Greg Marsden’s Kings Cross is a Lonely Place
The photographer's work isn't about interaction, but rather reflection and experiences.
Greg Marsden has had some interesting jobs. Before he was a photographer he was in a pre-Guns N' Roses band with Slash and Steve Adler. He also worked in combat zones across Central America and the Middle East, and spent time undercover trying to take down a heroin peddling terrorist cell. He's done stints as a cop in Germany, trained as a psychologist, and was a senior executive of a large corporation.
Somewhere towards the end of all that he ended up in Australia working in the head office of a large supermarket chain. Understandably he found the change pretty boring and bought a camera to once again try something new. Considering his career path, it's surprising his photography seems to avoid the extreme, instead focusing on the mundane and often lonely parts of regular urban life.
VICE: Obviously you've done a lot of super intense stuff, how did you end up taking photos?
Greg Marsden: I got a bonus from work and a friend of mine was into photography. He steered me in the direction of which camera to buy. I didn't know what I wanted to do with it, but I wanted to do something creative instead of just working in the corporate world. I'd played bass and guitar in the past but was never really that good, so I picked up a camera and wasn't good at that either.
I started walking around shooting random stuff in the streets and then I started shooting random people. I didn't know it was called street photography; it just sort of grew as I studied, bought books, and took Magnum workshops. Now it's like an addiction.
Are you a fast shooter, or do you tend to be careful?
I shoot digital, but I shoot the way people shoot film. I'm pretty conservative. I try to work scenes, but the Kings Cross series, it's hard to do that. I see a lot of street photographers in Sydney, but very few in Kings Cross.
Why do you think that is?
It's a pretty confronting place to shoot. I think my background in the military and psychology plus being a big guy makes it easier.
Is your style confrontational?
When I first started, I did a lot of shooting from the hip. I found that I had more problems being sneaky than if I just raised the camera to my eye. All the regulars know me now, they just think there's that guy with the camera again so I don't have as many problems as I used to.
Has Kings Cross changed since you started shooting there?
Big time, Sydney has really tried to clean up the Cross and gentrify it. All my best shots used to be at 5AM when the sun was just coming up with all these characters entering the daylight. There's still heroin everywhere and strip clubs, but a lot of the pubs are saying they're down 75 percent since the new lockout laws were introduced.
Does your psychology training play into your work?
I think my current series Street Light is on what I've learned about myself, which is the most fascinating thing I've recently been getting out of my photography.
I was adopted at birth, so there was an abandonment. If you look at my Street Light series, there's a lot of loneliness in those photos, but it's balanced by light and colour. Photography is almost like a Rorschach test to me in some ways.
Now that you mention it, there's always a lot of humanity in your photos but not a lot of human interaction.
Exactly, there's not a lot of interaction at all; it's a reflection of me and the experiences I've gone through. Whether it has to do with my background I'm not certain, maybe more of the human experience than anything else.
The theme probably resonates well in Australia. It's such an isolated country in so many respects.
Australia really resonates with me, when I was working the corporate job I was on a plane every week and driving to small towns all over the country. There is just that aloneness in here, I don't know how to describe it.
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