From Naadam Races on the Mongolian Grasslands to the preened lawns of Royal Ascot, Australian Photographer Richard Shaw has seen it all, straight from the horses mouth! His elegantly framed images encapsulate a range of emotions, tell a story and reveal the true beauty that can often be overlooked in a passing glance. Here we chat with Richard about his love of capturing life at the track in particular, Racing Fashion, with his camera in hand and his keen eyes peeled, capturing the beauty of a moment in time with every click.
Tell us a little bit about your recent exhibition and how it came about.
My ‘Fashions on the Field’ Exhibition, showing at the Melbourne InterContinental, came about as a spin off from another Spring Racing themed Exhibition called ‘Courses for Horses’, currently hanging in the Melbourne Hilton. In essence ‘Courses for Horses’ is a photojournalistic and multi-faceted view of the racetrack, travelling to Racing Carnivals and Racetracks across the globe from Royal Ascot to the Mongolian Grasslands, the Melbourne Cup Carnival and countless racetracks in between. The curator of this show had also seem my images of Racing Fashion and wanted to present a separate show featuring a collection of my Melbourne-Cup Spring-Carnival fashion since 2007.
What made you get into photography and in particular photographing people at the races?
A lover of the gritty photojournalism of the early and mid 20th century, I’ve mended that with my fascination for the racetrack and the diversity of people you find there from pint-sized jockeys, to punters ritually clutching their form guides and of course the stylish fashionistas. I love the old-worldly charm of the racetrack and have tried to capture imagery that depicts this feel.
You have been lucky enough to take photos at races all over the world, how do the events stack up against one another and do you have a favourite?
The rituals are often similar at racecourses across the world, but of course they’re all spiced with their local flavours. For sheer atmosphere I think both the Kentucky Derby and Melbourne Cup Carnival are on a par, for something unique the Naadam Races on the Mongolian Grasslands are pretty amazing, but for something else you just cannot beat Royal Ascot. Of course the women’s fashion is always stunning, but to me it’s the addition of the men in the Royal Enclosure in their traditional Morning Suit attire that makes this carnival, from a photographic perspective at least, almost surreal.
What is the first thing you look for when taking a photograph of fashion at the races and secondly what makes a great photograph?
Generally for me photographing Fashion at the Races is an instinctual thing. Usually its something or a combination of factors that pops out at me & begs me to photograph that person. So it could be the colours, the design, the elegance, the millinery, and of course the overall appeal of that outfit. Everything is moving so fast around you, so you shoot on the hop. I’m always trying to get good composition into my images where possible, and if we can get some real expression into the subject then we’re on our way to a nice image.
What is your favourite racing fashion themed photo you have ever taken and why do you love it?
Of course its always hard to narrow down a vast collection that is ever growing into a single favourite image. I generally shoot Racing Fashion in two ways - either a photojournalistic fly-on-wall approach or more posed portraits. For photojournalism I love this shot of Brodie Worrell shot through a narrow gap in a rear door just before she was announced the overall winner of the 2014 Melbourne Cup Carnival Fashions on the Field competition. I love this narrow slice of her and her expression as she glances sidewards. For a posed image I love this shot of this model wearing this amazing headpiece by Christie Murray at last years Oaks Day Millinery Award.
What trends have you seed over the years, in terms of millinery and the pieces you get to photograph?
Of course the trends change over the years, but personally I’d hardy call myself an expert on fashion or trends. I’m more an observer who tries to present what I see in the best way I can. Of course Racing Fashion is rooted in traditions of conservative elegance, but it is always great to see millinery that is modern, futuristic, and perhaps pushes the boundaries, yet still retains that beautiful elegance of ‘Race Wear’.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
My work has appeared in various magazines and publications, but there is no more satisfying feeling than seeing your work printed, famed, and displayed in prominent locations. Like millinery, a lot of work goes into a Photography Exhibition, with the usual array of hiccups on the way, but there is always a wonderful feeling when your work is up on the walls. I’ve had a number of exhibitions, but my current shows ‘Fashions on the Field’ and ‘Courses for Horses’ are without doubt the highlights so far.
Where do you see Richard Shaw and fashion at the races going in the future? Any plans for another exhibition?
My mantra has been to be continually improving the quality of my work, so I’ll keep going to the races and develop my work. I’ve had some offers to show my work elsewhere next year, so I’ll have a good look at those offers in the next few months. I also have another Racing Fashion photographic project in mind. Im still developing the concept at present, but once I’m up and going with that I hope to Exhibit that also. Stay tuned.
What advice do you have for any milliners wanting to get a professional photographer to photograph their work?
Its always imperative to have discussion with your photographer beforehand and convey the look and feel you want to get with your images. The little things make a huge difference, so always good to think about the model you use, the accompanying outfit(s) worn, the location, background, etc. Being on the same page with your photographer from the outset will make the shoot run smoothly, though be flexible as sometimes the best images are those you just hadn’t planned for.
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