“No one ever came into photography from a business perspective (that I know of). I think everyone started doing their own (photography) and loving it enough to want to make it the focus of their lives”.
Following on from his recent exhibition Trans Siberian, Artist Group photographer Jake Terrey returns to SUNSTUDIOS Sydney gallery for This Time It’s Personal 2018. Opening 29 November, This Time It’s Personal showcases Australia’s best photographers with proceeds from print sales going to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.
Tell me about your image submitted to This Time It’s Personal.
The image is of a burnt-out billboard advertising the now defunct resort town of Bombay Beach in the California desert.
At the turn of the 20th century, the Colorado River was diverted in an attempt to fuel agriculture around the area. Poor engineering left the dams unstable. In breaking its levy, the river poured into the desert basin filling it to become one of the largest lakes in the country. Years later and the ‘50s came along with opportunists envisaging a ripe coastline for resorts and wholesome family vacations. Marinas were built, all kinds of sea life from fish to seals were imported, and musicians from The Beach Boys to Frank Sinatra played to the destination weekly.
It was a new American paradise erected dead in the centre of the hunt for the national dream.
The first thing you notice upon approach is a smell the US Geological Survey describes as "objectionable", "noxious", "unique", and "pervasive". Then it's the firm and unexpected crunch beneath your feet as you walk the white beaches you thought would be made of sand. Eventually, the river was adequately dammed, fresh water stopped flowing and by the time the early ‘60s came by incredible amounts of salt had begun to seep into the lake, slowly poisoning the life imported to the location. Bones replaced the sand, the concept corrupted and a rotting stench pushed people and business from the area.
All that's left is a determined commune of outlaws and artists. This was taken as part of a trip I was doing from LA to New Orleans visiting strange places and American mythologies.
What was involved in bringing together this image from conception to bringing it to print in this show?
An obnoxious blue mustang, too much tequila and four weeks driving through the desert with two friends.
Do you believe it is important for working professional photographers to have a personal photography practice? If so, why?
I think so. At least for me, it is. Everyone's processes are different.
Working on and understanding exactly what I do and why outside of briefs and the parameters set on you in a commercial context keeps me afloat.
Some jobs I do I don't even recognise as my own work. Others are closer to what I want to be experiencing or saying as an artist but wandering the world with a camera and nothing else to achieve outside of my own desires brings me closer to knowing why I do the rest of it.
I also think it's hard to do excellent fashion work if all you have behind you is other fashion work. At least for me, I want to bring in other ideas when I can.
You’ve been involved in the annual exhibition for a few years running now. What do you get out of participating?
It's one of my favourite dates of the year. No one ever came into photography from a business perspective (that I know of). I think everyone started doing their own work and loving it enough to want to make it the focus of their lives. It's easy to let that slip away when you're shooting professionally so it's amazing to see the top professionals in the country still exploring those first ideas they had about the medium.
Also, you always have the best booze sponsors.