A couple of weeks back I took my GR3 to the Melbourne Cup to shoot some street and do my very best Martin Parr impression in line with his Luxury series.
If you don’t know what the Melbourne Cup is, it’s just another horse race. Like the Kentucky Derby or the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot. It’s a decent excuse for cashed up bogans and the super rich to get drunk in the sun. Which suits me just fine cause I excel at drinking in the sun. The Melbourne Cup started in 1861 as an excuse for aristocrats to drink heaps and watch horses run fast, now us lowly peasants are able to indulge as well! Now in 2019, the Cup’s is 158 years old and these days the only winners are the bookies.
Typically, in Australia the once classy edge of horse racing has been tarnished by the now well known terrible behaviour of the massive crowds on the day due to the ease of access to alcohol, which we serve the masses at a wildly inflated price. Terrible decisions aren’t far away from there and typically they’re more often than not captured for all to see. While i didn’t capture anything I’’d consider outrageous but it was a fun if not surreal experience to capture.
For this set, I took my inspiration from Martin Parr’s LUXURY series which he shot from 2003 to 2009. Not only because he included a few choice shots at the Melbourne Cup from 2008, but the set is really strong and one of my favourites from Parr where he pushes the boundaries of street photography once again. The Luxury series is Parr’s ode to outrageous consumption, choosing to photograph superrich amongst champagne-fuelled lunches, horse races, Moscow’s Millionaire Fair, the Dubai Art Fair and the Beijing Motor Show
For his series, Parr seems to have chosen to shoot from the ground, amongst the crowd where he captures feeling of the day so well. In this set, I tried my best to capture the feeling of the Melbourne Cup from the ground in General Admission where over-reaching normies, drunk dudes in cheap suits and girls dressed in not much to capture a glimpse of greatness as a house crosses the line first.
The Melbourne Cup itself is 3200m or 2miles and takes about 5 minutes-ish for dreams to be crushed and wallets to empty. Most race goers, including myself, watch the race on screens placed strategically around the racecourse because only about 50 people can actually see the race from ground level.
This year I decided to take my GR3 with me trackside to capture some of the action. What I captured was probably my favourite set of the year – being a few beers in when I started shooting likely helped with the quality overall. What i captured wasn’t too far removed from Parr’s own work, albeit much worse and clearly over edited. The visual story unfolds as kind of a poorly dressed, super green turfed, alcohol infused romp with racing horsies punctuated with silly hats. Why the hats? I don’t know man but they’re everywhere.
90% of the set was shot with snap focus, a good number from the hip of the large crowd on the lawn in General Admission. The GR3 really holds it’s own with the snap focus feature which i couple with shutter priority, typically at 1000th or 500th to ensure there is no motion blur and movement is frozen.
I tried to capture the vibe of the day, which is clearly: drinking, funny hats, shit suits, horsies, cops arresting drunk dudes and of course, Captain Australia on an adventure.
Overall, i’ll be back at the Melbourne Cup and Flemington Racecourse, despite the stench of poop on the grass by General Admission and the general tacky vibe of horse racing these days. It’s a good opportunity to get out of the house and the opportunity to shoot a bit was nice too.