Travelling the world provides an amazing opportunity to give the camera a work out … and having visited more than 70 countries during his life, Geoffrey Muscutt has had more chance than most to document his journey! Geoff has also spent a great deal of time on the seat of a bicycle, and covered many more kilometres than we could probably envisage … all of which adds up to some brilliant photographic experiences!
Hi Geoff. Whereabouts in England are you originally from – and what brought you to Australia?
I was born in the UK in a village in Berkshire near the Wiltshire border, then moved to Hastings in Sussex. It was in Hastings that I first started taking photos at age 15.
After starting work, I moved round south east England before spending 16 months in Malaya doing National Service in the Royal Engineers. I met Australians in Malaya and again later in London and enjoyed their less formal ways and friendliness, so came to Australia as a 10 Pound POM in 1965.
I lived in Melbourne until 2002 and moved to South West Rocks, then in 2006 I settled in Port. With an excellent climate, a huge variety of scenery and all the facilities, it is perfect.
Where does your interest in photography stem from?
My best subjects at school were mathematics, geography and art and my mother was very artistic, so perhaps it started with her.
The start of my excitement came when I submitted a photograph to a competition in Amateur Photographer magazine while still at school and won a prize of an exposure meter. The camera with which I won the prize was a plastic Kodak Brownie, with no adjustments at all, so I started saving for a compact camera with adjustable speeds and apertures. This type of camera was easy to carry, and since then I have always had a compact camera, as well as a DSLR.
I believe you’ve been a cyclist for many years. How have you been able to combine this interest with your passion for photography?
Yes Jo, like many kids I cycled to school and later did longer trips away at weekends staying in youth hostels.
My first cycling holiday was to the Lake District in England, with rain every day. My next was to Austria in 1954 (I did not enter the Russian Zone). We had sun every day!
Subsequent holidays were cycle tours in Europe, and I took many photos with a folding Agfa 127 size camera on these trips. Negatives were small, but could be enlarged.
My bike was stolen in London, and I had a 20 year break from cycling. Travel, skiing, water skiing and sailing became favourite activities, with photography in the background, but in 1977 I joined Melbourne Camera Club to improve my photography. I took up cycling again in 1985 and did a Bicycle Victoria tour.
In the next 25 years I did numerous trips, including crossing Australia both ways. I also did cycle tours in China and the UK.
In Nepal and South Africa I did day cycle trips – I took a camera on all of these trips and have thousands of colour slides, which are rarely looked at – and unfortunately most are badly affected by fungus. However, I have scanned the best ones and produced books and audiovisuals from the scans.
How many countries do you believe you’ve visited over the years – and what have been some of the more memorable ones?
Around 70, but this has changed over the years, with places like Saarland and Yugoslavia disappearing and Slovenia etc. appearing, while Syria is not accessible.
Recent memorable holidays were in Yunnan (China), Uzbekistan and Vietnam. These are dream areas for photographers, with such a variety of subject matter.
What is it you most love about travelling?
I love the different cultures. It is interesting to see how others live and indeed survive in such a variety of climates. The architecture and landscapes can also be very different.
What types of objects/people/scenery inspire you to pick up a camera and start shooting?
I am not a specialist and photograph anything, but “photo documentary” and travel shots are my main interest.
I get inspired if lighting is good, as this can make or break a photo. I might go out for the day and shoot nothing if the light isn’t right.
Describe a photo or two you’ve taken that you’re especially happy with …
One photo I took was a view from Q1 building in Surfers Paradise. I pre-planned this shot and took a tripod and got to the viewing level about half an hour before sunset. The lens was close to the glass, to minimise reflections, but I still had to use the editing programme “Photoshop” to remove some reflections.
With film, this shot would have been much more difficult. The ability to enhance or change images with editing programmes after being taken is a bonus in digital images.
What photographic clubs/magazines do you subscribe to; how have they helped with your photography?
I subscribe to Australian Photography and in the past to Modern Photography (USA) and Digital Photography (UK).
I am a life member of Melbourne Camera Club and Port Macquarie Panthers Photographic Club (PMPPC).
While magazines are a great help, it is the personal help and friendship from many like-minded people in the two clubs that I am in that improved my photography most.
There is nearly always someone in PMPPC who can help solve a problem. Seeing other people’s work and competing in club and national competitions all give inspiration to do better.
What are some trips and/or special photographic projects you have planned for coming months?
I have just returned from Bali, so don’t have any trips planned, but return trips to either Vietnam or Sri Lanka are under consideration.
I have an interest in audiovisuals, which are much easier to produce digitally than the old slide shows with audio. Matching images with the music and song of a John Williamson or Slim Dusty classic is the next project in mind.
PMPPC occasionally run a portfolio night, and this also gives an incentive to create a series of images with a theme.
The internet is also invaluable for viewing the work of past masters and contemporary photographers.
Where can we see more of your work?
I enter all eight of PMPPC’s monthly competitions, so if anyone wants to see my work then come along to our club’s meetings at Panthers Club on the second or fourth Tuesday of any month.
Anyone is welcome as a guest, to see what the club does. I do not have a social media site.
Final say …
Having a “seeing” eye is more important than the equipment used. Best quality images come from more expensive professional equipment.
However, very good images can comefrom mid range cameras and lenses, and I now use a compact mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses which is much lighter and ideal for travel, while still giving excellent quality images.
Interview: Jo Robinson.