interview | snapper jack...

[images © jack atler]

formula 1 driving, rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous, shooting from helicopters  owning a gallery, travelling the globe, winning prestigious awards... it's sounding a little more james bond than the life of a photographer! jack atley is having one amazing life. however, its  nice to hear with all these opportunities, what he finds most inspiring is his volunteer work, and like most of us, his long term goal includes his partner, a drink and the beach.

last week i bought you a post on taking a masterclass from the master, jack atley [see post] - this week, i bring you the interview with this likable, talented and humble man.

what do you do?
in many ways i’ve always felt i simply ‘tell stories’. but i use a camera to do it – not words. i’ve always strived to ‘let a viewer in’ to any situation. to hand them an insight into an event or a moment, which they were not present at. i need to sum up a story in an image. on a more commercial level, i guess i help clients solve a dilemma by portraying them or their business in the best light possible to the outside world.

how did you start out?
in the very early days, i taught myself how to process and develop film at home in the basement when i was 16 years old. i began working professionally at just the age of 18, when i won a photographic cadetship at the sydney morning herald newspaper. i am originally from melbourne, so my parents had to drive me up to sydney. it was certainly a tough breeding ground in the early days. i didn't know a single person in sydney and i’d won the cadetship from 3000 applicants so i felt pressure to achieve high results right from an early age.

what are you working on right now?
two major projects:
in 2011 i was appointed by the sydney opera house trust to photographically document their redevelopment program for the next 3 and a half years. the project (2011-2014) will see the largest ever architectural changes to the sydney opera house site since it was first built. my role is to record these changes for history. to be chosen to document changes to such a national icon is humbling and a great privilege. i would say, if a professional photographer in australia could choose to do one shoot to do in their lifetime, this would be it.
historically, i am shooting images which will be looked back on in many years to come and which will not be possible to shoot again due to the building works. it’s a massive honour.
2012 saw the opening of our, 'jack atley gallery' which is located in stanwell park, on the beautiful south coast of nsw and this has been both a huge challenge and an extremely rewarding project. its a lot of hard work but it’s a business i really want to expand on in the years o come. winning the 'moran prize' gave me the confidence to pursue my own gallery.

what’s the best advice you’ve been given?
‘you can achieve anything in life that you set your mind to. anything!’.

what inspires you?
on a personal level, its people who don’t give up when the chips are down. i'm a great believer in the theory that: ‘the harder you work, the luckier you get’ – in life and in business. i enjoy studying and learning about people who have achieved high results in competitive fields. i really admire people who strive to achieve results above mediocrity. in their personal lives and their business lives. not everyone is handed a silver spoon in life, so hard work, dedication, persistence and ‘heart’ are qualities i admire.

what’s on the cards for the year ahead?
there is always something to do. i’m always making plans and trying to achieve them. some are long term, others are more immediate.
image wise, there is the sydney opera House project to continue with and a potential book deal in the works. and an expansion of the jack atley gallery, which will keep us busy.

what are you most passionate about?
personally, my partner michelle will tell you it’s driving race cars. this may seem a little odd compared to saying anything about photography i guess, but after working professionally as a photographer for so many years, i am perhaps looking at other avenues to ‘let off some steam’ and i do have a real passion for formula 1. not just the ‘petrol head’ side of it. i am fascinated by the high end and very latest technology they use, and even more so, how they measure every single aspect down to minute details. from the aerodynamics of a car, down to the labels on a team’s shirt. it’s a perfectionist’s sport. plus it’s global, with a large degree of multiculturalism. i do love actually driving race cars as well - and in 2010, i achieved a life long ambition of driving a real formula 1 car at the paul ricard circuit, in France. i clocked up nearly 300 km/hr whilst driving a former world championship driven car and it’s funny - it was perhaps the scariest experience of my life, but i’d do it again in a heartbeat.

what’s one thing we should know about you?
don’t call or text me when a formula 1 race is on, because i won’t answer the phone.

what’s your greatest achievement?
i guess professionally, it would have to be winning the open section first place in the world's richest photographic award - the moran prize - for an image i took on 'world rare disease day'. it was pleasing and humbling to win it photographically but more so, i was proud because it hopefully drew attention to families and children that suffer from rare diseases. i work voluntarily with 'the steve waugh foundation' as their official photographer and i get a great deal out of that, by being around the foundation.
earlier it was also winning 'the australian press photographer of the year' award (the highest individual honour possible for press photography within australia), because i had set that as an early goal and luckily achieved it.

what motivates you to keep going?
although i have always been one to set long term goals and i have been extremely lucky that i have achieved a number of them – i’ll always have aims. there is always something to do. the thought of lying on a beach, with a drink and with my partner michelle, without a care in the world, is a long term goal. hopefully one day i’ll achieve that! unfortunately however, if i could sum this up i would say - it takes a lot of work, to look like your doing nothing.

who’s your greatest hero?
in the spare time, i work voluntarily as official photographer to the steve waugh foundation and i see many heroes here. the foundation helps children and families in australia who have extremely rare diseases. it is an honour to be involved, i get a lot of strength and hope when i visit the families involved. to me these families, that live with these circumstances every day, and who just get on with life – to me, they are real heroes.

what has been your biggest lesson?
‘treat everyone the same’ - from a street kid to a president, because on any given day, in photography, you might just meet both!

where can we see your work?
the jack atley gallery of course –

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