Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Photography: Genesis. In my beginning. (I remember when I was young, the world had just begun; in black & white.)

So where we are, both in geographical terms as well as in life terms, what we do and the people we are mixing with are the results of the planning of our lives; and the occasional bit of destiny I guess. 

Or perhaps not. 

Perhaps they are the result of drifting along through life with no specific plan and grabbing what comes past us that appeals. 

Like a Sushi Train passing before us perhaps.

But I would like to think that my life and times as a pro photographer are a direct result of planning my journey. As the Hollies said.. "It's a long long road from which there is no return". So why not choose which road and where it leads to? Well ultimately it leads us all to our physical demise.. but hey.. let's have a good time on the trip and go the places we want to go to!

So from day one at school there were only two things I liked about the place

1. Lunch

2. The 3 o"clock bell.

I hated it.. except for my last year.. and you can read about that elsewhere on my blog.

Beyond a passing idea to become a marine biologist, all I ever wanted to do was to leave school and work with my brothers. They were all much older than me and I thought (and still do) the world of them. Now Viv was a press photographer and Nev, Max & Paul were auto electricians.  Max was still unmarried and living at home when he started Max's Speedo Electric Service at Woolloongabba. (Actually east Brisbane in his first shop in 1959)

Viv was married but often left his bag of cameras here on his way home at night. And I used to pull them out of the bag and marvel at them; and fire his big flash bulbs much to his displeasure. All those numbers on the lens.. 5.6, 8. 11 etc. How the hell do you get to know what they all mean? Why couldn't cameras be sensible. Just one button and the picture is taken. Often when he came in at night to see mother he would bring a fist full of 10x8 B&W prints that he had shot that day. As a 5 or 6 year old I was amazed by that frozen moment of time. Although I guess I didn't actually use that expression back then. My father used to tell me that Viv was a good photographer at the time. Looking back now some 55 years later it is obvious that Viv was not a good photographer, but rather a great photographer. One who truly could see the light!

Viv_ Self Portrait Chermside.

So.. enter Neville, also once a keen photographer. Nev and Collen took me into the valley one day and it was there at Coles in Brunswick Street that I discovered a camera. It was a "Baby" brand, made in Hong Kong with fixed focus, one shutter speed 1/45 second and it cost the princely sum of $0.50c at the time. And so it came home after advice from brother Viv just up the road at the Truth.

At this point in my life, I couldn't load the camera.. so I took it to McSweeney's Pharmacy at 682 Sandgate Clayfield (now the home of Deb's Spirit of Life Boutique) and the kindly Mr McSweeney loaded it for me and put the price of a roll of 127 on my dad's account. In a few days I had consumed many pounds worth of film and develop and print and my dad was not happy. No laughing boy at all. Especially when he saw the crap I had produced with that camera! He called in Viv to teach me to take good photos; and not too many at all thank you. But that is another story somewhere else on my blog!

At home we had an old vinyl suitcase that was filled with old B&W photos that Viv had taken.. a lot of them were of family but others were samples of his work. The port was a constant source of inspiration for me. Then one day Viv told me about a guy called Henri Cartier-Bresson. Henri was a French photographer then in his 50s and he coined the expression.. "The decisive moment!" The point when all the elements came together in a photograph and one squeezed the shutter. Viv tried hard to teach me how to "see" pictures before I even picked up the camera. It was like trying to teach a pig to sing. It annoys the pig and is a waste of time.

But eventually.. he showed me this image....

Magic. The decisive moment by Henri Cartier-Bresson.

This picture of a staircase is now a really different picture as the cyclist is snapped riding through, the staircase leads your eye to the cyclist.. or for some people the reverse applies. And it breaks the rules as he is riding out of the picture, not into it!

Now this image and others like it amazed me.

But.. I couldn't make a picture anything like this. No way!

Another photographer who was heavily influenced by HCB was David Bailey. He was there on the spot to document the social revolution in London in the swinging sixties. Google him!

And this was the HCB image that mesmerised a young Bailey....

Another HCB shot. this one launched Bailey on his stellar career.

As a young teenager I loved bailey's work and have a couple of books of it.. always amazing.

One of my favourites is this one.....

David Bailey's shot that really talks to me!

David Bailey.. self portrait!

I saw in an interview that Bailey said he doesn't have a style.. he sort of makes it up as he goes along. This is why nobody ever copied him. They couldn't!

But back to more mundane things...

So at 16 I joined Max's business as an apprentice auto electrician; or more correctly; Electrical fitter, automotive as my indenture papers read.

But still the need to create pictures was there inside of me. At 19 I started to shoot weddings for mates with my trusty Spotmatic and on it went. Viv breezed in one day in 1973 to show me his shots of the then new F111 aircraft arrival and landing at Amberley RAAF base.. and I knew at once that I would eventually be a full time photographer after seeing those images!

But life at Max Instruments went on in the meantime.

The cameras, those fine precision machines came and went on too!

Pentax Spotmatic, Nikons.. too many to mention although my favourites were the F2, F3 & F4s. And of course the medium format cameras.. Yashica MAT124G, Mamiya C220, C330, Pentax 645, Bronica ETRS, Rollei 6008 Pro etc. And of course the mighty Mamiya RB67 outfit. What a versatile camera that was. Many hours from sunset to sunrise in the little darkroom at Albion printing my work.

 By the mid 80s I was divorced (had a fridge full of film & dog food and ate at the local) and now the manager of MAX Instruments and a partner in the enterprise. We produced our own in-house newsletter with help from a local advertising agency. And of course I supplied the images. Well actually me and Chris Osborne who was another photographer who I had happened  to recruit to be on staff at MAX Instruments. (Although he was officially employed as a sales engineer.) Back in 1988 Chris and I shot an AV to launch a new product. No Power Point then but 4 Kodak Carousel projectors all timed by pulses on magnetic tape. Over 300 finished images.. and all shot on E6 tranny.

Now that was something!

And all the time I was out shooting weddings and portraits on weekends and taking some days off from the shop to shoot commercial jobs too!

1995 came quickly, crept right up and then it hit me (sorry Kevin Johnston) and  I knew then it was now or never. Time to burn the boat of security of MAX Instruments and hang out the shingle at Clayfield. Vale Mark Taylor Photography, welcome to the world, Clayfield Studio, "The Professional Photographers".

It took a while but the work came in.. and I found myself really enjoying commercial work more than ever. My now late friend Allan Gay told me always to keep up the commercial work because one day you will be too old to shoot weddings. For me that day will be Sunday August 31, 2014. That is because my last wedding will be the day before!

A lot of Brisbane's best photographers have impressed me and taught me a lot too. People like Clive Buxton, Allan Gay, Karol Gawlick, David and Karen Paton, Richard Thompson, Ian Wharton and the list goes on.. oh yes.. Wayne Radford.. his work is stunning.

And of course.. my late brother Viv!

Brother Max photographed by brother Viv.

My father (RHS) signing the contract to build the Buffalo
Temple in the Valley, another picture by brother Viv.

Great Uncles Alec, Fred & Grandfather C1965 by Viv.

The fatal Wirriway crash on the Sunshine Coast

One of Viv's "Court Shots," a good way to get spat upon.

You can see another of Viv's shots here.

And here is an AV from his funeral on Youtube.

So now for some of my images. I guess as I am a sentimental person I like the instant recall an image brings when the memory has faded a little. That is why I think wedding photography is so important and should not be left to people who have all the gear and no idea. One heads into marriage hoping that it will last and so a wedding album becomes a family heirloom to be passed down to the next generation.

Album Page from a wedding.

On the golf course.

Commissioned shoot.

For a hairdresser.

Another hair dresser shot.

For a glass company catalogue.

Self Promotion Piece

Adam Coleman's "Pilot" CD

Actually shooting Adam's CD Images and then designing and producing the cover was a real buzz. He loved it! (As did his mum Dawn and father Russell)

Door Handles for Bradnams.. showing grey card for colour balance

Another door handle.

These images above were for inclusion in the Bradnams Group catalogue.. below.

The catalogue I shot for Bradnams. One of many over the past 20 years.

View from a Kangaroo Point Penthouse. Amazing!

So the images are as varied as the jobs that come my way. Always it is a case of overcoming technical issues to record the images. Like roofing iron....

Getting the shape of the iron was important.. hence modelling light!

One of my favourite images is this. Taken from a bus in New York right on dusk. I work it and rework it all the time trying to enhance the most delicate part of the image. It all came together that day. The "Decisive Moment" for me when the bus stopped at the right place and all of the planets aligned.....

My favourite shot from New York City 2010

So the images keep coming for me.. sometimes I just take pictures for myself, sometimes for clients. Sometimes for both!

This shot is my old mate Don.. still soldiering on in his mid 80s. Here he is making a radio bracket for my bike!

Don at home in his machine shop.

I am often asked for my thoughts on digital cameras. Well they're great.. but people don't realise you still need talent. You cannot Photoshop a poorly composed and lit picture into a work of art. Something about a silk purse and a sow's ear comes to mind here.

In an age when everybody with a digital camera and a Face Book page is a "Pro Photographer" I find it refreshing to look back over the work of real giants of the industry. These are people who cut their teeth on film stock and who knew the need to get it right, first time, every time. And unlike today's motor driven photo snappers.. these folks could really see the light. They understood the creativity, the assembly of the critical parts of the image. What I call spacial orientation of the picture elements. And I am not talking pixels here either!

And I am truly humbled to have some of them as friends and to have received a lot of guidance from a lot of them along the way.

So.. the journey through life so far has me making pictures; thousands of the buggars. And I love it. As Deb once said to a friend .. "Photography isn't what Mark does, photography is what Mark is!"

There was a time I never went anywhere without a camera.

Deb used to call it the "growth" on my shoulder.

These days if I am revisiting a place I have been a million times.. well the camera stays at home.

But anywhere new?

Well I am hoping for some great B&W images from Amsterdam this July.

Stay tuned to read more of my book of Genesis.


  1. Genesis? gees Revelations is going to be a cracker :)

    1. Nah.... only read the first book!