18 October 2018 at 5:32 pm (Surry Hills, Australia)


Really, photography is about the questions we ask ourselves as we’re deciding what to photograph.

My background’s in theatre; and the key questions I ask myself when I see a production (or decide to work on one) are these: “Why this? Why here? Why now?”

By which I mean, why this story, at this time, in this place - what particular, specific resonance does a show bring to an audience? We interpret everything in the context we experience it; so what is it, in particular, that makes the script relevant right now, to the people of this place? The answer isn’t always obvious; and, sometimes, the context arrives just as the show hits the stage.

But when I’m working on an essay - and this has become particularly apparent over the course of our Chronicle90 project - I’m asking myself the same questions, in a slightly different way. I’m usually thinking less about the immediate audience for the essay (sorry!), and more about the long-term life of the images I’m choosing to capture.

What is it about this image that says something about where I am now? Is this something that speaks to the time, the place, or both?

Is this building new - was it here last time I walked by? Will those berries still be there in a week? Why is there a First Nations-Canadian totem pole in an Australian park? Is former Prime Minister Tony Abbott really going to marry himself, as that mural suggests?

Sometimes it’s just a matter of capturing the morning light, the spring rain, an abandoned bike; but years from now, things will have changed.

Those new buildings will be old, and at risk of being replaced; the Swans and the Rabbitohs (okay, “the Bunnies”) may not be as popular as they are now; and same-sex marriage might be so mundane, we can’t even remember why a national referendum was once thought necessary, much less held.

But, for now, we’re here. And it’s now. And this is what I paid attention to, today.

Robert Catto

I'm a Canadian-Kiwi photographer in Sydney Australia, specialising in performing arts, live events, editorial and corporate / commercial work.