Anthony McKee is a Australian-based professional photographer with a strong interest in social documentary and portrait photography.
"My preferred medium is documentary photography - getting close to a subject without becoming an intruder in their environment. Over time I have learnt to be seen and at times acknowledged but then, most importantly of all, to be forgotten. By letting people get on with what they do, I capture images that tell real stories."
McKee began his photography career in New Zealand in the 1980's and studied at Wellington Polytech's School of Professional Photography in 1989. There he learnt the fundamentals of documentary photography. On completing the course he worked as a photojournalist before going freelance in 1995. He is now based in Melbourne and he still enjoys bringing his documentary style to his works.
"The most important element I seek within my images is integrity; I want my photographs to be transparent of any distracting technique so that there is no confusion on the part of an audience about what they are seeing. I want my photographs to show subjects in an honest way; to reveal something of their inner self, a brief glimpse beyond the usual façade of daily life."
Aside from being a photographer, McKee is also a writer and a photo-educator. He also has over a decades worth of experience judging at both the Australian and New Zealand professional photography awards. In 2013, Anthony was awarded the New Zealand Institute of Professional Photography's (NZIPP) highest honour, an Honorary Fellowship for his work in raising the public awareness of professional photography in New Zealand. In 2014 he also helped the NZIPP initiate a project to photograph the last of New Zealand's World War Two veterans; so far over 2000+ veterans have been photographed and their portraits gifted to the Returned Services Association of New Zealand. The Australian Institute of Professional Photographers has since followed on in photographing Australia's WWII veterans.
Anthony is also the winner of the AIPP Canon 2014 Documentary Photographer of the Year.
2014 - AIPP/Canon Australian Documentary Photographer of the Year.
2013 - NZIPP Honorary Fellowship.
2000 - NZIPP New Zealand Professional Landscape Photographer of the Year.
I have always had a desire to document the lives of people about me ever since I was a teenager. Traveling home from a biking holiday through Southland we stopped at a small town where I saw a group of boys playing a video game in a takeaway store. Despite not having a good camera or the skills to use one I knew I wanted to convey the story of the boy with thick glasses staring deeply into the glare of the computer screen. The compulsion to document the lives of others is what drives me to make photographs.
My preferred photo medium is documentary photography - getting close to a subject without becoming an intruder in their environment or destroying a potential moment. The idea is akin to the Observer Effect in physics where it is known that at some point most subjects being observed will eventually be affected by the process of being observed. Over time I have learnt how to get close enough to tell stories without imposing on my subjects; I have learnt to be seen and at times acknowledged but then, most important of all, to be forgotten. By letting people get on with what they are doing I get to capture moments; by getting close enough amongst those people I also get to reveal the supporting elements that help turn moments into stories.
While documentary photography is the process of people ignoring me, the portrait is my opportunity to engage people directly with the camera. In making a portrait I don't judge a person but seek to be their advocate; I prefer they are represented in my photograph without any bias on my part. How that person decides to present to my camera is how they will present themselves to an audience.
The most important element I seek within my images is integrity; I want my photographs to be transparent of any distracting techniques so that there is no confusion on the part of an audience about what they are seeing. I want my portraits and documentary photographs to capture in an honest way my subject’s inner self and reveal a glimpse beyond the usual façade of daily life.
We live in a world where we send hundreds of photographers to sporting and celebrity events or to warzones; everyone wants to see who is winning the game, who is best dressed or who is being killed and yet most of the time we forget about the people we rely on the most, those living down the street from us. I want to engage with the ordinary people about me, I want to learn about them and share what I learn with a wider community.
Like most photographers, I have owned a few interesting cameras. Aside from a Kodak Instamatic that I borrowed from my sister to take my first photograph (of a sunset), my first camera was a Hanimex compact that I bought while still at high school. It was about this time that I realised I loved photography and was keen to make a career of it. Although keen to work as a photographer, my first job on leaving school was as a trainee camera technician at Tecnar Electronics in Christchurch. Dutch born technician Jack Ruth taught be the basics of repairing cameras, lenses and flashes but I was never going to be a great technician; Jack did give me a useful insight into workings of camera equipment though, and this has been useful to me throughout my career. While working for Jack I bought my first SLR camera, a Yashica TL Electro-X. It was a large heavy camera with a slow light meter, but it worked, and it made me appreciate my next SLR a lot more.
In 1984 I decided to get serious about a career in photography and this meant buying more reliable camera equipment. Nikon had earlier in the year released the FE2 camera, one of the first 35mm Nikons to have 1/250th of a second sync speed and TTL flash metering. I bought one, and soon afterwards I bought an FM2 body as a backup camera. along with the Nikkor 35-105mm zoom lens and a Nikkor 24mm f2.8 prime, I began photographing real estate, events and even the occasional wedding. In 1987 about the time I was getting really serious about my career, I bought my first medium format camera, a Hasselblad 500CM with an 80mm lens. The Nikon FE2 and FM2 kit along with the Hasselblad kit and some old Bowens 400E studio lights were my main kit through the late 1980s and into my photographic studies at Wellington Polytech in 1989.
On finishing my studies I went on to become about news photographer on the Community Newspapers in Christchurch; about this time I bought a Nikon F4s, Nikons first fully autofocus SLR camera. My lens choice also moved onto a set of fast AF primes and the Nikon 80-200mm f2.8 one touch. Later on I also bought a pair of Nikon F100 cameras. My first digital Nikon was the D70s followed soon afterwards by the Nikon D200 and the Nikon D3. Nowadays I use Nikon D810 cameras; aside from the fact they are a relatively quiet camera, the D810 has the advantage of being able to shoot both 36-megapixel and 9-megapixel RAW files. I also use a mix of Nikon zoom and primes lenses ranging from 14mm to 300mm. My original Hasselblad 500CM died in a accident at a beach in Christchurch many years ago, and so now I am using a Hasselblad 503CX with and 80mm and a 50mm lens for my personal work. I still use Bowens lighting equipment, but now I use late model Gemini 500-Pro lights with battery packs. I also use a small collection of Nikon speedlights and one heavily modified Sunpak 120J.
My choice of camera bags include the Domke f803 satchel, the Think Tank Urban Disguise 60 v2 bag, the Tamrac Ralley 6 Messenger Bag and a Tamrac waist bag.