OUTROSPECTION || The Photography of Jack Toohey ||
Jack Toohey has been making films since he was a child.
“When I was a little kid I really wanted to be a cartoonist, I used to make stupid PowerPoint cartoons and a mate and I started a website when we were about 10 for our friends to watch them. Eventually the stupid little cartoons became stupid little films which we’d upload.”
After picking up a camera at the age of fourteen he expanded into photography, using his parents SLR until he was able to save up for his own digital SLR camera. Toohey favours shooting people, “especially my mates.”
“I love trying to tell a story, whether it be my own or someone else’s. I think portraiture is a really great medium for doing so.”
“It’s a very inclusive art form because there are so many people involved, there are the people captured in the moment, the viewer and there’s me. Everyone has their own perspective and freedom to read into the story how they wish.”
At the age of seventeen Toohey began to shoot photographs for General Pants Co. and found he was able to use photography to earn a living.
“That was a pretty surreal experience, a bunch of people tagging along behind me in Bondi as I tagged along with these three guys in their General Pants get up snapping wildly.”
The chance to shoot for General Pants Co. came along through Toohey’s own making.
“It was pretty random really. I uploaded a few photos to their website The Bubble a long while back and one day when I was busy pretending to study for the HSC I got an email asking if I could shoot for them. It was completely out of the blue as I’d forgotten I’d even put the photos up in the first place. Ever since then I’ve just been shooting for them every now and then. Sometimes photos, sometimes videos.”
Now approaching his twenties Toohey has continued his professional career in both film and photography, shooting for national magazines such as DOLLY and producing four video clips for national television. Rightly so, Toohey is proud of these achievements and keen to continue adding to his impressive resumé.
“I’m always experimenting and looking for new frontiers, so I hope I’ll be able to keep doing so and keep creating new and maybe even interesting stuff. I have a few projects in the pipeline, and will definitely be working more with some other artists of different mediums in the near future.”
For young artists thinking about the future is a necessity; however, Toohey looks forward for a unique reason.
“The main reason I love capturing moments now – is for tomorrow. The thought of being able to look back at my entire life in pictures and films is a very exciting thought indeed and a thought that spurs me on to continue snapping away and continue exploring, learning and experiencing things whether it be on a personal or professional level.”
Toohey’s main focus with portraits is capturing the feeling of youth. He describes his artistic style as “raw, rough” and “real”. He discusses how he uses his photography to capture “real moments” adding, “the best way to bring that kind of concept to life is to go out and live life I reckon.”
“I really just love throwing myself in there and figuring it out as I/we go along.”
This organic process can often surprise his colleagues.
“I’ve noticed that sometimes when I’m working with people who study photography/film they are often stunned by that, because often people are taught ‘this is the one way to do this, and this is the right way to do this’, which I don’t think is always the case. Just because it’s the right way, doesn’t always make it the best way. At least that’s what I think. I could be wrong.”
As an artist Toohey is not keen on pressing his audience into constructing a meaning within his work that simply may not be there.
“A lot of it is purely visual, for example, my double exposures and stuff which definitely just focus on looking cool than having any kind of real meaning. I don’t really like to force meaning onto things or meaning onto people, I much prefer to just leave it to the viewer and if they feel it has some kind of meaning to them then cool, if they think it’s just a picture of a pretty girl then that’s cool too.”
Toohey’s inspirations span from famed entrepreneur Walt Disney, to young artists and to his own fan base. One particular inspiration is the photographer Nirrimi.
“I stumbled upon her work years ago on deviantArt just as I was starting to take photography more seriously and I was dumbstruck. I was probably 15 or 16; the same age as her and her work was and still is phenomenal, light years ahead of me. She really inspired me to get out there and work harder and capture people in a more intimate way. I can honestly say that if I hadn’t discovered her when I did I wouldn’t be wherever it is that I am today.”
Toohey is based in Sydney, a city that befits the freelance photographer’s love of suburbia, the beach, and the “fleeting moments of youth” he seeks to capture.
Words by Ellen Wardle. Image credits: Jack Toohey photography.