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Artist Interview - Barry Cheeseman

Welcome, Barry… Stunning portraits!  You were in the American-Vietnamese conflict as a conscript in the Australian Army.

I was selected by ballot (lottery) based on birthdays, the  govern-ment's system for raising a force for Vietnam. I served the Australian Army as a National Serviceman in the infantry (A Company 9th Royal Australian Regiment) for a period of two years, serving 12 months in Vietnam. The Battalion was based in Nui Dat, Vietnam, from November, 1968, to December, 1969.

What was your perspective on the conflict going in?

I was young and naive and I did not really understand the Australian involvement.


I felt some empathy for the innocent, but did not know who really were the innocent.  

Coming out?

I wondered whether the loss of life on both sides was worth the final outcome of the conflict.

You credit your wife for encouraging you to go back to look for some "closure."

My experiences in Vietnam during the conflict played on my mind. Although I knew no Vietnamese people upon my departure in 1969, I now have many Vietnamese friends after touring the country since 2007.

These portraits are unposed, yet they have the same "presence" as carefully-staged studio work. How do you do it?

I have always believed that a successful photographer needs to have a great understanding of light, i.e. its direction and intensity together with its color temperature and how it falls on the subject. All of the images in this portfolio have been captured using only natural light. All are unposed, captured mostly in the street or field. Some are quick, instant, one- or two-shots, and others come from

How did you get started in photography?

a burst of rapid shots.  If possible, whenever I see a subject in the street I try to position myself so as to remove as much background interference as possible before taking the shot.  Since I’m always touring, I don’t often have the opportunity to revisit the location to gain a better shot of the subject. Basically, I get only one quick opportunity for a shot and sometimes use post-production to enhance the final outcome. 

Unlike the subjects in so many candids, yours seem to see past the camera. How do work with them to get to that point?

I enjoy trying to capture the real person, the soul, if you like, of my subjects.  As previously mentioned, these images are unposed. On most occasions, I am not close to the subject and, although they are usually aware of my presence, they are not fixed on what I am doing. I mostly use my 80-200mm lens which enables me to shoot from the desired distance without crowding the subject.

A friend suggested I take up photography as “stress relief” from my position as the CEO of a financial institution. This led to some

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