Behind the lens

Chris Round: Round the Place

Where are you based?


How do you make a living?

I’m a Fine Art photographer, based in Sydney, Australia. I studied at both Canterbury College of Art and the School of Communication Arts in the UK, and also Sydney College Of Art in Australia.

What are you most passionate about?

I am primarily interested in documenting the everyday world around me, with a particular interest in landscapes featuring human interventions that visually activate their surroundings in strangely compelling ways. I am drawn to spaces that convey surreal or fictitious narratives, fortuitously photogenic environments that I try to carefully document rather than photographically exaggerate.

Some of my work also explores the notion of place in the context of my dual citizenship of Australia and the UK. Often my Australian landscapes are shot under the soft light of overcast days, conditions more in keeping with my younger days in England – the muted tones portray an evenly balanced sense of place: an Australian scene with an ‘English’ sky. Occasionally I will throw all of the above out of the window and experiment with something new.

How has travel made an impact on your life?

Travel changed my life completely. A number of years back I left England as a backpacker and ended up settling in Australia.

What camera do you use?

Pentax 67, Mamiya 7ii, Canon 5D Mk2

Warragamba, NSW, 2013

This is the Nepean River near Warragamba on the outer reaches of Sydney. It was a very still day and recent heavy rain had stirred up brown sediment giving the river an almost swampy, tropical feel. The vehicle and boat trailer adds a slightly mysterious narrative to the image, and despite being such a small element it’s a vital part of the image. I was drawn to this scene because it felt quite ‘epic’ – my trusty Pentax 67 and the 75mm lens captured such great detail in the foliage that when printed it’s often mistaken for a 5x4 image. This is one of the images I featured in my exhibition ‘In Two Places’, that explores the notion of place in the context of my dual citizenship of Australia and the UK. 

Nora Head, NSW, 2013

When writing about ‘In Two Places’ I explain that the Australian landscape is more associated with sun-bleached paddocks and blue skies, but my approach has been to seek out the softer light of overcast days, conditions more in keeping with my days in England. The muted colours produced are not those of faded photographs but of a sun-bleached landscape now under a temporary grey-sky reprieve. I speak about how I’m perhaps trying to find an evenly balanced sense of place through these kind of photographs – an equal division within each image: an Australian scene with an ‘English’ sky. I then go on to ask myself this: the longer I live here in Australia, will the pendulum of belonging eventually swing in favour of my adopted land, or will I always be ‘in two places’?

The stormy image above was taken at Nora Head in NSW. The storm was ferocious, with driving rain and huge seas. I was very keen to capture this particular location in these conditions, and had to wait for a slight break in the relentless rain. I had perhaps 20 seconds to hop out of my car, take a quick light reading and snap a single shot, before the torrential rain beat down again.

Ulladulla Harbour, NSW,

Another dominant theme in my work is landscapes featuring human interventions that visually activate their surroundings in strangely compelling ways. I am drawn to spaces that convey surreal or fictitious narratives; fortuitously photogenic environments that I try to carefully document rather than photographically exaggerate. This image is of ‘fish-gutting slides’ on the breakwater in Ulladulla Harbour in New South Wales. Fisherman clean out their catches and wash the remains down the slide and in to the water. At first take it’s hard to decipher the purpose of these slides – their scale, the low tide and size of the boulders offer no clue as to why they’re there. I thoroughly enjoy finding these oddities of human planning and design. This photograph is one that bridges my ‘In Two Places’ series and my interest in human influenced landscapes.

Near Wodonga, VIC, 2013

This is along the Kiewa River (a Murray tributary), just outside Wodonga in Victoria. I was on a road trip from Sydney to Melbourne for my 2013 ‘Evidence’ exhibition at Edmund Pearce Gallery. This floodplain reminds me very much of the River Trent in the Midlands in the UK, near where I grew up. The low evening winter light, the power lines in the floodwaters and the abandoned vehicle in the distance all seem somehow familiar cues from the contemporary English landscape.

Cruise, Hong Kong

I recently went on a cruise (as part of an advertising job) from Shanghai to Hong Kong, via Okinawa. I’d never been on a cruise before and certainly never expected to join a cruise with 4000 Chinese holidaymakers. It was an incredible experience, one that I most likely will never experience again and one that I felt compelled to document. This image is one of my favourites from the series and is actually at the end of the trip, amongst the haze of Hong Kong harbour.

Cruising has become big business in China and this is due, in part, to the social transformation that has taken place over the past few decades. The growing wealth of the middle class allows them to experience more Western-style holidays, like cruising. As well as being a status symbol, cruise holidays are a chance to escape the frenzy of everyday life and the polluted skies of the cities. Cruising also has intergenerational appeal in China, with extended families holidaying together and some elderly members perhaps leaving the country for the very first time. I travelled in winter and even then the cruise was very popular, with passengers taking to the decks and enjoying the various activities. Here someone is enjoying a surf simulator in the middle of the East China Sea (the water on the ride is nice and warm by the way!)

Taking selfies was one of the most popular pastimes on deck. Many people were also very curious as to why a westerner like myself was aboard a Chinese cruise ship – I lost count of the number of group photos and selfies I was part of.

The interior spa areas of the ship were very popular too. Here people could enjoy warmer air temperatures while relaxing in the various pools.

This is in Hong Kong harbour again just before sunrise. A ferry was travelling from left to right across the frame and created this diamond-like like composition in the centre of the picture. Seeing the stacks of skyscrapers from this perspective (17 storeys up in the harbour), with the hills in the background was rather fascinating.

Lone Tree, Old Adaminaby

This image of a lone tree was taken at Lake Eucumbene in NSW, from the banks old Old Adaminaby. It’s from a series I’ve just started that I intend to become a contemporary document of the Snowy Hydro Scheme – the landscapes, architecture and structures, environment, recreational activities, people etc. The Scheme is generally regarded as an engineering wonder of the world and a defining moment in Australia’s modern history, and it recently occurred to me that, despite many anniversary exhibitions and various books printed, there wasn’t a contemporary photographic series about the scheme. My intention is to make this a major focus of my photographic practice over the next few years and to hopefully create a body of work that is has more depth and insight than my previous ones.

Tree stumps, Old Adaminaby

Lake Eucumbene is the largest reservoir in the Snowy Hydro Scheme and, when created inundated the township of Old Adaminaby. When the water levels are low some of the ruins of the original settlement can be seen, along with the many dead trees. It creates a somewhat desolate scene and is perhaps more austere in this photograph than in real life.

Old Adaminaby, boat launch

Lake Eucumbene is also popular for fishing and other water sports. Here a man gets ready to launch his boat and head off for the day, despite the low water levels.

Dam, Pump station

Near the source of the Snowy River lies Guthega Dam, the first dam of the sixteen Snowy Hydro Scheme dams to be constructed. This is the pump station that’s a few minutes walk to the north of the dam. The ‘brutalist’ design is in stark contrast with the surrounding landscape.

Khancoban, Motel Reception

One thing I love about going on road trips for photographic projects is ending up in unusual motels and hotels in small country towns. This is the reception area of the Alpine Inn in Khancoban, NSW. The town is at the western end of the Snowy Hydro Scheme and features Khancoban reservoir, a large body of water used for many recreational activities as well as the Murray power stations.

Khancoban, Reservior spillgates

Captured before an evening storm set in, this was taken at the western end of Khancoban reservoir. Here the spill gates regulate the flow of water in to the Swampy Plain River, which in turn flows in the Murray River.

Mollymook, NSW

This last photo was taken in Mollymook, NSW, a place I visit quite regularly. My mother-in-law lives there and it’s become a wonderful getaway destination, a second home if you like. I particularly like it in the quieter off-season, which is when this was taken. Despite knowing the place really well there’s always something fresh that inspires me to reach for my camera – be that because of radically different lighting conditions, exploring a little further, or simply seeing the place with fresh eyes every now and then.  |  @roundtheplace