Jamie Wdziekonski's photographs are sheer energy, whether it’s a gig or social justice rally
Bask in the atmospheric energy of the Australian photographer’s political and musical depictions.
- Lucy Bourton
- 8 April 2020
- Reading Time
- 4 minute read
Splitting his time between photographic subjects with equal vibrancy, Jamie Wdziekonski can usually be found photographing bands, or protest rallies. Feeling a connection to the two for their “strength in community and collaboration,” Jamie finds that, when embedded amongst these groups, “it’s like it is said, we’re stronger united than we are divided.”
Following a long winding career and consistent fascination with photography – as a kid Jamie often thought “people lived in black and white back in the old days” – a teacher praised his knack with a camera all the way back as a teen – it’s surprising to hear that his very first foot in the door was at a production agency, mainly working in advertising. “That job taught me heaps,” Jamie recalls now, “but it also taught me that I didn’t want to shoot for the advertising industry.” Later moving onto photographing at fashion labels “when fashion blogs were still big”, he soon realised that, “dealing with agents and large crews wasn’t something I was into.”
This realisation, coupled with the beginnings of his experimentation with psychedelics, he began to change his outlook, and in turn, what he wanted to shoot. “It’s a real personal process and it’s tough to try and break it down into a paragraph or two,” Jamie elaborates, “but the experiences I had on psychedelics changed my attitude and outlooks in a lot of positive ways.” One of these positives was an eye opening experience listening to a certain slice of music, namely rock and psych bands like The Black Angels, The 13th Floor Elevators, and Brain Jonestown Massacre.
Naturally pairing his love of photography with an eye-opening music experience, Jamie headed out to his first gig with a camera in 2013 to see The Murlochs play in Melbourne. Sending through the results to Ambrose, the lead in the band – as well as part of the cohort of Australian musicians that is King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – the decision turned out to be a formative experience: “I’ve been doing this pretty much ever since.”
Now Jamie spends most of time on tour with a regular group consisting of King Gizzard, Amyl and the Sniffers – “can be a bit raw” – and Kiyagaku Moyo – “so chill and we’ve been to some magic places together – before returning home to a day job at a recycling depot. At first, Jamie would work double time at the depot, to save up enough for flights and pay his own way on tours, “as long as the band was happy to have me in their van,” he says. “Honestly, most of the time on tour I feel like the luckiest fly on the wall,” and this experience, particularly during his first time touring America during 2014, “solidified my commitment to documenting music.”
Consistently shooting live music has also allowed Jamie to continue his stylistic choice of always photographing in black and white, as well as hone his approach to capturing the fast-paced movement of the bands he follows. “I have to mention that I’m not great at directing people in photographs,” he tells us. “I’ve got much more of a fly on the wall type of approach.” In turn, a flash-on camera set up allows for “consistent settings so you can quickly snap something before the moment is gone,” an approach well needed if it’s Stu Mackenzie, Amy Martins or John Dwyer on stage. “The style was sort of borne out of wanting the easiest way to get a quick capture, without having to battle lighting too much,” he continues, explaining how even if “no flash” rules are in place at a venue, he can often ramp up his style in post-production too.
As a result Jamie has built up a portfolio that shouts with maximum expression. If it’s a gig, a sweaty clad teenager will often be spotted front row in a mid-awe scream with locked eyes at the musician. If it’s a rally however – and despite the stylistic approaches obviously appearing similar – his tone starts to dial down slightly. This can be particularly seen in Jamie’s work documenting the climate strikes, largely led by teenagers, again. With tens of faces to inspect in each crowded photograph, generally pissed off expressions can be spotted amongst a whole of host of characters.
For Jamie, jumping between these two crowds and atmospheres doesn’t seem too drastic, considering most of the bands he works with tend to feature lyrics of anti-establishment. “It’s definitely not a prerequisite in order for me to take their pictures,” he says, “but it’s just twice as nice to know your friends are on the same page as you.” Overall, he also reminds viewers that “The people in power would like us to be segregated into tiny pigeon holes, where we’re all facing off against each other,” says Jamie. “Straight VS gay, black VS white, left VS right – distracted from the real fight which is that we’re all a minority fighting against this small percentage of people that hold the world’s wealth and power.” With this in mind, both Jamie’s photographs of bands and rallies or social justice issues demonstrate his believe that these “are most important within our time, and the ones that should be remembered.”
About the Author
Lucy joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In October 2016 she became a staff writer on the editorial team and in January 2019 was made It’s Nice That’s deputy editor. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about new and upcoming creative projects or editorial ideas for the site.