What it Looks Like to Live in the Moment

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Running with flares and skateboarding in the nude are just two of the irreverent scenes you’ll find in Tim Swallow’s latest exhibition. The photos in We Live Today actualise the New Year’s Eve you’ve romanticised in your mind, the perfectly wild holiday with friends you’ve hoped to live out, the day you stop caring about what other people think and truly let go.

Words by Grace Wright

Photography by Tim Swallow

Tim Swallow is a fashion and lifestyle photographer from Margaret River in Western Australia, now living in Sydney. As a vacation from his commercial work, he creates electrifying photo exhibitions charged with themes of joy and presence. His newest exhibition We Live Today opens in Sydney this Thursday, and delves deeper into some of the same themes he explored in his 2015 exhibition If We Die Tomorrow

“This exhibition is a follow up from my last exhibition. It’s about being present and remaining in the moment. I just feel that nowadays it’s really easy to get caught up in social media and not truly value your time with friends and family. I feel like by stripping everything back, and getting back out into nature, all of those distractions are gone. I feel like as a juxtaposition to my commercial work, this is very raw and real.”

“I hope that people walk away from the show with a sense of chaos but calm.”

The rawness and realness Tim speaks of in his photos are in large part due to his stylistic choices. Excitement explodes out of the frame with each lens flare and blurred figure running toward liberation. He hopes his carefree aesthetic will stay with people, perhaps as a reminder to revel in the unpredictability of life and find joy when they can. 

I hope that people walk away from the show with a sense of chaos but calm. I want people to remember the images, I want my images to scar people’s brains. I don’t know if that’s a bad way of describing it, but I want people to remember the show. It’s kind of like a feeling of halcyon, like a great time that’s happened. Also a mixture of hedonism and just joy and calm. It’s very visual with all the colours, and it also expresses so many different moods throughout the show, amongst a backdrop of particular landscapes. I want everyone to interpret the images the way they see them, but I hope they resonate with the viewer.”

Tim’s photos show powerful moments of euphoria that all happened to be on Tim’s bucket list – fantasies he was able to bring to life with the help of his nearest and dearest. The people in these photos aren’t models acting out a scene, they’re Tim’s friends who are having as much fun living out his dreams as he’s having shooting them. 

“Basically I just went through methodically and ticked them off, one after another, a lot of them are things that personally are on my bucket list. It was basically just coming up with different ideas and pitching them to friends, to see who was keen to get on board and do some of this crazy stuff that I’d get them to do. I would do it myself but it needs to be photographed by me, so I’m kind of living out my dreams vicariously through their experiences. Pretty much all of the shoots were just really beautiful moments that I want to experience for the first time, or again, but if I can hold a camera and capture it then I definitely feel like I’m part of it.” 

In one photo from We Live Today, five naked women ride bikes through the ocean shallows toward the horizon, giving new meaning to the idea of riding off into the sunset. This photo was no exception to Tim’s proven ability to capture the moment, in the moment.

“That was an idea I actually had for the last show, and I just so happened to have a job in Byron which allowed me to stay there a little longer, so I quickly got on the phone and piggy backed that shoot on the back of the job, and it was probably shot in about ten minutes with two rolls of 36 and a roll of Super 8 and then it was done. It was just such an incredible moment.”

“All my stuff, along with the Gobe lens filters I used, will be on display at the show as well, so people can actually come in and have a look at the equipment I shoot with.

Rolls of film and 60s lenses are just some of the things you’ll find in Tim’s camera bag. He’s open about the gear he uses to create his nostalgic aesthetic, and wants to share this knowledge with curious photographers. 

“I shoot medium format on a Kontax and on a Mamiya, with Portra 400 colour film, and then my 35mm work is actually shot on three different cameras. The first one is a Nikon N90S which was my first 35mm, it’s kind of an amateur camera but my Dad gave it to me and I’m still shooting with it fifteen years later – that’s kind of been something really special that I’ve held onto, along with the Nikon F100 and my little Nikon N70. They’re three great 35mm cameras. I kind of just rotate them. Especially when I need to shoot multiple rolls of film at a time, I’ll sometimes load up all three. And all cameras have a set of vintage 60s Nikon lenses, they’re all prime lenses. So I’ve got a 28, a 35, a 50, an 85 and a 135, and that’s what I would shoot a lot of my work on. And everything is shot with the Gobe UV filters – that’s my standard on every single lens to protect them. 

Actually all my stuff, along with the Gobe lens filters I used, will be on display at the show as well, so people can actually come in and have a look at the equipment I shoot with. Because that kind of thing really interests me as well when I go to a show, I kind of want to know, ‘what film stock do they use?’ or ‘what filter?’ or just anything. When you’re a young, upcoming photographer, or old like me, you’re just always really intrigued to see how they got that look, especially if it’s real.”

“I’d like to think that people can take one of my photos home and hang it on their wall and get some joy out of it, rather than just look at it for a second on the ’gram and keep scrolling into the abyss.”

Realness is a common thread throughout Tim’s work, and he wants that thread to continue through its presentation. He wants people to experience it in the flesh, and is a big believer in the power of seeing photos in person, as opposed to through a digital screen. 

“It’s a completely different experience. I feel like people could look at the images all day on a digital platform, but until they actually come and experience it… it’s everything – from arriving at the gallery to just seeing the size of the images and seeing the grain on the images and the way they’re framed and hung and lit, I think it’s just a whole experience. It’s something tangible, which is important to me because we live in a very digital world. A lot of stuff we don’t actually handle any more, or see in a physical sense, so it’s very important for me to leave behind a bit of a legacy with my own work, rather than it just be stored on hard drives. I’d like to think that people can take one of my photos home and hang it on their wall and get some joy out of it, rather than just look at it for a second on the ’gram and keep scrolling into the abyss.” 

Tim’s appreciation of tangible art offers a refreshing perspective on photography’s place in the modern, mostly digital landscape. He will have a zine as well as photographic prints available for sale at his exhibition.

EXHIBITION DETAILS

Deutscher & Hacket Gallery

Paddington, Sydney

Opening night: September the 19th from 6pm – 10pm

And then: September 20th-22nd from 11am – 5pm

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Tim Swallow

Photographer and Gobe Ambassador Tim Swallow has a portfolio that effortlessly navigates between fashion, portraiture and music. Tim draws on his own natural exuberance in creating highly original images that are both refined and filled with spontaneous energy. He has built a client list consisting of fashion and lifestyle publications such as Vogue, Harpers Bazaar, Monster Children, Russh, Stab and Side Note.