Inspire

This Australian Photographer Captures A Totally Different Side Of California

We spoke with photographer/actor Benjamin Rigby in the lead up to his Melbourne exhibition.

Benjamin Rigby, a talented Melbourne actor and theatre producer who’s currently filming his breakout role in the new Ridley Scott Alien film, also happens to be an excellent photographer. He’ll be launching his first collection of work – Greetings From California – at an exhibition in Melbourne this May.

His photos of Los Angeles and California are stark, bright statements; a deeper look into the state of celebrity worship and the Sunset Strip. H.D. THOMPSON spoke with him about the collection, and what it’s like working as a creative across two very defined mediums.

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So why California, of all places?

I took off for Los Angeles to try to get some acting gigs and I just totally fell for all the colours and the real grittiness beneath the surface. There’s obviously a lot to look at out there – it’s where movies are born.

I was mostly drawn to the colours and the light. It’s always light, and when it’s dark all these neon signs come out and people just exist in this weird neon world. Travel an hour outside of all that light and you get to Palm Springs and Joshua Tree and it’s a whole new world. The trashiness of LA is so gorgeously feral, so much glitz and glamour and trash.

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Tell me an interesting story from one of the shots in the exhibit.

There’s a photo of two girls looking at these two boys, and it was the scariest photo I think I’ve ever taken. These two girls – with their long fake hair and their heels with these amazing cut offs and crop tops – they were so Venice, and they were watching their boyfriends playing basketball on a court. There I was, just some white boy from Australia with a camera around his neck in Venice Beach, but I had to take the photo; it was a perfect scene. I knew I had about five seconds to take the shot because if they turned around I’d be absolutely dead.

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What’s the parallel between your acting and your photography?

It’s just something that happened naturally. If you’re forever knocking at one door it gets tiresome; why not push on two? Photography came really easily to me, I was interested in the stuff I was doing in the acting world so I started documenting it. I focused on Instagram because when it first started, it was this beautiful social forum to comment and support one another’s work and you had a good guide if you were doing well or not. Then people started taking a little bit of notice, like Buzzfeed doing an article and getting into the Sydney photo festival Head On.

Do you reckon your photography came about through a frustration with the acting world?

What I like about photography is you can finish a process. With acting you’re always auditioning and you never get to finish the character or the story. There’s a lot of frustration. With photography, you can take your time, think of the character and the story and complete the whole process. I love that.

Tell us about the exhibition?

Ryan Alexander Lloyd is sharing the space with his collection called Passenger, and they’re all travel shots too. It runs for a week and the opening night party (on May 20 at Besser Space in Collingwood) is going to be rad, with Geoffrey O’Connor DJing.

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I read an article about you in The Age after you landed your role in the new Aliens film that had a title of something like “Cinema Usher Lands Major Film Role” – what’s that like?

It’s so surprising. People are shocked that faceless drones who serve them are actually skilled at more than cash handling, or sweeping popcorn off a seat, or directing them to the nearest bathroom.

You can go check out Ben Rigby’s Greetings From California and Ryan Alexander Lloyd’s Passenger joint exhibition at Besser Space in Collingwood, Melbourne, from May 20 – 27.