Tears fell, fears were disclosed and truths were told when I interviewed Lorraine Maskell. I’ve been sitting on this one for quiet some time; quite frankly, I was intimidated and didn’t know that I could effectively do our conversation justice. I needed to convey Lorraine’s absolute passion and exhilaration for her craft whilst also revealing her raw vulnerability. She spoke so frankly with me about her trials and tribulations that I was mesmerised by her every word. This is a woman who does not allow herself to be beaten by her own fears but tackles them head on! Personally, I struggle to empty a mouse trap thanks to my own debilitating fear, and yet, this woman learned to drive at 47 years of age in order to pursue her dream. Now, that deserves some serious R-E-S-P-E-C-T (sung in my best, albeit non-existent, Aretha Franklin voice). Allow me to introduce you to the remarkable soul behind Lorraine Maskell Photography.
Lorraine, however, is so much more than a photographer and when she’s not behind the lens of her camera she is wielding her green thumb at home in Munduberra. A region that is most commonly regarded for its delicious citrus and mangoes, Lorraine’s commercial herb business has provided much more than a sumptuous fragrance. What initially began as an experimental side project to partner Bruce’s mango and asparagus growing, has expanded into a successful enterprise. Farming two acres of rosemary and lemongrass certainly keeps Lorraine busy and like any farmer she has had to battle against the unpredictability of Mother Nature and her spoils. In spite of this, perseverance and grit has seen Lorraine continue to fill orders sending her rosemary to Sydney fortnightly and harvesting the ten acres of lemongrass (now the main farm income) full time with Bruce.
Thankfully for us, Lorraine’s interest in gardening and community combined and propelled her to embark on her photography journey. Read more about Lorraine and the fears she has conquered in our interview below:
What motivated you to pursue your photography?
All my life I had known photography was a huge part of my Grandfather’s life; he was a prolific amateur photographer. Growing up in Australia away from my extended family in the Uk, it never clicked in me until I went on a trip to Nepal with my partner, a keen photographer. When I saw his beautiful images, my interest was engaged. That was the start of digital photography and I purchased a small point and shoot camera which I took everywhere. I called it my photography meditation, still do. I was hooked.
A year or so later I was heading to Europe and upgraded to a Nikon Coolpix. I wore the buttons off that camera and in 2012 when I was planning another trip to Europe I upgraded to my first SLR with interchangeable lenses; l I was totally in love with photography. At first I loved capturing bugs and butterflies as they appeared in my rosemary. I had some success with my macro images gaining a Silver award in the International Loupe Photography Awards 2013 and being featured in the Heritage Photography Awards Exhibition for my image of ‘Bluey’ (a horse fly I let bite my leg to get the shot).
But photography isn’t cheap so I started to delve into the world of portraiture - now that is not as easy as it sounds (laughing). I received a call from the fabulous Jaycettes, our local ladies group, who were interested in making a fundraising calendar. I felt I was a little out of my depth but with the ladies’ patience we successfully managed to raise the fantastic sum of $2600 which was donated to RACQ Care Flight in 2015.
Now, over 2 years later, I am in no way finished learning about photography; it is a huge subject - a lifetime of work. My love of portraiture has been an unexpected joy! I love sharing special days with families, capturing memories, and moments in time that will be treasured family heirlooms for future generations.
Creatively, where do you draw your inspiration from for your photography?
The photography community is huge and there is so much talent out there: books, workshops, Facebook and Instagram. My nature photography is all about what is in front of me when I walk around the farm; from the prettiest butterfly to the smallest native legume flowers, you get to know your country really well. Once I started to see the small things, I saw so much! Photography has opened my eyes to the beauty around me. For portraiture inspiration and ideas on colour palettes, backgrounds, landscapes, wardrobe and posing I find so much inspiration on the internet. How did we ever live without it?
What is your favourite photo you have ever taken?
I took a five week solo trip to India and on my first day I shot a man sleeping in his rickshaw; it was a snapshot of a moment in time. My Australian eyes saw a poor guy who had a hard life sleeping on his cart. I looked at this same picture a little closer a few days later and realised this man was not struggling. Instead I saw an entrepreneur, a sole trader, who was thriving. His rickshaw was beautifully decorated and maintained and he was comfortable. Again, my eyes were opened and my perspective changed.
Lorraine was acknowledged for her image by the Australian Photographic Society with a merit award in the travel section 2015.
What has been your biggest pinch me moment in your career?
To see my photography continue to grow and make progress. To be realising my photography dreams. To use my skills to promote local businesses. I have started to look for personal projects I am passionate about so I can volunteer my skills for various community work; that is a joy. Photographer Henry Cartier-Bresson said your first 10 000 photographs are your worst. I am really excited about the next few years! I am starting to create images like the ones I dreamed of; the images that inspired me to learn photography in the first place. Walking the farm with my camera as my escape, I am reminded of my passion and know that I will always have that no matter what. That is really cool!
What is the best advice you have been given?
In photography take your time to work your subject. Explore every angle and revisit the same places at different times. Some wild flowers open in the morning and some open in the afternoon; if you don’t return you will miss them. Keep going and have fun!
So many people, particularly women, are reluctant to be photographed. How do you combat their fears?
I hear you! This is so common and I am one of those women so I understand and can relate. I have been learning women’s portraiture for the last two years, posing is as important as the right light. I am protective of the people I photograph and once people meet me they know I have their back.
What has been the most challenging aspect of your career?
That is easy; putting myself out there has been really hard for me. I was really quite emotional about that but once I did, I wondered where the stress had come from. It wasn’t hard at all and I was encouraged by my friends and family. The last couple of years for me have been all about pushing through my fears, forging ahead and realising I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Honestly, the buzz of actually pushing through and reaching the other side is amazing. Fear is there for a reason and you need to be aware but some fear and anxiety is tricky and I started calling it out, questioning it. I have only been driving for just over 12 months. I had this big fear of driving and used to commute to town on an electric push bike. I was lucky I found a fabulous driving instructor in Bundaberg and started catching the bus over on Tuesdays, because I wanted to be able to drive in larger urban towns. Driving enabled me to be more mobile; it opened up my world. I applied for and received funding through RADF to help me complete a Visual Arts course, specialising in Photography at Nambour TAFE which meant leaving at 2.30am on Friday morning and driving home again after class. A round trip of over 500km. I loved it! I had an amazing teacher, I learned so much and made some great new friends too. I loved being around all those talented young TAFE kids straight out of high school who were bright eyed and full of fabulous ideas, it was a great class.
If I could paint a picture of any scenery you’ve seen before, what would you paint?
I would paint our farm no doubt about it, I love it. I could not imagine living anywhere else.
What makes you wildly happy?
I am so lucky my partner Bruce makes me happy, my friends make me happy, the farm makes me happy, our three dogs make me happy, my girl cat Billy makes me happy when she sleeps on my pillow, being part of our community makes me happy, a French romantic comedy, good food, great reads, the joy of photography, and rain, the sound of rain makes me happy too.
Name three inspirational women you admire and why?
I admire any woman who gets up every morning despite her anxieties and struggles and still has the courage to give life a go and make a difference. A woman who is kind, a woman who leaves the world a better place than she found it, not with huge gestures but the small things. Strong women lift each other up.
What three items would you take to a deserted island?
My camera, a book and pen. They’re not very practical things. I should say mozzie net, knife, and flint.
If you had to work on only one project for the next year, what would it be?
It probably wouldn’t take a year but I would love to take a walking tour in Europe. To be free enough to take a walking tour across England photographing the journey as I go sounds like bliss to me.
Reflecting on her journey, Lorraine shares, "I‘m still working on my photography. People think it is easy, but it’s hard, there are so many variables. I have taken so many photos in the last five years. I might be a slow learner" (laughs). Nevertheless, for someone who attests to being a shy person and not really a good people person, although constantly improving, she surprised herself by getting hooked on taking photos of people.
Usually I am invited to some sort of celebration or big event, some really precious moments, and it’s an honour and a joy to be a part of that.