ABOUT THE PROJECT
Behind the lens:
I am a student at RMIT University in Melbourne, an emerging and aspiring photographer with a passion for all disciplines of photography.
In 2016, I took a break from a career as an award winning tennis coach/sport scientist, and discovered my passion to pursue a career in all genres of photography, which 3 months later naturally lead me to apply to study photography and photo imaging at RMIT University. Following that I spent the remainder of the year travelling, taking photos of Australia’s beautiful landscape and learning from some of Australia’s most accomplished landscape photographers such as Ken Duncan, Jason Futril (Tassiegrammer), Kieran Stone, Ading Attamini, Luke Tscharke, Daniel Tran, Adam Dyson and Pete James; to name a few.
In 2016, I was introduced to the wonderful world of Instagram, whilst not really understanding it, hashtags, geotags or the like, I began being inspired by photographers in Australia and around the world. Inspired by so many locations, I like many added locations to weekend wish lists, bucket lists and set out on a journey to see the beautiful Australian landscape. The same year, I shared at the time what was my most successful post, an image of Trentham Falls, with record rainfalls and flooding in the north of the state I knew the falls would be running, but despite living so close, I had never been. Without thinking, I jumped a barrier, walked down a path because I knew where I wanted to take the image from, and it wasn’t from the platform. The image was shared by hub accounts, my account rose by more than 1000 followers and I got my first taste of instagram success. It was ego boosting, and it inspired me to take more images, and it began to shape me as a photographer… I had become a trophy hunter.
I was naive to think because others were doing it, it was ok. I was always careful in places I went, I lived by “leave no trace”. But I had a recipe in my head of how to take a great image, and in some cases I did place objects in the foreground to get the shot. I now became a huge part of the problem!
In 2017, I travelled to Sydney with NiSi Australia and Project RawCast, perhaps I began to open my eyes to photography and the photographer I wanted to become. A conversation with Jason Futril, Kieran Stone and Andrew Code and some other amazing photographers about Tasmania and how some locations are being impacted became embedded in the back of my mind, but I will be honest it didn’t really sink in just yet.
In 2018, entering my last year of University, I am required to present a body of work that reflects me as a photographer, but I have no idea what type of photographer I wanted to become. I was drawn to landscape, so I firstly embarked on a project to interview some of Australia’s most famous established and emerging photographers and take environmental portraits of them in their favourite landscapes. BUT… in my research and laying everything out, I realised we are ALL taking the same photographs in the same locations, its as though there is a permanent tripod in place and we just set up our camera and take our image and move on to the next location.
“Too many people are shooting postcards! They go on these trips and they all take the same photos.
Its like they tick the box. Lets go visit this location... tick, I just got a photo from that location... tick.
What I am trying to do is cross all those things off my box!
I don’t want to know about a photo like that anymore. If I see a photo now its like nice postcard.
I want to go out and find what’s underneath that.”
- KEN DUNCAN
My project began to evolve, and completely disheartened I spoke at length with my lecturers, about my place in photography and I when I looked at my social media feed, it too was exactly the same as those I researched. I too was collecting a series of trophy images that lacked soul and originality. They were simply postcards.
I headed out to Macedon, Victoria, to shoot the trophy image everyone wanted to take and post online, but I wanted to document those trying to replicate it. Perhaps I could combine landscape and documentary. I went on a Friday morning and watched more than 1,000 visitors come through the location, take their trophy/postcard image and move on to the next location. I put all the photographs together as a chapter and presented them to my lecturer, perhaps I had found my direction. That conversation I had twelve months prior in Sydney, would begin to shape me and my project.
So I began the documentary ‘Instafame” to investigate the intense pressure our quest for trophy images has brought to bear on our landscapes, ecosystems and local communities, and the ways in which geo-tagging intensifies this. I will not shy away from the issue.. I am and was very much part of the problem. I went back to Trentham Falls and to the location I took my image from, I had to include a location I shot, but the location I took my image is now cleared and tracks and paths beaten, I was devastated, “look what I am a part of”.
I have battled this project, and some of the things I have seen have scared me emotionally. Watching a little boy being hit by a car in Macedon, a visitor swept off the rocks in Mornington, drones flying in a commercial airspace flight path, people jumping barriers at highly fragile cliffs, but perhaps the sad reality of a location I was heading to document, Sea Cliff Bridge, Sydney, only arriving to find the bridge closed and later reports that a visitor died whilst climbing to the lookout.
Starting this project I didn’t realise how it would impact me personally and emotionally. This project will forever shape the photographer I am and aspire to be.