‘Remarkable’ is Michel Lawrence’s third photographic book. And as the title suggests it is filled with remarkable people, some very well-known, such as former Prime Minister John Howard, comedian Gary McDonald (aka Norman Gunston) the great swimmers Dawn Fraser and Shane Gould, the brilliant polymath Barry Jones and a further 95 great Australians.
Some are not so well known but they were all nominated as Australia’s ‘National Living Treasures’ in an idea sponsored by the National Trust of Australia in 1997 and voted on by Australians through the pages of The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.
So these were the People’s Choice Awards if you like.
‘Remarkable’ which took nearly two years to compile was written by Melinda Williams and photographed by Michel Lawrence.
‘Remarkable’ was published by the venerable Thames and Hudson, arguably, one of the world’s great publishers of illustrated books on Art, Architecture, Design, Photography, Fashion, Lifestyle, Music, History.
Melinda and Michel travelled across Australia meeting, interviewing and photographing the Treasures. The photographs were all shot using only natural light, as it would have made for a much larger production budget with a large crew with lights and larger format film equipment. But this meant that there was a much greater sense of continuity to the photographs and stylistically much more consistency. The portraits were largely shot in the landscape format and quite often in very close-up mode.
“They were remarkable people” says Michel Lawrence.
As Michel remarked later: “We understood with each new portrait session why these people were Australian Living Treasures. They were all remarkable people.”
Melinda conducted her interviews as the portrait sessions progressed and a video recording session was also included in the project.
Unfortunately some of the original nominations could not be interviewed or photographed as they had sadly passed away. Gough and Margaret Whitlam were gone, as too Malcolm Fraser, the indigenous singer/songwriter Jimmy Little, the internationally acclaimed art critic Robert Hughes, Dame Leonie Kramer, the much loved Hazel Hawke and the great country singer Slim Dusty to name just a few.
So, Melinda and Michel set about the project with a sense of urgency as they wanted to record as many of the Remarkable Australians before any more passed away. By and large they were successful, as several in fact passed away after they had sat for portraits and interviews.
The book was launched in October 2018 at The Buxton Contemporary Art Gallery Melbourne.
Remarkable was designed by John Canty and edited by Katie Purvis. Publisher in charge of the production was Kirsten Abbott.