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Jesse Marlow

Melbourne-based street photographer Jesse Marlow shares advice and motivation from his wealth of experience photographing life on the street

Do you ever set yourself goals on the street, or do you go out with an open mind and see what the street presents you?

I rarely set myself goals when shooting on the street. In the earlier years of my career, I used to set aside blocks of time for shooting but found it led to me putting extra pressure on myself to come home with a photo. Once I accepted that there were going to be days, weeks and even months where I wouldn’t find things, I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. For the last 15 years or so I’ve just lived my life and had my camera with me. This has felt like a more natural and sustainable way of shooting and keeps me inspired.

How important is photographing and exploring where you are from, and not being tempted away by travel?

I’ve always lived in Melbourne but have been lucky enough to have travelled extensively both around Australia and to other parts of the world. While mostly from Melbourne or Australia, my work has never really been about locations. I like the idea that I can be anywhere and be shooting in the same style so that individual images from wherever I’ve been, can sit alongside other photos in a broader series.

How has street photography changed the way you see the world?

So many fleeting moments go unnoticed. Sometimes I am looking for them, sometimes they find me. That is a huge thrill. But there is no doubt that working that way has given me an appreciation for many of the quieter, more subtle things in life.

Do you have any advice for beginner street photographers?

Be curious, patient and shoot as much as you can. Be ambitious and look for new and different ways to get your work out into the world. Be part of the community, support the industry and it will support you. And be prepared to play the long game rather than the algorithm game, because the algorithms are out of your control.

How do you keep motivated, after photographing the street prolifically for an extended period of time?

Working on long-term projects such as books and exhibitions has always been key for me, so there is always something bubbling away in the background that I can turn to when I’m not out shooting. I’m also keen to keep learning and adapt to my environment. During the two years of extended Covid lockdowns we had in Melbourne, I started putting up guerrilla street posters of my photos. As challenging as this time was, the imposed restrictions afforded me the time to look and work with my images in a new and different way, which has helped to shape how I present some of my work now.


Where do you look for inspiration, outside of street photography?

As a kid, I was lucky enough to have creative parents who exposed me to a wide range of creative arts, so I’ve always found inspiration in various art and design forms. The late Australian painter Jeffrey Smart was a major inspiration when I switched to colour from black and white film back in 2004. In more recent years, I’ve found inspiration through architecture and design, books, and most importantly, the connections I have with people.