I walked along the pavement under the warming winter sun of Byron Bay. Amongst the modern buildings and construction noises there stood a two-story charmingly weathered Queenslander home. Adorned in plants, succulents, palms and handcrafted homewares I knew I had arrived at the home of artist Caitlin Reilly. The front door wide open I felt an immediate sense of welcome and as I removed my boots placing them next to a pair of paint-soaked canvas shoes, she came to the door barefoot and in oversized workwear. Speckled in paint, she was everything I had imagined an artist to be.
Stepping foot inside her home is like being the only guest invited to a private viewing of a gallery. Slow paced and in awe I took in every inch of every wall covered in paintings. By the time I made it to the living room, Caitlin had arrived at her portrait painting of Ruth Ryan, one to be proud of and this she was. With warmth and honesty, I couldn’t help but smile at the intricacies of this painting and the tender words she spoke of Ruth. Beyond honoured and in complete disbelief, I was in Caitlin’s presence when she received the phone call to confirm her entry of Ruth Ryan placed as a finalist in The Black Swan portrait prize. Held at The Gallery of Western Australia, the prestigious portrait prize is in its 12th year and took over 400 applicants with only 40 finalists chosen. To be selected is an admirable achievement and one to surely be proud. So whilst Caitlin brewed a pot of tea on the stove with an elated spring in her step, I curiously wandered through the house taking in all the small things. Cupboard covered in photographs, artworks high and low, paint covered clothes hanging out to dry and small pots of plants in every corner. I couldn’t go past the beautifully tattered grand piano sitting pretty in the living room. This house had its charm and I was falling.
With tea ready, we perched ourselves on the balcony to talk all things life and creativity. Born and bred in the quaint, cosy town of Bowral just south of Sydney; Caitlin remembers this place as being purely picturesque. She spoke of her family as incredibly musical and described her mother as a woman who constantly sang along whilst playing instruments. With her father in the thick of ‘Rag Trading’ she took skills from him that would see her working in the clothing industry when she moved to Melbourne at the age of 19. Her days were filled with working Rag Trade by day and playing music by night, a routine that would stick for years to come. Going into her twenties and all through the 90’s Caitlin progressed into the booming hospitality scene, waitressing by day and playing music in several bands by night. Living on the vibrant, infamous Chapel Street of Melbourne city, Caitlin was in the thick of energetic vibrancy surrounded with music, art and business start-ups, leaving her caught in the creative whirlpool. As she described this time of her life with a soft smile and a nostalgic sparkle in her eye, she admits this period of life wasn’t sustainable and felt she had ‘burnt her fuse’ and so with the end of her twenties Caitlin moved to Byron ready for a lifestyle change. With music put aside, her new focus was on living simply and to redefine her love for expressing through different mediums. Caitlin refilled my mug with hot green tea as the conversation progressed into the realm of parenthood. Falling in love with the warm tender land of Byron Bay is something we all do, falling in love with another saw Caitlin into the next pivotal chapter of her life. Now a mother of 3 (Hugo 14, Pearl 16, Otis 18) she recalls the experience of parenting as being one of the most creative things we’ll ever do as humans. And between the chaos and her creative mind, she always found a way to make art even with a pot of food on the stove and kids crawling at her ankles, Caitlin would be at the table painting.
When I asked Caitlin what medium she enjoys to work with most, she had a simple answer “put me somewhere, what am I going to express with”. What she creates depends on what’s accessible to her, therefore, the medium will dictate what she creates and expresses. During her time in China, supplies were cheap and so she was able to create these large-scale paintings with lots of layered texture that were juicy and thick of history. “Most of the work I make is about creating a memory and history on a surface structure and then the surface structure becomes the outcome.” As a multi-disciplinary artist there is no favourite medium, rather she finds that once a new body of work is undertaken that current piece is her favourite. Her works reflect exactly that. But what held the most weight were in the words she spoke of music because although physical mediums create literal works, sound compares to none other. It is invisible. Sitting at the piano for hours on end, singing or holding musical notes is an expression of sound that is not held anywhere else than the ethos, in space. Music has been an integral part of her life creating pivotal moments of which perhaps paint cannot. And having something tangible is something we can connect to and appreciate as viewers, but sound is a personal connection that can move us, make us reach into the darkest depths of ourselves and still remain invisible.
In her final year of University Caitlin travelled to China where she began looking for galleries to not only host an exhibition but a place that would foster her works. Unbeknownst to her, China was going to be an experience that has now seen her holding 9 exhibitions over 4 years, creating commission pieces and assisting the elderly through interactive art experiences like finger knitting. “Doing work that enriches your life, is about connecting and being human”. Having cultivated a community through creativity Caitlin also had time to soak in surroundings and apply her belief of being placed somewhere and using the surroundings to constitute work. During her time in China Caitlin had performed rubbings of manhole-covers which were (unbeknownst to me) sprawled over the lounge room floor, curled up into large rolls of paper. Being the inquisitive soul that I am, I asked what they were and as she knelt down and unrolled one of the pieces an entire story was unveiled. The soft textured paper, finer than a butterflies wing yet stronger than the floor beneath us, held history in the form of charcoal rubbings. If you’ve experienced charcoal you’ll understand it’s careless nature and untidy tendencies, mix that with a subject being of road structure and you’ll end up with something like these. This body of work had me in full attention longer than any painting on Caitlin's wall. The symmetry of the manhole-cover designs mixed with Chinese scripture make for obscure shapes and lines, and in the darkness of charcoal, it created a depth of curiosity within me. Laying flat beneath her hands this particular piece had scribbles of handwritten text beneath it, of which I asked her to read “08/09/2014 Shanghai early morning around 2 am mooncake festival. This cover is at the end of a ramp at the entrance into an apartment building. Onlookers kindly waited for me to be finished before making their way up the ramp. Big smiles transcend language barriers. Magic in 3’s”.
With life now on a slower, more conscious path living in the heart of Byron Caitlin continues to create with mindfulness and integrity. Now being apart of the ‘Reef Sculpture Artist Collective’ selected for the Marine Sculpture Anthozoa she makes her way to Hayman Island this month with a team of other creatives to work on this new project. And besides being incredibly aware of the world, there is a humble softness in her voice that compliments her as a bona fide human and from the stories told over a pot of tea, she is someone who lives from the heart.
Within the confides of my creative studio, a passionate team of inspired creatives came together to produce a vision. We were there to make art, make lines and manipulate light. The nature of this shoot was not of nudity but rather to use movement of the body through expression and fluidity to create natural contours showcasing where the light falls, sits and hides.
As a female you undergo a personal journey one way or another at some stage of your life where you discover the map of your landscape, learning to love every contour, ridge line and open space. This is an arduous journey but one that is rewarding when you reach the top of the peak and look down at what you have conquered. For me, this was a way to celebrate the forthcomings of my own self love journey.
The ease and comfort that came with this passion project fell heavily on a few important aspects: Being within my own space, my own body and with humans who use their creativity to capture and accentuate the parts that once were an area of disgust or embarassment and celebrating them through a projection of art and imagery. Being surrounded by two women who are older and wiser than I, is an experience in itself. They too have already undergone their own journey of discovering their landscape, with more years of knowledge and experience under their belt and so they create this warming feeling of unspoken respect for another female wherever she may be in her journey.
For me, I am no model, I’m not here to promiscuously pose or pout or have time spent applying makeup to enhance the way I look. I am not on this side of the lens because of my height, or my waist measurement but because of my passion for expressing and my lust for using the body as an art form, combined with the acknowledgment of these attributes by other creatives.
The energy that circulated the room was infectious and thick with creativity causing us all to fall ill with beautiful imagery. The light danced around the room to each song that was playing loudly and would finally find its ways to my skin, perching itself atop any and every line highlighting the many wonders of my landscape.
What we came away with are these beautiful images. I do not refer to them as beautiful because of the fact that they are of myself but because creating moments like these involve having the eye to capture them, the mind to curate them and a team to project a meaning behind them so that every viewer can resonate.
A hot day at Christmas beach with an inspired and excited creative team. Liabelle and Lotte are the owners of Worn Store in Bangalow and have recently collaborated with Assembly Label, creating hats and bags. I was honoured upon being approached to shoot for them, showcasing this new collection.
I do not see myself to the standard of a typical model, nor do I put myself in that category simply because I have no desire to be a model but there is something quite nice about being approached by inspiring business owners, wanting you to represent their works. For me, it is extremely important to remain authentic and to stay grounded when accepting creative work that requires my physical aesthetics by limiting or declining the application or alteration of my appearance. And so to have two women who know the pressures of social media, successful branding/campaign imagery etc and agree with a non-conforming approach to achieve the same outcome is truly humbling.
Taking mental notes on photo board references, Holly, Lia and I positioned our way along the beach frame after frame creating diverse poses, shapes and lines to perfectly compliment Worn Store’s identity. Although none of the images feature my exposed body parts, being exposed feels completely natural when you have a team of empowered women who celebrate the body instead of sexualising or ostracising it.
The heat became fierce as time progressed yet our inspiration and fluidity only grew deeper, with more direction and purpose. Images started to compile and outfits became more daring and more obscure to create artful images.
A lunch time break saw us each having a leisurely dip to abate the heat and cleansing our sweaty selves followed by delicious seasonal fruit, cold coconut water and swatting off the invading bush turkeys.
Days like these are few and far between for me, but it helps me gain an insight to the life of models, photographers, stylist etc and although I do not desire to be a model, I believe in the benefits of experiencing something so that I may earn a deeper knowledge and gain more understanding for it.
It was pleasure to be apart of someone else’s vision through their own creativity and contribute what they saw in me in my most natural form. It was and always is such an honour to be on the other side of Holly Graham’s the lens, being captured with such honesty and integrity. This is why I support, and will continue to support creatives like Lotte and Lia-belle.
Images - Own content (35mm film)
Hand - Sean Woods
Sausage Roll - Choux Choux
I’ve come to the terms with the fact that in order to be a functioning group in societal environments, each gathering of people do in fact need a Token Bogan. Imagine how fancy this world may just be without us Bogans. And so i’ve also come to terms with the fact that I am the Token Bogan in almost all of my friendships/workplaces/families.
I like to consider myself as the person who brings us all back to down under, back to our roots to realise that there is nothing to be embarrassed of, instead only pride to be felt when acting in such a manner that comes naturally in your own environment.
What makes a Bogan you ask? Well, some may argue that a Bogan cannot have all their teeth, barracks for Collingwood and call all women Sheila’s. That my dear friends is somewhat correct but mostly incorrect, yes.. okay I do barrack for Collingwood but that is just a coincidence and for your information I have ALL of my teeth. A Bogan (in my eyes) has nothing to do with being Aussie because this land is and always has been Aboriginal land, the true Australians. A Bogan is someone who isn’t afraid to speak outwardly about anything and everything that comes to their mind especially when it may be crass thoughts, or dry humour. Someone who completely disregards the G carefully placed on the ends of words like going or sitting; sounding more like goin’ or sittin’. A Bogan is someone who isn’t afraid to let out a burp or a fart because they believe and understand that flatulence is N A T U R AL. Someone who will do something unintentionally embarrassing and shrug their shoulders when they realise every single other person around them is cringing. A Bogan is an integral part of our day to day because without us, the world wouldn’t be goin round.
shoot film stay broke
Images - Monique Barton
Format - 35mm Film
You’ve probably noticed the frequent use of the 35mm hashtag floating around your Instagram feed or the word film thrown into a caption and made a quick judgement or passed it off for just another trend following millennial.
I am guilty of being that trend following millennial and guilty of judging those hash-tagging trend following Instagram users. I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about until I picked up my first ever camera and learnt how to roll my first batch of film - making it an incredibly simple pleasure that left me wanting to learn more.
It’s more than just a ‘cool-vintage-retro’ looking photo. There is so much skill, persistence and patience to be learned and applied when shooting film, from the technique of rolling film into the chamber, understanding light measurements, shutter speeds, focus and depth and finally; figuring out what you enjoying taking photos of. Everyone has their own style, even if it may be the same subject, each persons images are different to the other. Amongst all that, you have a unique rare internal feeling that we barely see ourselves needing to feel anymore; patience. We are surrounded by an instant world where we can have, see, learn, hear, taste almost anything we want in an instant or a short amount of time but this measured process forces us to slow down and really appreciate the thought and application just to capture one frame.
Sometimes there’s that fear of not really knowing if the entire roll of film will or has worked. You’ll get to the last frame and suddenly realise you hadn’t wound it on properly and here you are snapping away for past 24 or 36 frames and absolutely nothing is left to show for it. I’ve had moments of pure heart ache after traveling india and going through roll after roll, finally finding my groove in learning my own style and choosing each frame so wisely but losing track of what I have captured as there is no play back, no digital screen to flick through, delete and re-take. Trying to keep good mental note on what pictures made up each roll and having that excitement to see them, almost wanting me to fast track time so I could get off the plane and get them developed, but of course you have to be patient.
When I returned home I quickly learnt more than half of the rolls were completely blank. It sucked. But it was a reminder, that moments are rare, you should place sincerity and weight in capturing them because you can’t go back in time and re-live but you can capture moments and relive the memory.
Shooting film is an expensive hobbie. Perhaps not in the wallet burning category of hobbies like restoring old cars but when you compare taking an optimal image on your iphone or clicking away on a digital camera filling up a large SD card to purchasing an $11 roll of film and then paying anywhere between $10$20 for development, it starts to add up. By no means is this a complaint, I think it adds to the whole appreciation element to using an analogue camera and when you have local legends like Dan and Misch from Bayou Film putting in hours and hours after their full time jobs to bring you high quality images that have been processed with passion and love for the art form.
There is something about the way a film photo looks. It’s aesthetics may not be as crisp as an iPhone 8 or as sparkly as a DSLR but it has character, it sees colors a phone can’t, it has that satisfying clunk of the shutter of which a DSLR will never have. And perhaps this look isn't for you, perhaps you hate the way a film photo looks all scratched up or the light leak strip of orange in the corner or that someone is mid movement eyes half open, maybe the wind blew a few strands over their face - interfering with the pose that makes a ‘perfect picture’ but thats what I love most. I love how shooting film forces you to capture the moments we don’t expect, the moments that aren’t staged or perfectly placed and leaves you with photos you cant recreate. We’ve lost the beauty in rarity, we all want to replicate each others glossy photos so we take 10, 20 sometimes 50 frames on our phones and cull through all the ‘shit’ ones until we finally find one we’re happy with. But is that sincere? Is that real? Is that you in a moment of honesty and pure uniqueness.
Film allows me to let go of ego and that constant search to perfect moments that aren't there. It’s made me learn to accept that you can’t take the same image twice so take one and fall in love with it.