Candid Photography In Australia
An Interview With Andrew Stark

Candid photography and documentary photography requires a very particular kind of photographer, one who is able to capture real life scenes as they happen without interfering with the truthfulness of the scene.

It requires some one who is constantly on the look out for images to appear in front of the lens and to be ready to take the shot.

Andrew Stark has used candid photography to document life in Sydney Australia for the last twenty years. His black and white grainy images have captured a vibrant city and its people and has given the viewer an insight into a changing and developing urban area.

Below is an interview which Andrew kindly agreed to, in which he tells us a little about his work and how candid photography can sometimes get you into a little trouble.

Manly Wharf 2005 - Andrew Stark

Hello Andrew, thank you for your time today and sharing your expertise and experience with us. I'd like to start of by offering you an opportunity to briefly tell us about yourself and your photography?

I've been photographing on the streets for 25 years. Inspired initially by Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, William Klein...

I shoot the passers by using a strictly non-interference style. I've no idea what I'm looking for but seem to photograph it never the less.

You come from Sydney, Australia and have based much of your work around this area, documenting the people and the changing urban environment of the last 20 years. Can you tell us what you find so inspirational about the city and what you hope others take from your images?

Cafe QVB 2004 - Andrew Stark

Sydney is a nice concentration of humanity - like all large cities it gifts the street photographer subject matter whilst benevolently offering a little anonymity. I don't really find Sydney that inspirational per se, it's just my home. It's where I know the short cuts.

As for what people take from my pics - I've no idea. But I like ambiguity, vulnerability and a slight melancholy hue. So I guess I'd hope some people get that vibe too. Modigliani once said something along the lines of - Happiness is an angel with a serious face - which sums it up pretty well I think.

You mention on your website that one of your first photographic inspirations was Henry Cartier-Bresson. Like his work, you shoot in black and white only for your candid photography.

Can you explain why you choose to use this medium rather than color for your urban photography?

It really just suits the mood (or maybe helps set the mood) of my subject matter. I also shoot on film rather than digital for the same reason.

There's something about grainy, 35mm black & white film stock that begs to be taken for an urban stroll. It strips back the streets, offering a poetic rawness that neither the pristine look of digital nor the confusion of color can quite match (in my humble opinion).

You have published two books "Snaps For Sydney" and "Candidly Inclined". Can you tell us a little about each of them?

Dunningham Park - Andrew Stark

"Snaps from Sydney" is a 128 page collection of my pic's taken pre 2003, whilst "Candidly Inclined" is a more modest (production wise) follow up.

I'm currently working on a third book, "No Through Road", which will coincide with an exhibition at the Gosford Art Gallery in January.

You recently had an exhibition of your work called "Down South - A Stark View of the Sutherland Shire" at the Hazelhurst gallery, Gymea in Southern Sydney.

Can you tell us a little about this area and if you had a specific approach to photographing it and the people?

I lived in 'the Shire' for 9 years and was commissioned by Hazelhurst to shoot the area for a year. The district has a reputation for being somewhat insular, even xenophobic, and garnered worldwide attention during 2005 with the ugly Cronulla race riots.

My approach was to remain open minded, however I quickly realized nationalism was strong theme running through the work. My initial title for the exhibition was "White Bred: Lightly Toasted", however the gallery thought that little too confrontational.

Shooting the project I got' king hit, had equipment smashed and was interviewed by police at one stage - it was a lot of fun.

Eddy Avenue Central 2002 - Andrew Stark

Finally Andrew, I know that candid photography in particular requires a degree of anonymity and wondered what equipment you use and why it is suited to your style of photography?

I still use my battered Konica TC with 28 or 40mm lens and shoot TRI X or HP5. It's the same as I've always used and after 25 years it obviously feels instinctively natural. I don't think equipment is that important: watching the world is the key.