“I believe in working with good humans who have talent and potential for success. Love your work, love your attitude, love your drive, and love your name. We’d love to represent you.” In October last year, Hugh Peachey, had just opened the door to the US. He had been signed by Jigisha Bouverat at the Bouverat Collective in L.A., was selected for the 200 best photographers worldwide 2020 by Lurzer’s Archive, his third inclusion in the last four years, and was looking forward to the opportunities that 2020 would bring.
Most importantly, the enthusiasm Bouverat expressed for his work was reciprocated. “She has so much passion, has the same kind of passion as me, has good photographers on her books and great contacts,” Peachey recalls. “Suddenly, I had an entrée to some of the biggest agencies in L.A. and getting really positive responses. It was quite surreal to be showing my portfolio to agencies with massive, massive budgets. I also got the chance to show my directing work.”
Peachey began “commuting” between Australia and the US. On his third trip, he held an exhibition for agency creatives and producers that was enormously successful, with the promise of more than enough work to justify having two “home bases”. Within a few days, though, the world began to change. Covid had invaded and Peachey received a message from home, “Come back to Melbourne or quarantine.”
“Being locked down and deflated was hard,” he admits. “The US was – is – such an amazing opportunity. I can’t wait to get back there when the world returns to normal.”
Like most photographer-directors, and especially Victorians who were hit by a second lockdown at the beginning of July, Peachey’s work came to a halt in March. Planned commissions were put on hold and there was no new work to pitch on. He was luckier than most in that a large job, a brand campaign for AAMI, was deferred and then finished during the year. A longstanding relationship with AAMI and its agency, Ogilvy, meant that his role in the project was ensured. The style of images required also suited him perfectly.
“For me, Covid really has been the ‘Great Accelerator’ in many ways,” he admits. “It’s encouraged me to explore new perimeters and technology to imagine better ways to communicate when forced to close physical doors. It has made me overcome obstacles with creativity and ingenuity. Certainly, the AAMI shoot was a testimony to this. Some of the client’s and creative team could not be present at the actual shoot, so learning to work with live-stream became a new skill that may well facilitate business when Covid is only a nasty memory. In essence, live-streaming was a fluid experience and fun for everyone who participated throughout the shoot and it really felt like a full house on the day. This shoot was made more memorable, and certainly easier, for me because of how well associate creative director, Ryan Clayton, and I worked, sharing ideas as to how the shoot should come together.”
He was also approached by Saatchi and Saatchi for a Bank of Melbourne campaign, which resulted in his putting people in a glowing cube. “We actually built that enormous illuminated cube and had it powered on set,” he notes.
And he had completed a large CSIRO project, a suite of images across the country from Perth to the northern tip of Australia in Coen, which included environmental landscapes, as well as portraits and 1-2 minute video vignettes of scientists working within their environments.
“I like doing quirky, conceptual photographs with an idea behind them,” he explains. “When people look at the talent, they can see I’ve brought something out of that person which matches the idea rather than just a happy, smiley face. I’ve always been interested in people, although I shoot right across the board from still life to landscape. What inspires me is something a bit different. Ideas that are surprising, make you take a second look, expressions that tell a story.
“I’m always in search of something else, a hidden truth, an inner light, a beauty nestled beneath the surface. I guess that’s what I consider my forte, I’m able to engage and grab quality others often overlook. I feel I get a bit closer to someone’s inner truth and hopefully their X-Factor.”
He believes that his love for all art, triggered a long time ago by a trip to London’s Tate Gallery, is the foundation for his difference. “I consider the best art in the world to be a connection to the soul. It speaks to us on a personal level but also transcends text, language, race, religion and the boundaries that confine us to reach our universal truth,” he says.
Peachey is also passionate about photographing an advertising idea, he adds. “I love the conquering conceptual advertising ideas that challenge the mundane and present an opportunity to develop a wry, contrary or even comedic aspect.”
He brings the same love to directing, into which Peachey expanded ten years ago. “I’d always had it the back of my mind that I could do it and had always wanted to. It aligned with my obsession with good move making.” Spurred by the fact that his RMIT education had given him a solid background in many of the elements for filmmaking, he picked up a 35ml Canon 5D camera one day, shot how he thought it should be and sent the film out. “I got a bunch of jobs from that. I realised I had an eye for film, but also that there was a lot to learn.” He then learned how to edit which, he says, built his expertise greatly.
Peachey, who lives and works in Victoria has been in a reprise of stage 4 lockdown since August 2 but there is light at the end of the tunnel. “I’ve used the time productively, updating my processes and reviewing what I do best,” he says. “Whatever comes next, bring it on.”