I have a lot of fantasy photos in my head. Pictures I dream of making, stemming from various personal motivations. Generally these ideas stay in the realm of fantasy and aren’t actually executed because of unwieldy logistics, budget or other boring life-in-the-real world constraints.
For example, the ‘ode-to-Tesla’ image I’ve had rattling around in my brain for a few years now involves, among other things, a Nikola Tesla look-alike, a live pigeon and a room-sized functioning Tesla Coil.
But I digress…
When I first moved to Australia I wanted to delve into the Australian psyche, learning all the cultural references and shared experiences that, as a newcomer to the country, I hadn’t experienced. My favourite way to do this is through cult classic movies. An Aussie friend furnished me with a list to start working through, including The Castle, Romper Stomper, The Man From Snowy River, and, of course, Picnic at Hanging Rock.
Picnic holds a special place in the annals of Australian filmmaking. It’s an odd, unsettling movie. Ethereal and dreamlike, but with dark undertones. Tensions played out between corseted European culture imposed upon a mythical and ancient landscape.
Pivotal to the film is the role of Miranda, played wonderfully by Anne Louise Lambert. The movie was a huge success, with Anne becoming the face of the film, gracing the movie poster, DVD cover and now the book cover as well. Anywhere Picnic at Hanging Rock is referred to you’ll see an image of Anne, as she’s became the touchstone for this enigmatic Australian story.
Anne as Miranda in 1975
After seeing the film, it occurred to me how wonderful it would be to do a portrait of Anne now, 40-odd years later, back at Hanging Rock. A sort of time-traveling memento of a fixed point: this exact person, in this exact place, at that precise time created something enigmatic and enduring that will forever form part of Australian cultural memory.
“I could do an ‘Australian Cinema Portrait Revisited’ series,” I mused to myself. “Anne at Hanging Rock, Tom Burlinson at the famous hill ride location from Man From Snowy River, Michael Caton at No. 3 Dagonet Street or perhaps Bonnie Doon…” These special people, in these special places, who created unforgettable Australian cultural moments.
But I never thought I’d actually get to do it.
So I just about fell off my chair when I found out that Anne would be making a trip down from Sydney to Hanging Rock for an event by the Hanging Rock Action Group. A few emails back and forth with the organisers, and I had permission to photograph Anne.
This shoot meant a lot to me personally. I’ve seen the film a couple times, read the book, watched the ‘Dream Within a Dream’ documentary, investigated the backstory on the book’s author, read the ‘secret final chapter’ released in the ’80s, and formed some of my own hypotheses about the deeper meaning of the story. Suffice it to say, I’ve been swept up by the Picnic enigma.
(I also had my very own Miranda moment when friends took me to visit Hanging Rock for the first time and, would you believe it, we accidentally got separated atop the Rock and I got lost. I kid you not.)
Now, in my fantasy photoshoot with Anne, we’ve got heaps of time to do a number of setups, we’re on top of the Rock right amongst the big outcrops, and the weather is perfect.
The reality of the opportunity – as these things often go – is that I had a 10 minute window to work with, and we had to stay at the foot of the rock. But at least the weather was perfect :)
Meeting Anne was a real thrill. She is absolutely lovely, and still utterly gorgeous. And she really does have a kind of intangible, ethereal aura to her. She’s one of those people who’s just nice to be around, which was a big help as I was carking myself on the inside wanting very badly not to stuff anything up.
At least, given all the stories of odd occurrences caused by the Rock, I had brought full backup gear with me in case of any ‘unexplained technical weirdness’.
The setup was simple, placing Anne within the environment and using the Rock as a background character. Lighting was a mix of ambient with a single umbrella on Anne. Two speedlights were ganged in the umbrella but I still missed some shots due to slowish recycle time. Ah well. ISO1600 at f9 to drag the Rock into focus.
The allotted time sped by and I thanked Anne profusely for her time. I was pleased with what I’d achieved, but for the rest of the day I was still dogged by thoughts of how I could have done more, or could have done better. I should have done close-ups! I could have experimented with more interesting angles! I could have… I should have…
I’m pretty hard on myself creatively and often feel this way after a shoot – even when things go well I always think I could have done more somehow. I’ve learned (more or less) to ignore the voices in my head that tell me I suck. Though sometimes I think those voices are what drive me to constantly improve, do better, and push myself harder.
But no matter how much more I wish I might have done, the fact remains that I got to meet and photograph Anne Louise Lambert at Hanging Rock. That special person, in that special place. That this actually happened gives me a huge smile and, all said and done, I’m really happy with the photos.
So maybe I shouldn’t write off my fantasy photoshoots so quickly. Perhaps I should get to work on that Tesla coil. But for now anyway, my portraits of Anne are going straight to the pool room.