“At the edge of the Earth” is an ongoing yearlong project by documentary photographer Markus Andersen in which he captures the coastline of Sydney, Australia on black and white film with the Diana and Lomo LC-A cameras. In this interview, the Sydney-based photographer opens up to Lomography about his latest endeavor as well as on shooting on the streets of his city and the importance of photographing in analog.
Hello, Markus! Please tell us a little about yourself.
I am documentary photographer based in Sydney, Australia. I shoot primarily with 35mm and 120 cameras on black and white and color film negative. My work has been exhibited globally from Sydney to Paris.
Just last February you kicked off “At the edge of the Earth.” When and how did it all begin? What was your idea behind this project?
I live close to the east coast of Sydney coastline and felt that the coastline had not been explored photographically in a documentary/fine art fashion using traditional photographic [media]. I guess I had always intended to do a body of work on the coastline and intermittently shot a few frames of the coast whenever I was at the beach on the weekend; however, [I] had never focused intently on the subject as a single, flowing body until now.
I commenced this project in the summer of February 2015 and will continue to shoot until February 2016.
The project is designed to give a documentary/environmental/art coverage of Sydney’s beaches from suburbs such as Palm Beach north of the city down to Cronulla Beach in the south.
The title “At the edge of the Earth” refers in part to the sensory and spiritual experience that many people feel as they stare out into the Pacific Ocean from the coastline. In addition, when you stand at the edge of a shore or a beach, you can view it as the edge of your own world, your own environment that you live in and occupy.
Is there a particular reason why you picked Sydney’s coastline, the cameras and film you are using, and the period of time you are doing this?
The eastern coastline of Australia is well-known and in particular, Sydney. Photographically, each beach and inlet is diverse and the communities change from suburb to suburb (as does the aesthetic nature of the environment). Some locations are sparsely populated [while] some are crammed with people. Some are open to the external environment and some require you to walk down through cliffs to the beach.
In addition, I am shooting this project over 12 months to record the changing density levels of the population that inhabit the beach from the summer months to the winter months.
Why I am using certain equipment for the project – I have a love for the organic and imperfect nature of film photography; in particular, when used with the organic results [that] been achieved through the use of the Lomo LC-A (current and historical) and the Diana camera (both 1960s/’70s 151 versions and the current Diana F+).
The lenses of all these cameras give an unpredictable image that is very unique and cannot be replicated digitally. The 1960s/1970s Diana 151 cameras are in particular extremely unpredictable, prone to light leaks, backs falling off mid roll, and wildly diffused and unique lens effects that are sometimes fascinating, adding to the mythic qualities of the coastal environments I am shooting.
The Lomo LC-A cameras are very simple and truly allow me to use the camera as an extension of my arm – just set the focal distance and shoot. The LC-A is so discreet that the public [is] not aware of the camera, and as a result allow for extremely effective documentary images. Even [though] the LC-A and current Diana F+ cameras are simple, they still yield consistent results, whereas the 1960s/’70s Diana 151 cameras are completely unpredictable (which I like).
What story are you trying to tell with your photographs, if any? Can you give us an idea on the kind of images that you intend to show here? Please feel free to elaborate.
The project is still in its infancy and is constantly evolving. It was initially intend to be shot with a more storytelling approach, shooting backstreets and elements that may have been more abstract. As of last week (Editor’s note: The third week of March), the images I am shooting are concentrating more on the beachfront of the suburbs, with the horizon as a common point of interest in most images.
We understand that it’s only been a month, but please update us on what’s been up so far. What are your plans for the succeeding months?
I have been shooting a fair amount at multiple beach locations, then having a look at the [negatives], printing out contact sheets and filing them on a week to week basis. I do not print any singular work prints at this stage as I am still designing how the story of this body of work will unfold. I do, however, use my contact sheets as a way of finding a direction in the work.
At present, I am shooting from week to week, month to month, travelling up and down the coast attempting to cover the various beaches as many times as possible. Covering the changing seasons and the way the people and environment change with the passing of time.
The mini documentary by Rob Norton highlights your work and process, following you around the streets of Sydney which you called the “belly of the beast.” “At the edge of the Earth” is also set in Sydney, albeit in a different location. As a photographer, how would you describe Sydney? Would you consider your works as tributes to your city somehow?
The biggest influence of the photographic aesthetic of Sydney is the hard, relentless Australian sun. Burning the land in summer and in winter cooling it down only slightly. This light creates the visual stage for most Australian documentary photographers. Because of its harsh omnipresence, the sun is always a major player in most documentary and street images shot in Sydney.
What and/or who inspires you?
Usually not photographers, to be honest. I gain inspiration from painters, printmakers, film, music, literature, and life in general.
As someone who works with analog, what do you think is the importance of shooting in film?
Film photography gets you in a zone for the process of shooting. You are never looking at a screen or viewing something, only doing one thing, looking into the world and attempting to see images and grab[bing] them. Film slows you down a little and it does make you think about the frame you are about to take.
As mentioned earlier film is organic, it is real, you can hold it and the results are unique. For me, it is more aligned to being a painter, or a printmaker; an organic process that is impossible to replicate. It is random and breaks the more conservative and uptight times that we live in – film is rebellious and rough around the edges.
Would you have any photography advice that you could share with us?
Shoot in terms of projects and not just randomly. If you are shooting the street, or portraits or whatever, then encase the images within a specific theme or narrative. Frame your work in series or bodies of work that can be presented to publishers, magazines, or galleries.
Also, in my opinion, focus on your own work. Don’t worry about what others are doing; your images should be your biggest source of inspiration. Look at your contact sheets (film or digital) and draw passion from your own images and use the world around you. Draw inspiration from the arts in general, not only photographic books [by] known photographers, as the primary source of getting your photo mojo going.
We believe that you have an upcoming show in Sydney. Please take this opportunity to promote it to our readers!
I currently have an exhibition with Turkish photographer Elif Suyabatmaz named “Mirrored” at the Australian Centre for Photography in Sydney. The work is a black and white photographic journey through the streets of both Sydney, Australia and Istanbul, Turkey.
“Mirrored” is a photographic dialogue between Sydney-based photographer Markus Andersen and Istanbul-based photographer Elif Suyabatmaz. Sharing the same passion for instinctive street photography, they respond to each other’s images with their very own imagery, full of contrasts, humour and emotions. Together, they draw the portrait of their respective city and culture.
Any last words?
Shoot what you personally find interesting and always have a game plan in terms of where you would like the images / prints to find a home (i.e. a book, in a gallery, magazine, blog etc).
All information and photographs in this article was provided to Lomography by Markus Andersen and used here with permission. To find out more about the photographer and see more of his work, please visit his website.