Interview by Emily Fuller
Working and immersing yourself in your creative field can prove to be incredibly daunting in a Western Capitalist society. Often our decisions for pursuing a career path are governed by consumerist values. We are endlessly tempted – and often swayed by – financial stability and job security over chasing our dreams that are coloured with creativity and imagination. We are conditioned to choose the mundanity of a Western lifestyle over taking a bold risk to flourish in our creative passions. Pete Masters is all too familiar with this – and finally working up the courage to sacrifice his financially comfortability in order to pursue something that ignites his being – photography.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your photography business – what instilled in you a passion for photography?
After decades in the corporate world, I have made the decision to make my living as an artist with photography being my chosen medium. For all of my life I have dreamed of being an artist, but that’s never been a simple choice. Life, family and responsibilities all seem to conspire against you – but in the end when you are on the right path I really believe something universal works in your favour, and the way becomes clearer and smoother. I know that has happened for me. My passion for photography and art photography in particular has been simmering away for at least 20 years.
Who has inspired your artistic and stylistic choices, and what fields of photography do you particularly love working with?
I admire the work of the great photographers but particularly modern conceptual photographers like Alexia Sinclair, Melanie Delon and Kellie North who are leaders in this field. Conceptual photography is simply creating a many-layered work of the imagination. It might start as a studio portrait but then it is composited with new backgrounds and textures, as well as additional elements such as animals and birds to create a work of the imagination. If conceptual photography is my first love then moody landscapes are my next. I love stormy scenes of powerful dark beauty. When a storm is approaching I grab my camera and head for the beach or lakes. Dark clouds and wild water are a signature theme for me. I like winter landscapes with all the tones that go with it.
A lot of your photography is very much landscape based and seems to have a strong connection to localism. What aspects of Newcastle are some of your favourite to capture?
I do enjoy shooting the local area up and down the coast with a particular emphasis on Newcastle icons. I really look for “Spirit of Place” which is a very ancient concept that goes back into the mists of time. It is a belief that places have souls. Many cultures believe that places are imbued with their stories, their art, their significance to humans and these combine to create a powerful presence. I try to capture that in my photography. My Newcastle photography revolves around its waterways, the ocean itself but more particularly the ocean baths and the harbour. They are iconic to this area and I feel a strong emotional connection to them, especially because of childhood memories but also a sense of their history and what it means to be a Novacastrian.
All of your muses within your work seem to be female. Is there a reason why your creativity is so inherently tied to femininity?
My muses are typically female. I feel drawn to the female symbols of the moon and especially wolves. The untameable nature of wolves and the way that reflects in independent women is a theme that I continue to explore. I am inspired by beauty first and foremost. I admire the art of the pre-raphaelites and symbolist art in particular. Many of my conceptual works are imbued with Victorian era themes and Gothic symbols.
What inspired you to break into this artistic field and what are some of the struggles you’ve encountered in trying to maintain your passion as your primary source of work? Where is your work exhibited or available to purchase?
It’s not easy to pursue your dream and still pay the bills but I’ve managed to do that now for a couple of years. I exhibit and sell my work. I have had two exhibitions in the past 12 months in Newcastle. I have work permanently on display at the Artisan Collective gallery at the Marina in Nelson Bay and shortly I will be taking up a residency at the new Levee art gallery in High St Maitland. I hope this year to be more prolific and somewhat more entrepreneurial, mostly so that I can afford time and space to create the art I love. Renew Newcastle have been very supportive and I am lucky enough to share a studio space with other artists at Hamilton. My work can be seen and also purchased through my Instagram account @studioqube.