Interview series – Claire Martin : your start with photography

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Two weeks ago I was at Mag Nation, a relaxing shop specialized in magazines from all over the world. I was browsing the photography and art side and I came across TAKE magazine. It was a full Reportage issue, most probably one of the subject I am most passionate about. I came back home and I literally devour it!!

I was really captured by the reportage NIMBIN, by the spectacular photographer Claire Martin. A window to one of the most unknown place in Australia, Nimbin is a village housing an eclectic community with the roots in the hippy revolution. It was interesting to read the Wikipedia description “Nimbin has been described in literature and mainstream media as ‘the drug capital of Australia’, ‘a social experiment’ and ‘an escapist sub-culture’. Nimbin has become an icon in Australian cultural history with many of the values first introduced there by the counterculture becoming part of modern Australian culture“.

Claire’s photos do not need much writing, they are like a spark that initiate a thinking process and her interview was so inspiring!

Q. How did you start photography?

I studied communications at Edith Cowan University and took photography classes as a part of this. I was never particularly interested in become a commercial photographer so when I graduated I went travelling for 5 years and worked mostly in hospitality. During this time I took many photo’s, and I also met a guy called Lung Liu, who mentored me in documentary photography. Basically I began photography, by taking lot’s of photo’s, and eventually considering the idea of story telling with series of photo’s, rather than just looking for single images.

Q. What was your initial inspiration? Whose work has influenced you most?

Originally it was Dianne Arbus, the I saw a Stephen Dupont exhibition, that made me realise that documentary photography was alive and well today, then probably meeting Lung Liu and seeing his work was the next step.

Q. What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photos?

Hmmmm, I wouldn’t really change anything, except if I some how could have found that about documentary photography was a viable creative career at a younger age. I was about 26 before I really knew anything about it at all.

Q. Do you think that the social environments, facebook and the like, help to spread a message, a photo, a project?

I am terrible at all of these things, I do them all very poorly, but I know for a fact, that if the internet didn’t exist I would have found it almost impossible to follow this career path, or even to learn about it, as a girl from Perth, Australia. The internet is an amazing communications tool, and at the end of the day it’s communicating a message or story that I care about.

Q. What would you like to say to a person who wants to take up photography?

If you work hard, and have thick skin, and don’t mind instability in your life, then follow your dreams, and I am sure you will find success. That said there are so many different types of photography, from commercial, to art to journalism. Some will be easier than others to follow, but all will require a good amount of personal motivation.

Q. Among your works, which one is your favorite?

Probably the photograph of Tony eating Cream Pie, from the downtown east sides series. It was the first moment I felt real magic happen when I pressed the shutter on my camera. Everything felt perfectly in synch, from my relationship with Tony, to the story I was trying to tell, to the light, the moment etc. I feel a lot of emotions when I look at that photo.

Q. Your last work, Nimbin, is really outstanding. How did you start this project? 

I began to see a theme emerging in my work that looked at marginalised communities in developed nations. I wanted to continue this theme, and I also wanted to photograph in my own country. I had heard of Nimbin and the counter culture 60’s revolution, as well as the street drug scene, so I thought this might be a good place to visit to try and find a community to photograph. Nimbin was really a lot more functional that the media makes it out to be, and when I arrived I found it to be a mostly positive place, so I chose to look at it from the perspective of how the culture of a community can affect the relationship between stigma, disadvantage and quality of life, with Nimbin representing how a positive counter culture community can support those who otherwise would be stigmatised and subsequently marginalised in regular society. The relationship the people on the communes had with nature and the sense of spiritual nourishment that they seemed to draw from the natural environment was also really interesting to me.

Q. Let’s talk about your next project with SBS.

SBS and Oculi, the Australian Collective that I am a part of, have entered into a partnership to develop multimedia content on sub cultural stories in Australia for their website. It has yet to be launched, so I won’t give too much away, but it is going to be great, with the caliber of the people working on it, both at SBS and at Oculi.

I really suggest you to go through her website, you will be captured!

Claire Martin Phototgraphy

 http://www.clairemartinphotography.com 

 The Nimbin project – All photos are property of Claire Martin and linked to her website


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Stefano Ferro
Stefano is a cycling, movie and life style photographer with a big love for landscape & travel photography. When in Melbourne, his hometown, you will see him cycling around at sunset or sunrise looking for the best spot for a photo of this beautiful city. It is quite amazing how much photography gear he can pack on his bike :o

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