“…Talent is not a golden ticket. You must work hard…”
Andy Rasheed has been a practicing nature photographer since 1991. Andy has developed a unique take on nature photography that he is still developing. He has exhibited work since the early nineties, the highlight being a solo exhibition of his macro flower photography in the South Australian museum in 2003. More recently he was commissioned to create collections of work for both the new Royal Adelaide Hospital and Flinders Medical Centre. Andy lives in the Adelaide hills with his partner and two children.
What does being an artist mean to you, Andy?
“Creativity is not an option for me; I need to make. It keeps me grounded and fulfilled. Creatively my primary pursuits are as an art photographer, musician, designer and builder of high-grade plywood musical instruments, and writer. I see all of these disciplines as variations of the same energetic path. These pursuits have grown into an innovative journey with ever expanding potential as one independent discovery informs another aspect of my creative practice. My objective throughout is simplicity, grace, ease of understanding and always working towards greater refinement.”
Q. When did you know you wanted to be an Artist?
A. I think I have always known I was destined for a creative life but spent my youth deeply frustrated because my expectation and my abilities didn’t align. Firstly the discovery of music and then photography changed that. I am gradually gaining greater mastery with my three dimensional artwork too.
Q. How has South Australia influenced your art?
A. I was born and bred in South Australia though I lived in New South Wales for a couple of years in my early twenties to pursue ambitions as a musician. It was in New South Wales that photography found me. I believe the South Australian environment has completely shaped my style of photography. Though I find South Australia to be very beautiful, the incredible harshness of much of the state makes it a particularly difficult place to photograph. To show the beauty of South Australia I tend to shoot a style of close up, wide angle detailing and macro plant photography. I concentrate on intimate views of the bush, abstracting the context of what is within arm’s reach and focusing on the structures and shapes.
Q. How would you describe your art?
A. My aim is to inspire an emotional response rather than an intellectual reaction. I am drawn to creating works of the natural world that are simple, powerfully colourful and have depth.
I am trying to find the essential elements within the image that emulate an experience of being in the bush, and aiming to create photographs that move beyond being pretty pictures.
Q. Is your art based on any particular themes &/or ideas?
A. In a word — nature. The structures and colours in nature are awesome in the literal sense. Given that ultimately humanity is from the earth, I think most people acknowledge a resonance with nature. It would like to kindle that connection.
Q. Where did you start your journey as a visual artist (formal education)?
A. I was living in a farmhouse in a patch of bush near Wisemans Ferry in New South Wales. The rock band that was meant to rocket me to stardom broke up, coinciding with my realisation that I could see. My Dad had gifted me a 1962 Pentax (with no light metre), a 50mm lens and a bellows for macro. I started obsessively documenting my life and my surroundings. My ability to express myself as an artist through photography was apparent to me immediately and my artistic motivations at times verged on being torrential.
I chose to train as a commercial photographer to give me the broadest scope of the mechanics of the craft. Since finishing college in 1996 I have freelanced under the name eyefood. Parallel to my commercial work I have been consistently building multiple bodies of art works and periodically exhibiting. There is a great symbiosis between my art work and my commercial work. Neither would be as refined and coherent without the other.
Q. Who has influenced your style, during either formal education or in your personal experience?
A. I had one particularly engaging lecturer at college, Alec Knezevic who was a great mentor through my studies, but beyond that I am quite insular as a practitioner. Problem solving has shaped my practice rather than looking externally for inspiration.
Straight out of studies I started my freelance business and had two children. I worked from a home studio and responsibilities when the kids were small left me house bound and time poor. Making art was low on the list of priorities and I wasn’t coping with not being able to get into the bush to shoot.
An epiphany led me to realise if I reassessed scale I could bring nature to me. I could shoot macro images of flowers on the driveway whilst having my children playing around my feet. I shot macro obsessively for a couple of years and developed a massive body of work. It redefined how I approached composition and was a masterclass in ways to utilise natural light. This period was pivotal to my developing practice. This chapter of work culminated in a solo exhibition at the South Australian Museum in 2003 called eyefood.
Q. Are there any other mediums that you enjoy working with?
A. I design and build musical instruments from aircraft grade plywoods and I have dabbled in sculpture in various media for about fifteen years.
The instruments I make are primarily acoustic lap steel resonator guitars and hand drums. I see these pieces as ergonomic, practical sculptures. I am reverse engineering instrument design hinging around the benefits of the structural integrity, sustainability and stability of ultra high grade plywoods. I work from the principle; “What criteria does this instrument need to fulfil to exceed the expectations of the musician playing it?” Through this process I have investigated some of the inherent disadvantages and inefficiencies of conventional materials and conventional building techniques. I have found some interesting ways to draw out greater efficiency and improved ergonomics through some fairly radical redesigning.
Q. What projects are you currently working on, if any?
A. I have recently collated all of my nature works from a pool of over twenty years of personal photography and distilled them down to just over two hundred images.
I have printed a short run of a fifty page A5 catalogue/book and I am in the throes of setting up a specific web-shop where property developers, businesses or art buyers can select; image, matt and frame combinations, and order printed works to fit out a wall, a room or an entire building.
I am also working up a range of cajon (box drums) and bongos that I am preparing to market under the moniker “Small Drum Revolution”. I am immersed in the process of prototyping, developing and creating a supply chain for materials.
Q. Are there any aspects of your art that you find particularly challenging?
A. Making work is mostly a joy but finding an appreciative audience who are in a position to actually buy art has always been difficult in Adelaide. That being said it’s a wonderful place to live and I have been blessed to have had a creative working life even if it has been a struggle at times. It is the challenge and reinvention that makes us better practitioners.
Q. Which is more important to you, the symbolic meaning of your work or the visual presentation?
A. In my opinion nature is the ultimate symbol of our existence as a species. It is what we are. Yet because we have been so successful in the reshaping of our environment we have developed an ill fated rationale of superiority over nature. I hope that if people are engaged with my work that it will be another point to reinforce the reality that nature is sacrosanct.
I feel the presentation should be a structure to facilitate the art. For my personal projects I mount work on thin panels and set them 50mm away from the wall so they appear as a frameless image floating in space.
Q. Describe the ideal environment for your creative process.
A. Wilderness, time, and good light.
Q. What does a typical day at work look like for you as an artist?
A. This comes in two parts. The fun and the work.
The romantic component of my work is; camping in a beautiful place by myself, my camera gear, a big box of food and a couple of musical instruments…oh and my coffee maker. The less romantic aspect is the business of selling art. To have a healthy business, postproduction and editing; marketing, networking and tax are as important as producing good work.
Q. How has media (traditional or social) influenced your art?
A. Any form of creativity when executed with passion is magnetic and through social media and the internet I am exposed to work that inspires me from people with a much wider reach than my own. It has also made my own work more visible than it would have been pre-internet.
Q. Do you enjoy collaborating with other artists?
A. Making my artwork is a one person operation but I do some mentoring of young people which is a highly collaborative creative process.
Q. Are you able to make a living as an artist?
A. In recent years I have made about a third of my income through art commissions. I make the rest of my living through my commercial practice which in itself is a very creative process.
Q. What advice would you would give someone who aspires to a career in the visual arts?
A. Chase your inspiration rather than trends. Make the work that can only be made with your hands.
Regardless of your situation, the imperative is that you continue to make art.
Talent is not a golden ticket. You must work hard, then work harder; it’s a very long yet a very satisfying road.
Curriculum Vitae Andy Rasheed
Qualifications Associate Diploma of Commercial photography TAFE
Employment history 1997-current Director/Photographer
Andy Rasheed’s career has been driven by a need to create. Photography has been a perfect vehicle through which to explore ideas and translate them into powerful imagery. His inventive nature and high levels of motivation have allowed him a career without compromising his artistic sensibilities.
2014 Macro photographic artworks of South Australian Flora commissioned for the renal department of the new Royal Adelaide Hospital
2014/15 Fridays with David mentoring programme through Life Without Barriers and subsequent exhibition at the Flinders medical Centre in the 2015 Fringe
2014 Side by Side mentoring programme through Life Without Barriers and subsequent exhibition in the 2014 Fringe
2014 Aquamate commissioned a triptych of flowing water images for their boardroom
2012 Arts in Health through Flinders Medical Centre commission new works for the Birthing Assessment area and the Margaret Tobin Centre
2012 Launched eyefood photographic tutorials blog that to date has reached over 8,000 readers in 90 countries
2011 Arts in Health through Flinders Medical Centre commission new works for the renovated Emergency area of the hospital.
2009/10 From The Ground Up, New South Wales edition released, Victorian edition released
2009 A high commendation for macro flower photograph “Lurking” and a Honourable mention for “Pelican” image in the International Photography Masters Cup
2008 From the Ground Up was the winner of the 2009 Horticultural Media Association Laurel Award for Best General Gardening publication
2008 Principle photographer for From The Ground Up, a best selling gardening book by Sophie Thomson
2005 Group exhibition Chroma Colour photographic gallery
2004 Trees for life – The first twenty years, book cover image
2003 Solo exhibition called Eyefood, of Abstract macro photography of flowers in the
South Australian Museum
2003 Marion council buys 3 works for their collection from Red House group exhibition
1999-2003 Taught photography at the Centre for Creative Photography
2002 Group exhibition in the Fringe The Hanging Fuzz Garden
1997 Graduated from Douglas Mawson Institute of TAFE
1993 Solo Exhibition on Rundle Street Adelaide called Eyefood