Travis De Vries has always worked freely across different mediums. A proud Gamilaroi and Darug man, he has won considerable acclaim as a painter, dancer, storyteller, sculptor and podcast producer. But when lockdown brought an abrupt halt to in-person exhibitions and performance, De Vries revisited another artistic outlet: photography.
“Going out for walks with the camera reignited this passion,” he says. “I couldn’t exhibit or sell [paintings], so photography became my outlet.”
De Vries is based in Maitland in the Hunter Valley, and every weekend heads to nearby Wollemi National Park, and other vast areas of landscape, to find new places to interpret through his camera. His primary focus is on the unpredictable play of colour and light in the early hours of the morning or evening. Already fascinated with the liminal times of dawn and dusk from his oil painting work, De Vries is now exploring this anew with his photography.
“It’s the fast-changing light,” he says. “During those hours and with the atmospheric conditions, you get quite interesting gradients in the sky. And also, the way colours in the world are rendered to both the camera and the human eye. So you can almost paint with light and capture this quick moment.”
Catching these elusive moments of transition remains a learning process for De Vries. But that has only inspired him more. “Because photography is so technical and so well-documented, at each point is a creative decision,” he says. “There is a decision tree you can go down, between shutter speed and focal length and all of these things. And then composition, positioning, lenses – each one is a creative step in capturing a final work. To me that’s really interesting, adding to the variable of changing light and colour.”
De Vries will share and discuss his ever-sharpening outdoor photography skills at a Glen Grant Photography Masterclass at Sydney’s Australian National Maritime Museum on August 9, with sessions at 6pm and 8pm. The $45 ticket will include a Glen Grant whiskey tasting and grazing boards to keep you fuelled through the class. The Glen Grant is hosting the Masterclass series in connection with the museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, running until October 31. De Vries will give tips on capturing those fluid turns in colour and light, as well as preparing to shoot in a new place.
Growing up between the Hunter Valley and outback Queensland, De Vries has developed a lifelong appreciation for nature. In his photos, you’ll see mist, mountains, trees, flowers, streams and seashores, often with human-made features like roads, buildings and paths quietly inserting themselves into the composition. He’s especially drawn to seascapes and water.
“This whole project is capturing land and different places on Country, whether it’s sea or forests or large rock formations,” says De Vries. “In every bit of landscape, there is a moment for almost portraiture of that space. Often with my seascapes, between the waves and the rocks I’m trying to look at them as human-esque – and how to capture them in a way that brings them to life.”
Besides kickstarting his photography career in the transitional year of 2020, De Vries is the founding director of Awesome Black, a First Nations creative agency that has produced a range of diverse podcasts – including two made in partnership with Spotify. Doing that on top of all his assorted artmaking, he very much embraces the creative resonances operating between everything he helps to create.
“They always overlap,” De Vries says. “I look at myself as a concept artist and use the best medium for whatever I’m working on. It gives me room to explore, before I get to a final outcome.”
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with The Glen Grant.