Jamie Hladky is a photographer who grew up in Manchester, UK, and lived in London and Singapore. 5 years ago, he moved to Canberra, Australia where he works as a Consultant Acoustic Engineer for a living. His series 457 I & II is the results of his road trips in these Australian surroundings.
Can you give us some background information about how you got to photography?
I had an Olympus Mju-II when I was a teenager which I carried around with me. A time later I found that little camera in a box and started again for fun. When I moved to southeast Asia I wanted to keep track of all of the things I was seeing. I started taking photos with a series of compact cameras that would forever break from the humidity and the impacts of travel. After I moved to Australia I found myself in the middle of a supportive network of photographers with lots of resources and enthusiasm, and bought some more robust equipment. Even though I’ve been away from the UK for nearly 8 years, I’m still really just documenting my travels as though I’m on holiday.
Each time I’ve moved there’s been a period of losing connections to home or to the last place, but still feeling like an outsider in the new place, which can be hard. After a while I’ve started to identify my photos with the place and time they were taken, and no more. I can think about the reasons I went to there or what I did there, but the photo is usually just the place. Sometimes very specifically.
Introduce us to your series 457 I & II
I’d pursued long-distance travel a little and needed to cross international land borders repeatedly. In 2015, after flying between Singapore and Manchester for a couple of years, I decided to make the same journey by train. It was a long trip and I spent a lot of time thinking about visas and borders; I was repeatedly seeking permission to be somewhere.
Soon after I returned to Australia my personal immigration status became very tenuous. It took a lot of money and well over a year to resolve. The uncertainty was stressful and I spent a long time not knowing if I’d need to leave.
“These landscape photos are from that time, but they’re only my own story, nothing broader.”
I had a period of panic, and launched myself into seeing as much of this huge strange country as possible. I drove a lot, alone, or with a friend. I flew to other parts of the country and hired cars, to push it further.
The currency of my visa, passport and documentation underpinned my life – my right to remain, my ability to work – for a good few years. These landscape photos are from that time, but they’re only my own story, nothing broader. I named the series for the two permits I worked under during that time; Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457). Australia does not have a wholly outward-thinking approach to the world, and the number ‘457’ has a certain shorthand connotation to describe those foreign workers that have arrived from overseas to take the jobs of worthy Australians – which is not true, by definition.
Your photographs sublimate the light, is this something you were specially looking for?
Thanks! I’m not a very technical photographer. I’ve never had any training or really spent the time to learn any theory or history. I’m fairly amateurish and it results in the need for patience. I think you can see in my photos I’m usually looking for a slow quiet moment, or for stillness. It started from my lack of ability to judge a scene and act quickly, but now it’s kind of built-in. It means I’m usually looking for fairly stable, predictable or gentle light. At the time of the 457 series I was using a simple mechanical 6×9 camera [a Fujica GW690III] with no light meter or other gadgets. You only get 8 photos per roll and the camera is huge. That added a certain slow economy. More recently I bought a digital camera and went totally the other way. I’m using a flash most of the time and I make my own light.
What memories do you keep from these lands after 5 years of adventures?
So many! The last couple of years have been amazing for longer drives around Australia and that huge railway trip across Asia and Europe. I’ve covered tens of thousands of kilometres, into strange desolate villages, forgotten mines and quarries, sneaking into abandoned buildings, restaurants, granaries, houses, caves. So many small towns, strange encounters and odd characters. My photos are my memories.