A sizzling playground for the wealthy, the wild and the wonderful, Palm Springs has long been an artistic muse and second home for me. But after photographing its Mars-like deserts, Mid-Century houses, retro pools and luxury vintage cars countless times, it became a bit ordinary to me, and my eyes switched off, as they seem to do wherever I go about my daily life. Although I was still in love with the place, and just as mesmerised by the changing light on its undulating mountains, it was no longer my artistic muse, and so I sought to re-enchant the city and its surrounding landscapes through some other medium. Converting a digital camera for infrared, thus extending the edge of the visible spectrum exponentially, my viewfinder completely changed the way I saw PalmSprings, providing me with a window into a mysterious realm between reality and the surreal. And so, my INFRA REALISM series was born.
Not that it’s been a quick process. It took time to experiment with different filters and techniques until I reached anaesthetic that made the series what it is, with colours that allow me to create ambiguity in everyday scenes and evoke a sense of confusion. In contrast to many photographers who use infrared to capture a more natural theme, I have subverted the technique to create a palette that is in stark contrast to what we expect from Palm Springs and, as the project grew, other unique desert-scapes, such as Joshua Tree, Sedona and the Atacama Desert.
The infrared spectrum of light emanating from plants sits just beyond the light spectrum visible to the naked eye, and so in taking these photographs, I have been able to focus on and highlight the hidden things in nature that we, as humans, are not equipped to see, those that lie just outside of our physical perceptions. Here, healthy plants emit infrared light and take a certain colour through the process, and so I began to view these sometimes barren landscapes as a lush oasis where succulents and palm trees thrive and synthetic grass can be identified through the viewfinder. It’s fascinating tome that, in person, these landscapes can sometimes appear muted and dead, but in this light, we see shrubs and cacti that are glowing brighter than anything else in the scene; what appears to the eye as dusty brown is in fact a glowing world of its own. It’s a search for life and colour in places you do not expect it to exist.
What makes the INFRA REALISM series special to me is how many ways there are of looking at it. To some, the palette is representative of 1980s Americana – of pink Barbie dolls driving blue Mustangs, MTV, Miami’s neon signs – and asa child of the era, I certainly can’t escape my penchant for these hyper-realistic worlds that I looked at with awe in my youth in far-off Australia. And then there’s something spiritual about the work, too, in that it makes the unseen visible. I am interested in energy and the way it can make us feel, affect our mood, and through this mode of photography, I can help to make that more visible. That, to me, is a most exciting combination of science and magic.