Sydney-based artist Andrew Mamo has turned his daily ferry commute into a cool photography project. Using nothing but his iPhone4, Andrew captures life on Sydney’s Parramatta River and shares it through Instagram. Harbour sunsets, sunken anchors and summery palms feature heavily throughout his Instagram feed, giving us a unique look at river-focused culture and the suburbs on its banks.
As big fans of Andrew’s art, Sydney’s waterways and Instagram – we caught up with him to find out more about river life.
Where has the inspiration for this series of images come from?
I moved into the Five Dock/Abbotsford area of Sydney’s inner west a couple of years ago and started spending time on the Parramatta River, either walking along its banks or commuting on the ferries, right around the time Instagram was released, so I simultaneously had a new environment and a new technology and publishing platform to explore. It was a match made in heaven.
What is it about the Parramatta River that compels you to document its life and rhythms?
It comes from a habit of keeping visual diaries that goes back to my art school days. I’ve kept visual diaries for many years. Much of what went into those diaries just came out of my head but there were some periods when I would sketch what I saw around me. Over the last couple of years, pen and paper have been replaced by my iPhone. I spent a lot of time bemoaning the fact that I didn’t seem to draw any more until I realised that of course I was still diarising, just that it was happening on my phone, rather than in a sketchbook. And the subject matter is what I see around me on a daily basis. It’s been through this process though, that I’ve come to admire the river itself as a living, working place, and the suburbs that dot its banks seem to have a unique river-focused culture. Sydney Harbour gets all the attention, but I think many people forget it’s really just part of the Parramatta River.
Why are there no people in your photographs? Is this a conscious choice?
Yes it is. I actually don’t like being photographed myself. I can completely understand why many cultures believed that photography was a way of stealing the soul. I have a theory that having people smile in photographs is a way of displaying consent to be photographed – like “Hey, yes I’m okay with this”. It’s not that I don’t like people as a subject. When I was sketching while commuting on trains some years back, I almost exclusively sketched people. I did it surreptitiously – they were always reading or sleeping – but it didn’t feel creepy in the way it might have if I had photographed them surreptitiously.
Your images are usually very atmospheric and poetic. What themes are you trying to convey?
No themes really. I’m just interested in light and form. As I said, these photographs are more like studies. I see them as raw material that might be transformed into something else one day, through another medium. The fact that you can only compose an image in a square format via Instagram is an interesting challenge. Like Twitter, where you need to say what you want to say in less than 140 characters, the limits set by the technology actually forces you to think creatively. Limits are good. A lot of what I do is really dictated by what works best within those limits. Sometimes I take a shot and I think it’s going to be really good, but it just fails in that format. Other times, I’m surprised at what works. Surprises are good too.
Do you use any other type of camera or do you only use your phone?
Only my phone. I don’t even own a real camera.
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