I recently shot a small library of images for Origin Energy’s solar division for both industry and residential uses. I’ve been using a drone more often lately in my advertising shoots where we need a variety of landscape shots to tell the whole story. This was definitely a shoot where using a drone was actually a real necessity and would have been impossible using a helicopter as I probably would have done 5 years ago.
We recently worked with Houston Design Group in Sydney to create a range of lifestyle images for NRMA /National Roads and Motorists' Association. Outside of their insurance and roadside assistance programs, they've recently developed partnerships with camping and caravan parks around Australia as well as new phone apps that help travelers and NRMA customers with a variety of tasks. We created a small image library for NRMA around these new products for them that focused on family road trips, travel and app use.
Agency: Houston Design Group
I've been shooting a lot of cars in the last few years with clients like Mitsubishi, NRMA and Subaru and I've finally decided to publish a portfolio of some of my car work. Cars can be pretty fun- the projects usually call on a lot of the things I really like to shoot- big landscape shots, lifestyle and the occasional aerial shots (which used to be out of a helicopter but are mostly drone shots these days).
Joe Wigdahl Auto & Cars Portfolio
A few months ago I traveled to Weipa in the western Cape York peninsula in Queensland to shoot a campaign for Rio Tinto. Weipa is a small, remote town with a huge bauxite (raw aluminium ore) mine that wants families to come and put down roots as development and local investment looks to grow in the coming years.
Client: Rio Tinto / Weipa Tourism
Creative Director: Ben Croft
A few months ago I shot a bunch of images for Mitsubishi for their new car in Australia, the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross.
When we did this shoot this was the only Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross in Australia. It has a busy schedule and the only days I had to shoot it just happened to coincide with the Melbourne Cup race in Victoria, which is something of a holy week there. We couldn't find a location scout who was available (i.e. wanted to take time out of the Melbourne Cup festivities to find locations) so I had to go down to Victoria a week early and find my own locations. Because I really didn't know the Victorian countryside I started every morning looking at Google satellite maps for terrain and roads that might have something interesting to shoot on- especially private properties that looked like they had roads on them that we could get permission to use. I would then spend the next 12 hours driving every day combing over every road in that area and then try and contact homeowners that might have a nice road. After driving around 1000kms of small backroads, at the 11th hour I finally found a family that let us shoot on their land. We couldn't have asked for more amazing weather.
To do the aerial shots I worked with Flying Dragon, a drone company that specialises in high-end cinematography. I had experimented with several readily available drones like the Phantoms and the still image quality just didn't stack up for the size we were going to have to use for the stills. We had to use a camera that was over 30 megapixels to satisfy their print needs and the only drones that can hoist up a camera large enough to do that are the heavy duty 8 blade drones that require professional pilots and cost a fortune. The operator was in charge of the flight controls and navigation on one monitor and I controlled the camera gimbal and captures on the other. I have to say, despite the challenges of short flight times due to battery power, I definitely preferred using a big drone to hanging out of the side of a helicopter.
Client: Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross
Agency: Richards Rose Executive
Executive CD: Adam Rose
CD: Liam Hillier
This year a documentary called The Work was released about a prison-therapy program in Folsom State Prison in California. The documentary follows a group of men from the outside who join a circle of maximum security inmates for 4 days of intense group therapy work. The film focuses on 3 men from the outside as they sit in a circle with other outside men and maximum security inmates and follows the jarring emotional journey that the group therapy work takes them on. I was asked by the director Jairus McLeary to be the stills photographer and an extra cameraman as part of the crew that went in to film one of these 4 day therapy retreats at Folsom Prison. I shot hundreds of images over those days documenting the group process as well shooting portraits of many of the individuals who participated.
My introduction with the Folsom Prison experience came about purely by chance. I met Jairus McLeary -the future director of The Work- in 2000 when Jairus McLeary and I were waiting tables together at a restaurant in the college town we lived in. We became pretty good friends and that year I spent Thanksgiving at his parent’s house. That’s when I met Jairus’ whole family, who all seem to be involved in some way even back then with Inside Circle Foundation’s work at Folsom Prison. Jairus’ dad James McLeary is one of the lead facilitators with Inside Circle and Jairus’ brothers went on to be his collaborators in making the film. At some point in my relationship with the family James and Jairus suggested that I try going to Folsom. I didn’t really know much about what the experience was about and they didn’t really offer up too much information about it other than vague anecdotes that Jairus would share about “this incredible process” he would take part in. For some reason I simply trusted them and took this leap forward into something I didn’t really know much about or what to expect.
In 2006 I went to Folsom Prison with the Inside Circle Foundation as an initiate, surrounded by strangers from the outside and the inside and I more or less unwittingly began a process that completely changed my life. I walked in a line into the chapel with other men from the outside and stood in a circle facing inmates, some of whom seemed to be just as in the dark as I was about what to expect. The next 4 days were the most transformative 4 days of my life. I walked into a room that became a safe space for the most intensely profound stories, emotions and experiences that I had ever encountered. There was something in the process too that I discovered for myself and that was learning how to be of service and support to someone else, outside of personal judgement. No one in that chapel, from the inside world or out, was there to hear my opinions. Because I had no idea what I was doing, I just did my best to shut up and listen to others and be of support in any way I could. I screwed up a few times but that seemed to be part of the process as well. Everyone got a chance to be heard, to do their work, to support and be supported. When it was my turn, I was challenged in a way that I had never thought possible and somehow got through it with men from the outside and inside by my side.
I consider going to Folsom the single most important decision of my life because it began a process that completely changed the direction of my life afterwards and opened the door to all the other important decisions I would end up making. It put me on a path of change that led to me examining what I valued in my life, what was working in my life vs. what wasn’t and how I fit in the world. It led to me meeting and marrying my wife, becoming a father, moving to a different country and pretty much who I became after that experience. I went back in 2008 and had a very different but very rewarding experience then too. It should be noted that there has not been a single prisoner who has gone through the Inside Circle Foundation program and Folsom prison who has gotten out of prison has ever returned.
I’m not sure when Jairus and his family began the process of trying to make the documentary happen but by 2009 everything had finally fallen in place for them to film. In 2009 the documentary crew went in to film the process which has been happening twice year for almost 20 years.
After 8 years, due to a variety of reasons for delays, the film was finally released in 2017 to much acclaim. It has won several awards in major film festivals around the world including 2017 Best Documentary at SXSW. It has earned 100% from Rotten Tomatoes and 4/5 stars from RogerEbert.com and IMDB to name a few. Follow the links below to watch the trailer and learn more about the film and the Inside Circle Foundation.
Learn more about the Inside Circle Foundation.
A campaign I just shot for Gold Coast Tourism has just started to roll out. We set out to look past the party reputation that the Gold Coast is well known for and tried to capture the sense of how beautiful the Gold Coast and the area around the GC really is. There will be more shots from the campaign to come but this is what I've got so far...
Client: Gold Coast Tourism
Agency: JWT Sydney
I just recently shot a campaign for Canterbury Clothing featuring the 2016 English Rugby team. The English rugby team was in Brisbane doing some training before their big match against Australia in May. As part of Canterbury Clothing's new "Only the Committed" campaign I was asked to shoot portraits of each of the team members and then shoot some of the new clothes for their catalogue in a really beautifully run down old factory in an industrial part of the city. The main challenge was that the schedules of the athletes just simply didn't allow for us to take them all to some really cold and windy warehouse over an hour away from their training grounds to shoot portraits of them. We ended up shooting the portraits in a hotel room with the portrait lighting matching how I was lighting the warehouse location and then everything was stitched together in post.
Aside from the main challenge of getting that to work, I had to try and get something that felt like a sense of intensity of emotion from the players while I only had a few minutes to shoot each (and while their teammates were standing behind me doing everything they could to make them laugh). I got my fair share of ribbing and insults from the team as well and I ended up getting the nickname Professor X from the players by the end of the day (I'm bald.) After a frantic shooting pace shooting portraits and some laughs we wrapped up and headed out to the warehouse. We spent the day shooting the products and filling up the warehouse with smoke machines to get that really gritty industrial atmosphere.
It was a blast.
Client: Canterbury Clothing
Agency: Pentland Brands Creative
Director: Stuart Ross-Sheeran
Art Director: Blake Calderwood
Production by Chee Productions
I just shot an image for a new campaign for the Australian National Broadband Network. The shoot was part of a larger TVC ad featuring a story of two deaf women who take advantage of the new high speed network by chatting (through sign language) over video.
I've done some new work with Brett from Bella Management, playing with ideas I've had for a while about shooting surfing portraits and some exercise/sports work. We lucked out by having one of the most beautiful sunrises at Maroubra Beach I'd ever seen.
I've been shooting some new work lately and have been doing some shoots with some of the talent from Bella Management here in Sydney. I had approached Bella Mgmt with some ideas and one of which was about a couple on a roadtrip, dirty and sweaty from days on the road in a crappy car and they're lost in the middle of nowhere. I don't really do very much work that falls into the fashion realm so I tend to want to mess up their hair and clothes and make it feel more real I guess. I was kind of surprised they went for it and ended up loving the shots. Can't wait to do more of these.
A few weeks ago I was thrilled to discover that there is a new talent agency in Sydney called Rough Cast Talent. It's a great idea- it focuses on featuring models that are unique, unusual or just happen to look like every day people and are great in front of the camera. This is a great new resource to have here in Sydney and I've been waiting for years for something like this to show up. When I lived and worked in Chicago I used to use "real talent" casting agencies and casting scouts all the time. I loved it because I felt like there were times when a project really needed to have models that gave the images a sense of authenticity or relate-ability to the viewer. Traditional modeling agencies never really worked for me because their talent were just too good looking and perfect or what the advertising industry would call "too aspirational." I'm really into the "flaws" that make a person who they are and those unusual details that can sometimes be character defining in an image.
When I saw that Rough Cast had opened up shop I immediately got in touch with the owner Chris Mayer-Plummer to see if I could shoot portraits of some of their talent. They needed portraits of their talent to send out for castings and I really wanted an opportunity to start shooting some of these fantastic faces that Chris has access to. It is FUN. I've met street performers, burlesque dancers, a Catholic energy worker/healer, a Satanist energy worker/healer (I didn't even know that existed), comedians, labourers and just normal people who want to be in pictures. I can't wait to do more.
I live near a cricket oval and it is actually one of my favourite things to hear people playing cricket and hitting balls in the batting cages. It means that Spring is here in full force and we've got months of cricket to look forward to. Not that I actually will watch a whole game or even understand what's going on, but it's one of those things that is quintessentially Australian. I actually don't understand the sport at all and the jargon and statistics that get rattled off during a game make it impenetrable. Like watching Whack Batt from the The Incredible Mr. Fox. But I love the look of the sport. I'm starting to shoot portraits of the cricketers in my town and I'll be posting more throughout the summer.
I recently shot a big ad campaign and image library for Carnival Cruises and the images have just started to hit the streets. We spent about a week on the Carnival Cruise ship The Spirit island hopping around New Caledonia and then sailing back to Sydney. I really loved this job because we brought on 2 real families for the shoot and we just took pictures of them having a lot of fun. No acting, no hair and makeup or wardrobe. Most of the photo shoot went along the lines of "Hey, can you guys eat some ice cream and then go down those water slides over and over again?" Then the kids would basically go nuts, everyone would run around and I would try to keep up, shooting as much as I could. We would shoot all day every day and then have dinner together at night and had a pretty happy routine- the kids were always looking forward to our next activity because they knew that I was going to let them go crazy. At the end of the shoot the kids cried because they were going to miss us so much. There were so many fun, genuine moments that I just picked a few of my favorites here.
A while back I shot a campaign for ResMed- a company that produces top-of-the-line sleep apnea therapy machines. Sleep apnea is a medical condition where, for a number of reasons, people may stop breathing during sleep. This can happen from a few times a night to dozens of times an hour and can become a major medical issue. It lowers the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream, it puts stress on the heart, it causes a lot of problems. The ResMed devices, also known as CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machines are basically silent air compressors that push warm, humidified air into the patient's nose or mouth while they're sleeping so that they're still getting air when their body would normally stop breathing.
We had a massive shoot schedule for this job so that the client would have a library of images for their multiple needs- I've only posted a handful of the tearsheets because there were so many different images and uses. We shot product photos and lifestyle images to cover a broad range of use from brochures and in-store displays to web and advertising and we had to shoot multiple scenarios covering the broad demographic range of their customers.
Client: ResMed http://www.resmed.com/au/ Agency: Tonic the Agency, Sydney Producers: Z-Space
A few months ago I was contacted by the U.S. natural history publication the Smithsonian Magazine to shoot a story on Charles Darwin’s exploration of the Blue Mountains- it’s one of my favourite places in Australia.
It was a shoot that I became more passionate about as I worked my way through the assignment; it was an odd coincidence that I was hired for this shoot- a few weeks before the magazine asked me about doing the assignment my wife and I had decided to move our family to the Blue Mountains. It was a pretty exciting opportunity to explore a whole region that would be our new home. It was early spring when I started the job and the Blue Mountains is much colder and rainier than Sydney, so instead of doing the whole shoot in one trip, I actually had to drive out to the mountains every weekend for a month to get a break from the rain and fog and get all the shots I needed.
In Glenbrook and also in the Wolgan Valley I saw hand paintings in caves which are said to range from hundreds to thousands of years old and it struck me how much more of an impact seeing hand prints made on me than carvings or drawings I’ve seen at other sites. To see a hand print of someone from thousands of years before is to see their size, their age and their physical humanity and connect with them in a way I hadn’t really sensed before. I noticed one set of hand prints where the person must have broken their hand at some point and it healed badly because one of the fingers bent away from the hand in an unnaturally awkward angle. I felt like I was reading some form of ancient text about who lived on this land.
Often when I'm shooting a morning landscape I'll get to the location well before dawn and shoot through the sunrise for an hour or two. Even in a not-so-mindblowing landscape there is usually a moment where the light and the morning atmosphere does something that makes everything light up in the right way. For these shots of what is known as the Jamison Valley in the Blue Mountains off of Sublime Point in Leura, I felt like I was watching a light show- the sun, the mist and the eucalyptus vapor in the air kept changing colors and lighting up the landscape in surprisingly different ways. Every 10 minutes was something different. Finally when I was done I set the camera down in the grass while I was packing up my gear and tripod and grabbed a quick shot- I realised that that was probably my favorite shot of the morning.
I spent a day doing a massive hike in the bushwalk around the Three Sisters. I started off at Scenic World taking the world's steepest train down the escarpment and walked for hours around the bush track. I wasn't keeping track of time and missed their last elevator back up, so I ended up having to climb the near-vertical staircase up the Three Sisters with a backpack full of heavy camera gear after I was already tired from hiking all day. By the time I walked back to my car and put the keys in the ignition I closed my eyes for a second and ended up sleeping for an hour and a half in the drivers seat with the door open.
The cottage that Darwin stayed in was located on the property of the Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort- the most expensive hotel in Australia. I had arrived on a Friday afternoon and it coincided with their absolute busiest time- when the guests are all arriving for the weekend. There were Ferraris and Lamborghinis in the parking lot and guests landing at the helicopter pad and I was given about an hour to shoot what I needed to get before they had to devote their full attention to the guests. Since the magazine budget clearly did not involve staying at the spa, after I was done shooting I had to drive about an hour before I could find a place to stay. The local town was having a big lawn bowling competition and all of the rooms were booked out to drunken retirees enjoying their night out with the boys. The only place I could find to sleep was a room above a loud pub with a bunch of guys arguing about rugby. My bed must have been a junior bed because my feet hung off the bed past my ankles and I could hear a guy in the room next door watching porn on his phone all night. The difference between the Emirates Spa and the sleeping situation I had arrived at could not have been more stark. I had a late dinner at a local bar and was called a "fancypants" by one of the locals. I couldn't really figure out why other than the fact that I was wearing glasses and reading while eating dinner. I guess I was being a fancypants.
I had taken some big hikes getting (sort of) lost looking through a cave system in the Wolgan Valley for some hand paintings that were just too hard to find. Instead I got sunburn and bug bites. After finding only a few hand paintings I struck out for the Mt. Tomah Botanical Gardens which have examples of wollemi pines growing in their gardens. It was the end of the shoot, I had gotten everything ticked off my shot list and I was looking forward to going home the next day.
I was supposed to meet Darwin's great-great-grandson Chris Darwin and shoot his portrait, but despite our best efforts we just couldn't make it happen- he had booked passage on a very slow container ship from France to Australia to reduce his carbon footprint and didn't get back until after the story went to press.
The story that the images accompany can be found on the Smithsonian's website here: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/australia-put-evolution-darwins-mind-180953651/?no-ist
I just shot an ad for St. George Bank that was a blast to shoot. We spent the day shooting a kid with a couple different wigs on and we started off with a conservatively well-cut bowl cut haircut for each wig. I started hacking away at them with terrible scissors until the haircuts became progressively more awful and the crew and models were laughing between shots. It was a blast to shoot.
Client: St. George Bank Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi Art Director: Simon O'Niel
I was thrilled last night to learn that I had won the grand prize for the 2014 Head On Portrait Prize for this image:
The image came from a story that I shot for Good Weekend Magazine about the children's hospice organization Bear Cottage and some of the families who rely on their resources and care. This image in particular came as a result of a wonderful experience meeting the family of Kirrilee Edwards. I felt really welcomed to be with them, to feel their warmth, their sense of humor and love. The Edwards family is a big family and they faced a profound number of struggles because of Kirrilee's devastating illness, but what I saw was an incredible closeness. I felt the best way to give the sense of this family was to show how closely connected they were to Kirrilee and each other. A few months after I shot this image Kirrilee passed away.
I feel an immense sense of gratitude that the Edwards family would let me into their home, welcome me in the way that they did and allow me to be a part in telling their story. For that reason I'm giving half of the prize money that I've won to them. I'm including information below to make donations to Kirrilee's family and Bear Cottage.
Make a Donation to the Edwards family via direct deposit: Troy Edwards Commonwealth Bank of Australia BSB: 062 601 Account: 103 506 78 Memo: Kirrilee
You can read my original blog entry here about Kirrilee, the shoot and the other families: http://www.joewigdahl.com/sick-kids/.
UPDATE 21/05/2014: Several news outlets who have picked up this story have erroneously stated that Kirrilee was dying or on her deathbed when this image was taken and this is not true. She was at home and healthy at the time of the photoshoot. It is true that a few months after I shot this image Kirrilee passed away at Bear Cottage.