with human fears and desires. Strong feelings of attachment, jealousy and possessiveness can be confronting when they arise between different partners in poly relationships. However, by establishing rules at the beginning and committing to open and honest communications, can help keep these conflicting emotions in check”.
For Bex, joining the polyamorous community has taught her a lot about human relationships, and about how to overcome a whole swathe of complex emotions through spending long periods with multiple partners.
“I feel very capable of handling most problems life can throw at me because of the emotional maturity poly relationships can bring”. “Living together as a trio does require a big leap of faith. You have to put a lot of trust in each other. However, it can bring many benefits that a traditional, monogamous relationship doesn’t offer”.
Wax and Rope
In the Wellington kink scene, Bex mainly participates in wax play and Shibari. With wax play, the wax is applied by a play partner using burning candles to drip hot, liquid wax on different areas of the body, which produces a tolerable amount of pain. The sensations of the wax tingling the skin vary as the wax is applied more liberally, producing a hypersensitive state known as subspace, as the sensations gradually build upon one another.
Practitioners of modern Shibari rope play create intricate geometric patterns and shapes designed to flow with the body’s natural curves. The rope placements can also create physiological experiences known as “subspace” and “topspace”, an effect similar to runners high.
“Being tied up during rope play can release a flood of feelings of calmness and serenity”. “The restriction caused from being tied-up and made immobile creates an act of surrender, not of helplessness but of surrendering your control. You have to place great trust in the person performing the suspension”.
“Kink is such an open society that it allows people to have such self-experimental journeys of discovery in an accepting environment. It’s very liberating”.
“Being a part of the kink community is the most accepted I have ever felt because I can simply be myself. Everyone is so open-minded”.
BDSM roles: Sub, slave, bottom, sadomasochism, polyamory
Into: Pain and sensation play, sensory deprivation, heavy flogging, beating, whipping, rubber, bondage and breath control.
Describes himself as: veterinary surgeon, conservationist, sane, sexual extremist, queer, pervert.
“The feeling of being trapped, of being totally at the mercy of somebody else” is what partially attracts Andy to the BDSM scene.
“The clothes – such as tight leather, PVC, or a sleep sack (a piece of material used to totally enclose the whole body, and designed for sensory deprivation) – increases anticipation and excitement, the sensation of every touch is magnified”. “My imagination goes wild with excitement, when I’m deprived of my senses”.
An extreme sports enthusiast, Andy gets the mental highs he craves through adventure sports such as rock climbing, paragliding and motorcycling.
“These activities, while exciting, require your full attention. They are fully absorbing and mentally stimulating, and for the same reasons, this is what attracts me to the BDSM scene”.
The same rules apply. Pain turns into pleasure.
“I’m into safe fear. In BDSM, you have to be able to implicitly trust the ‘top’ or master entirely. Play with a master provides a very safe pain (see good pain). This way I can get the sexual excitement I enjoy without any risk”.
“It’s a big trust thing. Completely giving over your control to someone else. Building this kind of trust with a master and being pushed to the limit of pain and pleasure”.
Tom and Jayne
BDSM Roles: Sub, dom, top, bottom
Into: Bondage, sensation play, wax play, flogging, polyamory.
Describes herself as (Jayne): Vanilla but experimenting.
Describes himself as: Partner, father, greeny, programmer, handyman friend.
In the language of BDSM, Tom is a Top, which is primarily about being in control and is someone who “gives” rather than “receives”. Tom likes hurting people who like to be hurt. Tom is polyamorous and has a relationship with his play partner, which is purely consensual, and sensation play – flogging, scratching, whipping, wax play, and chains – is all part of the fun.
For Tom’s life partner Jayne, her journey into the world of Kink has been somewhat of a rollercoaster ride. Being ‘vanilla’ in BDSM parlance (a term denoting a person who has standard or conventional sexual behaviour), Jayne’s journey into the kink scene has been a baptism by fire.
To open a strong, loving, 16-year relationship to another sexual partner, to share the person who knows your most intimate thoughts and frailties, someone with whom you have entrusted your life, to another, takes great strength and courage. It was an emotional and psychological learning curve for Jayne, as she battled with feelings of jealousy, fear, insecurity, inadequacy, loss and low self-esteem.
To enter into a open, polyamorous relationship requires serious trust and commitment, the negotiation of boundaries within the relationships, and the development of a distinct set of values, such as truth, honesty, trust, respect, and open communication, with which to live by.
During this journey of self-discovery, Tom has been Jayne’s rock during this transition in their relationship: constant, calm and supportive. Their commitment to each other has grown, and together, with open minds and open hearts, they walk the rocky road into the unknown.
Tom and Clare
“I see my role as being Tom’s kink outlet and partner at BDSM events. Tom and Jayne have privately managed their own relationship and in fact have been careful not to involve me in their challenges. We agreed rules at the outset. Over time, we have all negotiated changes to the rules as the situation has evolved. I have also developed a friendship with Jayne where we meet periodically to catch up and discuss any questions or issues that have arisen.”
All three participants in this situation discuss issues and negotiate freely to ensure that everyone’s needs are considered and met, as far as possible. Clare and Jayne also communicate together and meet from time to time for a friendly catch-up. While opening their relationship has at times been challenging for Tom and Jayne, the outcome for all three has been rewarding, and overall the bond between Tom & Jayne has deepened and strengthened. Their commitment to each other has grown, and together, with open minds and open hearts, they greet their future, whatever it may bring.
Second blog post in a year…woohoo…go me! It’s been a long, four year journey creating this portrait project, but now I’m finally, nearly THERE. Only four weeks to go until the Kink portraits (all 12 of them) are exhibited at Brunswick Street Gallery (BSG) in Melbourne, Australia. If you happen to be in Melbourne between the 14 and 27 October, take a tour of the suburb of Fitzroy, and check out the many great exhibitions being hosted at BSG.
For all of y’all out there wondering what the hell ‘Kink” is (you’ll probably get it from looking at the pic below!), I promise to create a blog post about the project, along with all 12 images very soon, once I’ve finished prepping for the exhibition. In the mean time, here’s a shot of my mug with some of the exhibition prints:
Over the past 4 years I have been working on a series of stylised portraits of Wellington’s BDSM sub-culture. A total of 12 portraits were produced and I have just launched a campaign on the New Zealand crowd funding platform PledgeMe to raise funds to support the costs of exhibiting these portraits at Melbourne’s Brunswick Street Gallery in October.
For further information on the project and the PledgeMe campaign, take a look at the following link: https://www.pledgeme.co.nz/projects/4660-kink-a-portrait-exhibition
I seem to shoot a lot of film these days (keeps me interested in photography when I’m not able to photograph the subject matter I’m actually interested in), hence all the film landscape shots!
Recently I discovered the Law of Reciprocity the hard way. Reciprocity failure – defined as the non-linear decrease in light sensitivity (speed) of a film at the extremes of very short and very long exposures times. In real terms this means for long exposures a correction factor must be added to the exposure time in order to correctly expose a scene.
I’ve been shooting a series of pictures of Wellington at night using Fuji Velvia 50. For Velvia 50, any exposures longer than 1 second need to have the exposure times corrected to reflect the Law of Reciprocity. So for a marina lit by a full-moon at f8 with a 30 second exposure, would need a correction of 1 stop. Exposures beyond 32 seconds are not recommended. Being a slide film, Velvia only has an exposure latitude of 1/2 stop meaning that if my exposure is off by more than half a stop, you end up with an image that looks very much like this:
I was so horrified after paying $50 or so for developing two 120-rolls of Fuji Velvia, I switched to Fuji Provia instead. Reciprocity failure occurs with Provia at exposures longer than 128 seconds. My second attempt at producing a moonlit shot of Chaffers Marina looks like this:
I will go back to playing with Velvia now I know what I’m doing!
Finally managed to get around to developing some slide film of images shot during semi-recent day tramps in the Tararua Forest Park. This is a ‘sister’ post from an earlier entry back in March on the Goblin Forest. These images are stitched panoramas (one day I’d like to play with a true medium format panoramic camera) from 3-4 frames of Fuji Velvia 50, using a Mamiya 645 medium format camera.
Well not quite a tribute but a first attempt to emulate his style! Shot again using sheets of Ilford HP5 film, and for all but two of these portraits, using a 300W fake Kino Flo from Amazon (Limo Studio) continuous fluorescent light source, a reflector, and some black and white filters. Having just recently worked on a film set producing some film stills and witnessing how film makers use continuous lights, my next plan is to add a second light using a 300 or 600W Arri tungsten light. There seems to be no end in sight for accumulating photography equipment!
I’ve gradually been experimenting further with portraiture using a Sinar F2 large format camera. This is a very slow form of photography and can take an hour or more to make two images (well until I’m more confident using the camera). The speed of using large format is part of the appeal! There’s a lot to think about and a lot that can go wrong. But when it goes right, it looks really good.
I had the help of my test subjects Simin (in the throes of PhD madness), Tim (a colleague from work), and Simon and Cilla (my landlord and his partner).
The Bad and the Ugly
I usually aim to take two portraits of each person using a single film holder (to make the film go further in terms of the variety of images I can create with one box of film). One of the steps when using large format is to prime the mechanical shutter on the lens before taking the shot. I was distracted chatting with Simon and Cilla and could not remember if I’d primed the shutter at the time of making their portrait. It turned out I had……and I therefore did this step twice, creating a double exposure………
For the second shot, I had problems with the darkslide sticking after making the exposure and it could not be closed fully. Two weeks later I discovered that the sheet of film and fallen inside the camera! I learned the hard way that the darkslide has to be removed from the film holder in a slow and steady manner otherwise the darkslide can pull the film out of the rails which keep it in place inside the film holder.
Here are some more test shots from the Sinar F2 large-format camera which I shot and developed a couple of months ago. It’s an interesting learning curve using a large format camera. There are a great number of steps involved to obtain a useable image when using large format, and mistakes can occur at any step along the way. The website Large Format Photography, has a long list of all of these potential errors here: http://www.largeformatphotography.info/mistakes.html
The image of Mount Kaukau below is one example. This image turned out OK considering that I had to expose the same piece of film twice, and removed and re-loaded the film holder into the camera between my two exposure attempts. It was my first attempt at using bulb exposure with a large format (or generally any old mechanical) camera. The cable release (it’s an actual physical cable that mechanically activates the lens shutter) I depressed with my thumb, let go, counted the exposure time down, then pressed it again. Only after removing the film holder from the back of the camera did it occur to me that I actually need to physically hold the shutter open with the cable release for the period of exposure! I manged to get it right on the second attempt.
The other problem that can occur, and that I’ve now experienced, is that the camera rear standard can be moved or knocked when loading the film holder into the rear standard. If the camera’s movements are not locked sufficiently, it can result in the subject being out of focus.
The Tararua Forest Park is a large, mountainous national park just north of the capital city of Wellington, and is scattered with tramping tracks and huts for those with an outdoors bent. It features a variety of dense bush; from lush temperate rainforest in the low-lying areas to stunted, moss-covered beech trees as you approach alpine environments around a height of 1000 metres. At this height, the beech trees become quite stunted, the gnarled branches deformed by layers of moss and from the vicious cycle of storms which batter the mountaintops of Tararua’s on a regular basis.
I’ve been wanting to photograph these beech forests for a while now. A few weekends ago my partner and I headed to Waikanae (a small coastal town 60 km north of Wellington) where you can head east along the Reikorangi Road toward the Tararua range and the start of the Kapakapanui tramping track. A screenshot of the track is below:
The Kapakapanui track is a 6-8 hour walk, ascending one steep ridge and descending another. Climbing to a total height of 1100 metres, the track negotiates steep, technical terrain on gradients anywhere between 30 to 50 degrees. Lest to say, carrying a carbon fibre tripod, a Canon 5d mk iii with a 28mm lens, and a Mamiya 645 with 80mm lens was a challenge! The camera gear weighed in at 11Kg, while my water, food and spare clothes weighed around 4Kg. I see myself as a reasonably fit person so the climb wasn’t that bad. The descent however was a different story. There’s a good reason why many of the trees flanking the sides of the track on the way down, have bare patches on their trunks where no moss grows!
The images below were shot with a 28mm lens using the Canon 5d mkiii. The second image is a composite of three images to create a panorama. Eventually I’ll develop the slide film I shot with the Mamiya.
Kapakapanui hut is about 2.5 hours hike from the start of the track, so staying the night to recover and then spending the day photographing might be a better option. There are several rivers to cross at the beginning of the tramp too, so you’ll have wet feet for the whole journey. The Goblin Forest (sub-alpine stunted beech forest) lasts for several kilometres at the top of the tramp, and is an absolutely remarkable place to walk through. It’s certainly worth a visit.
Today, depending on your timezone, is the launch of the The Other Hundred – Entrepreneurs photo-book and exhibition. This is the second edition of the The Other Hundred series which was initiated to provide a counterpoint to the mainstream media consensus about some of today’s most important issues. The first edition of the book was meant as a counterpoint to the Forbes 100, Bloomberg billionaires list and the countless other rich lists that are constantly making headlines. The second edition of the book focuses on alternative, everyday entrepreneurs.
I initially found out about the photo competition for the second edition of The Other Hundred book a week before the competition deadline closed in June last year, and I only had a couple of hours over a weekend to shoot images for the competition. Luckily I new someone who would be a perfect match for the competition criteria: Alexander Wright of Wellington Woodworks.
Alexander is the director of a small wood working collective based in Wellington, New Zealand known as Wellington Woodworks. The group’s seven members share a mutual interest in handcrafted woodwork, as well as a conscious concern for social and environmental issues. The collectives members lend one another a hand with jobs and have access to each others workshops, equipment, vehicles. The collective encourages familiarity and connectivity with the built environment, and strives to empower both individuals and groups by building and promoting community.
Alexander has a strong social and environmental ethics, which is exhibited in the character of the collective in their choice of materials and predominantly, the use of reclaimed and recycled timber which is preferred over freshly felled and sawn trees. Each piece of reclaimed timber is shaped as much by Alex as it is by its own unique history, and casting one’s eye over his collection of reclaimed timber invokes great curiosity at the stories hidden beneath the rough and weathered surface.
An important aspect of his endeavour is nurturing the development of co-operatives and/or collectives because he believes that working collaboratively is the most rewarding way to work: “collectives promote togetherness, people working with people rather than people working for people”.
My images were chosen, along with 99 other photographers from around the world, to be included in the second edition. A selection of the images which will be included in this year’s book, The Other Hundred – Entrepreneurs, is shown below:
I’ve recently created a new blog on Tumblr: http://www.antonykitchener.tumblr.com/
The aim of this blog is to create a large gallery space to show case the variety of work I have created, from recent images to archived material shot six or seven years ago. It’s still a growing space but I’ll be adding images to the collection every couple of days.
Please stop by and say hello!
G’day folks. It’s been a heck of a long time since I last posted on this blog. A desperate PhD student appropriated my computer over the past couple of months, but now that painful exercise is (practically) over, I have my computer back. First post of the New Year – perfect timing!
Several months ago I bought a portrait book by Gregory Heisler called 50 Portraits. I was immediately struck by the immense detail and amazing selective focus of his portraits, created (mostly) by using large format cameras. I’ve always wanted to test drive a large format camera.
Recently, I’ve begun to notice that the inverse square law appears to apply to more than just light: I find that where I have half as much time to concentrate on photography, I’m four times more likely to buy more camera gear! Perhaps it’s a convincing way to keep that photography dream alive and burning brightly when time is a scarce resource!
Anyway, long story short, I bought one of these babies (well, I collected the parts over several months): A Sinar F2 4×5 View camera.
Now, you’ll have to ignore the camera-shake riddled picture. It turns out iPhones are only good when used outdoors! Who would have thought.
View cameras are unique in that the lens plane and film plane can be moved independently of each other. These movements are useful of course in architectural photography for correcting perspective where you have converging horizontal or vertical lines of buildings. However the movements can also be used creatively for selective focus by manipulating the way the plane of focus intersects with the subject plane. Playing with selective focus for portraiture is my main interest in using this camera.
I’ve been testing the camera using Ilford Delta 100 4×5 sheet film which I develop myself using a MOD54 sheet film holder and a 3 reel Patterson developing tank:
The Mod54 is quite an ingenious design for developing 4×5 sheet film at home. It takes a little bit of practice learning how to fit the film into the device in darkness but it’s pretty simple after several practices, once you get a feel for it!
When using the view camera, you first focus the camera onto the subject using the ground glass and a focusing loupe. Ignoring the use of movements for the moment, you then stop the lens down to a suitable working aperture for the required exposure and depth of field, and remembering to close the lens preview lever, you slide the sheet film holder behind the ground glass.
It was at this point when taking my first test shot that I made a rookie mistake. The ground glass on the back of the camera can be rotated to shoot both portrait and landscape formats without having to move the position of the camera. I had only practiced loading the film holder into the camera once or twice and it seemed fairly straight forward. However I had overlooked the fact that unless the cameras movements are locked, it’s very easy to knock the camera’s position while trying to insert the film holder. It’s easier to load the holder into the camera while the ground glass is rotated in the portrait orientation rather than landscape. However I forgot to rotate it back again before taking the picture. Along with a substantial light leak, this was the result of my first shot using the view camera:
My next test shot of Lyall Bay was much better:
As I am interested in using the view camera primarily for portraits (plus maybe experimenting with landscapes) I did a test shot on the desperate PhD student mentioned above:
The above selective focus was achieved by employing the Scheimpflug principle, to orientate the plane of focus so that it is no longer parallel to the lens and film planes. This allows the use of larger apertures while keeping the main points of interest in focus. To achieve this effect, I employed swing movements to rotate the lens standard (the part of the camera the lens is mounted to) to the right, and the rear standard to rotate the film plane to the left.
To complete the ‘vintage’ look, I developed the film in my bathroom. Throw in some dust and a couple of cats, and bingo, we have an old-looking photo. The borders were created by using a cardboard negative holder to digitise the negatives using the ‘Macro(lens) Method’ as I do not (as yet) own a scanner. No photoshop required!
It’s been a while since I last updated this blog. Only two weeks to go now until the New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year 2014 awards. I’m keeping my fingers crossed and we’ll see how things go!
I’ve been rather busy with administration stuff over the past few weeks as Kaititiro Collective are currently working on organising a large documentary photography exhibition. This requires applying for project funding, hence the substantial admin work…….Anyway watch this space……..
I’ve always been fascinated by the characteristic gestures which people exhibit while smoking: staring contemplatively into the distance, hiding in a doorway with the weight-of-the-world on their shoulders, or looking like a 50’s Hollywood icon as a cigarette dangles precariously from their lips.
This may yet turn into a project for the above mentioned exhibition (assuming I find time to shoot more portraits). Below are some examples of recent test shots using the Mamiya 645 and Kodak Portra 400 film. I have to say I do like the results so far and it appears my light-leak mending kit has fixed the cameras leaks.
Having only used this camera for landscapes and abstract shots in the past, it’s a steep learning curving photographing dynamic subjects. The depth of field can be marginal (say 10 centimetres or so at a subject distance of 1-2 metres) even when using mid-range apertures like f8/f11. It’s relatively easy to miss-focus if you or your subject moves in between focusing and pressing the shutter.
I’m one of 22 chosen finalists (of 3200 entries) in New Zealand to make it to the finals of the New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year 2014 photo competition (woohoo). I entered the photo-story category using a series of images I have produced on the New Zealand Clown Doctors. The images chosen for this competition are shown below.
There is a great selection of images amongst the finalists and I feel honored to have my pictures displayed alongside them.
The People’s Choice award is open for public voting and as a shameless plug, I implore everyone who reads this post to do your civic duty……..and vote for my images. A link to the voting page is here:
Many thanks for your support…….
Update – 09 November 2014
Last weekend (well Thursday 02 November) I was in Auckland attending the New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year 2014 awards evenings. It was a small gathering of around 50-60 people at the open-air exhibition site on Auckland’s waterfront. The exhibition was ingeniously installed in a number of custom-made shipping containers rigged together with weatherproof fabric to help keep the rain at bay (some pictures to be uploaded as soon as I’ve managed to scan them). It was a great night and good to meet other inspiring photographers. Anyway, I was awarded a ‘Highly Commended’ in the photostory category:
I’ve recently discovered a fascination with photographing abstract patterns, particularly using the Mamiya 645 film camera. It’s photography’s version of the Slow Food Movement for me! These were shot on Fuji Provia 400 colour reversal film.
The above images are of the virus that’s been occupying my lungs and invading my bronchioles for the past nine days and were taken using an electron-microscope…………or at least they could be. They look remarkably similar to the virus in my imagination! It’s actually one of these……
……….a Romanesco broccoli, which is a cross between a cauliflower and a broccoli. They possess a fascinating fractal structure where the buds form repeating, self-similar spiral patterns. Anyway, the reason I shot this was to test my new lens: a Canon 100mm 2.8 macro. I bought this lens primarily to digitise negatives (although this still remains to be tested), as it seemed like a viable alternative to buying a cheap scanner for achieving high quality, digitised negatives (albeit probably more time-consuming). Turns out its also good for macro and portraiture! So you’ll be seeing more macro shots in the future. Below are a couple more shots of my old laptop hard-drive. Note that it’s probably a good idea to clean the dirt off of any objects before attempting to take macro images!
Following on from my previous post here is a sample of street photography images taken around Wellington using the Voigtlander Bessa R3A and 40mm Nokton lens. The film used was Kodak Ektar 100. These were mainly shot during my lunchtime jaunts around Wellington while escaping the confines of the office!
Recently, for my personal photographic work, I’ve been getting into using film cameras (with the exception of projects where speed and accuracy are required) such as the 35mm rangefinder Voigtlander Bessa R3A and the medium format Mamiya 645. I really enjoy using these manual cameras when I have the time, as I find that it slows the whole process of photography down and it becomes more meditative as there is so much to think about as compared with the speed and immediate feedback of using digital cameras. Coupled with the costs involved with shooting film, I find I need to conceptualize and plan images ahead of time, and really think about the camera settings required to get the shot, and indeed, whether I even want to make a photo. It is a great way to learn how to visualise how to construct an image, rather than relying on the view screen of a digital camera. Don’t get me wrong, I love using digital for the ease, convenience, speed and accuracy, but I also find it can make me lazy photographer through having the immediate feedback on the view screen.
Plus I love using the Voigtlander (a Leica M would be great for convenience) as it is a very small, lightweight camera which I can carry with me all the time. The pics below were shot on a roll of Ilford HP5. Colour pics to come in the next post!
I’ve always wanted to try high-speed black and white film just to see how grainy the film would be in low-light conditions. These images were shot one night on Wellington’s Courtenay Place using a Voigtlander Bessa R3A rangefinder. Shooting on the Voigtlander and using black and white, 3200 ISO film gave the images a gritty, documentary quality suitable for the late night hedonism and drunken, boisterous atmosphere that makes for a typical weekend on Courtenay Place. The rangefinder is a small, manual operated camera, ideally suited to candid, reportage style photography, where discretion is required. As you can see, some of the shots are rather grainy (bad exposure on my part) and getting a correct exposure in situations where there was little light and fast-moving action was definitely challenging if you didn’t want to miss the moment, especially when shutter speeds were down to 1/15 second.
For the past 6 months I have been working on a long-term documentary project about people who do unique and interesting professions. This project allows me to produce the reportage/documentary work I am passionate about, while simultaneously being easy enough to fit around my day job. The most difficult thing about doing documentary work is one, finding the time and/or resources need to work on documentary projects (i.e. some subject matter might require a persistent approach to build relationships with people before even lifting up your camera), and two, pitching the project idea and gaining access to the organisation and or community you wish to photograph. Hence the reason for me choosing the above subject.
The images below are the first set of images I have completed for this project and were exhibited at Kaititiro Collective’s first exhibition at Thistle Hall (see previous post).
The consistent winds on the Makara coast provide an ideal location for Meridian Energy’s wind farm development on the edge of the Cook Straight. With 40 metre-long blades, each turbine is capable of generating 2.3 megawatts of power, and the West Wind site is capable of producing enough power to supply 70,000 homes. Daryn Te Kere, one of several turbine technicians at the West Wind site, performs scheduled maintenance on one of 62 wind turbines. It is a calm and crisp winter’s day on the Makara coast, and as Daryn remarks, from 67 metres up, the work of a wind turbine technician affords “some of the best views in the world”. More of the images from this project can be viewed here.
Hey folks. I am slacking somewhat in my blog posts but I do have a good excuse…….
I’ve been collaborating with a number of photographers in Wellington over the past few months to form a documentary photographers collective: Kaititiro Collective. Kaititiro means witness in Maori. We’ve been meeting once a month to show and discuss personal work, develop connections and ideas and eventually create collaborative documentary projects and organise funding and networking opportunities to further our reportage/documentary ambitions.
This week we’ve just completed our first group exhibition at Thistle Hall. An opportunity arose for a last-minute exhibition at Thistle Hall for a one week exhibition, and we had a week and a half to organise images, make and mount prints, agree on a name for the collective, and produce flyers and posters to advertise the exhibition. We managed to pull it off, combining a fair few late nights while balancing our day jobs. Below is a blurb about the collective:
Pulling together a group exhibition in 1.5 weeks was an amazing experience and really shows the power of collaboration and how photographers can pool together resources, skills and experience to help generate the type of photography work they are passionate about and wish to pursue. Now the exhibition is over, next comes the development of a website and future projects. Watch this space for further updates. Below are some images of the exhibition launch.
It’s been a while see I lasted posted anything. I have been working honest. I’ve been very busy developing two large projects – one portraiture and the other documentary – which are taking a rather large amount of time making contacts and organising shoots. More on this soon so watch this space…….In the meantime, here are a few images collected with my trusty Voigtlander Bessa R3A rangefinder. I carry this camera everywhere I go (it’s smaller and far lighter than the DSLR) just in case I come across something interesting……..
Two weeks ago I participated in the Rialto Channel 48 Hours short film competition: a weekend of furious film making resulting in a wee short film, a lot of fun, extreme tiredness and a massive migraine!
Our film was shot at the National Library on Saturday (25th May) as the annual Rialto Channel 48 Hours short film competition rolled into town. The competition hosts aspiring film makers from all over New Zealand who battle to write, shoot, and edit a film all within the space of 48 hours.
At 7 pm on Friday evening, teams are given the genre of film they are to make, along with the character’s name and attributes, one line of dialogue, and a prop, all of which must appear in the film.
After a frenzied night of writing, scripting and story-boarding, and two hours sleep, team StreamWorks arrived at the National Library at 6am to begin shooting their short with New Zealand actor Alistair Browning as the lead.
The character Browning was to play was Vic Meyer, an insomniac in a non-dialogue genre film where the only single line of dialogue permitted to be used was “Did you hear that?”.
The team occupied the National Library for a period of ten hours in a bid to tell a story using only visual and audio cues with no dialogue alluding to any plot line or story.
After a short visit to a second location, some careful editing and sound creation, the short film, Ex Libris was born.
It was tough going trying to tell a story without using dialogue and trying to visualise how different sequences would fit together during editing. In the end, we were lacking in plot somewhat, but it was lots of fun creating the film! Anyway, here’s the link to our short:
A few weeks ago a few hundred people gathered in Wellington to protest the New Zealand governments proposed asset sales. An economic policy most of Europe experimented with 20 years ago. I used two cameras at this event: one digital Canon 5D mk iii and the other a film camera – a Voigtlander Bessa R3A shooting Ilford HP5 ISO 400 (plus a yellow filter). I find the comparison between the two mediums interesting. The digital is accurate, producing clean, colourful, and crisp pictures, whereas the B&W film produces a rough quality with a graphic contrast. Admittedly with digital I’m always disappointed when the auto-focus misses the subject or when there’s slight motion blur to ruin the image. With the B&W film shots, many of the images are not sharp and have a gritty, fluid quality to them. The soft images seem to suit the medium, and I prefer them to the clean digital versions. What do you think?