Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. I hope you enjoy it and feel free to join in the discussions. I'm not a huge blogger (yet) but after a long, long time being a photographer, and having traveled extensively, and taught, and photographed for hundreds of clients, and having held a number of exhibitions (I feel exhausted just writing about this stuff!) I may have something of interest for you from time to time. I will be trying to update my photographs on the site as often as I can, so make sure you come back and see what's happening!

Simon Cowling March 20104

Private Photography Tutorials - the best way to learn!

November 04, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

I have been teaching photography to groups, individuals and schools for many years now. From teaching and designing courses at the prestigious Australian Centre for Photography in Sydney during the 1980's, to setting up Perth's first fully independent Photography School, Shoot, in 2012, plus teaching many individuals and corporate clients along the way, there isn't much in the areas of both film and digital photography that I haven't covered.


These days I am happy to take things a little easier, and prefer to teach individuals or very small groups on a personal basis. By doing so I am able to free myself of the restrictions of subject labels such as "Beginners", "Portraiture", "Advanced" or "Post-Production". I am now free to teach exactly what YOU want, whether you are a complete beginner with no idea what a lens, aperture or shutter speed is, to enthusiasts and professionals who might need some help honing their portfolio, or their Lightroom and Photoshop skills.


Obviously there are areas of photography where I do not have enough skill to confidently teach; underwater photography, for instance, or sports photography. Sure, I could do these shoots for myself if I wished, but I wouldn't be so cheeky as to charge for teaching them to others. Which is more than can be said, sadly, for many so-called photography schools and self-styled photo experts out there.


So if you want great personal tuition in most aspects of photography, get in touch! I can organise times to suit you and tailor a course of lessons that will be perfect for your individual needs. Here's some details of what's on offer, and what it will cost:



> Through the Contact page on this website

> Personal message me on Facebook

> Email me - [email protected]

> Call me - 0418 926 920



This is a simple one. $90 per hour, regardless of subject matter. Any ancillary costs, such as models, makeup artists, props, helicopters etc will of course have to be met by you.






> BASIC PHOTOGRAPHY All about your camera, how to get started, how all those buttons and dials work, composition, colour, light, exposure and how to recognise what makes a great picture. You can choose all or part of these sub-categories.

> HONING YOUR SKILLS where we get into post production (Lightroom and Photoshop) and setting assignments where your pictures are dissected and analysed (in the most helpful way, naturally) so that you can really start to improve your overall skills.

> IMPROVING POST PRODUCTION where I reveal the many amazing functions of Lightroom and/or Photoshop and you learn some valuable techniques along the way.

> EXHIBITING YOUR WORK - how to put a coherent collection of pictures together for a presentation, exhibition or portfolio and a guide to preparing your pictures for maximum impact.

> TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY how to prepare and shoot for a memorable record of your trip, or what to look for in shooting for travel magazines and the like.

> PORTRAITURE AND PEOPLE in the studio or on the street, using studio lighting or available light. This is a huge category with many iterations. Tell me what interests you particularly.

> STILL LIFE PHOTOGRAPHY including product shooting and food photography. Again, you tell me.

> ARCHITECTURAL PHOTOGRAPHY from the basics through to the abstract, including exteriors, interiors, aerials and night shooting.

> HELP WITH YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY ASSIGNMENTS - some extra mentoring and advice to get you those A's you crave.

> NONE OF THE ABOVE - something I haven't thought of? Most likely, so you tell me and I'll tell you what I know.


©Simon Cowling©Simon Cowling













Quiet Moments - Photography at the Fremantle Arts Centre

June 18, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

The 'problem' facing photography today us just an exacerbation of the dilemma it has always faced. The proliferation of cameras in everyone's hands has resulted in a quantitative rather than a qualitative change.

Photography has been stuck being “about” subject matter. Painting, for example, has not been about its subject matter for centuries; it is “about” paint, surface, color, illusion, many things, but rarely subject matter.

When you have millions upon millions more people with cameras, taking portraits, landscapes, still lifes, then “serious” photographers’ work gets buried. The answer? Simple. Do what “art” has always done: transcend the chatter of the masses. In this case, look inward, look at the “meaning” of the photograph. Don’t try to take a more beautiful landscape; you’ll get lost in the noise." ~ Thorney Lieberman

Well, yes, Thorney, you do have a good point. But unfortunately the 'meaning' of the photograph has led many so-called art photographers to forget entirely about subject matter altogether. Which makes for very dull viewing in many cases. 

Fremantle Arts Centre currently has two exhibitions showing - the excellent Aftermath by John Gollings and Quiet Moments, a group show curated by Susan Hill. John Gollings is a legend in Australian photography circles, and his exhibition of aerial photography of the desolated landscapes left by the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria is a wonder. Beautifully printed large scale prints captivate, inform and make us painfully aware of the fury of nature. FAC is to be highly commended for showing photography like this, and it is rewarding to see a major gallery in Western Australia taking the medium seriously.

FAC EXHIBITION 0615-5FAC EXHIBITION 0615-5 Quiet Moments, on the other hand, is a bit of an uneven show, and some of the images on display are a good example of 'meaning' outweighing content. Unless the meaning of your work is interesting to others and has the technique and construction to hold one's attention, then the work tends to become self-absorbed, cogent only to the artist and his/her acolytes. No doubt some of the photographers in this show had some highbrow philosophy attached to their work, but without any didactics attached to the images it was not clear what we were being asked to look at - they certainly didn't succeed on a purely aesthetic basis, which seems for some to have become almost a badge of honour in recent years. No doubt the catalogue may have explained some works satisfactorily enough to justify their inclusion, but I was not enthused enough by the images to fork out the $7 to find out. Instead of (or as well as) a catalogue which had to be purchased, the FAC should have supplied the usual free A4 printed sheets that gave the viewer some informative background information.

​Of the photographers whose work I enjoyed were David Bate, whose Bungled Memory series of broken crockery were whimsical and reflective, and Estelle Hanania, whose Shady series were powerful and well-executed images evocative of black magic and witchcraft. Both these photographers had something interesting to say, and said it engagingly and with a sense that they knew their craft. Some of the other photographers used the deconstruction of photographic technique as a statement to emphasise the integrity of their vision as being beyond the need for aesthetics, supposedly lending gravitas to 'meaning' over actual subject matter. That only works when ideas are powerful, real and thought-provoking, which in this exhibition was not the case. We needed a little boy in the crowd to point out the king's nakedness. But perhaps I'm just being a grumpy old man. 


As an example, the work by Christophe Canato, Ad Vitam Aeternum (the title should have warned me) was a series of photographs covered by tissue paper that had to be lifted after donning cotton gloves, as if in the Library of Congress rare books section. Puh-leeze. I couldn't be bothered, although I was tempted to tear each covering off its picture. But perhaps that was what Mr Canato was hoping would happen. FAC EXHIBITION 0615-15FAC EXHIBITION 0615-15 And while we're on what else annoyed me about this show was the curator's deliberate placing of pictures in odd, almost random places, sometimes breaking up a single photographer's work into several locations. In one instance, three small images from a series by Susan Hill (I think - they were well separated from her other series What Does the Moon Eat ) were scattered, one above a door, one on the wall next to the door and one on a wall in an adjoining corridor. Why? I thought we'd grown out of that sort of art bullshit at the end of the seventies. Yes, I'm definitely being a grumpy old man.

Having got that lot off my spleen, I once again thank the FAC for devoting its entire space this month to photography, for mine is just one, mainly uninformed, opinion, and I hope many will go to see the exhibitions on display. For my part though, thank god for John Gollings.

Want to Learn Photography?

July 03, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro

I've been teaching photography on and off for many years. Now, I'm more interested in teaching on a one-to-one basis, or at most with 2-3 people. I'll still be doing the odd seminar or course here and there - a couple of workshops at the Fremantle Arts Centre for example, and later this year I have an intriguing one-day seminar coming up - watch this space!

Meanwhile, if you'd like to learn anything about photography without the need for scheduled classes or distracting fellow students, I'm more than happy to oblige. Here are some ideas to inspire you.

> Basic Digital. Just spent a fortune on a new camera with lots of knobs and dials? Want to know how to get the best out of your purchase and also learn the essentials of lens choices, colour and composition? This is for you.

> Beyond Basic. This covers a lot of ground - depends what you want! Learn in more detail the mysteries of depth of field, lighting, better travel photography, portraiture, architectural photography, aerial photography, industrial photography, magazine photography... phew. 

> After the Click. OK, you've shot your heart out, got a raft of good images, now what? Learn all you need to know about Lightroom, the world industry standard for cataloguing and refinement of digital images. And then of course there's Photoshop, the Big One. Lots to  learn there, and I can teach you to master image making using either or both of these essential programs.

> Travel Photography. My favourite thing. Come and learn how to understand the essence of travel photography, what to look for, how to behave (yes!) and how to capture the essence of a country and culture.

What don't I cover? Well there are a few things that are better taught by specialists in these fields. Sports (any and all), underwater photography and wedding photography. And sunsets. Did I mention sunsets? I don't "do" sunsets except with a glass of wine in my hand.

Give me a call or send me an email and tell me what you'd like to learn! I can tailor the lessons to suit you, whether its a one-off lesson or a series of sessions. No obligation to sign up for any course structures, learn at your own pace and have my full attention. Prices are $90 per hour, that's it.

Call: 0418 926 920

Email: [email protected]

Oh, and I also offer Gift Certificates for my sessions. Great present for the photofile in your life.

Jardins Majorelles, Morocco

Arrested Development - Artspeak and Reality

June 03, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

ARRESTED DEVELOPMENTA universal mystery, or just breakfast?

ARTSPEAK: The first in my new series "Universal Ennui".  Arrested Development speaks of loss and the inevitability of decay. This work is informed by a feminine (though not feminist) sensibility; the life forces have been ennucleated, engendering a sense of longing and loss that only the female of the species can know intimately. The irony is that the avocado in this arrangement is in fact more egg-like than the eggshell, which itself has taken on a more circular, or testicular, form. Yet both egg and avocado represent here a deep sense of regret, a confession of intimacy between the sexes and simultaneously the dichotomy of the same. The graphic, almost brutal composition and the use of a dark granular background points to a proprietary sense of paternalism by the artist, while at the same time allowing the viewer to contemplate their own fragility. Mystery and enigma pervade the whole, metamorphosing the mundane into the sublime.

REALITY: I had avocado and egg for breakfast, and this was lying on the kitchen bench. Shot with my iPhone.

Limited Edition Prints (3X): 3 metres x 2.5 metres on Japanese silk. $45,000 each. Hurry - limited time only!

Some Notes on my Prints for Sale

May 30, 2014  •  Leave a Comment


Whist I think that Zenfolio, the web builder I have used to make this site, is excellent (and it really is - I have tried other DIY web building apps and this one is the best I've used by far) there is only so much one can do within the confines of pre-programmed templates. Unless you can program HTML yourself of course, in which case I imagine you wouldn't need a web builder.

Anyhow, what I have had to do on my gallery pages for the Exhibition/Print Sales part of my site is to put up PDFs showing the range of sizes and prices that are available as well as a page with my Artist's Statements from each of the exhibitions. The price list does appear automatically when you click on the BUY button, but not otherwise, so this is the best way I can show what is on offer. 

​The other thing I have attempted to explain within the price list is that not all the sizes on the list will necessarily fit the dimensions of each image precisely; in most cases there will be small discrepancies depending on my cropping or the particular camera I may have used. Thus if  you order a 60cmx90cm print, the actual image size may be, for instance, 72cm x 101cm - or 56cm x 92cm, etc. The only sizes that will be dead accurate, for obvious reasons, are the square prints.

​It is also worth noting that the prints, when you receive them, will not only have an image size closest to the size chosen but will have a 2-4cm white border in addition, to facilitate matting and framing. I have shown the pictures on the site as having a much wider white border; this is to illustrate the "look of the print once it has been matted and framed so you might have a better idea of how it might look on your wall. Of course in the end, it is entirely up to you as to how you choose to display the print.

I hope that has  helped explain some of the less clear aspects of the Print Sales section - I'm always open to any further suggestions for improvement or clarity you may have. I hope you enjoy my galleries, and that you find something you like to hang on your wall!




May 27, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

RED SLATS -  available for purchase on fine art German Etching paperRED SLATS - available for purchase on fine art German Etching paper


Finally! I've  managed to work out how to sell prints on this website (I hope). They can be found under the Exhibitions/Print Sales tab on the main menu, or scoot over there now on this link.

I'm selling prints from two of my past exhibitions as well as my Ochre Dance Series pictures. Part proceeds of the latter will go towards Ochre Dance Company, so you're not only getting a great picture but supporting a great company as well. Prints from my most recent show at Gunyulgup Galleries are not for sale on my site at present as they are still the provenance of the gallery, but you are very welcome to buy any of those through them - +61 8 9755 2177 or [email protected].

The prints I sell on this site are museum quality archive prints, but not on the same material as I have used in my exhibitions, which are limited edition prints and therefore on different stock and with different finishes. However if you are interested in buying a limited edition print, please contact me on [email protected] and I can confirm if any of the edition is still available and let you know prices. If you are after gift certificates, I can organise that also - just email me!

Please share this post with your friends and let them know what's available - I'd really appreciate it......

As it says on my homepage - Simon is an accomplished Fine Art photographer and his work is in many private collections as well as Artbank, the W.A. Art Gallery, the National Gallery Canberra and the Kerry Stokes Collection. So you'll be in good company!


May 23, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

LIGHTROOM INTERFACE IN DEVELOP MODULEThe image on the left is a RAW image straight out of the camera; on the right is the finished image, all done within LR

I'll be running a one day Lightroom workshop at Fremantle Arts Centre on Sunday June 15th, from 10am to 4pm. If you really want to get the most out of your digital photography you need to know your way around some sort of imaging software. And Adobe Lightroom has become the industry standard amongst professional and enthusiast photographers, for good reason. Lightroom is not only a processing tool, but a very powerful organisational tool as well. Get your pictures in order, know where they are, catalogue them expertly and then learn how to get the most out of what you camera is capable of delivering. I'll be going through the basics of this terrific software, and by the time I've finished you will be able to master the program by yourself with this knowledge base! Learn just how powerful this application is and how it will change your approach to photography. Move on from taking photographs to making photographs. And all of it will be taking place in the hallowed surrounds of the Fremantle Arts Centre - what better way to spend a Sunday!

Book here:

LIGHTROOM DEVELOP MODULEThe image on the left is a RAW image straight out of the camera; on the right is the finished image, all done within LR

LIGHTROOM DEVELOP MODULEPowerful editing tools allow you to pick the shots you want to work on and catalogue by colour, star ratings, and more.

The Infuriating Roger Ballen

May 13, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

©Roger BallenFrom the book Platteland

In the past ten years or so Roger Ballen has become a worldwide darling of the photography fine art circuit. His books, videos and installations are ubiquitous. So why do I find him infuriating?  Well, mainly because I do not like his pictures. But the annoying thing about Ballen is that he is intriguing. And undoubtedly talented. And so perhaps I should view his pictures with more interest and empathy than I do.

I guess it has a lot to do with first impressions. If I had been introduced to Ballen's work in the past few years, I would probably have a different take on the matter, but the first time I became aware of his photography was quite a while ago, when he came to notice in 1994 for his book Platteland. The pictures were obviously meant to shock, but rather than shock me they made me angry. I saw the book then, and still do, as a collection of photographs purely intended to enhance the photographer's reputation as a fearless documenter of "the truth" when in reality (to me) it was nothing but an exploitation of a defenceless group of unfortunates. Google Books describes it thus: Stark duotone portrait photographs capture the hidden world of South Africa's impoverished white inhabitants of the "plattelands," revealing a ravaged world of social and economic isolation, disease, poverty, alcoholism, and abandonment.

Ballen documents his foray into the Plattelands in great detail (doth he protest too hard I wonder?), and argues the point that the white Afrikaans trash, for want of a better word, are a legitimate anthropological sub-species worthy of recording; the dregs of the once-powerful South African white rulers who no longer had the patronage of their wealthier, more successful cousins. Well, maybe so, but for me, when I saw the photographs, I couldn't help but thinking that these were possibly the most exploitative and prurient photographs I had ever seen of a society that did not have the wits to tell the man to go fuck himself. So yes, Roger and I got off to a bad start, you might say.

©Roger BallenFrom Platteland Am I being too sensitive? I don't know. Diane Arbus was rightly hailed for her photographs of people on the edges of society, and I don't have anywhere near as much trouble with her work. She seemed to have so much more empathy with her subjects, a respect and gentleness that I find so lacking in Ballen's pictures. I think my problem with the Platteland monograph is that it is so focussed on just one disadvantaged community in one location, so to speak, which seems to me a bit like shooting fish in a barrel. 

Having said all that, there can be no doubt that Ballen is a fine photographer, and thus my dilemma about disliking his work in the face of so many supposedly qualified critics who lionise him. And then there's Ballen the person. He is possibly a very engaging and witty chap, but his public persona suggests otherwise if any of the interviews and videos I've seen of him are anything to go by. He takes himself extremely seriously. He sees himself as a photographic "purist", using only film as opposed to digital, and shooting only in black and white. Of course. It is the chosen modus of many self-proclaimed "serious" photographers and often used as a justification in itself when it comes to the importance of their work. Am I a cynic? When it comes to this, yes. Film only, B&W only - give me a break. And so Rog and I part company once more.

So on now to his latest work. He moved from photographing drooling idiots in the Platteland to photographing people on the very edges of existence in South African slum dwellings (notice a theme here?). His photography is dark, strange, dangerous and moody, inhabited by the seemingly  dangerous and deranged denizens of shanty towns and filthy abandoned buildings.

©Roger BallenImage from Outlands Since his early works in this area Ballen has gone on to more complicated setups; where at first he shot the people and surroundings of these ghettos in a more documentary style, he has gone on to setting up entire sets and scenarios, sometimes illustrating the walls with his own artwork and drawings and sometimes getting the inhabitants to draw on the walls and furniture; he often props the scene with old bits of junk he picks up at op-shops and garbage sites, or with the animals, vermin and birds that live around and with the residents. The whole effect is thus doubly surreal; the real setting and people are in themselves other-worldly enough, but with Ballen's set-dressing and the careful placement of his subjects and props he has entered an entirely new world. And whilst I still don't particularly "like" the images much, I do now see intellect behind them, and the intriguing unfolding of what is clearly a very complex, and, I would suggest, somewhat troubled, mind. So yes, I see completely where the art illuminati are coming from, and why Ballen can command the respect and fees he is now getting. But I'm still unsettled by what I continue to view as the exploitation of a disadvantaged group of people, and wonder if I've totally misread his images and intentions or whether the king really is naked.  As I said, infuriating.

©Roger BallenFrom his latest book Asylum of the Birds

The best camera....

April 30, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Waiting for a HaircutTom's barbershop, Claremont

..Is the one you have on you at the time. An old cliche, but a goodie. As tech-savvy as I think I am (and I'm not bad) I always forget that I have a phone and and iPad that contain a camera. Sure, everyone including photojournalists are using their phones for taking "serious" pictures but I just never think of it. But waiting at the barber's today and catching up on my emails I suddenly remembered  - I have a camera here! So I took this shot of my barber's shop, which is quite a cool old-fashioned shop, and then mucked around processing it a bit on PS Express on the iPad. Helped to pass the time, and I got a nice little pic out of it as well. Must try to remember that just because I don't have a DSLR slung over my shoulder doesn't mean I can't take the odd snap!


April 29, 2014  •  Leave a Comment


Yay! I've finally got around to finishing my edit of the pictures I shot of Ochre Dance Company's wonderful dancers. Thanks to all who helped - the dancers, the administration and my faithful assistants Dana and Catherine. These pictures are now up in my EXHIBITIONS section of the website, so take a look! They will eventually end up as large format (1 metre square) prints and the proceeds of any sales will go towards the company. Its a small donation but one I am able and delighted to make and every little bit makes a difference in getting this great company on a permanent footing. They put on a fantastic performance recently at the Sculpture By the Sea in Cottesloe, and they just get better and better. Do try to get to their end of year season at the State Theatre (details on their website soon) and in the meantime go along and support their choreographic workshop series "Articulating Landscapes" which is on in July. Details here >> .

Hope you enjoy the pictures and lend your support to the company!