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Derek Swalwell · Wake


‘Wake’ is an exhibition of photographs from Derek Swalwell, one of Australia’s most respected architectural and interiors photographers.

Currently on show in Cremorne, Melbourne, the exhibition is Derek’s first in six years, and brings together two distinct series of photographs captured in Tokyo last year.


20th October, 2015
Lucy Feagins
Tuesday 20th October 2015

Derek Swalwell is a well known Australian commercial photographer. In fact, that’s an understatement. He’s one of Australia’s best and most respected architectural and interiors photographers, with clients ranging from architects and interior designers, to big brands like Jetstar and David Jones, and magazines including Belle, Inside Out and all the great architecture mags! He travels often, shooting some of the most incredible buildings and homes across the globe, particularly in Asia. (His instagram is well worth a look!).

Derek is a perfectionist. His shots appear loose and intuitive, yet are at once painstakingly precise. When asked what drives him creatively, he is unambiguous. ‘I’m very much driven by light quality’ Derek says. This simple statement really sums it up. Above all else, Derek is an observer.

Recently Derek took a brief diversion from his insanely busy shooting schedule to work on a personal project. He travelled to Tokyo specifically to produce a personal body of work. The result is ‘Wake’, an exhibition of photographs taken in Tokyo last year, currently on show at JCP Studio in Cremorne, Melbourne.

Derek was initially inspired to travel to Japan to document the iconic Hotel Okura in Minato, central Tokyo. The Hotel, originally built in built in 1962, was an icon of Japanese Modern design. What makes Derek’s shots particularly haunting is that the hotel is now sadly gone, recently demolished to make way for a larger, more modern facility.

Derek has documented the hotel interiors, with particularly emphasis on the craftsmanship, interior details, lighting and furniture throughout the hotel lobbies and meeting areas. ‘It’s a gem, and the pictures I think have managed to salvage some memory of this statement of excellence’ Derek says. (See here for a peek at the full suite of images in this series).

Also within this exhibition is a series entitled ‘Hi Key Tokyo’, a collection of Tokyo street scenes all shot on a large format camera, depicting scenes of large scale modernist building exteriors, using people in many of the landscapes to accentuate scale. These bright, open spaces and eerily quiet landscapes stand in stark contrast to the warmth and intimacy of the Hotel Okura shots.  They’re also BIG, with prints of between 1 – 1.3 metres across!

This is Derek’s second personal exhibition, and his first show in 6 years. He’s already planning the next one for late 2017!

WAKE by Derek Swalwell
Open now until 29th October (next Thursday!).
JCP Studio
51-57 Cubitt Street
Cremorne, VIC

Open Mon – Fri 9.00am – 5.00pm, Sat 10.00 – 2.00pm

Derek’s ‘Hotel Okura’ photographs are small scale at 590mm x 44mm and come framed in editions of 20, priced at $375 each. The ‘Hi Key Tokyo’ images are much larger, these are available in editions of 10 either framed or unframed, starting at $1900.

Derek Swalwell on location in Japan, in a Pachinko-Slot machine venue in Tokyo. Photo by Vien Tran.

The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email