Adventure Beckons!

Darren Smith

Darren Smith

After four years Darren, erstwhile assistant and ideas guy here at the studio, is joining the ever swelling ranks of Acorn alumni.

A native of Virginia, USA, Darren came to us via Boston, New York and France. He’s now headed for the bright lights of Amsterdam (no, no, not the red ones you fools!) to further his global reach.

Darren’s irrepressible energy and creative urge will stand him in good stead in Europe.

Darren departs these shores at the beginning of February. We’re going to have a send off on January 21st. Drop us a line if you’d like to come along.

Black Swan 2016 Season Programme Shoot

Every year there’s one phone call we look forward just about more than any other – it’s the call from Geoff at Dessein Graphics asking us if we’d like to get our teeth into the Black Swan State Theatre Company’s upcoming programme. Hell yeah.

Production of the 2016 season programme marks the 5th year of our partnership with BSSTC. This is a project that is filled with creative challenges and collaboration. And rewards; Dessein have taken out a number of international awards for Black Swan programmes and posters from 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Due to constraints around booking actors for lead roles and a tight publication schedule it’s all done in a super short timeframe.

A major contributor to the incredible success of the Black Swan publicity has been the visual cohesion. And therein lies the greatest challenge; each year the first conversations around this work are focussed on developing a theme that will run easily through comedy, tragedy and even musical theatre. For 2016’s programme we worked with the idea of shadows expressing some subtext from the each play. Having produced the past couple of years’ shots in studio we swung back to location photography. With 2016 seeing Black Swan celebrate their 25th year on stage we thought it appropriate to set the shots in the theatre. Each image features a behind the scenes backdrop from their new home – the State Theatre Centre.

Angels In America poster for Black Swan State Theatre Company, design by Dessein
Picnic at Hanging Rock poster for Black Swan State Theatre Company, design by Dessein

Clinton The Musical poster for Black Swan State Theatre Company, design by Dessein
Moliere's Tartuffe The Hypocrite poster for Black Swan State Theatre Company, design by Dessein
A Perfect Specimen poster for Black Swan State Theatre Company, design by Dessein
Black Swan - group portrait of the entire company

Pippin Drysdale – WA State Living Treasure

Pippin Drysdale working on a vessel in the spray booth at her Fremantle studio

Pip in her Freo studio

How cool is that? Pip’s work has been recognised, awarded and collected worldwide. She was made a Master of Australian Craft in 2008 and now she’s been recognised here in WA as a State Living Treasure.

Pip’s status as a treasure has been well known to us since we started photographing her works almost 20 years ago! The WA Department of Culture and the Arts penned bio hints at Pip’s outgoing personality.

What the DCA doesn’t tell you anything about is Pip’s amazing talent with curries, so many of which we’ve enjoyed on shoot day lunch breaks. Or the way the radio is always on in the studio, more often than not tuned to the cricket or footy. Or that the delicate, calm works you see below are products of a joyous creative maelstrom consisting of visits and phone calls from a small army of wonderful assistants, friends and family with Pip at it’s centre.

Pip Drysdale Tanami Mapping 2 Porcelain Vessels

Pip Drysdale, Autumn Haze Australian Embassy Show Feb 9 2010

Pippin Drysdale Tanami Traces Group

Detail Tanami Traces Series III, 2004, Artist Pip Drysdale

Black Swan 2014 Programme

Peter Rowsthorn

It’s been four years, a long term relationship in this biz, and we feel dead cosy working as part of WA’s crack black ops theatre promotion team. Geoff and Esther of Dessein go in hard on behalf of design cred, Nancy and Kate from Black Swan State Theatre Company provide the best support and occasional loud “hurrahs!”

Last Monday the ‘Swan launched their 2014 programme. Next year will see Ben Elton, old Bill Shakespeare, Checkov and Tennessee Williams rub shoulders with (comparatively) new talent Chris Isaacs and fresh work from Aidan Fennessy.

Programme photography never begins until casting is over, and as a consequence, the shoots take place back to back; in most cases we shoot two plays to a day. The leads in the plays are a mix of new talent and faces familiar to anyone who hasn’t had their head under a rock for the past thirty years. Peter Rowsthorn (Brett of Kath and Kim fame) was first cab off the rank this year, yanking his amzingingly mobile features into line as the complex Max Prince character in Neil Simon’s “Laughter on the 23rd Floor”.

Hot on Peter’s heels was Sigrid Thornton, switching rapidly between her chatty, cheery self and the intense, anxious Blanche Dubois of “Streetcar”.

Black Swan State Theatre Co

The bulk of the posters were concepted around the idea of magazine covers with bold colourful backgrounds. They were all shot on colours as close as possible to the finished poster to minimise mucking about in post with awkward chroma casts in hair and shadows. This approach also makes it much easier for all involved in the shoot to visualise the finished result. Don’t we all get sick of explaining that “it will look different when the retoucher is done with it, a lot different”? Ultimately shooting on the right colour speeds the whole gig up immensely. Authenticity baby, it’s what we’re about.

The two studio plays, “Flood” and “The House on the Lake”, presented the biggest challenges, one calling for a partially submerged actress and the other a man wreathed in smoke. Adriane Daff drew the short straw for mid winter submersible duties in our indoor pool facility. Stylist Rachel Ciccarelli, makeup artists Jo Buswell and Virginia Hawdon, put their all into the transformation of actors into characters and Kailis Pearls did the jewellery honours for Streetcar.


Undercover iSight photo

A Tale of Two Thefts

A couple of days before last Christmas I noticed our front door was open as I came downstairs at 5:50AM. Odd, front doors aren’t supposed to be open in the night while you and your family sleep. Turns out our front door had been forced in the night and along with A MacBook Air thieves had taken an iPhone, iPad and a wallet.

Twenty minute later, police report having been filed, credit cards annihilated and phone provider alerted we logged in to Apple’s Find My iPhone service and located the phone in a carpark of a block of flats in Kwinana. A quarter hour passed and it moved to a corner of one of the units. After another quarter hour it left the flats and dropped into a small shopping complex for 5 minutes before heading north on the Kwinana Freeway. Not long after exiting west on South St the signal went dead and nothing further has been heard from that device. Our collective mood died too.

Two days later I got a little email from an address, subject line; “Kira’s MacBook Air has been found”. My Air had a new “owner”, Kira, and with it a new user account. Apple attaches a map showing where the device is located. iPhones use a combination of GPS and mobile phone tower triangulation to generate very accurate geolocation. Notebook computers are somewhat hamstrung in this regard and rely on known locations of wifi access points which can be a bit vague. This is supplemented by data from passing iPhones which are constantly “sniffing” wifi access points and reporting their locations to Apple’s database. The more densely populated an area around a stolen MacBook the more likely it is that there will be iPhones around refining the position of the computer.

My MacBook Air spent a bit of time in a very busy part of Fremantle for extended periods at odd hours for two days. Once Christmas was behind us I spent the better part a week watching it pop up all over SE Freo; I logged addresses from Hamilton Hill, Hilton, Success, Samson and Yangebup. It was never on long enough or at one address for long enough for the police to be able to do anything much, especially during the busy holiday period. By early January Kira was off the air.

Another week passed, another email from iCloud, subject line; “Tim’s MacBook Air has been found”. This time it stayed found, showing up day after day around the same address in Willagee. WA Police decided they had enough to search a particular house and in the middle of January Tim was charged with receiving stolen goods. Months later the computer was returned to us, with both Tim’s and Kira’s user accounts relatively intact.

Once we’d saved the thousand or so photos from the iPhoto libraries we pressed the little Air back into professional service and it started going home nights with Darren. This is where the story starts to get really weird… Darren’s house was broken into on May 9th 2013 and one of things nicked was the very same Air that just come home. And then…

Date: Sun, 12 May 2013 13:38:38 +0000 (GMT)

From: Find My iPhone <>


Subject: Maddi’s MacBook Air has been found

Well Find My iPhone is great, but we’d discovered its limitations earlier in the year and after canvassing a couple of options had decided to subscribe to Orbicule’s Undercover for Mac. Undercover is Find My iPhone on steroids. Once installed it runs invisibly in the background on your Mac. If your Mac is stolen simply log in to your UndercoverHQ account and click “report stolen computer”. As soon as you Mac goes online  it recognises it’s new status and switches to spy mode. Every 8 minutes it takes a screenshot and a photo of the user and uploads them to your UndercoverHQ account. It also uploads keylogs of everything except passwords.

Within hours we had photographs of three occupants of a household in Charles St, West Perth, along with screenshots of bank accounts, pay advice, Gold Coast real estate browsing, a Skype session. On and on. Within 48 hours we had given the police enough information to pay a visit and recover the MacBook, however no charges were laid. This time it was returned to it’s rightful owner within a week of the theft. Orbicule’s comprehensive expansion on the Find My iPhone concept was undoubtedly responsible for the incredibly fast result.

The last thing that “maddishiz” typed in the Google search bar before recovery was effected? “how to wipe macbook air”.

Anyhoo, why don’t you enjoy a few screenshots from each episode?

Here’s the sort of communication you get from Find My iPhone;

Receivers of stolen goods are creative too. As much as I’d love to share the 1723 photos that Timmy left behind I’ll confine myself to a few screenshots of the sort of thing you can expect to see from Find My iPhone and Undercover.

Darren Smith – A Thousand Facets

Some time ago I was approached by sound artist Leah Blankendaal to collaborate with her on an installation based around distortions and refractions. Our ad hoc coffee shop manifesto nailed down one absolute: both of us wanted the exhibition to be experienced in fantastic reality, rather than virtual reality.

This series carries a culmination of interests for me. I love pure aesthetics. I love science. This falls somewhere in the middle, and while produced using digital media the results are absurdly analogue. Here’s a taster to take the edge off  Monday. You’ll have to make your presence felt at Kurb Gallery to complete the set and to absorb the sound component.

Opening night is 6pm Saturday Sept. 21st 2013 at Kurb GalleryA Thousand Facets runs from September 21st to 27th.



2013 AIA Award Winners

With Rob off on holidays, I ventured out to the WA Chapter of the AIA last night to fulfil my duty to photography, architecture (and champagne) at Perth Concert Hall. My first ever AIA awards night gave me a sense of the full scale of projects happening across WA, as well as a great insight how the images we shoot are presented.

Public architecture had a total of seven awards. Bateman Architects, Christou Design Group, and Parry and Rosenthal all received commendations for Dongara District High School, Guildford Grammar Catalyst Building, and the All Saints Performing Arts Theatre respectively.


Guildford Grammar School, Architect: Christou Design Group

Dongara District High SchoolBateman Architects

All Saints College Centre for Performing Arts


Parry and Rosenthal’s PAC (above& below) and Taylor Robinson’s Merrywell (below) at Crown Casino both garnered Architecture Awards in the Interior category.


All Saints College Centre for Performing Arts

The Merrywell at Crown Perth, Taylor Robinson Architects

The Merrywell at Crown Perth,Taylor Robinson Architects


T&Z Architects received a commendation in the Colorbond Award in Steel Architecture for their steel and glass screen structure at ECU’s Joondalup campus.


Edith Cowan University rain screen T&Z Architects


Kerry Hill’s Campbell House took out the Marshall Clifton Award for Residential Architecture and two of the commendations were awarded to David Barr and Ross Brewin’s Suburban Beach House and Optimum Resource Architects’ Dress Circle Residence.


Beach Road house by David Barr and Ross Brewin

A Suburban Beach House, Architect: David Barr & Ross Brewin

Yallingup Residence Optimum Resource Architects


Jonathan Lake Architects won the Peter Overman Award for Residential Architecture -Alterations & Additions for their Fremantle Additions project and went on to take an Architecture Award in Small Project Architecture. Pendal and Neille received an Architecture Award in the Alternations & Additions category for their Claremont House.


Hampton Road House, Architect: Jonathan Lake Architects

Davies Road house. Pendal and Neille


The Harold Krantz Award for Multiple Residential went to Formworks Architecture for a project we’ve really enjoyed photographing; Lime Street development in East Perth.


Kevin Fleming St Bartholomew's  Formworks Architects

St Bartholomew’s  Lime St accommodation

St Bartholomew’s  Lime St accommodation


ARM Architecture & Cameron Chisholm Nicol ultimately took the night with the 2013 George Temple Pool Award for Perth Arena – four awards total, including the Jeffrey Howlett Award for Public Architecture, the Colorbond Award for Steel Architecture, and an Architecture Award in the Interior Category.

For a whole collection of pics of the Perth Arena, check out our April post. All and all, it was a delightful evening. You definitely can expect to see me there next year!


Perth Arena

If part of the function of Perth Arena’s freak yachting accident exterior is to excite public debate it must be judged a success. Like an in-your-face youth with unresolved childhood issues and a new tattoo, its lumbering slab sides are confrontational and immediately polarising. Perhaps as the landscape around it changes over the next decade it will stop trying to pick a fight with its mates.

By comparison the interior is its heart of gold; the voluminous access spaces that wrap around the arena proper soar with religious delight, broad stairways turn at angles that pull you forward and the sea of timber panelling that lines the walls and ceilings in contrasting regal blues and rich warm woodiness cosset and inspire.

We spent the better part of a day being inspired with Stylewoods director Alan Carter. Alan spent the better part of last year down there overseeing the manufacture and installation of the interior panelling.

Perth Arena interior panelling by Stylewoods

Perth Arena interior by Stylewoods

Perth Arena interior by Stylewoods

Meanwhile, outdoors…
“Totem”, is the name of the tall, yellow, multi-faceted sculpture on the east side of the arena. For some reason it’s been nick-named “The Pineapple”, can’t think why… Anyway, we photographed that for artist Geoffrey Drake-Brockman. I’ve cribbed this from his website ’cause I was struggling to describe it – “Totem is an interactive spatial robot. It has 108 reconfigurable petals and is able to react to pedestrian movement. Totem incorporates a laser projection artwork titled “Translight” that projects nightly onto the Eastern wall.”

Totem by Geoffrey Drake Brockman Totem is an interactive spatial robot. It has 108 reconfigurable petals and is able to react to pedestrian movement. Totem incorporates a laser projection artwork titled "Translight" that projects nightly onto the Eastern

Totem by Geoffrey Drake Brockman Totem is an interactive spatial robot. It has 108 reconfigurable petals and is able to react to pedestrian movement. Totem incorporates a laser projection artwork titled "Translight" that projects nightly onto the Eastern


Geoffrey scurries inside – yes there’s an inside!

San Cisco in Treadlie Magazine

Fellow pilots of human powered vehicles in Australia will have noticed that until a couple of years ago our newsstands catered only to the mountain bikers and two wheeled race fans. Treadlie is the bike mag for the rest of us; commuters, e-bikers, weekend cruisers, polo nuts and, it would seem, a surprisingly large proportion of the Oz music scene.

Treadlie commissioned Acorn to shoot half of Freo sensation San Cisco for issue 10. (Which is on the aforesaid newsstands as we speak.)
Eschewing the usual street scene / café for something with a bit more local colour we convened at Freo’s North Mole with it’s “port” lighthouse providing essential seaside authenticity. KP drove the camera car, Josh and Nick shredded skinny rubber, Rob pressed the shiny black button and kept stuff vaguely in focus, soft skylight by your chosen deity.

Here’s how it looked in the mag, there’s how it looked before the gutter hit the lighthouse, down below are some out-takes. Stay safe.

Treadlie Magazine San Cisco story

San Cisco-an's Josh Biondillo and Nick Gardner riding Noth Mole

San Cisco-ans Josh Biondillo and Nick Gardner riding Noth Mole

San Cisco outtake

Pet Photo Booth


Pet Photo Booth Perth Fringe Festival 2013


The Perth Fringe Festival has been all the buzz in the office this morning. Rob’s done the Stoney Joe gig, Shirley recommends the Bogan Bingo, and for the last two weekends I’ve slipped off the commercial hat and have been moonlighting as an artist photographer at Pet Photo Booth. Our studio for the duration, courtesy of ArtRage, was the Spiegeltent, deep in the Urban Orchard. The so-called Third Musketeer of Pet Photo Booth, I’ve been working with Arthos (Justin Spiers) and Porthos (Yvonne Doherty) since my early days as an assistant and I feel privileged to have been invited to take part in this wonderful project as a photographer.


Five days of cats, dogs, chickens, sheep, children, and other animals. Everyone got along in perfect animal harmony, including most of the humans. Bookings were only a couple of minutes apart and we booked out well in advance! I love about working this quickly, being absorbed in the moment and using only the relationship with the subjects and materials at hand to produce creative results. Painted backdrops, delightful people– it’s a dangerous mix of cheese and portraiture, but very hard for it to go wrong.



Pet Photo Booth Perth Fringe Festival 2013


Pet Photo Booth Perth Fringe Festival 2013