For over a year, photographer Markus Andersen wandered the streets of the Cabramatta suburb in Sydney to document the quintessence of Australian multiculturalism.
Andersen’s project began in December 2014 after the Fairfield City Council asked him to take photos of the memorial built in honour of the Liendt Café siege. Having instantly fallen in love with the suburb’s charm, he decided to capture it through his eyes: a melting pot of cultures.
His pictures show the people and places of Cabramatta, whether it’s customers dining in a Vietnamese restaurant, vendors selling exotic fruits, or the elderly practicing Tai Chi in Cabra-Vale park. It’s a fascinating glimpse into how inclusiveness and diversity can make migrant communities work.
“At the heart of this body of work is to focus a lens on this suburb and acknowledge its significant importance within the Australian nation,” explained Andersen.
“In a time of global upheaval and intolerance, Cabramatta is a glowing example to the global community of the positive value of multiculturalism and the gifts it can bring to all.”
We talked to Markus Andersen to find out more about this fascinating series.
At what point did it dawn on you that you could actually make a living and a lifestyle out of photography?
“I realised I could make a living from photography when I began dealing with clients who craved something different and creative from the photographer. Not to just ‘push a button’ but to allow the artist to impart their own vision and unique aesthetic into the work.
“If you find your niche as a creative, your own individual vision, then the clients will come. The viewer or client really needs to see the photographer themselves within each image, displaying what makes that particular creative unique and what sets them apart from all the others.”
Who were your mentors/inspirations while you were learning the art of photography?
“When I began studying photography, it was photographers such as Richard Avedon, David Bailey, Sebastião Salgado, Irvin Penn, Harry Gruyaert, Fred Herzog, William Albert Allard (a particular favourite of mine) that inspired me – recorders of life and the world we live in.
“Now I look for work that is more abstract, darker, conceptual and not so documentary in nature.”
Is there one photo you’ve taken that you think best represents your approach/aesthetic?
“Yes, there is a photograph I shot in my new Cabramatta body of work of a man turning his head toward me in a fleeting moment with his little child slung across his chest. There is a singular moment of connection between myself and the subject. It is very real and genuine, and I guess that is what I truly like in documentary work – a random genuine moment that becomes a split second connection between the artist and the subject.”
What equipment do you use these days and how has that changed over the years?
“With my latest project on the Sydney suburb of Cabramatta I used only Fujifilm X series cameras and lenses – the entire work, book, and exhibitions were shot with these amazing cameras. The files from these cameras and how I specifically shot them have a very film-like quality that truly appeals to me.
“Plus, I like my Mamiya 7II and my Pentax 67 cameras – these are what I’m using on a new body of work that requires size in terms of the prints that are going to be produced. I need the negative size of medium format cameras.
“Equipment has never really changed for me over the years as I have always loved a certain type of gear. I love industrial, chunky types of cameras. Cameras with a bit of heart and soul. I don’t like perfection or things that are too smooth or slick – I like all things organic, whether it is with camera equipment or else.”
Tell us what we can expect to see at the Cabramatta exhibition?
“You can expect to see something that perhaps you have not experienced before – an incredible explosion of vibrant colour, intense Australian light and the deep dark shadows it produces and a fleeting moment that tells a story of the life and people of this wonderful unique place within Australia, a very different Australia that is depicted to the global community.
“All countries have suburbs that are nationally or internationally known– whether it be Harlem in New York, SoHo in London, Le Marais in Paris etc. – and Cabramatta in Sydney is one of those unique and character-filled places. A suburb that has risen from a controversial past into a beacon of diversity, multi-culturalism and unity – something that I personally feel is dearly needed at this point in time.”