Cool Hand Luke: Shooting Everyday Life

Canberra-based photographer Luke Wong grew up in a migrant family, but with a rural twist — his family runs a Chinese restaurant in Orange, a regional city about three-hours drive north of Canberra. In keeping with what he calls “rather clichéd” photographic tradition, Luke started taking pictures at the start of high school when a relative gave him a camera. He began with portraiture, bugging his friends to pose, but the apparent lack of job opportunities deterred thoughts of becoming a professional photographer. Ironically, he chose an even less employable career — television!

Luke thinks of photography as a hobby, but his images are anything but amateur. I’m a big fan of his work, especially when he uses a wide-angle lens and front-on approach. While bucking broncs sprayed our cameras with dust at the recent Yass Show and Rodeo, I reminded Luke that he’d promised me a blog profile….

What’s your approach to photography?
When I was in high school, I read a quote that basically said, "The photographs you don't take are the ones that end up haunting you", which sums up my approach now. I used to take very few photographs of my family and home life, but now I pull my camera out every time I go back home to capture scenes that were mundane in the past, but are now foreign and exotic.

What about photography really gets you going?
In today's media overloaded culture, I think photography’s brevity is a powerful advantage in getting a message across.

What projects are you working on?
I’ve started a series on the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra. It’s easy for locals to turn a blind eye to the Embassy because we drive past it all the time — it’s just another familiar element in the political and physical landscape. I’m interested in what the residents have to say and why they’re so committed. Our views are not necessarily the same, but I’m eager to hear their stories and truthfully capture what’s happening.

I’m also on the last leg of processing film for a project about a couple, Graham and Rosie, who are sheep farmers in the south-west of New South Wales. I’m exploring how two people cope with laborious work in a relatively isolated environment, with only each other for emotional support. I feel the series is unfinished, but my experience with Graham and Rosie has been invaluable.

What's your favourite camera and why?
Definitely my little rangefinder camera. It's not the world’s most renowned brand, but I love its compact size.

How has photography changed your life?
Photography gives me an insight into how other people conduct their lives — how they relate to others and use their time. It also forces me to venture into places I normally wouldn't visit and to talk to complete strangers, which has broadened my worldview and gets me questioning my existing attitudes.

See Luke’s work on his blog, Cool Hand Luke, at www.luke.lumanation.com.

No comments: