Mclean Stephenson gives ACCLAIM a glimpse into his career and darkroom and to the incredible portraits he’s taken of various Australian musicians. Having photographed Daisy M Tulley, Jonti, Seekae, PVT, Jack Colwell, Jack Ladder, James Domeyko and Kirin J Callinan, he captures a note of their music in each bold, textured shot.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your work.
I’m a 32-year-old photographer. I’m male. I spend a lot of time in internet cafes, taking pain killers and reading the personal ads on Gumtree. Otherwise, I take photographs and develop film (I shoot everything on film).
I started taking pictures about four years ago—of everything. About a year later I started doing photo jobs, mainly bands and also some fashion. It’s been a process of trial and error. I’ve experimented with a lot of ideas and continue to do so, and I try and think of different ways to do things. I make mistakes, they are important. They are like lessons. Over the last year my photos have changed, gotten better. Well, I think they have. Maybe I’m getting the hang of it.
How did you become involved in photography?
Purely by accident. I was given a camera as a gift. Before that I’d never given photography any thought, I’ve never studied photography formally. A friend explained the basic operations of a camera to me. The rest I learnt from looking at photographs and doing tutorials on YouTube.
What is it that inspires your work?
I’m inspired by lots of things. By photographers: Sarah Moon, Sally Man, Francesca Woodman, Alec Soth. And paintings, films, literature. I read a lot. I also take a lot of inspiration from my partner, Hayley. She runs a fashion label named Serpent & the Swan. I’ve taken a lot from watching the way she works and the way she develops new ideas. We have many aesthetic ideas in common.
What makes musicians good subjects to photograph?
I never set out to photograph musicians. It just so happens that a lot of my friends play in bands and they asked me to take press shots for them. Then when other musicians saw the photos, they contacted me and asked me to take photos for them too. They offered to pay me as well. So I said ‘yes’, and it went from there.
It helps that I listen to a lot of music. I’m good with references. When I shoot a band, I try and produce images that somehow complement the aesthetic of their sound. But my interest in photography is much broader than shooting bands. I also do a lot of my own work, primarily nudes and landscapes. I’d like to stop taking pictures for other people and focus on my own work full-time, that’s what I’m working towards. Hopefully I’ll get there one day.