Flinders Street Station Melbourne by David Hume

Melbourne 1996 – A One Shot Story by David Hume

By David Hume

I came across this photo yesterday while looking for something else. I immediately remembered the circumstances of taking it. In the 1990s I used to exhibit my artworks in Melbourne, and I would fund my trips over there from Adelaide by doing a bit of editorial photographic work on the trip. It was for a wine magazine and I’d just shoot groovy wine-bars or restaurants for the City Scene section. I’d hunt around working for a day and that would cover my basic costs so that I could justify the trip.

The editor was very accommodating, and he’d let me do pretty much as I pleased. It was fun, because it I’d just sniff around the city looking for nice bits of light, colour and composition. I developed a sort of hand-held, blurry, close-focus, naturally lit style because that was about all I could do. I’ve written a couple of pieces about those times here on 35mmc – Why Shooting for Money is Good for You and Natural Light Portraits on E6. But back to this shot. This was taken in Flinders Street Station and it was never meant to be a commercial shot. For a start, that flouro light was such a no-no for shooting transparency when you couldn’t white balance in post. This was just for me. In fact a big part of the attraction was that eerie green glow.

Nikon FM2 by David Hume

I still have the gear by the way; I got this camera new on insurance and while I no longer use it I’ve never thought of selling it. It’s a Nikon FM2 with MD12. The motor drive served the functions of allowing me to hand-hold much slower, making me look a bit more pro, and allowing me to keep the camera up to my dominant left eye. The lens is a 35mm f2.8. I used to shoot all this work on Fuji Sensia 100 (the non-pro and cheaper version of Provia 100)  and there is still a left-over roll of Sensia 100 in my fridge from the early 2000s.

So what appealed to me about this shot? As I said, I remember being fascinated by the greenish glow of the fluoros and how they reflected from the tiles. I remember the shady figures walking by in coats and hoodies. I know I wanted to go for movement blur; I can’t remember the speed but it looks like maybe 1/4s to me. I was sitting on a bench with the camera braced by putting my elbows on my knees. It’s not an aggressive sort of shot – I got chased out of a pub by a seedy looking guy on that trip because I was taking (work) photos and I was not out to make any more enemies.

I think I like it because when I saw it again it brought home to me that even after thinking about photography for 30 years there are still things that have not changed for me; the tones and muted colours, how I feel about composition. I’d like to think there’s a sort of empathy here with the photographic process, how the film and lenses work together into a sort of harmony. I like the way the film renders this low light, how the lack of sharpness falls into the grain. I had to frame in-camera in those days too. I mean, I was just giving trannies over to the editor and I had no control over how they would be cropped so I tended to go in a bit harder than I would today with digital. I like the black border showing the edge of the frame, but if I added that to digital it would be naff I think.

Probably what made me smile though was how I was reminded of the excitement of this situation; of seeing something and responding to it for no other reason than the pleasure that could arise from creating something through photography.

Thanks for reading!

 

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About The Author

By David Hume
David Hume is an Australian visual artist and photographer, best known for work depicting the Australian landscape. He also worked as a commercial editorial photographer for over 25 years, and has held a number of photographic exhibitions. He currently exhibits both painting and photography.
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Comments

SteveB on Melbourne 1996 – A One Shot Story by David Hume

Comment posted: 18/06/2024

I really love the mood of that photo. Just great.
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David Hume replied:

Comment posted: 18/06/2024

Thanks Steve - Appreciated!

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Erik Brammer replied:

Comment posted: 18/06/2024

Agree, this is fantastic! But I never use colour reversal film. For funky colours, I turn to Harman Phoenix 200. :-)

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David Hume replied:

Comment posted: 18/06/2024

Ha! Neither do I these days. Thanks for the heads up on the Phoenix (which I had to google, but it looks fun)

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Gene Wilson on Melbourne 1996 – A One Shot Story by David Hume

Comment posted: 19/06/2024

Looks like a shot from a Wong Kar-wai film
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David Hume replied:

Comment posted: 19/06/2024

Now that is quite a compliment! Thank you.

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Christopher Deere on Melbourne 1996 – A One Shot Story by David Hume

Comment posted: 09/07/2024

I'll echo the consensus that this is indeed a fine photograph, David: very moody, and so well-timed to catch the framing and the placing of the passing figures. As a Melbourne boy I can hardly help but to feel rather envious of the emblematic picture that you've been able to make. I've looked at the image several times since finding this article, and it seems to grow more strongly with me all of the time. So: Congratulations; and thank you for the new visual memory. I must correct you about something, however, as I do not think that the photo shows a scene at Flinders Street Station. It was surely made, instead, at one of the underground City Loop stations, as earmarked by the tiled flooring and the angle-curved wall stretching out beyond the edge of the platform. Flinders Street is the main metropolitan station in Melbourne; but I cannot think of any outlook that would equate to this view there. (Please feel free to set me straight if I am somehow wrong about this point.) On another note: Your mention of "being chased out of a pub by a seedy looking guy" rang more than a few bells with me, as being occasionally confronted by strangers, sometimes to the point of outright aggression, is an ongoing hazard of being a man using a camera in public. I won't bother to recount any of my experiences here, but if you type "christopher deere it's all in the eye of the beholder" in your browser you'll see pretty much what I mean. I know that I am not alone in enduring any such episode, and even after all of these years I try hard not to allow it to affect my photographic activity. Even so, it's important to know that some people will always feel threatened by the sight of a camera. (Especially anything that looks obviously professional, unlike something as benign as a phone camera.) At fifty-seven I can still not quite become accustomed to the wary or hostile counter-reactions that my presence might produce whenever I am carrying a camera. The wider world is not always a welcoming place. So, David, I hope that you'll keep safe and keep shooting to turn out more timeless masterpieces like this one. - My regards, Christopher
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