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Wallaby Trending | Claudine Thornton

In this year’s Shoot the Chef photography competition, two Southern Highlands photographers were featured amongst the finalists.  Editorial and lifestyle photographer, Claudine Thornton entered her controversial photograph of Alex Thomas and was chosen in the finalists bringing the spotlight to this thriving photography scene, once again. Estelle Pigot catches up with the artist to discuss her photograph, ‘Mis-lead’.


How did you choose the theme for ‘Mis-lead’?

I wanted an image that said something – that made you think – but this was done very last minute! I had approached a chef to photograph (Alex Thomas from St Isidore, Ulladulla) earlier in the year, but I had been struggling with a concept so, as the deadline loomed, I thought I may not enter. Three days before the deadline I was driving home and saw a wallaby on the side of the road, I slowed down anticipating that he might jump in front of the car and it was in that moment my idea was formed.

I’d heard that wallaby was trending in Melbourne restaurants. Friends of mine were posting pictures of menus and packaged cartons of the meat on Facebook. Prior to the shoot, I had also been talking with my husband, Scott, about the origins of food and how people tend to let their children believe that meat or vegetable comes from the supermarket rather than giving them all the information.

What are your thoughts on this meat being served?

I haven’t eaten wallaby in restaurants; I am, however, a meat eater and this will not change. I was raised on a farm so I have been exposed to how meat is grown and prepared for slaughter, and even participated in the slaughter as a child.

Now, later in life, I have a new-found respect for how I consume things generally. I am fully aware that the only way to humanly slaughter animals is by a single shot, bullet or electric to the “kill spot” on animals and any meat we consume has been through his process and we must respect that an animal has given its life to be our nourishment.

How did you engage the chef?

He had agreed earlier in the year without knowing what kind of photoshoot it would be, so I must thank Alex’s wife, Jo, for convincing him to do this shot. She was a strong advocate of my vision for the image. I felt that the image I was making had strong connotations that people may believe he was being poster person for, so I wanted him to be OK with the shot and what it was trying to say.

Can you tell us about the staging of the image?

When I got home from my drive, I had formed two distinct images in my mind of what I wanted to shoot; the chef feeding a wallaby a bullet, or the chef blindfolded shooting a wallaby. After Alex had agreed, I quickly went about sourcing props for the shoot. I used my local buy swap and sell group to source a toy gun that looked real one and found a very life-like one, I picked it up the next morning. I contacted a local ammunitions supply to obtain a bullet casing.

The wallaby is a stock image that I purchased online and used Photoshop to composite it into the image. The location is the reserve behind Alex’s home, which was perfect what we needed to achieve. A white backdrop was the essential way of being able to take away some of the reality of the image.

Taking the wallaby out of its environment while being surrounded by it, pulls the focus to what is happening within that part of the image but stills says a lot with the bush surrounds. I think the image may not work without this element.

How does being a regionally-based artist impact your creative practice?

It can limit you in some ways, but I find you are your own limits most times. Sometimes you must just mentally step aside and just do what you want to do and not use being in a rural or remote area as a reason to stifle your creative self.

The internet has opened many doors to find creative tuition, access to mood boards or inspirations through such places like Pinterest. Online forums can be great sources of support and trusted advice. If you are not motivated enough you can easily fall into the trappings that your geographic location is the reason for your business or creative practice is failing. You can be creative anywhere!

That being said I do believe that one of the biggest limitations is that many of the national
associations such as the ACMP and the AIPP do not fully cater for rural or remote
members. They offer great, forums, workshops and talks but only host them in major cities, the cost to attend for local people may just be a train ride, whereas for out-of-towners to attend the cost is travel plus accommodation and days off from business. More opportunities to network and undertake workshops should be offered in regional and remote locations would encourage the rural and regional people, but also encourage city people to travel to unique destinations, offering new way to network.

Do you think your relationship with regional Australia influenced your choice?
I have strong views on environmental matters but with any idea I have I generally try to follow it through, even if it is unsuccessful. I learn each time.

What was it like to be selected as a finalist in the Shoot the Chef comp in the first year it has gone national?

I am really excited to be chosen as a finalist this year. There were so many entries and to be selected as a finalist again this year feels great. I wanted an image that said something and it great to be recognised for this.


This year’s Shoot The Chef finalist gallery can be viewed here.