Photographer William Broadhurst captures an Australian that's a million miles away from the sun-bleached hair and beer-fuelled laughter so often emblazoned on postcards from "Downunder."
William is fixated on the stillness of dusk. His photos use long exposures to capture the quiet. He grabs the intimate pauses in the Australian dream, and places where the dream never arrived. We gave William a call to find out more about the guy behind these intriguing images.
VICE: Hey William, I feels like there's some sort of story to these photos. Is that right?
William Broadhurst: I've been moving more towards narrative photography of late, but I'm not sure why. Also, I don't think images require a narrative. I prefer pushing a certain mood or feeling if I can. I think it just depends how suggestive you are with that narrative. Personally, I get a bit frustrated with [American photographer] Gregory Crewdson's latest images, because I see them as a little too melodramatic. They're technically fantastic, but I do wonder to myself, Why does there have to be a kid standing on an overturned bus with his arms outstretched looking up at the sky? That just doesn't seem real or necessary to me.
So what is real to you?
Well, in the last year I've been obsessed in capturing images where ambient light is as close to a 1:1 ratio [as possible] with the artificial street lighting around dusk. It kind of creates this super exposure where everything is exposed really nicely in the one frame, and the colours are quite deep and saturated. The only thing about this is that you pigeonhole yourself into this 15- to 20-minute timeframe to work in.
Talk me through your process, when you're trying to capture these images of the Australian night.
I drive around the country towns a lot here—in Victoria and interstate—in my station wagon, which has a mattress in the back of it. When I get to a new town I'll usually scope it out during the day and mark potential photo spots in my head for later. I'll plan the route out so I can capture as many as these as I can when the light is right. When the darkness falls and I've got everything I want, I usually pull up in a quiet back street and sleep, going over the shots in my head. A lot of the images are also happy accidents––photography rewards you for just showing up sometimes.
It sounds like a real technical skill to capture these images in low light. Where did the idea come from?How did you get into taking photos?
I first started taking photographs toward the end of high school, when I found a camera at an op shop… It took me a while before I realised how interesting night photography could be. It started when I was having trouble sleeping at night, so I started riding my bike before bedtime, to try and tire myself out. Cruising the streets, I started paying attention to the glowing windows of the house—what we unconsciously project when we assume no one is looking in. It was quite conflicting for me as I had a real happy childhood and a safe home of my own, but couldn't help these feeling of loneliness and isolation that crept in as I rode by. You could smell what those families were having for dinner and hear snippets of late night conversations over humming television sets.
Your expression of Australian culture seems so different from how it's usually captured. How do you feel about it?
There's mundaneness, I suppose. When I show most people my photos they don't always get it. The novels by the Australian author Patrick White are always an ongoing inspiration. There's beautiful imagery and symbolism there in those books. I was also brought up listening to Paul Kelly, where the idea of "the road" and the landscape has always been romanticised. There's always a yearning for it when I've been away from it for too long.
So do you think there's value in looking a little closer at the everyday?
Definitely. I also think Australia is really overlooked as a travel destination… let alone [as a place] to photograph. For most people my age, you save your money for better things. Europe or America are the places to go, with Australia commonly overlooked. There's a lot of untapped photographic gold, especially at night.
Words by Monique Myintoo. Follow her on Twitter