In Conversation with Jesse Marlow

How did you get into Photography? – was it by accident or design?

I began taking photos as an eight-year-old in the 1980s, as the first wave of graffiti walls began appearing around Melbourne. Armed with my mum’s Minolta SRT101, we would head out on weekends and school holidays looking for newly finished walls. I never really considered it as a profession but after missing out on graphic design and photography courses at RMIT and Swinburne, I went off to PIC and studied there for a couple of years. I had a photojournalism teacher named Rei Zunde who became my mentor and really showed me the way.

In your opinion, what’s the best work you’ve done?

The personal projects I’ve worked on over the years have always been the most important to me. I don’t know if I have a favourite project as such, but there have been bodies of work like my Aboriginal football series ‘Centre Bounce’ that took me to places I’d never dreamed of. I was lucky enough to travel around the Northern Territory and meet and work with some wonderful people whilst witnessing football being played at its purest form.

What are you working on now?

The last year despite all the challenges of four lockdowns has been a really productive period for me both commercially and with my personal practice. I’ve recently self-published a book of my earlier black and white street photos called Second City. The work was shot between 1998 and 2004 and shows a really different Melbourne to the city in its current form. Commercially, I’m working on a really interesting brief at the moment for an architect’s firm, shooting a series of their buildings for a book about their practice. I’ve also been working on a series of guerrilla street posters of my work which keeps me busy in the evenings.

Name three essential things someone starting out in Photography should know from day one?

I’ve always worked across a few different areas within the broader industry. Commercially, I’ve never really specialised in one area. I think being an all-rounder is a good way of ensuring you’re always working. With personal work that I’ve exhibited and published, a German magazine editor once told me that ‘finding one’s own visual style was key’. A sentiment I’ve ascribed to ever since. Most importantly though, is to be yourself, your personality is a huge factor in working and keeping clients.

Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?

Back in the mid-’90s when I was studying at PIC, I wagged most of the lessons to do with lighting and photoshop. All I was interested in was shooting street photos around the CBD of Melbourne. This led to me failing the first year of the course due to a lack of attendance, but ironically winning the award for “Most film shot in a year”. Looking back, I wished I’d paid attention and learnt more of the technical side as it’s something I’ve subsequently had to teach myself.

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