By Ashleigh Fielding | posted on February 22, 2019
ALBANY is more than a holiday destination for Fremantle photographer Dale Neill.
The shutterbug turned to the south coast town for refuge after being struck by serious illness 34 years ago.
He told The Weekender that visiting Albany on a regular basis was a “turning point” in his health, so he looked forward to returning in March to lead a series of workshops and to exhibit pieces from the Fremantle International Portrait Prize – a competition he created after regaining his passion for photography with visits to Albany.
“Because I’d been sick, I hadn’t worked for a year,” Neill said.
“I was really down in the dumps…I hadn’t taken a single photo in all that time.
“So, I decided Albany was going to be my recovery place, where I’d start taking photos again.”
Neill drove down to Albany once a month for 12 months and stayed to take photos for three or four days.
He said “the stars aligned” in 1986 while he was hosting his Contre Jour exhibition in Albany’s Lesser Hall.
“One of the local TV people came in to interview a pianist, but he was a no-show,” Neill recalled.
“So, I asked the crew if they would like to interview me instead, because I had an exhibition going.
“That became my most successful exhibition; I sold every photo.”
Neill said he focused on rural scenes around Albany, making sure “Albany was the base, and everything radiated from that”.
One particular shot sold beyond his expectations and is still in demand today.
“My two favourite photos would have to be one from the side of Mount Clarence looking towards the islands, and the other I took in the Stirlings in 1985 or 1986,” he said.
“I had this Pentax 6×7 and it was really clunky.
“I took one shot… clunk…and all of these sheep in front of me turned around.
“So I took another… clunk…and that photo sold and sold and sold.”
Neill said this photo, and 23 others he took around Albany, were a metaphor for his battle with illness.
“I was shooting directly into light,” he said.
“It was like a metaphor; I was so sick, but I still got up at 3am to get those sunrises at Mt Clarence.”
After regaining his mojo in Albany, Neill returned to Fremantle and later created the Fremantle International Portrait Prize in 2009.
He plans to bring the best pieces from the 2017 prize for a month-long exhibition at the Museum of the Great Southern from March 5.
Neill will also host a series of workshops at Vancouver Arts Centre across the March long weekend.
“On the Friday, I’ll be teaching Practical Photography, which is an intermediate course,” he said.
“On Saturday, it will be Travel and Street Photography and Shadows and Silhouettes.
“Then, we’ll look at Angles and Angels – Exploring Low Light Photography, Introduction to Fine Art Photography, and Critique of Images on Sunday.”
Bookings for the workshop can be made via Eventbrite and more information can be obtained by contacting Vancouver Arts Centre.
Photo: Johannes Reinhart