From shooting campaigns for Audi and BWM, to photographing the world’s most dangerous temple and creating art that explores the universe and human psyche; Australian photographer, Andrew Goldie, shares stories from his wide-ranging career and recent move to Japan.
Truth be told, Andrew Goldie only developed an interest photography half way through his final year of a painting and pottery major in high school, when he tragically realised his abilities weren’t quite good enough for him to peruse art professionally.
“At school my favourite thing was art. I always really wanted to be an artist, but I got into photography because I was not very good at drawing and painting! I was good at throwing paint at the canvas, but I wanted to do something that was more realistic, so I started going to the dark room and I really loved that. Then, much to the disappointment of my parents, instead of studying something like law, I decided to pursue photography. That’s been it ever since for me.”
Here at FIB, we severely doubt his parents are anything but proud. Since graduating from a Bachelor of Commercial Photography at RMIT University in 1999, Andrew has curated a vastly impressive and highly eclectic portfolio, working for global corporations such as Ikea, PayPal, RedBull, Sony and Audi (to name a few!).
Despite his successful career, Andrew found himself growing increasingly bored and creatively uninspired while working in Sydney, ultimately leading him to boldly uproot his family and relocate to Japan in late 2018.
“We all love Japan; my wife loves Japan and my kids love Japan, everyone’s really enjoying it —we haven’t been going to Disney Land enough for the kids— but you know, they’ll get over that.”
Having previously lived in Japan in 2004, spending a year in Tokyo and 6 months in a ski resort where he would snowboard and work a bar everyday, Andrew knew it was the prefect place to reignite his passion for photography.
“I’m definitely really inspired by that technology and traditional mix; it’s really amazing to see it here in Tokyo, you’ll see in amongst big skyscrapers there’s a peaceful temple,” he says.
“I’ll see a bee and it’s big and it’s furry and looks like it’s out of cartoon. All the things I’ve seen in anime and Miyazaki films that I’ve thought were just an overblown imagination, they’re really here and everyday I get blown away and inspired by that.”
Despite it being an evocative dreamworld, working in Japan has also been difficult for Andrew in many ways.
“Reading and writing Japanese is a nightmare!,” Andrew chuckles. “I write emails to people in Japanese but I use Google Translate, so there are people out there who might be getting some very weird emails from me because that doesn’t always work.
“I have meetings in Japanese and I probably only understand 60% of it, but I usually I have a bi-lingual assistant with me, or there’s somebody in the meeting who speaks good enough English so I can just quickly go to them and get them to confirm a few points for me. It’s very challenging, but at the same time it’s interesting and I wouldn’t give it up!”
With no real Japanese work contacts, Andrew started out by connecting with hundreds and hundreds of people on LinkedIn, who he then “spam emailed” to meet up with once arriving in the country.
“The way to meet people in Japan is to go out drinking with them, so my liver’s been suffering… but work has been going well!”
‘Well’ is perhaps an understatement. In his first year abroad Andrew has worked for BWM Social, Audi R8, interviewed fashion icon Yukio Akamine and photographed the 16 year old music and Instagram star YOSHI.
Andrew’s favourite Japanese gig (thus far) was with a travel magazine that sent him to photograph 三仏寺 (Sanbutsu-ji), which is located in the 鳥取市 (Tottori) prefecture and regarded as ‘the world’s’ most dangerous temple’.
“We had to climb a mountain and there were chains that you had to hold onto and reverse abseil up and then abseil back down with these ropes. There were these different temples at different points up this mountain; the temple at the very top they called the ‘temple that god threw up’, because it’s almost impossible to understand how they built it and got it up there. It’s set within a cave, almost on a cliff face. It’s really amazing,” Andrew recalls.
Throughout his career, due to advancements in technology, Andrew has witnessed photography transform from a specialist skill into something that’s easily accessible to the masses. Most people can take a good quality photo with their iPhone, so you have to find ways to be different.
“[In Japan] they really treat people like they’re a button pusher, like they’re just here to turn up and press the button.. there’s no real creative kind of side to it,” he admits. “So the challenge for me is trying to convince people that I’m actually more of a creative than a photographer, I have to kind of rebrand myself here in a way.”
To expand his creativity and set himself apart from the herd of budding amateurs, Andrew designed a camera rig comprised of five Sony A7rii’s that shoot simultaneously, enabling him the create high quality animated GIFS.
The camera rig has been a great triumph, catching the attention of magazines such as Conde Nast and Vogue, that are eager to have Andrew shoot content for them with it.
Andrew’s non commercial projects, particularly his art exhibitions, are arguably his most dynamic, captivating and provocative works both visually and conceptually.
His exhibitions, Transformation and Dark Matter are extremely philosophical, retrospectively exploring “the ebb and flow of life and energy in the universe” and “the darkness that ties our psyche together.”
“I’m really inspired by the universe in general; I love science, but I also love the spiritual side of things,” he explains.
“I don’t know if I believe in God, I’m not aligned with any religion, but I just think there’s something amazing going on that is bigger and greater than us…the fact that the universe exists, that nature exists, that gravity has formed these planets, the fact that people have a functioning brain. I guess I’m just blown away by those kind of things and I want to communicate that.”
His most politically piotantt work is Tokyo Industrial, a series that addresses how human kind’s achievements are our ultimate demise.
“Whilst shooting this series I have found myself at 4am in the morning surrounded by the buzzing and fumes of chemical plants that run 24/7 starting to dread the world that has been created as I realise that this all signals the planets demise. I fear that mans need to conquer, create and control is unstoppable and that it will irreversibly change this planet into the kind of world that we don’t really desire. I revel in the enormity of our construction whilst feeling the horror of what it means.”
In terms of morality, there are many big companies that Andrew loves to work with because they do interesting things creatively, but he doesn’t necessarily endorse what they do environmentally. Instead, he tries to keep his work and political feelings separated in his mind.
“Most companies pay good money and I do need to make a living, but I do find that a little bit hard to deal with and reconcile sometimes. At the same time I’m working on some things with some fashion companies here, and the environment is a really core thing for them; they’re making some good progress in those areas, we’re going to make a video that speaks about those kind of things and I would like to champion those ideas for them.”
In addition to this, Andrew is thinking of making a documentary about the amount of plastic consumed in Tokyo, as he believes it’s a significant issue that people need to wake up to.
This desire to do good is also present in Andrew’s work ethic, which infers a sense of tortured perfectionism.
“After every shoot I always sort of berate myself and think I should have done better, I could have done this and that, I always have to be a little disappointed in what I did so I can improve and do better for the next one.”
Overall, Japan has been an ambivalently fantastic and ridiculously challenging experience for Andrew, who believes it’s important to leave your comfort zone and put yourself in uncomfortable situations in order to flourish.
“I do have my down days, when I’m like uuuuhhhhh this is such hard work, how can I communicate with these people?! You know all the cultural differences and challenges… but then most days I walk down the road and I’m like woah, this is amazing, this is cool, look where I am.”
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