The Shining

Just some of the many, many pictures I took during Magnum Workshops in March this year, with Antoine D’Agata. We are so plugged into our devices that it sometimes seems as though we are feeding off the energy that their screens emit. It seems inevitable that eventually, we’ll all be sucked into the matrix whether we like it or not.

I took a whole bunch of similar pictures during the first couple of days of the workshop, trying to find out what it was I was looking for. On the third morning, it hit me like a freight train as I was wandering Northbridge, the city’s nightlife precinct, which pulses with tungsten and neon in the dark, but is washed out in the light of the sun. Previously, I’ve mostly shot at night, but this sudden realisation opened up a direction that allowed me to look for things in the day without being discomforted by the excess of sunlight that defines Western Australia in many ways.

Long time readers of this blog will remember that the last workshops brought me tug boats, which culminated in an exhibition. This round of Magnum Workshops opened up another avenue for me that I thought I’d never go down:  Street photography. I never thought I had the guts to be a street photographer. It’s a difficult discipline and for the most part, seems to require a special kind of gumption to put yourself out there, at the kindness/mercy of the strangers you’re trying to extract some meaning of the world from.

But there’s a first time for everything. And you never know what you are willing to do until you have a tutor who will send you, headlong down that route before you know what’s going out. Stepping outside the box, disregarding all the labels you’re so used to assigning to things, and just shoot. For the exercise, for the craft, for the discipline and for the joy.

So, what am I looking for then?

I can’t describe it absolutely yet, but in essense: for the moments when people are “lit” within their surroundings, despite the shadows, or perhaps because of them. That is the loose theme around Alight, which was my projection piece at the end of the workshop. It aligns a lot with what I’ve always found of visual interest, right back to when I was a kid. It has a lot to do with my mode of existence; when solitude/alone-ness exists in the unending madness of crowds and congestion in urban areas, I am drawn to it like a drowning sailor to a lifeline. Trying to create pictures that evoke this is something I am finding very hard, but it’s a great challenge to take up.

I’ll be exploring this for a good while to come. It will change over time I’m sure, and may come to nothing at all, but it is an excellent exercise/kick in the butt, and I’ve learnt plenty in the process so far.

Thank you Antoine, for giving so much of yourself to your group during that week. I have been very touched by your generosity and compassion.


The Magnum Mentorship program is being offered in the motherland. If ever I have felt a wisp of desire to return, it would be for this!


  1. Rock on rockstar :) A new world to explore, the streets, it’s ridiculously hard and frustrating and fun. Reminds me, better get some new stuff up on Hyperdrive :)

    1. charlene says:

      Yes, new stuff to explore is always reinvigorating. Between shooting street actually on the street, and shooting bus pictures with phone (another newly discovered delight), got lots to kick around!

  2. That’s exactly the kind of thing I’ve been thinking about lately. I always find myself in awe of the way a tiny mobile screen can illuminate a person’s face and the way it creates a whole little world so separated from the one around them (I think visually because of the different quality of the light). I love illumination from mobile screens/billboards/computers etc, and have been planning to get out at night and shoot more of it (I’ve only really taken a couple of shots like that, but the mood of it really makes me wanna do more). This post has given me that extra push to do it.

    1. charlene says:

      Hello Adam! It was certainly fun trying to get these pictures without being caught, and I imagine you’d have more opportunities where you are to get these as well. I look forward to seeing some on your blog ;)

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