Wayne Quilliam is an award-winning photographer tackling traditional Indigenous art themes of country and culture in a voice that is modern and bold. Melbourne photographer Wayne Quilliam bought his first camera in Hong Kong while he was still a 17-year-old Navy communications officer. Wayne has captured historical moments in time like no other. This artist travels far and wide to immortalise events and moments that strengthens the messages and stories told so they are not lost in time. Pure Magic and professional is countryman Wayne Quilliam who speaks to Gman on Big Brekkie.
His first-ever photographs were of an aircraft carrier that was about to be decommissioned, on its last tour of the world’s ports. He was on a ship that was shadowing the aircraft carrier. It might seem an unusual start to a photography career, but the story gets stranger still. Tasmanian-born Wayne then hung up his camera for a few years until, at age 21 when he was sweeping chimneys, he found himself looking at a wall of photographs in a customer’s house. The photos were taken by the woman’s late father, who had left behind lots of darkroom equipment that no one was using. Young Wayne was so fascinated by the whole thing that he did a deal with his customer, and took the photographic equipment as payment for sweeping the chimney.
“I set up my bathroom as a darkroom and that’s where it all took off,” says Wayne. He travelled around Australia a lot, took photos for the Koori Mail, and recorded lots of different events, such as the Coming of the Light Festival in the Torres Strait, and Croc Festivals. “I try to inspire young people to do what I do,” says Wayne. “Some young people also send me their shots so that I can give them feedback.” Wayne says his favourite type of photography is “the blackfella stuff”, closely followed by artistic nudes. “Blackfellas don’t like to get their gear off,” he says, “but what I’m trying to do, in a limited way, is to get some of our guys and girls into the mainstream overseas.”
He tints his black-and-white nude photographs with ochres and dyes drawn from the model’s land. “It’s like getting back to mother earth,” he says. Meanwhile, he would like to put his photos somewhere so that Indigenous people can access them whenever they like. Many of the blackfella photos he takes are for exhibition only and not for sale. “I want to highlight the beauty of our culture,” he says. Wayne has travelled to lots of other countries – such as Germany, France, Sweden and Italy – to exhibit his work, and this year will travel to Greece to coincide with the 2004 Olympic Games. But closer to home, any fans of Richmond footy club will also have seen Wayne’s work. He is the official photographer for the club and has taken heaps of photos of star player Dave Rodan!