Aaron Chapman, local artist
‘All the buzz among my friends and fellow artists shows just how much the art community is going to benefit from the Commonwealth Games. Arts and culture is growing on the Gold Coast, it’s a breeding ground for creativity. People see other people creating and want to create themselves. A cultural juggernaut of sorts.’
Can you tell us a bit about yourself? How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
I’ve been a Gold Coast local since 2000, before that I was living in Brisbane, and before that, my family and I were living in Indonesia where I was born. My dad was a hotelier so we travelled around a bit, and that’s why we moved down to the Coast. I lived and went to school in Southport but slowly started making my way further south. Kirra’s the spot now.
I get by, by doing some writing and marketing for an advertising agency while juggling freelance writing and photography. And I have a seven-month-old daughter who’s becoming the most beautiful handful!
Although writing was my first passion, I have found that I prefer telling stories visually. It can be easier and less time consuming! My photography has developed a lot in the last couple years, and I think it’s because I take my camera with me everywhere.
When did your interest in photography start?
At one point I was pursuing a career playing professional rugby but my joints eventually gave out. I’m kind of glad I hung up the boots as it led me down this path. Some of my rugby mates laugh at what I get up to, writing poetry, taking photos of weird things etc. I guess I always had that creative energy, but it didn’t really bloom until I stopped playing rugby. I travelled a lot, kept journals along the way, and took rolls and rolls of film before I decided it was too expensive. When I returned to the Coast, I did a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Creative Writing & Literature. But like I said, recently I’ve been more interested in taking photos. I always like combining the two.
I’ve also always felt the need to be different, and I guess I forged my photographic style because I didn’t want to take photos of our beaches at sunset, or do long exposures of waterfalls in the hinterland. I started doing more of the opposite of photographic expectations. I think when I started taking photos, I thought I had to fill the frame with something. My style is kinda nothing. There’s not much going on in my images but there’s a simplicity to them, beauty in the boring. And they appeal to people because they’re the streets and buildings we look at every day, from a different perspective. Deep down, I think it was a coping mechanism as well. The photos I take calm and slow me down a bit from the chaos of work or whatever daily stresses. I don’t hate people, but I like to exclude them from my images to evoke a sense of solitude. There’s also an OCD element to my work. If I see a really great scene but something is tinkering with the overall aesthetic, I can’t press the shutter.
I started posting everything on Instagram which has led to some great opportunities. I do a lot of commercial photography now and I write for some contemporary photography magazines, interviewing world-renowned photographers. I love it.
As a local, what does it mean to you to have an international event of this size in your backyard? What do you hope the local community gains from hosting GC2018?
All the buzz among my friends and fellow artists shows just how much the art community is going to benefit from the Commonwealth Games. Arts and culture is growing on the Gold Coast, it’s a breeding ground for creativity. People see other people creating and want to create themselves. A cultural juggernaut of sorts. The Games only runs for two weeks, but once the dust has settled, I believe that all the work we have put in, all the work that Festival 2018, Bleach* Festival and other arts and cultural organisations have put in will remain.
It means a great deal having the Games in my backyard. There’ll be volleyball around the corner at Coolangatta Beach I’m pretty sure. I remember the Sydney Olympics. The electricity was intense. Not just at events, but everywhere. I might have to include some people in my shots when I get the camera out!
Finally, what is your favourite spot to find creative inspiration on the coast?
I’m lucky to find inspiration everywhere. It just happens when I’m documenting the Gold Coast’s urban landscape. I do a lot of driving in this city because it’s shaped in a line. I’m constantly looking out the window. And when I see something, it could be an industrial shed painted in primary colours, a road sign… I don’t know, but I’m fortunate that I can just pull over and snap a shot. No weather requirements necessary. The other best part of my style of photography is that you see different things at different times. I’ve lived at Kirra Point for more than a year now, but only the other day did I see a perfectly quiet shot on the boardwalk around the headland.
But if I had to choose a spot, I’d say Kirra. I also went out to Hinze Dam for a project I’m working on for Festival 2018 the other day. My friend at work was talking it up. I hadn’t been out there since I was a kid. I remember swimming in the dam, people were kayaking, having picnics. But he said it had changed. He described it as a concrete jungle over a Canadian-looking lake; no paperbarks or distinctly Australian flora, just green pines (I’m assuming) as far as the eye can see. He undersold it if anything. I felt like I was in a different country. It’s amazing that this same-old city has that effect and surprise factor. It’s constantly reinventing itself, or rather, we are reinventing it.