The Melbourne Portraits Project
Due to release before the year ends, “The Melbourne Portraits Project: A Photographic Ode” is a photo book that focuses on the stunning beauty, impressive talent, and endless creativity of the people featured in it. Through teamwork and evocative visuals, the book explores the life-changing power of photography and showcases the many ways that collective creative endeavors can make our lives better.
This book was conceived in the streets of Melbourne, Australia, amidst the turmoil of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite enduring 262 days of lockdown during my two-year stay, I found myself captivated by the eclectic metropolis. Melbourne’s empty streets, Victorian-era skyscrapers, Art Deco buildings, and post-modern landmarks became my playground as I immersed myself in urban photography.
What truly sets Melbourne apart as one of the most liveable cities in the world is its diverse and vibrant population. People from all walks of life and every corner of the globe converge here, creating a melting pot of cultures that sparked my creativity and led to over 150 collaborations with photographers, models, hair and makeup artists, writers, and street artists.
In an age where over 50,000 pictures are taken every second and 100 million images are uploaded to Instagram daily, one might question the relevance of a book containing only 101 portrait photographs. The answer lies in the profound impact these images and their stories have had on me and those around me.
They Say Art Can Heal
The pandemic took an immense toll on the world, claiming millions of lives and devastating economies. The resulting psychological distress and personal struggles pushed many to their breaking point, myself included.
Separated from my loved ones by both distance and time, I grappled with feelings of grief, frustration, and hopelessness. It was during this dark period that I realized the importance of shifting from mere survival to thriving. I found solace in collaborating with other creatives, harnessing the power of photography to bring purpose and joy back into our lives.
This book is a testament to the resilience and ingenuity of Melbourne and its inhabitants, as seen through the portraits I captured along the way. Through these photographs, I aim to showcase the transformative power of photography in helping us rediscover meaning, connection, and optimism during challenging times.
Part of The Journey
Like many photographers, I vividly remember my first camera and the thrilling experience of capturing my first image. The power to freeze time with the press of a button is both intoxicating and addictive.
My initial foray into photography began with a Kodak Pocket Instamatic in the 1970s, followed by a Canon A-1 a decade later. As I explored the world through my lens, I found myself drawn to photographing people, capturing their stories in a single frame.
Fast forward to the digital age, and a serendipitous opportunity led me to organize my first photo shoot in the streets of Saigon. Amidst beautiful models, idyllic surroundings, natural light, and a variety of urban backdrops, I discovered the exhilarating joy of telling visual stories.
The pinnacle of this experience came when one of my photos, featuring model Vân Nguyễn at the Bà Thiên Hậu Pagoda, won the 500px Takeover March 2020 Edition Quest. Despite its technical imperfections, the image resonated with the 15 million members of the 500px community, reaffirming that a photo’s worth lies not just in its technical merits but also in the story it conveys.
As I continued to collaborate on photo shoots, I found that the creative process united people and brought out the best in everyone involved. The camera became a conduit for connection, inspiration, and growth.
This book represents the next stage of my photographic journey, capturing portraits in the streets of Melbourne during a pandemic. It is a testament to the power of art to empower individuals to be bolder, dream bigger, and constantly strive for improvement. Through these images, I hope to share the magic of storytelling and the transformative impact of photography on our lives.
Let’s Do It!
One day, Jay, a street writer I had met through his uplifting ‘Dear Stranger’ poems scattered throughout Melbourne, asked me how my afternoon was looking. His infectious enthusiasm transformed my perception of time, as “afternoon” now started at 5 pm, when I would typically be winding down for the evening.
From that moment on, my days were no longer confined to the traditional 9-to-5. When asked about exploring the streets of Melbourne, Jay’s response was always an energetic, “Let’s do it!” A strong, unlikely friendship blossomed from our shared passion for storytelling – Jay through his words and me through my camera.
This sense of camaraderie carried over into every collaboration I had the privilege to be part of, serving as my greatest source of inspiration. Regardless of whether we met once or multiple times, the encounters were always unforgettable.
This book is a tribute to the power of creativity and connection in our lives, regardless of who we are or what we create. It is a celebration of the positive energy that comes from embracing our passions and working together. I hope you enjoy these pages and find inspiration within them.
About This Book
This book is not meant to serve as a tutorial for capturing great portraits, nor is it a guide to street photography. Instead, it is a collection of portraits inspired by my experiences in Melbourne and the remarkable individuals I encountered throughout my journey.
The term “portrait” often brings to mind images of subjects posed in front of artificial backdrops, but this book aims to explore a different side of portraiture. The backdrops featured here may seem unremarkable on their own – a grungy alleyway, a brick wall, a faded building, a dirty window, a shadowy underpass, or bright neon lights – but they contribute character and atmosphere to each portrait, helping to tell a story.
The 101 portraits presented in this book should be viewed not as individual pieces, but as a collective narrative. They are organized into twelve chapters, each with a distinct theme that explores various approaches to natural light portraiture. Together, these images form a visual journey that transports the reader from the first page to the last, highlighting the beauty and resilience of the human spirit within the captivating urban landscape of Melbourne.
Creativity often involves subtraction – choosing what to leave out in order to focus on what truly matters. In the process of creating this book, I had to make difficult decisions about which photos to include and how many words to use, ensuring that the visual narrative remained at the forefront.
To accommodate the numerous stand-out shots, behind-the-scenes stories, and useful tips that could not be featured in the book, I developed a companion website. By using QR codes – a symbol of our time – readers can seamlessly connect the book and the website, extending their experience beyond the printed pages.
This companion website serves as a dynamic and interactive extension of the book, providing an opportunity for readers to share, contribute, and continue exploring. I encourage you to scan the QR codes throughout the book and delve into the additional content available online.
I invite you to connect with fellow creatives and the individuals featured in the book, sharing your own photographic journey and insights on the website. After all, inspiration is something we all need and can contribute to.