Friday, June 4, 2010

Interview - James Braund

All photos - James Braund

Look familiar...? Victoria McKenzie's Elwood home was the first EVER Melbourne home I featured here! ...of course James' photos put mine to shame. These appeared in The Age (Melbourne) Magazine last year.

Victoria McKenzie's Elwood home

Cute, simple styling for Hamish and Andy.

Spunky Viggo Mortensen.

I send and receive so so so many emails these days - not necessarily something to be celebrated BUT, on the up-side, I think I am getting quite good at intuitively figuring out if someone is cool and/or nice by email alone. And I would like to announce that Melbourne photographer James Braund is definitely a nice guy.

I 'met' James recently on Twitter. He sweetly tweeted some words of encouragement for year 10 student Kendall Manz after her guest post last month! Now that is nice. It is also nice to send super friendly emails containing sentences like 'top, 'O the morning to you!' - and to respond to a request for an interview with 'Hi Lucy! I'd be jolly chuffed!'

Anyway, being nice is not enough to get yourself on The Design Files (although it helps!) - James photographic work is so varied and so engaging, I love his kooky portraits of local celebrities, and stunning pics for The Australian Ballet. There's just something really relaxed and unmistakeably 'Melbourne' about his work!

James' client list includes Fairfax, ACP magazines, Coles Myer, Hardie Grant, Australia Post, Dumbo Feather - but he says some of his most rewarding work has been for long-term clients The Australian Ballet and The Big Issue. Now that's an enviable editorial/commercial/love-job balance!

Thanks so much for James for his time with this interview and all the beautiful shots! Do pop over to his folio site for more!

Hope James doesn't mind me sharing this cute portrait from his Twitter profile! See... nice!

Tell us a little about your background – did you always want to be a photographer? What path led you to what you’re doing now?

Initially, I wanted to be working with wood, either as a carpenter or French polisher. I trained with a couple of small businesses, then music distracted me, so for several years I pursued that avenue, having a great time, I was then given a camera for my 21st birthday and was pleasantly distracted again.

Where might we have seen your work? What have been some favourite shoots / clients in recent years?

I have worked for many magazines and design studios over the years, some of these include Good Weekend, The Australian Magazine, Qantas, Travel & Leisure, The Age Melbourne Magazine, Notebook. I also work closely with designers and small charities on a variety of projects.

One of my favourite clients is The Australian Ballet, I am inspired by the dedication and discipline of the dancers, it’s such a joy being able to observe these elite performers at close range. Also, to shoot the principals for the programs and promo material is something I also get a lot of satisfaction from. Another favourite is The Big Issue Magazine, I have the utmost respect for the vendors and their pride in being involved and doing something positive about their situation. Sometimes, there’s a thin line for us all with our circumstances.

Recent shots from The Australian Ballet, rehearsing The Silver Rose

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

Going over the list of thoughts and ideas I tend to throw into my workbooks accompanied by the mandatory morning coffee.

It can then be returning emails, prepping gear, scouting locations, pre production meetings to the on-going file handling and managing the archive. I also have numerous personal projects on the go at any one time and a notoriously short attention span, so I need to schedule those in to my time to keep active and stimulated.

James' workbooks

How is your business structured ? Do you employ an assistant or other collaborators? Who takes care of the ‘business side’ of things?

My little outfit is pretty simple, when I’m shooting, it’s me and an assistant. Last year I had producer who came into the studio 2-3 days a week. It was getting to a stage were there was too much admin work which, while important, had nothing to do with image creation. It’s the bane of all small businesses!

Kate processed files, tamed computers, liaised with clients and generally organized me and everything within 5 kilometre radius to a level of military precision! Alas, Kate married the handsome Stephen, and moved to Canada. I tried to replace her, but in the end, abandoned the idea and went solo again. Late last year I met up with Agent 99 Productions, after keeping an eye on each other for a while, we thought we would be a good fit, now they have the unenviable job of organizing me !

Where do you turn for creative inspiration?

Inspiration comes from every direction. I enjoy talking with people from diverse backgrounds or those who have overcome personal difficulty. Just the everyday folk, for instance a barista or waiter who does a remarkable job, a school crossing supervisor who engages and connects with people daily, simply the little things that add to peoples lives.

I also enjoy blogs, and must say derive a substantial amount from The Design Files, (don’t cringe Lucy!) and have recently been flirting with social media. The whole Blogosphere and web presence is phenomenal. It will be interesting to see how publishers embrace the iPad and other tablets down the track.

I go to galleries, consume books, visit op-shops regularly, and watch music videos. It sounds flaky, but just keeping your eyes open, being open and noticing things. More recently, I have been working with some young designers on some of their projects, I just love the energy of people working on a common outcome, be it commissioned or a personal project.

Which other photographers, designers or creative people do you admire?

These vary from musicians, writers and designers photographers etc. Some of these folk include: Stefan Sagmeister, Arnold Newman, Yousuf Karsh, Ingvar Kenne, Glen Proebstel, Hofstede, Studio Round, 3Deep Design, Steven Pressfield, Seth Godin... it goes on..and on..and..

What are you most proud of professionally?

Nothing really springs to mind, I had to ask a good friend of mine for his angle! I guess being involved in many non-profit projects and organizations like The Big Issue and other organizations who actively help people and make a difference

What would be your dream creative project?

A project involving an inspiring group of collaborators, a series of environmental portraits, stylish design elements, and a healthy amount of travel, published with depth and style.

What are you looking forward to?

I’m heading to Hong Kong in a few weeks, for no particular reason.

Melbourne Questions –

Your favourite Melbourne neighbourhood and why?

The ‘hood we live in! It’s a no-through road with many young families so the weekends consist of all the kids running between houses generally causing havoc. It’s close to Carlisle Street but is removed enough to be a tranquil suburban Ramsay Street!

Your favourite bookshop in Melbourne for design / photography / reference books?

I sniff around Mag Nation, Brunswick Street Bookstore and The Searchers.

Where was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?

Carlisle Wine Bar.

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

Nursing a coffee in a sunny spot in one of Carlisle Streets cafes after a run and gym session.

Melbourne’s best kept secret?

Not so much a secret, but the stencil work and our quietly understated design aesthetic.


  1. Great post Lucy. I love James' work...I discovered him a few years ago in 'Slow Guide to Melbourne'. His portrait shots are stunning!

  2. This is one of my favourite interviews yet. I am feeling really inspired to pick up my camera, yet again.

    It's nice to have a new photographer to add to my list of 'must watch'. :)

  3. Excellent interview with a very inspirational, talented and yet at the same time down-to-earth photographer/guy. Thanks for the insight.

  4. how beautiful, love it, lucy. i looked at these images for ages. james has an aesthetic that completely rings my bells. and he seems like a lovely human being. inspiring. thanks hon. x

  5. Great interview. This is my first introduction to James but I adore his photos and isnt it nice to know he's a nice guy? Excellent post!