Excitement! It has been a while in development, but I can finally tell you all about the wonderful work I got to do with my great client OAMPS Insurance Brokers.
What began as a brief back in 2011 to produce some iconic Australian images for their marketing material, eventually grew into a fantastic brand refresh project, leaping from the pages of templates, to going live on the website, and now adorning the walls and meeting rooms of OAMPS offices.
So what is iconic in Australia? For me, it is so much more than the Sydney Harbour Bridge or a kangaroo. Australia is out-of-the-box. The incredible colour and variety of its land, eco-climates, and flora is vast and undervalued. While I love to travel to the more remote and difficult areas of this country, I appreciate that not everyone has the same will or ability, and so I aim to bring it to them. In a world of manufactured fun, beauty, and instant gratification, I like to encourage people to value the incomparable natural wonder that is Australia, and its contribution to the irrepressible Aussie Spirit.
So, how did we get there? The Marketing team and I began by going back to the beginning, identifying the very heart of what OAMPS is about. OAMPS has grown organically over its long history and although the name of OAMPS held a very strong connection with clients, the brand identity itself had become fractured and the way they presented to clients, very inconsistent.
We landed on the idea of representing aspects of Australia’s environmental and geological diversity; from rainforest, to coast, to the arid zones and treasures buried in rock. After story-boarding our way through sandy beaches and other obvious choices, we narrowed it down to a group of potential subjects. Over the next few months, I kept these ideas in my head as I travelled, ever vigilant for the ‘right’ image.
I credit the team for choosing the brave direction, leaving industry imagery behind, and instead, taking clients and colleagues on a journey to Australia’s wild heart and beautiful landscapes. Executed with Simon Long’s gorgeous organic graphic design, these images help OAMPS tell their story, where they have come from, what they value, and what clients can expect from them. This is Project Iconic Australia.
When I first looked at this piece of boulder opal I saw a topographical map; an aerial view of the Australian landscape with broad dry plains, ridges and meandering waterways. I liked the ambiguity of the image and that the viewer may have to look closer to figure out what it is. I also like the way the opal forms between separate pieces of rock, tenaciously looking for an opportunity, just like the hardy and colourful characters who optimistically seek it. Opals are difficult to photograph, and often a photo does no justice to the range and depth of colour you can see with the naked eye. I spent hours trialling all sorts of angles, light sources and photographing different pieces of opal before I found ‘the one’. To me, opal represents the tough Australian spirit, ingenuity and perseverance, a precious gem wrapped in rock.
As an island surrounded by ocean I wanted to represent the coast in a way that wasn’t simply crashing waves. Rockpools are a part of the Australian coastline. Highly resilient, they exist at the whim of tides, sun and human intervention. Rockpools represent carefree childhood summers at the beach, hours spent investigating each one for a sign of life, and dodging breaking waves to get to the best ones. Taking time to peer into each tiny ecosystem, you never knew what you would find, and creatures would only emerge from hiding to reward those with patience. Taking this shot, I had to discourage around 100 seagulls from landing around me and casting shadows. One of them left me a little white present in my hair.
Native to Australian tropics, the staghorn fern lives in symbiosis with its surroundings, seeking out the best position to thrive. It symbolises Australia’s many forest and tropical regions and presents such an abundant contrast to the open arid centre. The scale, colour, delicate beauty and ingenuity of the staghorn appealed to me. Growing on the trunk of a tree it makes the most of its host’s water attracting ability, but does no harm to the tree. Thriving in the filtered light of a rainforest, this plant is sculptural and unmistakably tropical. Photographed it in the Otway Ranges of Victoria, a gutsy Bull Ant took its chances on my foot while distracted. Thinking it was a stick digging into me, I ignored it. For a week, the three bites I had gave me a cankle that could not be forced into any boot.
Spinifex grass is essential to the arid landscapes and dune ecosystems of Australia. Resilient and ubiquitous, it is one plant that is present where little else survives. Appearing soft, it is actually very sharp to touch, and I recommend long pants when walking through it, although I never take my own advice and always end up with shredded legs. I have seen two-metre snakes, large lizards and scores of spinifex mice disappear into a single plant. The plant appears solid in the centre, so to this day I wonder where they go. Nothing beats the way light shines through it at sunset.
Created millions of years ago, and transformed from granite by water alone, they are symbolic of Australia’s ancient roots. I love the idea that we can walk around and touch something formed 1600 million years ago. Granite graces the landscape all over Australia, in different colours and shapes, but the Devils Marbles are especially stunning. There are few sharp edges or straight lines in the mounds of rocks piled precariously, and the rich colour at dawn and dusk is arid Australia at its finest. I cannot imagine anyone visiting this place without being moved or impressed by it. When shooting this at dusk in January, biting flies that blotted out the sun tested my ability to retain courage under fire, and complete my mission. It was a radiant 34 degrees at 5pm, and I would have given anything for a biohazard movie crime-scene suit.
A more perfectly adapted plant to an environment beset by wildfire I know not of. Found in the woodlands of Australia, gumtrees connect us to resilience, regeneration and hope, even after disaster. When thinking about iconic Australia, I kept coming back to the gumtree, but as an image itself, I felt it was overdone. Looking closer into the actual seeds and life cycle, I developed a greater appreciation for one of the most uniquely adapted and beautiful plants Australia has. I love the fine detail in each gumnut across the varieties and the contrast between the leathery, hard, gumnut shell and the delicate tutu-like flower that emerges from it. I like the connection for those Australians who grew up reading about May Gibbs’ Gumnut Babies.
Most gumnuts are annoyingly out-of-reach and I spend many hours leaping up to snatch at them, or filling my car with broken branches (and resident bugs) picked up off forest floors for later research. This has spawned an obsession for gumnuts, and a calendar for my Mum. I discovered this particular gumnut in the Great Otway National Park in Victoria, on an extremely windy day with branches crashing around me. It felt like a long walk down to the coast and back up a trail to find this treasure. 40,000km of tyre and foot wear later, I have never found the same one again.
Those close to me may have noticed my barely concealed pathological desire for order. I am fully aware that this is one of those genuine weaknesses one could declare at a job interview, and not sound smug, unlike “Oh, a weakness? Hmm, let’s see. I’m a perfectionist?”. I say pathological because I actually feel anxious when things are disorderly, to the point of preventing forward motion. I write spreadsheets of packing lists for roadtrips, bike trips, work trips, lists for things that live permanently inside the camper, lists for stuff that gets added on the day of departure with the camper. I spend hours arranging the lists. I print the lists. W ignores the lists. Last weekend we took a quick trip to Margaret River. It is our 20th trip, and 150km down the road we realise we have no coffee. In terms of functional necessity, one may as well have forgotten to bring clothes.
I deal with my Disorder Disorder by making myself take abstract photos, and not rearranging my tees that call to me daily to be placed in order of hue and saturation. The Fleeting Glimpses technique (named during a road trip from Melbourne to Perth with photographer C, who introduced me to the idea) of shooting out the window of a car travelling at 110km is one way I practise achieving the unpredictable. I took these photos in the wonderfully verdant and be-sheeped hills of New South Wales, between Wagga and Canberra a couple of weeks ago. I love that the Auto-Focus and Vibration Reduction mechanism on my 70-200mm lens go crazy trying to lock onto something, which results in blurred lines going in lots of different directions, or a single plane of sharpness and all the rest a blur. Which is exactly what my brain feels like more than some of the time.
I welcome feedback on any of the pics I post. What do you like? What don’t you like? What do you want more of? Don’t be shy! It is great to hear what strikes people.