Within a month of returning from India as a yoga teacher I opened my first yoga studio in an unoccupied house on my street, and called it YOGA MATT. A small flyer drop around my community and word of mouth attracted a group of local students to my space, that really could only accommodate 6 or 7, most of who would stick around to become my regulars. My initial classes were free, allowing me to develop my teacher style and confidence, and then payment was made by donation. My students seemed to appreciate the traditional and spiritual style of my teaching practice, incorporating prayers, pranayama, meditation and even Bhatki Yoga, devotional singing and playing musical instruments.
With my confidence building as a yoga teacher I approached my local primary school in Penneshaw and offered my services there. The schools caring and progressive headmaster, Leanne Woods, embraced the idea and found a small amount of funding to get me started. I was allocated 2 groups of 6 boys from the senior and junior classes of the tiny rural school, and teaching this age group presented many new challenges for me. Incorporating games, juggling and hacky-sack into my warm ups, the kids supplied the music, and after my initial nervousness I quickly grew to love these classes.
Although I have played piano my whole life and performed in numerous bands I woke up one day with the strong desire to start performing solo. I contacted my local pub, the Penneshaw Hotel, and using my yogi name Madhav, debuted in the front bar on a busy Friday night. Dressed in my “magic” colorful striped jacket I went on with the intention of putting on a show, and really put my heart into it. Performing only my original songs, I included some extra drums and percussion in my kit and invited the audience to get involved, which a few people did. This interaction would become the format of my following shows which took place at the local market and True Thai restaurant. Trying to describe my music and show to other people, the best I have come up with is Peter Allan meets Kurt Cobain.
My partner Ky was due for a break from her demanding work as an Arts Therapist, and needing some inspiration, so she organised an overseas trip to the USA and Japan. I joined her and her son Yeshe on the adventure. Starting in San Francisco we went straight into a week long Art and Life retreat at the Berkeley Shambhala centre. The program explored the creative teachings of Buddhist master teacher Chogyam Trungpa and amongst another creative techniques we explored calligraphy, object arranging, blind drawing and physical movement, mixed up with a healthy dose of meditation. After this we spent a week on the Idaho /Washington border visiting a friend for what was an interesting taste rural America.
In Japan we had 2 amazing weeks in the beautiful city of Kyoto staying in a traditional house. Despite intense heat our days were spent exploring the city on bikes and eating beautiful food in the many tiny cafes and restaurants. Moving to the north island, Hokkaido, we spent another two weeks in the densely forested town of Nukibira, a ski town famous for its onsens (natural hot baths), the boiling mineral rich waters which are pumped into all the towns hotels. Bathing daily naked in these baths with the locals had some deep healing effects on all of us on a number of levels, and it was great to be close to nature again after the time spent in big cities. At one point we were flooded in the result of a series of typhoons sweeping through the region.
Returning to Australia I went straight into my first job as a stills photographer for almost a year. Staring UK actor Martin Freeman, Cargo is a feature film, of the zombie genre, set in the Australian outback and written and directed by Yolanda Ramke and Ben Howling. Leigh Creek in remote South Australia where we were shooting as about as far as you can get from the densely forested mountains of Hokkaido Japan, but once again I was flooded in as unseasonal cold and rain caused havoc for the production throughout the shoot.
Whilst in Leigh Creek, and with a few days off, I contacted the local primary school and offered my service as a yoga teacher. The school counselor Jayne Martin jumped on the opportunity and I was assigned 6 kids who I had the opportunity to work with on two occasions. It is hard for me to express how gratifying it is to pass these teachings on to kids in rural communities, and seeing the health and confidence that yoga and mediation, not to mention correct breathing, can offer this generation. This work really lights me up and I can see it becoming an important part of my unpredictable life direction.
Things can get very interesting when you trust your instincts and follow your sense of attraction. Last month exactly this took me to an Ashram in Indore, central India, called Paramanand Institute of Yogic Sciences. I lived there for a month, a period of deep learning and transformation, and I left with so much more than a yoga teacher qualification. Rediscovering yoga 4 years ago, an interest quickly became self motivated daily practice, encouraged by the physical and mental health improvements I was experiencing. The idea of being a yoga teacher had occurred to me, and when I heard about the idea of training in India, and about this particular school, it just felt right.
I had never been to India before, and driving through the chaotic streets of Indore from the airport to the ashram, families of 5 on a single motorbike dodging cows on the freeway, was an eye opening experince. The Ashram, although close to the city, sat on 6 acres of land busting with organic crops, an injured cow nursery as well as temples, a monastery and age care facilities. My roommate Ramon, from Holland, was going into his third month at the Ashram and although already a qualified yoga teacher was in no hurry to leave. We became good friends over the time sharing many amazing experiences as well as a prolonged bout of street food poisoning.
Getting into the course, it was a blessing to only have 5 people in my group, and it didn’t bother me at all that I was the only male and aproximately double the age of my fellow students. Every day was intense, starting at dawn with yoga, pranayam and meditation before going into classes in Yoga Therapy, Yoga Philosophy, Ayurveda, Pranayam (yogic breathing) ,Yoga Asanas (poses) and teaching techniques. Every day we were also required to perform acts of Karma Yoga, selfless acts without expectation of reward. My photography became a key part of this practice as I documented all aspects of the Ashram life for my fellow students and the institute and by the end people were lining up to commission work. Each day finished with Bhakti Yoga, devotional singing and prayer which often became a fun and spirited jam session on traditional Indian instruments.
The Ashrams founder and guru was Guruji, Dr Omananad, a charismatic, fun and deeply wise yogi who inspired all his students to do their best. The author of many books and the teacher of tens of thousands of students, his knowledge was steeped in the ancient traditions of Indian yoga. He never seemed to sleep and was always available to us to answer questions or deal with any concerns. On top of taking classes, twice a day he would lead us in group pranayam and mediation. These were always intensely physical and spiritual experiences; some students might end up crying hysterically, others laughing whilst others might go into involuntary full body shakes. I experienced all of these states at various times. Towards the end of the course Guruji issued us with a personal mantra and a yogi name in an ancient ritual. You can now call me Madhav Ananad- Divine Compassion- Sweet Bliss.
I left the Ashram with my 200 hour teacher qualification feeling energised, inspired and ready to face the world. Arriving in Mumbai however, I discovered that my travel visa would run out just hours before my return flight, no hotel would allow me to check in and I spent the night on a couch in a hotel foyer wondering if I would be sent to prison. My mediation practice and recently learned prayer techniques had never been so critical as I slowly untangled the mess and negotiated my way through the chaos and confusion of Indian bureaucracy. Strangers came forward at key moments to help me out and although I missed my flight I left India the following day wiser for the experience.
Back on Kangaroo Island Ky was definitely into the idea of having a yoga teacher as her boyfriend and I started taking her for classes straight away. Within a week I took my first real class, a group of seniors sitting in chairs at an aged care facility. I made them chant OM but spared them reciting the Sanskrit prayers and chanting Shanti. I think they all enjoyed the experience, only one student fell asleep. I loved it.
My film Another Country premiered at the Melbourne International Film Festival and received a long standing ovation. For a documentary, and my first effort as a cinematographer, it has been exciting to watch it not only do well on the festival circuit, but pick up some amazing reviews and even get a cinematic release. I caught up with the film at The Adelaide Film Festival and stood with my director Molly Reynolds for a couple of what has been for her a busy circuit of Q&A’s and interviews. My family and loved ones caught the film at various places around the county and were full of praise, which felt great. I am very proud of Another Country and the supporting website Still Our Country.
It gets pretty cold and windy in winter here on Kangaroo Island, so I am particularly proud at having only slept in my house for a couple of weeks this year. Having a tent in the back garden as our bedroom has been a great decision, amongst many other things, freeing up a whole room in the house just for yoga and meditation! The bell style canvas tent glows magically by lantern light at night, the big winds and storms weave their way into my dreams, you feel the thud, thud, thud of kangaroo’s passing by and wake very morning to a chorus of native birds. My girlfriend Ky has been studying Eco Psychology and Eco Art Therapy this year and the whole family is reaping the benefits of her studies. Connecting with nature and understanding the interconnection of all things are wise and healing teachings, made easier by the fact that I already live in a beautiful natural environment. I have always been partial to sleeping outside. Eco-psychology guru and Project Nature Connect founder, Dr.Michael Cohen, has apparently slept outside since the 1970’s, legend.
A time rich lifestyle on Kangaroo Island creates some interesting opportunities. Finding lots of enjoyment through my personal photo projects again, I set up a volunteer artistic residency at the islands Aged/Assisted Living facility Carnarvon. Over 2 months I got to know the residents and staff then set up a little portrait studio in the common room and invited them in. The residents brought along a chair or other special items from their rooms for their sitting, and later on worked with me to select their favorite shots, and order prints for their families. I loved this project and these dignified portraits, that now hang in the entrance foyer of Carnarvon.
Together with Ky and my neighbor Angie Watkins, we held an exhibition at our local gallery Artworks titled The Earth Gives Us Everything . Ky unveiled her stunning Tari landscape series that she has been working on since we moved to the island. Angie took her wand making to a new heights, working with materials mostly found on our beach, for what was her first ever art exhibition. My photography also stayed with a local theme. I took family portraits of the majority of my community here at Baudin Beach, a great opportunity to get to know the locals and further develop a portrait series that I have been working on since moving to the island. Never a great landscape photographer, I challenged myself to try and capture something of the beautiful and dramatic places that surround me, juxtaposing a selection of these with my portraits. Working only with local materials I also weaved a few bits and pieces, including my first pair of woven thongs.
Also at the Artworks gallery I taught my first basket weaving workshop which attracted strong interest from my community. My students got to learn the basics of wicker weaving using local sedge’s and rushes, and it went well, everyone walked away with at least one little basket. Part of a series of Winter Workshops concieved by Ky, I was fortunate to participate in all three of her fantastic Art Therapy workshops. We both now spend time working at this community gallery that represents many fine artists from around the island.
It hasn’t been all beach walks and fine food, some work did come up and I ducked off to Canberra to spend a week working on Secret City, a futuristic political thriller. Having had some time away from on set stills photography it was really fun to get back into it and I enjoyed the work and travel. Having been a NIKON man for the best part of my career, this project marked my first job working with a SONY camera, the AR7 2, which had just came on the market. Being able to take high resolution stills completely silently up till now has required the use of a camera blimp , a silencing box that goes around the camera and lens, an obscure and heavy accessory used almost exclusively by us stills types. The era of the sound blimp was always going to come to an end with the advent of digital photography, but it has taken its time for this technology to get up to speed for use in my industry. It was liberating to finally be able to reduce my equipment to one light camera body and a couple of lenses, and give my body a break from a career of heavy lugging.
A great warrior has left this world. Ramindjeri elder Karno Walker was a traditional lore man, story teller, activist and fighter. Karno had spent the last few years in court fighting for sovereignty on behalf of his people and all Original Australians.When my family arrived on Kangaroo Island (Karta) 2 years ago we went first to Karno and Christine’s place (Wulde Wurri – Eagles Nest) that sits above Murray Lagoon. He surprised and honoured us with a welcome to country ceremony in traditional dress, setting up what has been a great relationship with this land. His friendship and teachings have been a special part of our time here. 2 weeks ago we were again with Karno and Christine at Wulde Wurri for a Mum:oo:wee ceremony, 4 days of talking and healing that attracted people from all around the country. I will miss this unique and powerful man and honour his passing on of knowledge and stories, towards more understanding and greater peace on earth.
After a extremely hectic period in the local film industry things quieted down somewhat, but when director Matt Saville brought his feature film A Month of Sundays to Adelaide I was invited to shoot stills for a couple of weeks. The dark comedy entered the world of real-estate agents, with Anthony Lapaglia and John Clarke doing a fine job in the lead roles. It was a fun project to be involved with, working again with close friends on the crew, and John Clarke and I had an instant connection over our fellow passion for bird photography.
I have been plugging away at my bird photography since moving to Kangaroo Island and could not have found myself living in a better place for such a pursuit. Baudin Beach is owned by the birds and I am slowly getting together some interesting images focusing on the way the diverse species interact with each other,
A very moderate work load suited me fine allowing me to get stuck into my personal projects and studies. In my mid 40’s yoga has become a huge part of my life, but with no suitable classes or teachers on the island, I am required to develop my practice with reading and classes on DVD’s. My busking show is also getting a re-working over this period. The circus show, with juggling, uni-cycling and free standing ladder tricks was already challenging and scary enough, so I am not sure why I decided to try and do it all on a table! My band, with girlfriend Ky, is now called Kinyeri, from the Ramindjeri word for the iconic Yacca plants that grow all over the island. We have been performing regularly and have just released our first recordings on BANDCAMP. Also challenging me and giving me a lot of fun, I bought a little Laser sailing boat. Having grown up on yachts, getting my skills back up whizzing around my bay, occasionally joined by a pod of dolphins, and regularly getting chucked in the ocean, is huge fun and makes me, and the occasional brave guest, feel completely alive.
My basket weaving alter ego Basketboy had his big day in the sun over the Easter period. The annual Easter Art Competition in Penneshaw is a big deal on the island, with large cash prizes and most of the islands significant arts community getting involved. It was a huge surprise when I won my category with a selection of small baskets that represented the various places that I had lived on the island. I sold the work, had my photo in the local paper and got lots of respect and praise from my community. The win seemed to coincide with all of my baskets and rattles being sold in the islands major gallery KI Fine Arts. The gallery is now very keen for me to keep them stocked up with my weaving’s and I have even been invited to give a weaving demonstration at the upcoming Parndana Show. I hope they can handle the excitement.
It has been a couple of years since I was up in remote indigenous community Ramingining, in Australia’s Northern Territory, working on the film Charlies Country. The film was released over a year ago and was very well received, including getting a best actor award for David Gulpilil at Cannes. It was another remarkable achievement, working under extremely challenging circumstances, by my friend an long time collaborator Rolf de Heer. Whilst working on the film I divided my time shooting a documentary with Rolf’s partner Molly Reynolds. The results of this were 2 feature length documentaries and a stunning web site, Still Our Country. Whilst the more experimental documentary, also called Still Our Country, was selected to screen at last years Melbourne International Film Festival, the second project, Another Country has now been include in this year’s official program, and I have been invited to attend and take part in the Q&A. I am just so proud of this documentary, my first credit as a cinematographer, and it will be interesting to see what new challenges arise from its release.
The autumn days on Kangaroo Island have been gorgeous, and it has also been one of the more interesting periods of my life. I launched my basket weaving business BASKETBOY at the islands Penneshaw community market, and actually sold a few baskets and rattles. It had been a long standing dream of mine to have a market stall, it was a really fun day and I met lots of great people from my new community.
At the same market I pulled off my first solo busking show, also under the name BASKETBOY. My circus show, featuring uni cycling, juggling and free-standing ladder tricks, was well received by a small but enthusiastic crowd of locals tourists and dogs. Training hard in the lead up to this show, I finally achieved a 5 ball juggle, a serious challenge that had taken me almost a year of daily practice.
I was asked to play music at my favorite local restaurant, Yellow Ash and Chili in Kingscote, during the islands FEASTIVAL food event. It was my first solo gig as a piano player, I enjoyed playing my songs for a couple hours, and my family and I were well fed. Definitely in no need of any further ego stroking, I then won first prize in the Kangaroo Island Bird Photography Competition, and even had my photo in The Islander newspaper. This beautiful place has been so good to me.
Kangaroo Island supports a small endangered population of Glossy Black Cockatoos. In the 1990’s it was estimated that less than 200 birds existed, since then sustained monitoring and protection programs have seen this number increase to around 300. It is a slow process, the Glossies, that mate for life, only lay one egg that is always under threat by hungry possums or other birds competing for the nest hollow. With one of the better jobs that I have come a cross, Mike Barth monitors over a hundred nest sites around the island and records all the data. I joined him for a beautiful evening of nest watching.
It was exciting to have two films that I worked on selected to compete at this years Cannes Film Festival.The Rover and Charlies Country both got the nod and went quickly into publicity mode. It was interesting to see both films go with one my close up portraits as their poster, two of my favorites of recent years. The Rover has continued to drip release some beautiful stills in a very classy social media build up to the premiere.
And so I moved to Kangaroo Island with my girlfriend Ky Alecto and her kid Yeshe and Joy the dog. The house we are renting sits on 3000 acres of beautiful Australian bushland, bursting with native animals. A beautiful river winds through the property to a secret beach on the islands rugged south west coast. It has been a very easy transition for me from a lifetime of city living to a remote country lifestyle. Each day is greeted with yoga and mediation, perhaps then a canoe or bike adventure, fishing, weaving baskets or just doing nothing. Always eating well. Our possum and wallaby proof vegetable garden is starting to yield, and I have gone back into daily training with my circus skills.
This period has seen several of my recent film projects getting busy. The Rover released one still almost a year ago, with a huge public response. My web site, good for about 4 hits a day, hit over a thousand that day, largely thanks to Robert Pattinsons enormous fan base. There has been nothing else released for almost a year, and now a bunch of new stills and a trailer have sparked big interest. Its a really exciting film to be involved with.
The movie Tracks had it international premiere at the Toronto International film festival and has re-branded the original book with one of my portraits as its cover. It was great to see the film go with a wide landscape still for their poster, one of the shots I took on film with my Hasselblad camera, an image that captures the beauty and journey of the film well.
I caught Tracks at a cast and crew screening in Adelaide. A personal highlight was seeing Mia Wasikowska weaving a little natural basket on screen. I had been giving her a couple of lessons on set and she just kept on going and worked it into the scene. I was delighted it made the cut.
The Babadook premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and this low budget horror film had a big impact on international critics and the festival audience. It had been an intense shoot, ridiculously ambitious for its tiny budget, but the passion and skills of the writer/director Jenifer Kent and the commitment and raw talent of her actors ,Essie Davis and 6 year old Noah Wiseman, seems to have achieved a great result.
A bunch of my stills will be featured in the WOW film Festival this month. The festival celebrates woman in film and my stills have been featured on the festival poster and the stills exhibition invite.
As a basket weaver it has taken a little while to get to know my new place; finding suitable weaving materials around the property and learning what they do. I have been working with long grass and a couple of varieties of reeds that grow along the river. Most days get a chance to head off and harvest materiels or to sit and weave at my special spot by the river. A collection of woven rocks, rattles and a variety of baskets are starting to come together. I sit on the threshold of launching my basket weaving label and products to the world at the Community Market in Penneshaw next month. I am really hoping for a little article in The Islander newspaper, and it would be great to get some of my work in one of the island’s galleries. Is the Kangaroo Island ready for Basketboy?
Good work in my home town Adelaide continued with Anzac Girls, a stylish period drama that depicts the real stories of Australian and New Zealand World War 1 nurses. With a cast of young talented actors, many big scenes and fantastic sets, the ABC TV financed production would be the first of several World War 1 projects kicking off in Australia as the centenary of the start of the conflict approaches. It was a visual treat for stills and fun to work on.
My oldest and closest friend Aidan Munn, has been a professional dancer his whole career, now doing more choreography, music and teaching. Aidan thought he had retired is tired body from the stage years ago, but his lifetime collaborator, choreographer Leigh Warren, polished him up for one more show, Not According to Plan, part of the OZASIA festival in Adelaide. It was great to see this him on the stage again, a unique and charismatic performer always.
Aidan also recently qualified as my first close friend to become a grandfather. His son Aithlea and his partner Mimi had a beautiful girl Mira, who I met and held. The birth gave me an excuse to attempt to weave my first baby rattle. The baby rattle is a classic traditional weave with several variations. I have been weaving one a day to get my skills up, certain that I have finally found the key to my fortune.
The State Theatre Company of South Australia kept me busy shooting head shots, their upcoming production Maggie Stone, as well as their current production Vere (faith). Vere was great theatre, written by John Doyal, lead actor Paul Blackwell supurb in the lead role. I bought tickets for all my friends to see it.
The Adelaide Film Festival premiered 2 feature films that I had worked on. The festival opened with the Australian Premiere of TRACKS. The films real life subjects, adventurer and the original book’s writer Robyn Davidson and Photographer Rick Smolan were in town for the occasion. Rick and I met on the set of Tracks and connected well as friends and photographers. It was great to see him again, and exciting to discuss the possibility of doing a TRACKS book together.
Charlie’s Country also had is world premiere at Adelaide Film Festival, and this time I got an invitation to the opening. With all my colleagues and the cast in attendance, it was a great occasion. My amazing friend and collaborator Rolf de Heer once again creating a huge film making challenge for himself and pulling it off with stunning results. It was a great film and got voted Best of the Festival.
I started shooting the documentary, Another Country, when I was on location on Charlies Country in Ramingining. The projects director, Molly Reynolds, had found the time to view and log the footage I shot on multiple cameras with dubious sound, and it was time to head back up for a week of pickups. A long day of hard four wheel driving from Darwin, in Australia’s Northern Territory, it was a pleasure to visit this remote and fascinating community once again and re-connect with some of the friends we had made. The shooting went well and the project now heads into the editing room, my first job as a Director of Photography.
My most exciting and exotic career moments have come from the 6 films I have worked on with writer/director Rolf de Heer, and Charlie’s Country was never going to be anything different. Our tiny crew, plus lead actor David Gulpilil, boarded a light plane in Darwin and took off for 6 weeks in the remote Aboriginal community of Ramingining, in Arnhem Land in Australia’s Northern Territory. Accommodation was scarce so actors and crew lived and ate together in the community guest house. We commuted around in an assortment of battered four wheel drives, salvaged and maintained by our busy crew mechanic.
Everyone had taken on extra tasks to keep crew numbers down; I was there to do the stills and behind the scenes video as well as shoot a separate documentary about the community itself. This project had me teaming up with, Molly Reynolds, whose documentaries and on line components for the film 10 Canoes, http://www.12canoes.com.au/ , had won her international awards and acclaim. Our daily adventures often started in the town park, we’d meet locals and follow stories, happy to provide a taxi service for anyone who asked as we explored the community and landscape, infested with massive crocodiles.
As a keen weaver, I could not have found a more inspiring place to spend a block of time. Basketry and weaving were deeply intertwined with the lives the Yolngu people, techniques and traditions dating back 60,000 years. They weaved predominately with leaves from abundant Pandanas trees, stripped, dried and dyed with vibrant pigments sourced from the local bush. Very soon after my arrival I organised to sit with master weaver Mary Dhapalany, twin sister of our lead actor David Gulpilill. She got me started on a dilly bag using a very intricate technique that would keep me busy for weeks. I was privileged also to sit with actress and artist Francis Jubiling, learning a variety of other traditional weaving techniques as well as string making from the bark of the Boab tree.
When Charlie’s Country wrapped in Darwin it marked the end of an intense period of film stills work, 4 films back to back, all of them away, so I was very ready to get back to my special people in my home town. In Adelaide the local film industry was still as busy as I had ever seen it and I immediately started casual work on the television show Sam Fox : Extreme Adventures. I have done very little television stills work, it requires a different style of photography and the fast pace in which they shoot TV makes getting any shots at all a challenge in itself. The Sam Fox crew was made up of all my old friends, people I had worked with for decades, and the young lead actors were fantastic. A committed lunch time hacky sack crew was soon established, turning a good job into a great one.
Its great to be home and have some time to do other things than just work. My girlfriend Ky and I completed our first collaboration, a book called Endangered Community. The fight against an aggressive eviction by local council still goes on for the permanent Residents of the Brighton Caravan Park, as this close and delicate community try to save their homes. We are really proud of our little book and it was great to meet and work with this lovely community, they certainly appreciated our support and creating this record of their threatened lifestyle.
I also launched my basket weaving label, basketboy, this month. Still as obsessed as ever with weaving I keep myself busy working away at a series of small baskets using natural materials sourced from the western suburbs of Adelaide.
The stills photography community mourned the loss of a colleague, John Bramley last month. An outstanding talent, John came from New Zealand and made it to the very top of the stills game, living in California and notching up an impressive list of film credits over two decades including the Spiderman trilogy and the Twilight films. Johns accidental death on location in India brought home to all of us the dangers associated with travel and working long hours, and the importance of spending time with our loved ones.