World Press Photo
June 2005 | Edition One     

In each issue of Enter, we will be putting a series of questions to someone who has gone on to make his or her name in photojournalism after attending a World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass, named after the late magazine editor and honorary chairman of World Press Photo.

These five-day events, introduced in 1994 to encourage and train young photographers, are normally held every November so that a dozen young practitioners from all over the world can meet and learn from some of the world’s top professionals.

Our first subject is Trent Parke, a member of the world-famous photographers' cooperative Magnum Photos. The first Australian to be represented by Magnum, he attended the Joop Swart Masterclass in 1999 and his long list of awards includes five Gold Lenses from the International Olympic Committee and World Press Photo Awards in 1999 (for Bathurst Mountain Car Races ) and in 2000 (for The Seventh Wave ).

Two years ago, Trent received the W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography for his project Minutes to Midnight. Presently, he is concentrating on the project which involves him traveling across Australia recording its people and culture.

How did you get started in photography and what was your biggest break?

I started in photography at age twelve when I found my parents old Pentax Spotmatic camera. I don’t think I have ever been parted from some sort of camera since. I applied several times for a cadetship on the local newspaper in Newcastle without success, while I worked away in Kodak photo labs developing other people's snap shots. Eventually, I was lucky enough to secure a cadetship on the Newcastle Herald . After a while I was offered a job on a major daily newspaper in Sydney . It was at this point that I also really started to develop my personal work and photograph my general surroundings.

What qualities does a top photojournalist need?

I think passion and perseverance. You have to truly love what you do to be successful.

What is your most memorable assignment?

I very rarely take on assignments and most of my work is self assigned. I tend to work on large bodies of work that eventually end up in book and exhibition form. For the past two years I have lived in a two-man tent traveling Australia on a road trip to document the current state of the nation. Minutes to Midnight was the result and, finally having the chance to see my own country, has been by far the most memorable work I have ever undertaken. The Seventh Wave was also a great project to work on as it involved spending days at the beach photographing with my partner Narelle Autio. The work looked at the relationship Australians have with the beach.

Are you – or will you ever be – fully digital?

I still use film as I mainly shoot black and white. I have always processed every roll myself, and like being part of the whole process. I also still print everything in the darkroom. When work is required urgently then I will resort to scanning a negative into the computer. I only use digital when a fast turn-around is required. However, I don't use it for my personal work. It would be foolish to say that I will never be fully digital as the world is moving so fast, but I can't see myself giving up film for a long time to come.

What essential equipment do you travel with?

On the recent road trip around Australia, I traveled with one Leica m6 and 28mm lens, a bulk loader for b&w film, and an eight-spool processing tank with chemicals. I also carried a Mac laptop and scanner, a polaroid camera - and that's about it.

If there is one piece of advice you would give to a photojournalist starting out on a career, what would it be?

Photograph what is personal to you and what you are interested in. Don’t give up.

Which of the pictures you selected is your personal favorite and why?

The hardest picture I have had to take was that of my son, Jem being born. Being up all night, twelve hours of watching Narelle struggle with the pains of giving birth, the fear factor of not knowing the outcome of a life- changing event were all factors which made this photograph my favorite. It was also the last image from the two year journey and represented closure to the work. The photograph shows his first breath of life as he is lifted from the water before Narelle has even seen him. I don't remember taking it as I was in shock.

Next to whom would you like to sit in an airplane going where?

As long as it was going somewhere in Australia, it wouldn't matter. I like talking to everyday people.

What ambitions do you have left?

To continue to document my country and the Australian way of life. I am not interested in any other countries or events. My life's work is here in the place in which I have lived and grown up.

Read more on the Joop Swart masterclass

Click here for more on Trent.

Trent Parke

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Minutes to Midnight

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The Seventh Wave

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Jem, a few seconds old

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Copyright 2005, all rights reserved by the photographers