Trent Mitchell

I remember the smell of sunscreen and hot salty skin…. when six week holidays felt like six months ...

Filled with an innate sense of curiosity, armed with a sharp, contemporary eye and an inherent air of authenticity, photographer Trent Mitchell has become internationally renowned for capturing unrepeatable moments that speak a sense of timelessness. The awarded photographer is known for pushing the boundaries in both his commercial and personal work, while exploring the value of connection through capturing a dynamic intersection of nature, people and places. While his awarded career keeps him busy, Trent is currently part of a group of local photographers who are involved in a pop-up exhibition called Collective Minds at Robina Town Centre (September 12 to October 13), which has come together in support of mental health charity, LIVIN – all in a bid to shine a light on mental health by using photography as the catalyst for a public conversation. So, we took five to chat to Trent about his latest work, his involvement in Collective Minds, and life behind the lens.

Let’s throw it back. What first drew you to the world of photography?
I first used photography like everyone does just to take holiday snaps and things. Once hitting high school I used photography to document my art practice. That’s when I first learnt how photography can be more than an automatic snap shot. I really enjoyed doing it but didn’t pick up a camera with any artistic intent until years later, when I was twenty or so. That’s when I really fell in love with the creative process of photography.

How do you best describe your work, what you produce and what you create?
My personal work varies quite a lot. My personal water photography explores the dynamic relationships between man and nature and has done for over 20 years. It’s becoming more relevant today as humanity starts to focus on how fundamentally important and fragile our relationship with nature is. I use water to illustrate this relationship. My other work is far less serious and I really enjoy documenting everyday people, places and things to somehow explain what it’s like to be Australian, through my lens. My work is a mix of lifestyle, tourism, commercial and portrait photography for a diverse range of clients, from breweries to banks and everything in between.

Do you remember the very first photo you ever took?
To be very honest I don’t remember my first ever photo at all, but the first photos I do remember taking that I loved were on a disposable water proof film camera in the surf. I’d take pictures of friends and waves, and just having fun at the beach. From those times I remember the smell of sunscreen and hot salty skin…. when six week holidays felt like six months.

Who or what is your biggest source of daily inspiration and creativity?
I get loads of inspiration from all over the place. It really depends on my current interest or personal projects that I’m working on. So for example, for my latest body of water photography, I drew inspiration from past work of mine, and books and concepts around the environment. I like getting ideas first and then I’ll draw inspiration from people and nature to find the answers. I definitely get inspired by the process of shooting and creating too. Once I start, I feel like I could just keep creating. Creativity feeds itself I think.

What is one key piece of advice you have for budding photographers?
One huge thing that you never really hear anyone talk about: Photography is a language so learn how to speak it while being true to yourself. There’s no use repeating what other people are saying, be proud to tell your own story, your own way!

You’re currently part of a pop-up group exhibition called Collective Minds at Robina Town Centre, which has come together in support of mental health charity, LIVIN. What elements of the mental-health realm were you hoping to capture with your submitted piece Inner Atlas?
My Inner Atlas series is about the fundamental importance of man’s connection with nature and how critical this relationship is for our survival during this delicate tipping point in natural history. The image I selected for the exhibition illustrates a man bodysurfing completely calm, in a meditative state as he navigates through complete chaos underwater. It’s an unstaged photograph and a very real moment. It can be read many ways, but I just love the simplicity and juxtaposition of the talent’s calm face against the energy surrounding him. I feel it highlights very well, how immersing yourself in nature can be therapeutic for one’s headspace and better mental clarity.

Your career has taken you far and wide, and has been highlighted by various accolades over the years, including the prestigious Morgan Contemporary Photographic Prize (among others). When you’re back home and not behind the lens creating magic, where would we find you?
When I’m not shooting pictures you’ll find me hanging out with my family at the beach, wave riding or hanging out with mates. Doing all of the simple good things!

Finally, where is your happy place?
No surprises here, the ocean!

You can view Trent’s image from his Inner Atlas series, as well as works from 20 other local photographers, at the Collective Minds exhibition (located opposite Mecca Maxima) at Robina Town Centre. Designed as a place for quiet contemplation, the Collective Minds gallery will be open seven days a week until Sunday October 13.


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