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A deeper look beyond the image

13 Aug 2015

A deeper look beyond the image Image

By Sean Car

Former Photography Studies College (PSC) student Amber McCaig has crafted her style on capturing not just people but their whole story.

Since graduating from her second degree (Bachelor of Photography) from PSC in 2013, this creative approach has been central to her work and was first truly recognised in her main body of work Imagined Histories.

The exhibition, held at Melbourne’s Edmund Pearce Gallery in 2013, featured portraits of ordinary people who re-enact and embody moments in history as part of everyday life.

And the theme continues in her current project Americana Now – another portrait series exploring modern day individuals who are attached to the nostalgia of the 1950s and 60s.

With a love for history and storytelling, Amber said she had always made a habit of using photography as a vehicle for exploring and understanding people.

“I just love people and photographing people, but especially just real people and getting to know them by delving a bit deeper and trying to explore their environment and their life,” she said.

“It’s the nostalgia as well. Why do people cling on to it? I’m trying to work through that because I love history and I want to find out what it is about these eras and why some people embody it physically and mentally.”

From rock and roll dancers and pin-ups to collectors and classic car enthusiasts, Amber said she had discovered a “massive scene” of everyday people devoting themselves to the 50s and 60s through the making of Americana Now.

She said there was no more poignant example of this than a local insurance worker (pictured) she had recently encountered, who was the complete modern day version of rock and roll icon Elvis Presley.

“I came across him at a dancing event where he had this little market stall. I noticed that his hair was quite quiffed!” she said.

“I ended up making contact with him later and he is a real character. Walking into his house you would never know but inside it was like an absolute memorial to Elvis and to the 1950s.”

“There is one painting in his house where he actually got himself painted next to Elvis in a portrait together. He just felt a real connection to that time and he’s just lived with it ever since.”

While she only made the switch from managing pubs in Scotland to photography at the age of 30, it is a career move that has truly paid off for Amber.

Almost immediately since first graduating from PSC in 2009 with an advanced diploma, she has been working as a producer for Andrew Ritchie Photography and studio manager at Ripe Studios in South Yarra.

With much of her work receiving local and international recognition, her talent and success has been something her former college has been keen to make an example of for its current and future students.

She said undertaking study at the Photography Studies College was one of the best decisions she’s ever made.

“They (PSC) sometimes send students here and I talk to them about what I’ve done and they just come and look at the studio,” she said.

“A big dream of mine was always to get a degree and so to be able to do it in something I loved as a mature aged student at PSC was just fabulous.”

“To go there was the best choice and I got my degree so I’m absolutely rapped! They’re now printing this exhibition for me and they’re always interested to find out what I’m doing. I miss all the guys there!”

Americana Now will be held at the Ballarat International Foto Biennale from August 22 to September 20.

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