Associate Professor Shane Hulbert has a talent for capturing aspects of Australian identity and cultural icons across the globe.
Hulbert is one of the leaders of RMIT’s new Master of Photography — the first in Australia — helping students (re)define their career and confidently position themselves within the diverse, global photographic industry.
He has been exploring the world through photography for 20 years, most recently documenting diverse Australian stories about immigration, settlement and tourism.
With a touch of humour, Hulbert’s photographs feature local and international places, personalities, icons and myths, from imported cultural sculptures to Ned Kelly-themed bars in Hong Kong.
We spoke to him about his journey to becoming an accomplished academic in Australian photography.
What is photography to you?
Photography is the medium of our time. For me photography is more than simply a way of observing or framing the world we live in; it is a powerful way to reflect on our times, transform ideas into images and share moments that matter to us.
What drew you to this field?
Being able to tell a story, experience a special place or reflect on a moment in my life is important to me. I value artists and photographers who find new and compelling ways to do this.
How would you describe your photography practice and process?
I like starting with something from which to create structure – the idea of a blank canvas frightens me! I find the experience of wandering, exploring and discovering to be really rewarding. I also like working with technology in my practice through which I analyse and compose the way I see the world.
A fine print is also critical in my practice. I enjoy seeing images on screens and the versatility of handheld devices in sharing my images is always something I am mindful of, but most important to me is the final print, and how an audience experiences everything in my images.
What has been the proudest moment in your photographic career so far?
Being selected to show at the National Gallery of Victoria for their iconic Melbourne Now exhibition rates highly, as does an online course I developed for Open Universities Australia which at last count had 80,000 students worldwide. For me, being recognised by my peers is a critical way of being able to measure how important my work is in the field.
You curated the Photography 130 exhibition. What made this exhibition so special?
Photography 130 offers new perspectives on Australian photography by focusing on the important connections and contributions made by RMIT’s photography program. It explores the ways our students and staff have reflected and informed the shifting cultural, social, artistic and political climate of Melbourne and Australia over the last 130 years.
Each photographer’s relationship to RMIT — as alumni, as educator or both— creates a link to the evolving narrative of RMIT University’s central role to the photographic story of Melbourne, and how this in turn has been instrumental in training generations of photographers from around the world.
What does the future of the photography field look like?
Photography has always been connected to the most progressive forms of technology at the time, whether that’s optics, chemistry, electronics or computers. We live in an age where rapid change is the norm, and being able to interrogate this as it unfolds is how photographers can be a big part of this change. This is how we position our graduates at RMIT: to lead the photographic industry in Australia and globally moving forward.
Story: Jennifer Park