Creativity…I kinda got me some

At the end 2012 I made the bold decision to focus on being creative for a year…so as I round out the year, I thought I’d have a look to see what worked and what didn’t…and to see if it made any difference to my life.

2 Degrees of Melbourne videos

One of my goals was to shoot and edit some videos of local Melbourne people who I think reflect what a great city Melbourne is. On the plus side, I got three of these done…and I was really happy with them (Andy White, Mick Thomas, Geraldine Quinn). On the downside…I only got three of these done over the course of an entire year, it’s not like I’m creating episodes of Sherlock FFS!
But on the whole I think that this was a triumph for creativity…they pushed me out of my comfort zone in terms of asking relative strangers to come and do something for nothing…and definitely out of my technical comfort zone as I tried to be interviewer, sound guy, camera man, lighting dude and editor, all on very basic equipment. But if the essence of creativity is doing a whole lot of work and not getting paid anything for it, then this was an unparalleled success. Plus I got to have Andy, Mick and Geraldine just hangout for a coffee and chat in our kitchen…and that is freaking priceless.


Another goal was to get some singing lessons and possibly sing in public. This was also a success. I did singing lessons with the amazing Emily Hayes (if you’re in Melbourne and want to learn to sing I cannot recommend her highly enough) and that lead to joining a choir called the Septemberists (we sang an entire Decemberists album…in September). Getting to rehearse and then perform with a group was an amazing experience, and getting to sing with Katie Hull-Brown and Emily during my singing lessons was again a great opportunity to push myself well beyond my comfort zone. It also got me back to playing a bit of guitar. But most of all it made me realise that there are few sounds more captivating than voices singing in harmony.


I really wanted to push myself with my photography this year as well. One of my goals was to do a masterclass with Veeral Patel, but my moving house…and his heading off to shoot the Tour de France made it impossible to lock in a time that worked. But I will do this…oh yes, I will do this (or possibly hide myself in his luggage and head over for next year’s tour!) I did manage to do some long exposure photography that I was really happy with,

ISO 400, 28mm, f11 & 30 second exposure
St Kilda pier
ISO 6400, 17mm, f2.8, 30 Seconds
A shack just outside of Foster

and took some portraits that I thought really captured the subject as a person rather than just an image.

Geraldine Quinn


I tend to put the lens cap in my mouth when I use the camera...Xavier clearly likes the look
I tend to put the lens cap in my mouth when I use the camera…Xavier clearly likes the look

But at the same time, I didn’t spend nearly enough time using the ‘manual’ setting on the camera…and relied on Lightroom to make the images really work, so there is still a lot of work to be done.
Also, 90% of taking a great photo is actually being there to take the shot…an average photographer who is actually there, has a much better chance of taking a great shot, than a brilliant photographer who isn’t there. So one of my big aims for this year was to get out and about to take more photos. But with three young kids and a house renovation to keep me busy, I only managed to head out for a dedicated photo session 3 times for the year. Which is pretty shitfull…but leaves a lot of room for improvement!

Surprising synergies

Not only was this the title of my highly unsuccessful 2002 business/management book, but it was also one of the big things that my year of creativity taught me; creativity in one area opens up creative options in others. If you go to a gig and ask if you can just stroll up on stage and take a photo, you will most likely be politely told to sod off. But if you’re there to sing…then you have full access to stage and can take shots like this with impunity.

Rock n Roller_sml-2Rock n Roller_sml-3Rock n Roller_sml-6

And if you walk up to Mick Thomas and ask to take a quick portrait shot of him, he may explain that he has better things to do with his time…but if you’ve just filmed an interview with him, he might let you take a shot like this.Mick Thomas-1

And if you shoot a video with Andy, you might be asked to ruin breakfasts around Melbourne by appearing as a page 3 boy in the Sunday Age.

So in conclusion…

While I certainly didn’t dedicate sufficient time to being creative, the benefits I got from the time I did put in were fantastic. My videos and photography for my day job came ahead in leaps and bounds, I got to meet and work with some people who I really admire and I had some experiences that I’ll remember and draw upon for the rest of my life. The challenge will be maintaining it next year when so much of my focus will be on getting physically ready for a tilt at the Melbourne Ironman in 2015…and of course not thinking to myself every time we visit someone out of Melbourne “I wonder if I could get any good photos there”.

2 Degrees of Melbourne: Episode 3 – Geraldine Quinn

Late last year I attended the live recording of one of my favourite podcasts (for the podcast fans among you it’s ‘The Sweetest Plum‘, I suggest you go out and subscribe to it). Part of the entertainment was a performer called Geraldine Quinn who was introduced as ‘a local star on the cabaret scene’ and my first thought was ‘Oh Christ, here comes a jazz hands solo.’ Now admittedly this was based on a single cabaret experience from about 15 years ago in Las Vegas that involved a very large gentleman dressed as Cher from the ‘Turn back time‘ film clip, yelling songs and telling dick jokes…but I’ll be damned if I’m going to let go of my ill-informed prejudices!

Anyhow, it would have been socially awkward to have just stood up and walked out, so I stayed and listened to Geraldine rework a well known song into a song about the two guys who do the podcast (Declan and Nick). The lyrics were really funny and she clearly was a fan of the podcast, but what really made me reframe any misgivings I had about cabaret performers was when she hit the chorus like the proverbial freight train. Not only could she sing…but she could REALLY sing, and she had a voice that filled the whole room and said ‘I’m not doing this by halves, I’m going to give this everything…and by the end of it, you will almost like a Whitney Houston song!’ (you can hear the podcast here, Geraldine is about 80% of the way through).

So when I embarked on this little project of interviewing people who represent my favourite things about Melbourne…I knew that Geraldine had to be one of them.
Now it may have taken about 2 months of organising to finally sort a time, but on Monday she came into the 2 Degrees studio (aka the dining room) and here is my interview with her


Two Degrees of Melbourne – Geraldine Quinn from 2 Degrees of Separation on Vimeo.

I’m really happy with how this video came up…so happy in fact that I had to break with the traditional ‘black and white’ look of the other videos because the colour version looked so good. A huge note of thanks to John for bringing me a tripod at very late notice when the base plate to mine failed to re-appear…and an even bigger note of thanks to Geraldine for making the time to be interviewed and being such a great interviewee.
You can check out where Geraldine is playing on her site or on her myriad social media sites…but whatever you do, get out and see her, you won’t be disappointed!