Max Doyle got into photography because he was sick of working crappy labouring jobs. Living in London in the early ‘90s, his break came when fellow New Zealander Derek Henderson needed an assistant on a shoot. The next minute they were in Miami for a job. Doyle must have thought it fared better than sweating it out on a building site, as he assisted photographers for the next couple of years before branching out on his own. Since then he’s become a name in his own right, with icons like Tracey Emin and Rowland S Howard appearing before his lens. In the world of fashion, he’s carved out a reputation as one of Australia’s finest—having shot the recognisable faces of Abbey Lee and Andreja Pejic, and with work appearing on the covers and in the pages of Vogue, Interview, and Nylon. Not to mention he is the publisher of impressively longstanding fashion, art, and culture title Doingbird.
Doyle started scrapbooking in his early career. His notebooks were a place to stick Polaroids, the by-product of fashion shoots in the ‘90s, and a little later a place to preserve photos that he’d developed, as well as hand prints, negatives, and sketches. He is now making public a selection of scrapbook entries for the exhibition Hell01 (Scrapbook), where pages from his notebooks have been blown up into large photographic prints. Spanning more than 30 years, the lo-fi scrapbooks are a sweet and intimate glimpse into both the work and personal life of a well-known photographer. We caught up with Doyle to find out more about his cut and paste.
The Creators Project: As you’ve grown older have you found yourself drawn to different things to shoot or do you think you’re eternally attracted to the same subjects, themes and aesthetics?
Max Doyle: There’s no real consistency in what I’m drawn to. It really depends on where I am, who I’m with, how I feel; so it changes daily. I think I’m going to start shooting more old people.
When did you start making scrapbooks and why?
I’ve been making books right from the start of my photography life. Back then we took hundreds of Polaroids on jobs so it made sense to do something with them. I then started expanding on that. For a while I was keeping journals and diaries with writing but they got a bit crazy and no one will ever see them.
Are you a nostalgic person?
Very nostalgic. I just need to smell something or see light behaving in a particular way and I will be lost intensely reminiscing about things that could have happened decades ago or might not have happened at all. I’m not sure photos have anywhere near that power to take me back to an exact moment in time but they are good for keeping a record.
Do you take lots of photos on your iPhone, just of general, everyday sort of stuff?
No! People—mostly my family—laugh at how terrible my iPhone photos are. I just don’t get it. I could be standing next to someone who takes the exact same photo as me and theirs will look great and mine will look shit. Plus I feel like these days I want to document less general everyday stuff; leave that job to everyone else. I want to focus more, shoot less.
Can I ask you what your favourite photo is in the show or is that simply impossible to answer?
It’s kind of impossible. It’s hard to choose one memory over another. I like the one of Jamie King in black and white for a few reasons—it was shot on Polaroid 665 which you can’t get any more but it made everything look amazing and it was at a really exciting time when I was starting out. She was cool, it was in the Arizona desert, and it looks nice.
I’m jealous that you were in London in the ‘90s. Should I be?
Yes, I think you should. I think that was a big time in London’s cultural history. So many things were happening that are still having a big influence in music, fashion, art, and design. Cool Britannia. At the time we turned up we were still living in a much more primitive world. There was no internet available so the way we experienced things was much more mysterious and exciting. We felt like pioneers on an incredible adventure. I was lucky in that I stumbled into the world of fashion photography right when so many great photographers were coming up—guys like David Sims, Glen Luchford, Craig McDean, Mario Sorrenti (not English), Corinne Day (not a guy), and heaps more. But there was only one place in the whole of London you could get a long black or a flat white: bar Italia in Soho.
Hell01 (Scrapbook) opens on Thursday May 12 at Mild Manners Gallery in Surry Hills, Sydney. The exhibition runs until Saturday May 21. You can find out more about Max Doyle here and follow his scrapbook Instagram here.