It is far too easy to get lost in Peter’s mesmerising photos that emulate notions of an endless Australian summer. The depth of Peter’s work comes from a long history of documenting beautiful cultural and environmental stories of Indigenous communities in the Wildlands of Australia. Peter is also a passionate director of the social justice organisation, Culture is Life, working to prevent suicide and support the social well-being in Indigenous communities across the country. We caught up with him to learn more about his inspiring career and dedication to supporting Aboriginal Cultural Identity, a connection that is heartfelt and evident within his life and work.
Photo Credit: James Geer
TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF. WHERE DID YOU GROW UP? WHAT LEAD YOU TO PHOTOGRAPHY?
I grew up surfing the Victorian Coastline, I was schooled at St Leonards College in Brighton. There has only ever been a creative path for me. I chose photography because I was, and still am, a little shy about being the front man. At age 25 (1990) I lived in Milan for two years and apprenticed myself to the best fashion and portrait photographers of that time. I got work because I worked for free, I lived hand to mouth and found a special depth in life each time I looked through the lens. From there the obvious path was to freelance in fashion, two years in London, two in New York, with a couple of years in Oz and I was done in that world.
Connectedness by Peter McConchie
Old Croc by Peter McConchie
WHAT LEAD YOU TO WORKING WITH INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES AND FOUNDING CULTURE IS LIFE?
On returning to Australia, The Herald Sun printed a cover photograph of twelve Aboriginal Women with black eyes and split lips. The newspaper showed the negative side of a great Culture. Inspired by the book “Africa” by Herb Ritts, I sold my apartment in Saint Kilda to finance the book Yolngu Mali (recorded in The Yolngu Nation, North East Arnhem Land N.T ) to show the beauty of Australian Indigenous People and their Culture. Seven books later I co-founded “Culture is Life” to support at risk Indigenous Youth and Cultural identity.
Legs by Peter McConchie
Wild Honey & Spear and Woomera by Peter McConchie
WHAT IS THE MOST REWARDING ASPECT OF YOUR JOB?
Knowing that the work “Culture is Life” is doing has a positive effect, it’s what First Nation People have asked us to do and it’s having the privilege of being with People in their homelands and knowing the depth and beauty of their Culture.
Ruby by Peter McConchie
Grandmother and Child & Yolgnu Boy by Peter McConchie
TELL US ABOUT THE “SUMMERSALT” PHOTOGRAPH YOU TOOK IN 1995… WHAT KIND OF CAMERA DID YOU TAKE IT ON? ANYTHING SPECIAL YOU REMEMBER ABOUT THE DAY?
All the photographs in that series were shot on Polapan B/W 35mm slide film. The day was like most others in that part of the world, warm, peaceful and of another dimension, in a word spiritual. The children played, we ate freshly caught Mackerel, someone played didge. The breeze sung its song through the coastal trees and at the end of the day “Summersalt” had made its way into the camera.
Summersalt by Peter McConchie | Print available from Nathan + Jac
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CAREER HIGHLIGHT, OR PROUDEST MOMENT, TO DATE?
I had a 24-hour solo show at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) for the Brotherhood of St Laurence. That was pretty special.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE TRAVEL DESTINATION AND WHY?
Five hundred meters from home is my local surf break “Centrals”. When the waves are 3/4 feet mid week with a light off shore and the sun on my back, there’s no place I’d rather be.