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May 24, 2024


An Infrared Exploration of Rural Australia

Photography by Sean Paris
Story by Karen Ghostlaw Pomarico

We immerse ourselves in the creative photographic processes and practices of acclaimed photographer Sean Paris. Sean’s journey in photography has been a dynamic exploration of artistry and professionalism, shaped by his upbringing in the picturesque landscapes of the Yarra Ranges. Growing up nestled within the Yarra Valley, in Victoria Australia, Sean’s affinity for the natural world was instilled from an early age. Sean’s parents were park rangers, nurturing his curiosity while fueling his passion, feeding his appetite and desire to explore nature’s universe.

Sean first discovered his passion for photography, receiving his first camera at the tender age of 11 first exploring landscapes and tree ferns. This initial spark ignited a lifelong pursuit of visual storytelling, leading Sean through diverse genres and creative endeavors as he sought to define his unique photographic voice.

“I always loved art growing up. It was all I wanted to do when in school. I used to get told off on a regular basis for always drawing at the back of the classroom. When I got my first camera, it was an art form that I really connected with. I loved the technical side of operating a camera, learning about light, and being able to document my life and the people around me.”

Following formal education in Melbourne and years spent apprenticing under various photographers, Sean has emerged as a versatile freelance photographer. Specialising in corporate and product photography, Sean seamlessly blends his technical expertise with an unwavering commitment to artistic expression, infusing each project with his discerning eye for detail and a fervent dedication to capturing the essence of every moment.

“A lot of the time, when I think about what has influenced my direction in photography, I struggle to pin it down. I think most of my influence has come from what surrounds me in my life, whether that be interesting people I have met over time or a life experience that changes my perspective on the world and pushes me to want to create work around that.”

Sean Paris believes that storytelling is an art form that evolves over time, shaped by experiences and honed through countless endeavors. In the realm of photography, he finds this narrative skill takes on a profound significance. For Sean, photography serves as a medium that sheds light on the unseen facets of society, challenging individuals to confront new realities they may otherwise overlook. Whether capturing moments of adversity or celebrating instances of triumph, Sean weaves intricate tales that provoke thought and evoke emotion. His imagery transcends mere documentation, prompting viewers to contemplate the complexities of the human experience. By harnessing the power of visual communication, Sean not only informs but also inspires, inviting audiences to engage with unfamiliar perspectives and embark on journeys of imagination. In a world inundated with information, Sean believes visual storytelling serves as a beacon, guiding us through the labyrinth of existence and illuminating the intricacies that surround us.

“Storytelling plays an important role in photography. We can exist in the world and choose not to see things that are around us in society. A lot of people live this way, using photography as a tool to showcase stories, whether negative or positive, and raise awareness or show something interesting or quirky. It can expand people's ideas of a place and use their imagination. People respond to visual communication; it's one of the first things we learn, and that's why it's so powerful.”

We embark on a visual expedition into the heart of rural Australia through Sean’s brilliant visual storytelling. In his latest photographic narrative “Koala Country” he unveils the captivating tapestry of country towns adorned with eccentric architecture and vibrant holiday attractions. Picture vast landscapes with wheat silos standing as silent sentinels along expansive roads, and nostalgic motor inns evoking the bygone era of family road trips. The kind of visual experiences that will capture the imagination, transporting us to another place and time.


Infrared colour photography is a fascinating technique that involves capturing light in the infrared spectrum rather than the visible spectrum. In traditional colour photography, the film or digital sensor captures light in the visible spectrum, which ranges from approximately 400 to 700 nanometers. However, in infrared color photography, the camera is modified to allow it to capture light with wavelengths beyond the visible spectrum, typically in the range of 700 to 1200 nanometers. This expanded spectrum allows infrared cameras to transform ordinary subjects such as trees, skies, buildings, and landscapes, presenting them with distinctive colors and tones.

Photographers use infrared colour photography to convey a variety of emotions, moods, and artistic expressions. It can reveal details and textures that are not visible to the human eye and can create surreal or otherworldly images exploring Natural Beauty, Mystery and Intrigue, Emotional Impact, Personal Expression, Symbolism and Metaphor. Overall, infrared colour photography offers photographers a powerful tool for artistic expression, allowing them to convey a wide range of emotions, themes, and messages through the unique visual language of infrared light.

What distinguishes Sean’s work is his adept use of a modified DSLR camera, skillfully harnessing the 590 nanometers spectrum encompassing both visible and infrared light. Through this innovative technique, he uncovers the hidden cultural and social nuances often overlooked amidst these picturesque settings. The camera’s modification introduces a surreal quality to the visuals, revealing a light spectrum imperceptible to the human eye. Incorporating such a wide range of spectrums allows Sean’s visual storytelling to take new directions, allowing the viewer to get lost in the photographic narrative.

Sean is motivated to find the iconic photographic nuances that have been cultivated through the years in rural Australia. Sean is diligent with his research, he investigates the areas he wants to explore, thoroughly studying his subjects.

“I prepare all of my solar panels and batteries, get in the ute, and drive in that direction. I work all the way until I reach my destination, so the distance to one location will often double as I stop photographing frequently along the way. I’m always searching for another subject on the road, constantly searching for that photo that will fit into this project.

Photographing with a modified infrared camera is unique in the way you have to work with light; in this case, I need full sun and generally no cloud to achieve the style of image I want, which often photographers steer clear of. Working on the infrared spectrum can be challenging; its light we can’t see and reacts differently with different objects and plant matter, so I might drive four hours to get to a location, and then that image doesn’t work out well. This is the nature of the beast.”

Sean embraces the technical challenges of infrared photography, choosing the creative process because of its inherent ability to pinpoint subjects, isolating them from surrounding vegetation. Understanding the properties of the wavelengths of light, he recognises that infrared light doesn’t typically reflect off artificial objects like metals or concrete structures, thereby allowing for a clearer focus on the intended subjects. Sean utilises this technique revealing elements in plain sight that are often overlooked. He engages the viewer, enhancing the playful participation with the subjects depicted in rural Australia. Through his deliberate choice of infrared technology, Sean provides a profound platform for observation, allowing his viewers a unique perspective inviting them to explore and appreciate the intricacies of the rural landscape in ways they might not have considered before.

“I grew up in the country and have family in the country. I wanted to photograph a place that was close to me and document the way rural Australia looks at the present time. I wanted to focus on the quirks and uniqueness of it. Things are ever changing in this country, things disappear, developments happen. This project celebrates those places.”

Every journey carries with it a tapestry of unforgettable moments, woven intricately into the fabric of the adventure. These are the details that often elude the lens of a camera but remain etched in the memory as integral parts of the journey’s narrative. One such tale unfolded for Sean on the road to the Wimmera in Western Victoria.

“I was driving to the Wimmera in Western Victoria, and on the way, I noticed an amazing old pub sign with a big rams head on it. I stepped out of my car, walked up to the sign, and went to take a photo when all I could hear was gunfire. I turned around, and the local gun club next to the pub was firing off around 10 rifles on a Sunday afternoon.”

Such serendipitous encounters that happen beyond the frame can become deeply ingrained in the spirit of Sean’s journey, enriching his narrative while infusing the project with layers of unexpected authenticity and charm.

“I just finished photographing the infamous Big Koala at Dadswells Bridge when I decided to keep pushing on towards Stawell, a town around 20 minutes from the Big Koala. I had a look around town and took some pictures, then I came across something amazing. A pyramid on the outskirts of town was accompanied by other attractions scattered across the property and seemed to be occupied privately. I later found out this was an old tourist attraction created in the 1980s called Casper’s World in miniature. It was said to have been started up by a dentist who would collect people's teeth and, with the teeth, create miniature worlds and sculptures. That was one of the main attractions of this old theme park.”

Capturing the essence of rural Australia through his lens presents various challenges, chief among them being the unpredictable weather conditions, particularly the scarcity of sunlight. Sean seizes every opportunity when the sun does shine to maximise the visual effect of infrared photography. In terms of location selection, he relies on a mix of personal knowledge from his upbringing as well as being diligent about doing extensive research. Sean maintains a vast list on Google Maps, pinpointing unique towns and tourist landmarks across the country. When it comes to capturing the cultural and social subtleties of rural Australian communities, he prioritises elements that are integral to the landscape and history of the areas he photographs. Incorporating nostalgic elements like motor inns not only adds depth to the narrative but also evokes shared experiences of traveling through the vast Australian countryside, creating a sense of connection and familiarity for viewers. Additionally, Sean finds the aesthetics of vintage signage and design from past decades complement the rural landscape and add a timeless quality to his photographs, particularly when captured using infrared techniques.

Sean hopes his photography project will shed light on the quirky and beautiful aspects of rural Australia. He believes that by showcasing this part of the history of the country, he can expand people’s perceptions of what rural Australia truly entails. One unexpected discovery he encountered in various areas is the presence of “thong trees” – old gum trees adorned with hundreds of discarded thongs, reflecting a unique aspect of Australian humour.

Initially, Sean didn't pay much attention to these nuances. However, as his project progressed, he noticed the disappearance of planned subjects and the gradual decay of historical buildings. He hopes that his series will not only capture these disappearing elements but also serve as a means of celebrating and preserving them. Sean aims to bring recognition to lesser-known rural locations, emphasising their significance amidst the vastness of the Australian landscape.

Sean gives great thought to the future of rural communities. Sean harbours a hopeful vision for the modern era to usher in a resurgence of job opportunities and bolstered infrastructure in rural areas. Observing the decline of traditional industries, he empathised with those facing unemployment and hardship, wishing for revitalisation.

With a deep appreciation for history and heritage, Sean felt a sense of urgency to preserve the treasures of the past. From weathered old buildings to captivating signage and beloved tourist attractions, he envisioned these cultural gems as essential legacies for future generations to cherish. Sean remains steadfast in his aspirations, dreaming of a future where rural communities thrive and their rich tapestry of history remains vibrant and alive.

For Sean storytelling isn’t just a technique, but he considers it to be the very essence that binds his body of work together. His understanding of the pivotal role storytelling plays in photography extends beyond mere image-making, taking much care in crafting narratives that resonate deeply with his audience. He transforms moments frozen in time into poignant tales that not only captivate but also provoke thought and emotion.

At the heart of Sean’s approach lies the belief that storytelling lends coherence to his collections, elevating them from a mere assortment of images to cohesive narratives with profound meaning. Each photograph serves as a building block in the larger story he seeks to tell, whether it’s unraveling the beauty of Koala Country or shedding light on pressing social issues. By weaving together thematic elements and evocative visuals, he creates a sense of place and atmosphere that transports viewers into the heart of his projects.
Sean embraces a diverse range of methods and styles, tailoring his approach to suit the unique demands of each subject matter. Sometimes, his work takes on a more abstract form, inviting viewers to interpret and engage with the narrative on a personal level. Other times, he adopts a more direct approach, guiding his audience through a structured narrative pathway that unfolds with each frame.

Sean Paris's photography is a testament to the power of storytelling as a tool for awareness, connection, and visual expression. With his imagery he invites us to see the world not just as it appears, but as a rich tapestry of stories waiting to be discovered and shared.

In the realm of photography, mastering its technical intricacies serves as a cornerstone for crafting impactful art. For Sean, understanding the nuances of exposure, composition, and lighting empowers photographers with the creative control necessary to weave compelling narratives through their images. Before diving into the realm of emotional resonance, a solid grasp of technical aspects lays the foundation for conveying intended messages effectively.

“A lot of the emotional impact in my work comes subconsciously when shooting. I obviously try to view what I’m photographing in a way that will best represent that story, but often there are a lot of things coming into play at that moment, especially the technical side, whether that is camera settings, lighting, or being aware of your surroundings (if you're working next to highways). Often, a lot of the work of creating a narrative with feeling can happen in post-production when you are placing images that work together to compile that story. Sometimes you have the idea for a project and you have to just go and do it without thinking about it too much, as you never know what can happen or how something might unfold. You just have to get out there and photograph as much as you can and be in the world. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.”
However, amidst the meticulous planning and technical finesse, spontaneity retains its allure. Sometimes, the most profound stories emerge from serendipitous encounters and unforeseen twists of fate. In these moments, photographers must relinquish overthinking and immerse themselves in the world, capturing its essence with authenticity and raw emotion.

The journey of a photographer is a dynamic interplay of technical mastery and emotional intuition. Each frame captured by Sean is a testament to the delicate balance between the two, resulting in images that transcend mere visual representation, resonating deeply with audiences and leaving an indelible imprint on the soul.

Sean Paris is an award-winning photographer, renowned for his unique approach to storytelling capturing his visual translations through photography. He brings a wealth of experience and passion to any project, driven by a desire to uncover the hidden gems of rural Australia. Through “Koala Country,” Sean extends an invitation to viewers, beckoning them on a transformative trek. Together, they will challenge perceptions and cultivate a newfound appreciation for the rich tapestry of rural Australia, as illuminated by the mesmerising radiance of infrared photography.

“Koala Country” offers more than just a photographic journey but serves as a testament to the power of storytelling through visuals. Through the lens of his modified DSLR camera, Sean not only captures rural Australia but also uncovers its hidden narratives and cultural subtleties. His knowledge and use of infrared photography adds a surreal quality to his visuals, revealing layers of beauty imperceptible to the human eye. By delving into the heart of rural communities, Sean preserves and celebrates their heritage, showcasing both the quirks and the beauty of these often overlooked landscapes. His work serves as a reminder of the importance of storytelling in photography, not just as a means of documenting scenes but as a way to evoke emotions and encourage a fresh perspective.

Sean invites his audience to see rural Australia in a new light, to appreciate its complexities and nuances. His unique narrative extends beyond mere imagery; it invites us to reflect on our own connections to place and history.

Learn more about Sean Paris and follow his links for more inspiration and new ways to think about visual storytelling. The Pictorial List is grateful for Sean’s valuable contribution, and we are sincerely pleased to share it with our community.

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author/s, and are not necessarily shared by The Pictorial List and the team.

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