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Interview with Mark Tedeschi – conducted by James Burke, Editor, The Epoch Times, Sydney, Australia

May 2009

The Epoch Times: “How does your roll as a QC translate into photography?”
Mark Tedeschi: “Advocacy involves a lot of logic – but it also involves a lot of creativity. You’ve got to work out how people think. You’ve got to try and understand what motivates people to commit crimes. So, I think there’s a lot of creativity there – and of course in photography there is an enormous amount of creativity – so the combination of the two allows me to exercise my creative impulses.

The Epoch Times: “Are you a spontaneous photographer?”
Mark Tedeschi: “I prefer spontaneous photography – I like street photography – I often carry a camera with me – having said that – some of my best images have come out of the blue to me – I’ll go to an area and then there will be something extraordinary.”

The Epoch Times: “What do you try to capture?”
Mark Tedeschi: “Character, mood, and the essential qualities of people. Universal qualities, universal truth, some message in an image – that something which portrays an image that anyone can look at and can recognise an emotion or recognise a state of being. Photography has a remarkable ability to capture things that you really can’t capture in any other art form, I think. You can capture human emotions which are so esoteric, so complex.”

The Epoch Times: “You took photos at The Block [in Redfern], can you describe that experience?”
Mark Tedeschi: “I thought it was an amazing part of Sydney – it was unique – it had been handed back to the local aboriginal community by Gough Whitlam – so it wasn’t that old, but there had been a previous aboriginal presence in Redfern many years earlier – so it was historical. I felt there was an incredible vibrancy on the streets, and so I went back many, many times – At first I got a lot of suspicion: ‘are you with the police, why are you taking photographs? I had to explain myself to people – but I’d come back and give people prints of their images and they loved that – and I got some amazing images. But, of course, now most of The Block has been knocked down – and there is a real issue with the State Government about whether they are going to be allowed to rebuild The Block with residential accommodation – personally it would be a terrible shame if there was no residential accommodation there – there should be – there should be an aboriginal presence in central Sydney – but I am very pleased to have taken those photographs which are now historical [held in Museum of Sydney, National Library and NSW State Library] and I hope to have an exhibition of them in the not too distant future… [Images were taken during 1988 – 1992].

The Epoch Times: “You took portraits of Holocaust survivors for the Australian Jewish Museum, can you describe that experience?”
Mark Tedeschi: “I took photos for the Australian Jewish Museum in Darlinghurst – I was commissioned to photograph about 40 Holocaust survivors living in Australia and those few [non-Jewish] people living in Australia who had saved holocaust survivors, and who had placed themselves at great personal risk, and their families, who had saved people during the holocaust. I also took about half a dozen photos of these non-Jewish people who were saviors. I not only took photos, but I got to listen to their stories, which were absolutely gripping and also choose from their mementos – pre-war, during the war, post-war – to illustrate their stories. The Holocaust images showed for some years as a semi-permanent exhibition in the Sydney Jewish Museum – then they got transferred to a travelling exhibition called ‘Courage to Care’, which was put on by the B’nei B’rith organisation, and it is being taken around rural Australia – it has been doing this for the past 4 or 5 years – thousands of school children have seen it – teaching them about tolerance, ethnic differences, and about the consequences of persecution of any ethnic group.”

 

The Epoch Times:“You have a Jewish background. Were any of your family affected during the war?”
Mark Tedeschi: “Both my parents fled Europe, my father from Italy, my mother from Germany – as a result of fleeing Fascism and Nazism – but they got to Australia in 1939, so they avoided the war. My children’s other grandparents went through the Holocaust in Europe and survived. I had to constantly remind myself when I was taking these photographs of these 40 something people that for every one story of miraculous survival there was perhaps a thousand people who survived nine times and then on the tenth time didn’t. You get a false impression when you are interviewing people who have miraculously survived such events. My Father was born in Turin, but his family came from Verona – his family where there for many, many centuries. My mother was from Berlin. I still have family in Italy, and I have strong emotional connections with Italy – I love the language, the culture and I have taken some amazing photographs there. [Mark has three exhibitions of his Italian photos].

The Epoch Times: “Tell us about you latest exhibition – Still life, no fruit.”
[The images were taken over a 2 year period – some in B&W and some in colour].
Mark Tedeschi: “I have this fascination for old, weathered and decayed buildings and objects. I have to confess, in order to get some of these photographs I had to go to some places that normally Crown Prosecutors wouldn’t go – but I find them fascinating, and I find the colours and shapes and textures that you get from decay and weathering and abandonment quite extraordinary. Most of my exhibitions, most of my photography, has been about people, and there isn’t a person to be seen in these photographs.

The Epoch Times: And what of the future for your photography?"
Mark Tedeschi: “My next exhibition will again be a people one. I like taking photographs of people in what I call “unrepeatable moments” – an image of an interaction or an expression of emotion that you couldn’t repeat, so it is a unique, one-off image, a unique one-off moment. It’s a moment in which an unusual emotion is being expressed, and I think I have got to the stage where I can have an exhibition of unrepeatable moments.

The Epoch Times: “Has photography taught you anything about the human condition?"
Mark Tedeschi: “I think it is the reverse. My work in criminal law has given me an exposure to life that the ordinary person wouldn’t have, and I have come to realize that given certain pressures, most people are capable of quite extreme reactions, and I believe that many people are capable of committing gross crimes under the right sought of pressures or rather the wrong sort of pressures – I think this is a side of life that not many people are aware of, and I think that it has made me acutely aware of people’s underlying emotions – because if you are going to run a prosecution, it really helps to understand people’s emotional make-up and what has prompted them to do something – so, it has made me much more aware, in terms of my photography, of capturing the expression of human emotions.”