Tony Reddrop didn't start his photography journey until his late thirties and to him, it has been a blessing rather than a hindrance. Years of working and seeing different things before becoming a photographer, and being that little bit older and wiser, had benefits that led him towards social documentary, capturing life happening around him. Tony has bodies of work held in several institutions in Australia, and has had his work featured in all media forms in Australia, New Zealand and internationally.
Tony shares his series of images 'Crossings', which reflect some of the people you may or not see in the small semi-rural town in New Zealand he lives in. The light and shadow of his images reflect the mystery and anonymity of the people in the town.
Tell us a bit more about yourself and your background?
I am an Australian photographer (from Melbourne originally) living in the North Island of New Zealand for the past 12 years. I am also a dad to three girls, so juggling time has become an art form.
I started photography later in life, in early 2000, did some short courses at tech, was a wedding photographer's assistant (didn’t last long), then a commercial photographer's assistant, did some more formal college study (two goes at that), then some time at press photography, starting at local papers, working up to the daily's. So it would be fair to say, I had done and tried a bit of everything, before finding what I wanted to do, documentary and portrait photography.
Add to all the above a few years spent walking the streets of Melbourne taking photos of people and whatever interested me, usually light and shadow, all on black and white film. I tend to look and observe, and capture images when something catches my eye, the light, shapes, shadows, colour, or interesting people, things that would make a great environmental portrait, or stories that can make great documentary. I usually don’t take a lot of images every time I am out shooting, and I shoot to the mood of the area I am in.
I have exhibited my work since 2000, mainly solo shows, in Australia and New Zealand, and have bodies of work held in collections of various national and state organisations in Australia. I have shown work at international photo festivals and had my work featured on radio, television, and in print.
Tell us a bit more about your project 'Crossings'?
I kept observing people walking across certain crossings in town at different times of the day when the light was really mellow (glowing) and noticed many people were wearing really great colours, that blended with the crossings and the backgrounds.
The way I shoot a lot of the time, under exposed and not fully showing the person, worked really well, so I kept going back to the different locations, which when you live in a small town of 90,000 people, is not a lot.
The idea of the series is how you can live in a town for years, but not really feel you know the people, who are just passing mysterious shadow figures. The images in the series show an insight into what could be something darker, lying just under the surface, that has become increasingly more visible in the town, health, and social issues.
Do you have a favourite quote/lyric/saying that resonates with you?
"Believe in yourself."
Because you must all ways believe in your talent, it gives you the strength to keep going.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I mainly find inspiration from things I see, and people I meet in everyday life. Also inspiration from the many different photographers on Instagram who are doing longer term projects.
Is there anything you want to express through your photography? And what are some of the elements you always try to include in your photographs?
Humanity and what we are really seeing in the images of the people. Colour, light and shadows, a story...
Do you prefer to shoot alone or with friends?
Who are your favourite artists/photographers? Who has mostly influenced your style?
No one has influenced my style.
I made a point of not looking at photography books, for the first couple of years, so I would not be influenced by others.
Has your style of shooting changed since you first started?
My style has changed over the years, the biggest shift has been in the past six years, after returning to photography, after an eight year hiatus. Images I take now are mostly colour, and have even more contrast than when I first started. I now tend to look and observe more, shoot less, but more quality, and if it's not happening, I don’t worry.
How does the equipment you use help you in achieving your vision in your photography? Do you have a preferred lens/focal length? What would you say to someone wanting to start out in your genre of photography?
I use (as I always have) a prime lens (23 mm - 35 mm equivalent ) and mirrorless cameras. I have used SLR’s. All usually set around F-2.8.
Looking like a tourist / happy snapper, helps me to fit in, is less intrusive.
Where is your favourite place to shoot?
Melbourne City. So much going on, and the light, and the surrounding suburbs.
Are there any books that you have read that have inspired your creativity and that you would like to recommend to us?
Mongelism - Jono Naylor. A New Zealand photographer, currently living in San Francisco.
Hide That Can - Deirdre O’ Callaghab.
The Firm - Jocelyn Bain Hogg.
Have you ever been involved in the artistic world before photography?
Are there any special projects you are currently working on that you would like to let everyone know about?
Over the summer break, I want to start documenting the major change to a small rural town of 700 people. It is having a railway freight hub built just outside the town, like 800 yards out of town. The freight hub will be 7 km long, operating 24/7, so the noise, light pollution etc, is going to change peoples' lives forever. Add to this a new ring road to bring big trucks to the rail yard, that will run through or close to the town. Paradise lost.
What are some of your goals as an artist? Where do you see yourself or hope to see yourself in five years?
Publish a book, or books. Get the funding to do so. Getting and doing commissioned work and projects, globally. Major public exhibitions, globally. Getting a web page up (aaah the money). Family first too. A financial patron, who is involved in the arts.
“When I am not out photographing, I (like to)...
Stay at home spending time with the family, watching good documentaries and films.
Thank you, Tony!
All photos © Tony Reddrop
Interview by Melanie Meggs