Beyond

Varicella

Usually I’m pretty slack at having my camera with me unless it’s for work, but once in a while an opportunity comes along that I feel compelled to capture. This was one of them.

About three years ago now, I got a call from my wife saying that the kids all had chicken pox (varicella).

Obviously not great news, especially since it was the school holidays, I really felt for them. But at the same time, I was fascinated.

Lennon, 2

Lennon, 2

Part of it was the rarity - I knew they would experience this just once in their lives, so I would only get this one chance to capture it.

And then there was the intensity. Even though you know everyone gets chicken pox at some point and that it’s only temporary, the effects are profound. What captivated me the most was that each of them reacted so differently, even though they all had the same physical symptoms.

Obviously given their discomfort, there was no room for me to plan or provide direction, and I wouldn’t have felt good about that anyway - I didn’t want it to seem like I was capitalising on their pain for the sake of a photo.

I just shot them as they were - no guidance, natural light, standing against the wall at home.

Mason, 5

Mason, 5

Piper, 2

Piper, 2

Incidentally, both our neighbour’s and friend’s kids also had it at the time, so I decided to continue the series.

Nico, 2

Nico, 2

It was definitely a different experience from photographing my own children, but I kept the process the same. No influence, no direction, no planning, just got them in front of a wall at their house and shot a few frames under natural light.

Rocco, 8

Rocco, 8

Hawk, 6

Hawk, 6

Because I tried to work quickly, didn’t do any planning and just shot things as they were where they were, I didn’t really know how the end result would turn out. But actually, it was this simplicity that helped to capture both the kids’ emotions and the intensity of the moment in their rawest forms, which is what had fascinated me in the first place.

Kai, 1

Kai, 1

I guess the main thing I learnt from this little project is to take opportunities wherever they arise, and to make the most of what you have to work with. It reminded me that you don’t necessarily need an elaborate set-up or a really out-there subject to create something meaningful and impactful. This was a simple case of the chicken pox, something that happens to pretty much everyone, yet turned out to be quite a compelling series.

Proof that there’s something interesting to be found (and captured) in even the most seemingly ordinary of things.


She's Brave

Recently, I was given the opportunity to do some really rewarding work for Amnesty International NZ’s “She’s Brave” campaign, aimed at stopping online abuse towards women.

The campaign was centred around using the “Sound of Unity” - a specific sound frequency (417Hz) that removes negative energy and creates positive change - to speak out against online harassment, which 1 in 3 New Zealand women experience. By downloading the Unity GIF (a visual representation of the sound), and sharing it wherever online abuse is seen, people could help end toxic conversations and encourage healthy and positive behaviour online.

As soon as I read through the brief I was sold on being involved with the campaign. With two daughters growing up in the age of social media, I felt it was an awesome opportunity to help make the online world a safer and healthier place for my girls in the future.

The cast consisted of several influential New Zealanders: actress Claire Chitham (pictured), comedienne Melanie Bracewell, musician Tiki Taane, presenter Erin Simpson (pictured), All Black TJ Perenara and his wife Greer, and personal trainer/social justice campaigner Richie Hardcore.

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Because the campaign was centred around such a sensitive topic, I had to think quite carefully about how I was going to approach the shoot. As the main objective was to raise awareness and encourage positive change, I didn’t want the images to seem downbeat or antagonistic. I wanted them to send a proactive, rather than defeatist, message - all-in-all a solution-based approach. I also didn’t want to portray the cast as victims, but rather empowered individuals determined to make a difference. I needed them to appear natural and genuine - for the message to be real it has to feel real.

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By utilising the Amnesty International colours (yellow and black) and constant lighting, I was able to achieve the images’ intended effect - provocative, empowering, and real.

Overall, I feel really privileged to have contributed to such an important campaign and helped convey powerful messages about how we can make the online world a safer place. For not only our daughters, mothers, sisters, partners, but all women.

If you’d like to learn more about the campaign itself and/or how you can help, visit https://www.amnesty.org.nz/soundofunity


The Ultimate Blast From the Past*

*reshared from the Frame By Frame archives

Have no fear, the 1980s is here.

Life was very different back in the 1980s – policemen wore shorts and pirate taxis plied their trade on the unpaved streets of Singapore. Just kidding. That epic decade saw the introduction of the MRT and SBC dramas (that’s Channel 8 to the millennials).

And it just so happened to be the setting for our latest project with BBH Singapore for Income, too.

So, the 1980s – a time when all the cool kids were born. Sounds like an easy-enough assignment, right? Not so for a New Zealander who was still getting underfoot at the dinner table then and has never even lived in Singapore. But of course, both Troy and the FBF team met the challenge head-on – fearlessly.

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Knowing that the choice of location would make or break the visuals for this campaign, and that Singapore had evolved so much since the 1980s, the team spared no effort in getting the perfect locations.

Each potential location was scrutinised to the most minute detail, like cement finishing and tiled edges. And even then, it had to look like it’d seen better times, and yet not look like it was falling apart. Among the shoot locations was a kitschy Chinese restaurant, which while easy enough to shortlist, wasn’t exactly the easiest to secure permission to shoot at. But with an equal amount of charm and luck, we ultimately managed to win the owners over, obviously.

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With the locations secured, it was all up to Troy, who had to complete two intense areas of research before embarking on this job. First, he had to take a crash course on Singapore in the 80s; to find out what made the people tick in those days. Then he had to understand how the cameras in that era worked; the kind of imagery they produced – so that he could work his magic with the lighting and composition to ensure that the images looked straight out of the 80s.

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How did it all work out in the end? I guess the best way to put it would be, despite our initial apprehension of being able to recreate the 1980s 30-something years later, our fears were unfounded.

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But of course, as always, we’ll let the final product speak for itself.

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