Why Ray Martin Jumped at the Chance to Host Landmark Photography Conference

This weekend, some of Australia’s finest photographers will be showcased at the inaugural photography conference Aperture Australia 2018. The two-day conference is the first of its kind in Sydney, featuring eight industry heavyweights including pioneering Australian landscape photographer Ken Duncan, fine art photographer Alexia Sinclair, and celebrity portrait photographer Gary Heery who has shot celebrities such as Ray Charles and Madonna.

TV personality and journalist, Ray Martin, himself an avid photographer, will take the reins as host of the event, which will see the guest speakers deliver a memorable experience to attendees at the Sydney International Convention Centre (ICC) in Darling Harbour. I asked Martin what drew him to this event, and photography more generally…

What was it about Aperture Australia that made you want to take such an active role? Why take a major role in Aperture?

I’m a mad photographer and always take my camera with me. The chance to interview such great and iconic Aussie photographers was too good a chance to miss. I jumped at the offer to be involved. I talk photographs all the time and when you can ask questions of professionals as good as these eight, well you jump at it. I can’t wait to hear their war stories, why they prefer certain lenses and the professional road bumps they’ve had to hurdle over the years. I’m fascinated by what they might say.

Aperture Sunset Swim by Aquabumps

Have you met any of the keynote photographers before? Is there an artist attending the event you’re particularly interested in talking to?

I am pleased to say that Ken Duncan and Megan Lewis are good friends of mine. The other six I am familiar with what they’ve done and hugely admire their work. I’m anxious to meet every one of them, see what makes them tick and what makes them all so amazing at what they do. These photographers are as good as any in the world. They should be recognised as such – the way our sporting stars, our actors and our cinematographers are.

Where did your interest in photography develop?

Probably when I started journalism 50(+) years ago. I would have 60-70 thousand photos in my library, many slides that are half a century old and threatening to disintegrate. I was always a ‘closet’ shooter, conscious that I was there to report the story, not take the pictures. I snapped away anyway, until cameramen/producers told me to put the camera down. I was never bold enough to ask people I was interviewing if I could take their photo. But times have changed. In the last decade or so, I’ve become quite obsessive about photography – and, quite frankly, have improved my understanding and shooting markedly. The old Gary Player line about golf is true for photography, too: “The more I practice the luckier I get!!!”

I have had a book of my photos published by MUP, which was a best seller they tell me. I have had a highly-successful, one-man exhibition at Ken Duncan’s fabulous gallery on the Central Coast. These days I take endless ‘street photos’ and these days I ask stars/talent if I can take a portrait. They almost always say yes.

Photo by Ray Martin

Photography is often considered a fairly accessible form of visual art. Why do you think that is?

Just about everyone thinks they’re a photographer – the iPhone has changed all that. Occasionally, everyone can take a good picture. But, there’s light years between a lucky phone snap and a professional photograph.

But, the beauty of photography is you don’t have to be – or even want to be – the world’s best, or as good as the professionals. All you need to be is… as good as you can be. Because the point and shoot capabilities of the modern camera – or smart phone – are so good, anyone can take an acceptable photograph. That gives them a memory and a record; no matter what the light, the framing or the colour. That’s why photography today is easily the world’s most popular hobby. It is so accessible. But, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to be great or that the best photographers don’t stand out – like bright stars from the crowd. They certainly do. Somebody who not only sees a picture but knows how to capture it through a lens is a rare talent. They should be applauded and lauded.

So how can photographers distinguish themselves from the amateur ‘happy snapper’?

The really good photographers – and certainly the great ones – are a world apart from amateurs and the ‘would-bes’. It’s easy to tell the difference, as in every creative art form. I’ve seen so many photographers – usually highly-committed amateurs – who have all the top, most expensive gear but miss the shot. They just don’t see it.

I witnessed the great George Silk – an Australian-Kiwi photographer for Life/Nat Geo – take my cheap Konica camera at Newport, Rhode Island, and snap the most brilliant yachting shots. (His expensive arsenal of Nikon cameras and lenses were left sitting on the deck or our press boat.) It’s all in ‘the eye’ of the great shooters. Technical expertise and Photoshop are important, but the truly great pictures will always belong to the truly great artists. Nothing’s changed.

SALT by Murray Fredericks

In the same vein, with pretty much every phone coming with an in-built camera is there still a role for photojournalists?

Yes, absolutely there’s still a role for photojournalists. The brilliance and creativity – and bravery – of great photojournalists will always win out. Somebody who’s fast in whipping out the smartphone, at an accident or a major incident, will have ten seconds of glory. They may even make a motza for the exclusive street shooter that they got because they were lucky (or unlucky) enough to be in the right place at the right time. News services love these ‘accidental hero’ shots. But the photojournalist who senses what’s going to happen and when and often puts his/her life on the line to get the photo will always have a job. They’re simply irreplaceable. Or they should be.

Aperture Australia 2018 will be held at the Sydney International Convention Centre, Darling Harbour, from 28-29 April 2018. Tickets are available through www.apertureaustralia.com.au