WA News Celebrity Profiles Seeing With an Artist’s Eye
Seeing With an Artist’s Eye
Written by Mr Peter McClelland
Tuesday, 01 December 2015


Richard-Woldendorp-at-Mt-Newman200Mr Richard WoldendorpThe stunning photographs of Richard Woldendorp look a lot like like paintings and that’s hardly surprising. Richard studied sketching and commercial art in Holland before picking up a camera to create evocative aerial images of the West Australian landscape.

“The image has always been very personal for me, and particularly so with the photographic work I’ve done with the Aboriginal people of the Pilbara region. It struck me that they weren’t concerned with a measure of the land but rather an experience of country.”

“I remember spending time with an elder named Toby Thomas walking along the Kimberley coast and it was obvious that his relationship with the land is all about features. Aboriginal people are not concerned with distance, for them it’s all about describing and recognising things that are important. It’s the same for me, too. It’s all about the landscape.”

“I think my photographs have a similar ‘feel’ to that indigenous sensibility and I’d definitely describe my style as ‘painterly’. I love reading about painters and, I’d have to say, I’ve got more artist friends than photographers.”

“It’s so important to enrich one’s outlook by embracing different points of view.”

Richard, born in 1927 in Utrecht in The Netherlands between two World Wars, came to Australia in 1950. He is the first to acknowledge that he’s had a fortunate life.

“I spent three years in the army in Indonesia as a young man and I still remember being struck by the incredible tropical diversity. It made me realise that you have to look intently at what’s around you because it’s a beautiful and complex world out there.”

“That’s one reason I decided early in my career to be a freelance photographer and not base myself in a studio. I wanted to have the freedom to explore and interpret in my own way. I’ve been very lucky in many ways because three things came together at the same time that had positive spinoffs for me. The SLR camera made taking photos so much easier, the quality of the film improved markedly and, particularly after WWII, it was just so easy to jump on an aeroplane.”

“Aerial photography became so much simpler and that’s been wonderful for me.”

Nonetheless, Richard suggests that while new technology and the digital age have opened up new possibilities, there have also been a few dents to the creative process.

Richard-Woldendorp---Forrest-River-Sept 200“We’ve got perfection now, fabulous colour and people taking photographs on their mobile phones. But in the early days there was a stronger flow within the creative process from beginning to end and there’s a bit of that missing now. It was more like making a sketch, a slow process that was quite involved and something that had to be learned before you got it under complete control.”

“The camera I use now is a Canon 25D and I did my last book, Out of the Blue, with that and two lenses. I find that the simpler it is the more I can concentrate on actually ‘seeing’ what’s in front of me. Some people are very good on the technical side, extreme close-ups and high definition and it’s certainly a good thing that the vast potential of the camera is well utilised.”

“There’s a lot that can be done with digital technology and creative talent will always take photography to new and interesting levels. I’ll admit that I’m not as technically skilled as I’d like to be but, for me, it’s always been the excitement of discovery in the image itself.”