ben blacket photography interview
For Aussie snapper Ben Blacket, inspiration comes from no further than from the suburbs where he spends his days.
For Aussie snapper Ben Blacket, inspiration comes from no further than the suburbs where he spends his days. Honing in on easily missed details, like the cars, the signage, or the peeling old weatherboards, he manages to capture what is typically Australian as though through the fresh eyes of a tourist; and we asked him to tell us a bit more about his localised style.
What is your name and how old are you? Ben Blacket. I'm 37 years young!
Where were you born and where do you live now? I was born in Adelaide. Thankfully I wasn't there long enough to remember. My family moved to a farm near Birregurra when I was two. Now I live in Castlemaine; a bit of a tree changer destination. Ironically, there weren't many trees left by the end of the gold rush. It's a good base to commute to work in Melbourne.
When did you first know you wanted to be a photographer? I won't bore you with one of those 'my grandfather gave me my first camera at the age of four' stories. But looking back, I did spend a lot of time in the darkroom as a teenager.
What areas, things or people in your neighbourhood do you most like to photograph? There are a lot of artists around Castlemaine, so I've been photographing a few of them lately.
What do you shoot on (digital or analogue) and why do you choose to use that type? For personal work, I still prefer and enjoy the process of using film. When I use digital I use it more like a film camera. One of the silly little rules I've made is that I'm not allowed to look at the screen after I've taken a photo, so that I move onto the next thing and don't dwell on it.
What kinds of ideas are you working on at the moment? The only series with a theme in mind that I'm working on is titled 'After the Rush'. It alludes to the impact and fallout from the Gold Rush and our complete ignorance; to go and do it all over again. One day, we'll be forced to slow down, once we realise the magnitude of losing what we actually need; that's infinite in value.
When it comes to taking photos, do you have more of a controlled/set-up or spontaneous style? I'm spontaneous in that I don't set anything up and I rarely move anything. Commercial work is different though of course, but I still maintain a simple approach.
Do you take the same care with personal photographs as you do with commercial/artistic work? Absolutely. I take the same amount of careful consideration, whatever I'm photographing.
What advice can you offer on finding your personal style or aesthetic? Vignetted corners and turning up the 'clarity' dial won't get you there! I think I've used just about every type of lighting equipment and camera gear imaginable. I've settled on a method and a process that's enjoyable. I set myself rules and limitations to keep things as simple as possible. So instead of being bogged down by too many decisions and variables, it frees me up.
What are the hallmarks of a great photographer? Consistency over a long period of time, along with a trademark style or aesthetic - that gives them a long standing distinction and popularity.
What is the strangest thing or thought that has inspired a photo? I came across a McDonald's sign a few years ago that was sitting on the ground, either being taken down or ready to be installed. It was only the middle section of the 'golden arches', but it was instantly recognisable. A hallmark, you could say! I wanted to jump the fence and kick it in. But I took a photo instead.
What other photographers do you love? Oh, heaps. Early '60s/'70s colour photographers and current ones. Too many to list. As far as commercial photographers go, Mark Roper (a Melbourne photographer) is my favourite. I'm biased though, because I had the pleasure of working for him as an assistant.
What do you enjoy doing when not taking photos? Luckily I can still take photos while enjoying two of my favourite pastimes - hiking and tenkara (fly fishing)!
Where can we see more of your work? I'll be adding more stuff to my website soon and I use Instagram @benblacket sporadically.