Visual Story Telling, Fraser Smith

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“I’ve been a freelance illustrator and photographer since graduating from uni. My work funds humanitarian aid work that I do overseas, and some of my current work is being used by aid organisations to help educate and reach people in varying programmes.  I guess my photography and illustration work covers a wide range of styles, subject matters and inspirations, but at the same time has elements that ties all phases together …”

Tell us a little about yourself. Where do you live, and where are you from?  

My lifestyle lends itself to being quite nomadic, but I am currently based in Port Macquarie and have spent most of my life here. I find it difficult to be away from the ocean for any extended period of time, so I’m always happy to come home.

I have always had an interest in art and design, but it wasn’t until I attended university and was mentored by some impressive artists that I began harnessing my raw skills into something more directional and specialised.

I completed a Bachelors Degree in Graphic Design in 2005, and since that time have been working as a freelance photographer, designer and illustrator, with a client base that spans the globe. I am fortunate that the nature of my work allows me to travel frequently and undertake humanitarian work for a number of organisations, with projects predominantly in Asia.

How long has photography and illustration been a hobby and career of yours, and what motivated you to get started?

Although I wasn’t acutely aware of it at the time, I have always had an interest in illustration and photography. I was fascinated with cartoons, comics and photos, anything that contained people or faces. As a child I began drawing, copying images and attempting to replicate other artists’ work as best I could.

I developed an interest in photorealism, and for a long time my belief was that you were only a true and talented artist if you could create art that was unmistakeable and precise; that is, as close to reality as possible. I found it difficult to find significance and emotion in abstract pictures, undervaluing them internally.

With experience, my view has changed substantially. Whilst I still see the importance of that style of work, I learnt that you can find meaning in loose and abstract pieces – that there is substance in imperfection. These days, I lend myself to a more fluid and relaxed style of work; images don’t have to have the correct composition or be perfectly exposed for them to be impactful.

In terms of photography, my interest didn’t really spark until I was introduced to the darkroom at uni. I loved the intricate and patient process of developing images from film. It was so primitive and painstaking, that the end results were always so genuinely rewarding. It’s sad that with “progression” we lose so many of our beautiful, traditional practices – film photography being one.

How would you describe yourself and your personality? How does your personality affect the way you take photos?

I’ve always felt like art has a duty, if anything, to evoke emotion. I love how you can capture a moment in time with a single frame and within that moment depict emotion and mood and action and thought, all at once.

Despite the medium, I believe it’s imperative to develop a connection or trigger a reaction with the audience. Engaging the viewer gives the image power and the capacity to make a statement, rather than just being wallpaper. My work places an emphasis on intensifying shadows and highlights, which happens organically, but it enables me to create an image with a unique focal point for the viewer.

At this time my photography and illustration work is fairly diverse, which suits me well. I am constantly seeking out new sources of inspiration and draw stimulus from a variety of sources, but inevitably there are unique elements that tie it all together. I guess this is probably indicative of my personality – eclectic and sporadic, but grounded in faith.

Tell us about your humanitarian aid work overseas and what it was that inspired you to follow this path …

Although I have worked for other aid organisations, for the last few years I have been working with The HELP Foundation and doing trips to Indonesia. This organisation is integrating itself into local communities, schools, villages and hospitals. They aim to educate people of all ages about health, hygiene, the effects of tobacco and alcohol, environmental matters and other areas in order to improve living conditions and quality of life for people with no access to resources for change.

Arguably, we live in the greatest country in the world. Although we have limited exposure to news reports on third world and developing countries, the dire needs of these people is not made apparent until it is experienced first-hand, and accordingly is often (maybe unintentionally) disregarded.

As Australians, I feel we are incredibly blessed to have the life we have. The people living in these devastated areas didn’t choose to be there; it’s just the hand they’ve been dealt and for that reason alone I feel it is our duty to share the resources and knowledge we have with those less fortunate than ourselves.

I’m currently illustrating a series of children’s books that are being distributed throughout Indonesia. A few years ago Indonesia had the highest male smoking rate in the world. The rampant epidemic is fuelled by cheap cigarettes and weak government policies on the advertising of tobacco. Two out every three males smoke, and it kills 200,000 Indonesians a year. The books aim to educate people (predominantly kids) about the damage smoking does to your body, life and relationships. The other books in the series have a general focus on health, specifically on the value of a healthy diet, exercise, drinking water, fresh air, the effects of alcohol and sunlight.

What are your influences both creatively and for life in general?

A great deal of the influences in my life come from travelling – experiencing different cultures and seeing how people from various backgrounds express themselves creatively.

I have been fortunate enough to meet and experience the works of some amazing artists worldwide; it is incredibly motivating to be around vibrant and imaginative people who are pushing the boundaries of creativity, producing astonishing, unique works as a result.

As clichéd as it sounds, I like that art provides a way for people to connect, in spite of their social status, race or religion. Everyone’s tastes are so vastly different, but I’m maturing to the notion that you can always learn from other people and their work – whether it is to your taste or not.

What is your favourite photography accessory, other than your camera?

My favourite photography accessory would have to be my Speedlite. The compact flash is a go-to in so many situations and super handy when you’re lacking enough light to expose a subject. It’s small, light, and easy to travel with when I’m getting around and hiking overseas. I also love the versatility of it, having the option just to add a small touch of flash to a setting, yet also being powerful enough to light a full room. By diffusing, bouncing and shaping, you can a produce an appropriate light for pretty much any situation. Some photographers are scared of using off-camera flashes, but once you master it, it becomes a powerful weapon in your arsenal.

How important is post-processing in the creation of your photographs?

When I first started taking photos, I relied on the post-process much more than I do now. The importance of post-processing has become only a small part of making images for me and continues to diminish.

As passé as it sounds, it’s so much more efficient, natural and authentic to spend time and attention to detail shooting on the day. Having a more thorough approach on location, rather than trying to fabricate something later on, makes for a much better result. Not only is it a more personable experience, but it is a small tribute to the pioneers of photography and the art of making photographs.

Lastly, where can our readers contact you and view your works?

You can find my work, information and contact details at www.casttheeyes.com.

Otherwise “casttheeyes” in the world of social media. And if you want to check out the awesome work that The HELP Foundation is doing, head to www.helpindonesianfoundation.blogspot.com.au.

Thanks Fraser.

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