Creative People

Scott Newett · Tao Chien

Today we chat with Melbourne-based photographer, Scott Newett, whose latest series explores the duality of the world’s most populous state.

Photographed in China, Scott’s haunting ‘Tao Chien’ exhibition opens at FINI Gallery tomorrow, and a limited edition of 200 books created by Ortolan will also be available, with all proceeds supporting a local autism charity.

Elle Murrell

From Photographer Scott Newett’s latest personal project ‘Tao Chien’: Tonghuihe North Side Rod East, Shanchuancun. Photo – Scott Newett. Retouching – Limehouse Creative

The series has been shot in China, at ex-military bases, theme parks, aeronautical museums or storage areas and other locations in and around Beijing, Guanzhou and Nanjicun. Pictured: Huojian Zai Bushi, Xiaotangshanzhen. Photo – Scott Newett. Retouching – Limehouse Creative

Photographer Scott Newett studied a BA of photography at RMIT and has been a commercial photographer for over 25 years, focussing on the beverage realm of advertising photography. Photo – courtesy of Scott Newett.

Scotts personal work has always had a completely different feel. ‘Moments that are a little odd, where it things have be purposefully left up to the viewers to create their own conclusions, appeals to me,’ he tells. Pictured: Pingmian, Chaoyang Qu. Photo – Scott Newett. Retouching – Limehouse Creative

While the camera has traditionally, has been used to capture, or record visually, a moment or event, Scott has always been intrigued by the moments before the moment, or those just after. Here: Shijingshan, Yuan Xing Juchang. Photo – Scott Newett. Retouching – Limehouse Creative

‘I definitely set out to shoot subtle colour scenes or desaturated scenes, but then in post production, a certain colour or area of an image might be slightly “bumped” while the rest of the colour grade is desaturated,’ explains the photographer. Pictured: Daodan-Xiaotangshanzhen. Photo – Scott Newett. Retouching – Limehouse Creative

‘I think the polluted idea most people have of China is quite common.I mean, most people know that it is super polluted, its part of what drove us there,’ tells Scott. ‘Delightfully though, the haze acts as a sensational filter to soften the harshness of the sun, whilst simultaneously filling our shadow detail’. Here: Shijingshan Amusement Park, Bajiaocun. Photo – Scott Newett.

Nanjiecun in particular had a profound effect on Scott, driving home thoughts of conflicting duality that seems to exist throughout China. Pictured: Yingsong Road, Nanjiecun. Photo – Scott Newett. Retouching – Limehouse Creative

The limited edition book which accompanies this exhibition, created by local design studio Ortolan – 100% of all proceeds from the book will go to Giant Steps Melbourne. Photo – Scott Newett.

Elle Murrell
5th of December 2017

Scott Newett undertook his BA in photography at RMIT ‘too long ago to remember’, and has built a career as a sought-after commercial photographer over the past 25 years. Like many of his contemporaries, Scott’s passion for his craft is extended and explored by a commitment to personal projects. The latest of which is ‘Tao Chien’, a series of photographs inspired by what you would consider a pretty atypical obsession for the lensman behind unforgettable beverage campaigns. Fuelling his interest in the ‘banal beauty in the forced awkwardness’ of North Korean propaganda, Scott set out to create photographs in China with the same sort of mood.

Working with his assistant, Haydn Cattach, he trawled through Google satellite maps to find ex-military bases, theme parks, aeronautical museums and storage areas – in a Lion-esque fashion. When the pair arrived in China for 10 days of shooting, some of Scott’s most memorable captures actually proved to be completely unexpected, such as the blue rocket at Daodan Xiaotangshanzhen. ‘We couldn’t have specced the colour combination any better: almost pastel blue on green on more blues, with the smog filled sky,’ he describes. ‘Then, right as we are shooting, the crew from inside the museum walk by, all together, all perfectly in sync, in another layer of blue!’

From Beijing, down to Guanzhou, then Nanjicun and back, one of the most captivating stops was Nanjiecun in Linying County, Henan province, which is widely reported as being the last Maoist village in China. ‘At 06:15 every morning, the air is suddenly full of songs of praise for China’s mighty former leader, Mao Zedong. The anthems blare forth up and down the empty streets, from loudspeakers on every lamp post,’ details Scott. ‘There is a square with a big statue of Mao, and posters of other communist heroes, Karl Marx, Lenin, Stalin… Nanjiecun is a place where time seems to have stood still, or even gone backwards.’ This particular locale had a profound effect on Scott, driving home a conflicting duality he began to sense was permeating the country.

‘When you think about China, one in seven people on Earth live there, so it’s got to be pretty significant and influential, but in reality, it’s so far removed from what we in the West consider “normal”,’ reflects the photographer, who endeavoured to present unresolved narrative combinations by capturing the discarded ‘toys’ of mankind, a culture of custom, and hints of opening up. Another catalyst, was China’s excessive pollution, which set the stage for the hauntingly desaturated compositions, shot with only ambient daylight.

Scott enlisted his PhaseOne IQ380MP camera and Cambo WideRS lens to create images so detailed they honestly have to be seen to be believed. Sixteen of these photographs, all in editions of 10, can be witnessed in an exhibition opening tomorrow at FINI Gallery in Melbourne. The photographer has also worked with local design studio Ortolan with the support of Ball and Doggett, Bambra Printing, and Ethnolink Translation Services to create an amazing hardcover to accompany this series. Produced in a limited edition of just 200, 100% of all proceeds from sales go to Giant Steps Melbourne, an educational charity supporting children and young adults with autism.

There’s still a few amazing places on Scott’s wish list, like Czech Republic and sites of the Soviet Space Program! ‘I just don’t know where my next adventure will take me as yet… definitely somewhere a little odd,’ he tells. ‘My wife and family are not at all keen on me visiting North Korea!’

‘Tao Chien’ by Scott Newett
December 6th to 20th
Opening night December 6th, 6-9pm
FINI Gallery
51-57 Cubitt Street Cremorne, Melbourne

Scott Newett is the Director of Cubed Studio and is represented by Coco Productions.

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