Jayne McLean has been involved in photography since her very first job. Along the way she has won numerous awards from the Australian Institute of Professional Photography including 2019 Documentary Photographer of the Year. We are delighted to share some of her images from Ethiopia’s Upper Omo Valley.
How did you get started in photography? I have always been interested in photography and started photographing newborns, families and pets but quickly found my passion was for weddings. I have now been a wedding photographer for over 17 years and have in more recent years been following my dream of travelling to Africa and inspiring others to take an adventure. My first part time job as a teenager was working at Kodak, so I think printing all the photos in the lab was a great inspiration and introduction to the creative world of photography.
What was the first camera you ever owned? and what are you shooting with these days? Any reason? If you had to pick one lens could you? Which would it be I remember using my parents Olympus Mju compact camera as a young child and putting vaseline on the lens to get a soft look! My first DSLR was a Canon and I began photographing weddings with the Canon EOS 300D with kit lens. I now shoot at weddings with two cameras on either shoulder. Canon EOS 5D mark iv with 24-80mm 2.8L lens and an Olympus OMD EM1 mark iii 40-150mm 2.8 PRO lens. My favourite lens used to be the Canon 70-200 2.8L lens, however due to being a wedding photographer for so many years the heavy gear has caused a shoulder injury which is why I have changed to a mirrorless and lighter zoom lens. Mirrorless will also be better for most of my travel due to weight restrictions on cabin luggage on planes. I’m extremely impressed with the quality of Olympus PRO lenses and will be adding more to my camera bag in the future.
Where are you currently based? Do you think you'll continue to stay there or do you think you'll move soon? I am based on the beautiful Mornington Peninsula which is South East of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia. I plan to stay here for now, however I definitely plan on spending more time in Africa in the coming years.
What are some of your favorite places to photograph and why? I absolutely love spending time with the remote tribes in the Omo Valley in Ethiopia -especially the tribal communities that live on the border with South Sudan. Camping in such a remote area with tribes that have kept many of the same traditions for hundreds of years is incredible. There is a raw element of unpredictability when spending time with them and it’s an honour to learn about their lifestyle and culture. The Suri tribe are some of the most unique people I’ve had the pleasure of photographing and spending time with.
Who are some photographers that have inspired you and/or continue to? I have always tried to create my own path in photography and that is also a reason I never studied it as I wanted to capture images the way I wanted rather than “the right way”. I think I’m inspired now by photographers that I see constantly being creative and those that create their own paths and styles.
What or where inspires you next? I hope to continue to inspire others to travel and go on adventures and support people on their photography journey. I will also continue to be a photography and business mentor so I can make a difference to lives and families in Africa.
What do you look for when creating a photograph? Do you go in any order like "light, subject, composition, action" or is it a different process? From being a wedding photographer for so many years I am used to seeing and photographing fast - before a moment passes. I usually see my vision and then capture it. Those that have photographed with me know how fast that happens lol! I then will retake the image making changes to the light, subject or composition if I think I can get a better image.
How would you define your style of photography?
Natural, creative and fun. When I photograph people I try to reflect who they are. If they are happy people then I like their portrait to reflect that. I prefer to reflect reality with a happy smile than create an award winning image by capturing a sad face. As you can tell, I like to do things a little different!
How does photography play into your daily life? Do you have any specific practices on taking breaks or compartmentalizing? I must admit if I am not traveling or at a wedding I don’t take many photos. However, I do spend time most days sorting and/or editing images, working behind the scenes on my businesses or creating videos from my work. I am always busy doing something photography related.
What are some of the most interesting changes in photography that you've observed over your career? The speed in which the technology is changing is amazing. For example with my Olympus I have the inbuilt ND filters so when I travel I can leave my filters at home now! The biggest change is probably due to the amazing camera technology in mobile phones in recent years. It means photography and the joy of capturing an image is now available to so many.
Sharing images on social media has opened up a whole new world for people to enjoy and get inspired by images. There is a downside and that is that some people unfortunately try to “copy” rather than be inspired which is a shame. I’ve even had people go on the same itinerary as me and book the same guide and they’ve asked them exactly what tree I photographed under and asked to use the same backdrop etc to get the same shots. That’s a bit sad in my opinion but it is not uncommon. Everyone seems hungry for that “awesome” Instagram shot!
How far do you go to capture a truly unique moment? and what is the craziest thing you've done to capture a photograph? To be honest I go to whatever length is necessary to capture my vision as long as it is respectful. Spending time in remote areas, lying in rivers to get the right angle, climbing trees, photographing all day and night with no sleep, running around using smoke bombs at my weddings - what ever it takes!
Can you tell us about the project(s) you're currently working on? I’ve had a few trips postponed due to the pandemic, but once it is responsibly safe to travel to the remote tribes in Africa again I will reschedule my trips. I have some exciting new itineraries in Ethiopia and also some adventures to a few other African countries so I am very excited for my future adventures and photography opportunities!