Words & Photographs by Ian Kenins
In my early days as a photographer, sport was my great interest, and lugging long, heavy lenses around arenas was how I made my money. In 1989 I found work freelancing for The Sunday Age, where a bunch of artsy photojournalism purists loved thumbing through books by Henri Cartier-Bresson and drooling over someone’s new Leica.
Those guys were way too cool for me, but I did admire their passion, as well as the pure form that is street photography. And so, to fill the quiet mid-week days, I began roaming the streets of Melbourne with a camera and a simple 35mm or 50mm lens attached.
One of my first attempts at street photography was a photo of two elderly migrant women asleep in the shade of a tree in a Prahran park. Judged by the late, great Rennie Ellis, it won a local competition. At the time that photo turned out to be a one-off, as most other attempts at street photography fell flat.
But I persevered, and the realisation that life on city and suburban streets was far more interesting than what happened on a sports field helped hone my focus, as did those early years as a sports photographer, being alert and responsive to fast-moving action.
By the late 1990s, I realised I had a body of work with numerous recurring motifs: the beach, dogs, children playing, people reading, people taking photos, people being couples… More emerged the more photos I took: protesters, sleepers, lovers, musicians… Sometimes just one photo had me on the lookout for other such photos so I could build a new theme.
Elliott Erwitt’s book Between the Sexes was a great influence. Its singular theme, on the relationship between men and women, affords all the photographs in it a context and adds to their humour. I have other books by Erwitt and love how he seeks the whimsical moments in life. I love comedy and humour, and witnessing an offbeat moment is one of life’s small pleasures. For a street photographer, capturing such moments on film or on a memory card is an even greater pleasure.
However, these are often the hardest moments to capture as distracting backgrounds, passers-by, subjects facing the wrong way, or subjects moving on often thwart a potentially great image. And you just have to happen to be there, which means luck is the biggest factor of all. That partly explains the twenty-six years it took to assemble the 152 photos that became A Snapshot of Melbourne.
It’s the first title published by The Worldwide Publishing Empire, a business I set up that aims to support Australian photographers by publishing books on Australian subject matter.
We have two copies of Ian Kenins's new book, A Snapshot of Melbourne, courtesy of Worldwide Publishing Empire, to give away. To enter the draw, share this page on Facebook and tag Sacred Trespasses. Winners will be chosen on Friday, September 9, 2016.