Until the Last Minute

Max Doyle exposes humanity. In all its performed glory, its uninhibited sorrow, and every sigh exhaled or smile captured. He imbues a human touch into his images, and honours the reckless, the mischievous, the beautiful and the unconcealed humanity of his subjects. His notorious scrapbooks demonstrate the undeniable camaraderie he develops with those in front of his lens, each photograph of faces new and familiar, bearing witness to his talent and skill.

An Australian by definition, Doyle honed his craft in front of a global audience starting in early 90’s London, in crowds teeming with grunge ideals. It was a period of great change, in which his signature style became synonymous with the contemporary counterculture. After working extensively through NYC and London, Doyle returned to Sydney and launched iconic art photography biannual doingbird, a zine to foster the connection he had with London. A true citizen of the world, its pages and his work continue to showcase the power of his vision. He refuses glossy perfection and celebrates elegant rebellion. He brilliantly juxtaposes the everyday with the fiercely beautiful, and it’s this poignancy that ensures his work is constantly desired and above all else, human.

Sophie Flecknoe: Firstly, tell me a little about yourself?

Max Doyle: I’m a photographer and a musician. Father of three.

What were the beginnings of your craft?

I was travelling back in the late 80’s and early 90’s and I got stuck in London.

My girlfriend at the time was a stylist and she would ask the photographers she worked with if they needed any help. I got a lucky break and ended up assisting a Kiwi guy (Derek Henderson). I went from cleaning up on building sites to shooting on exotic locations in the space of a week. I was hooked from then on.

What is your personal definition of beauty?

I don’t have one. It definitely doesn’t have anything to do with perfection. I see beauty everywhere, in everything, and in everyone.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Chaos! I’ve never had an actual job where I know what I’ll be doing from one day to the next so every day is different and full of surprises.

For you, what makes a great image? Is it colour, form, or perhaps emotion?

Definitely emotion. It’s really hard to define and harder to explain. I’ve seen pictures of a concrete wall that have moved me, but generally I need to feel a human touch.

Where do you continually find inspiration? Who are some artists you consider influential to your practice?

Mostly from the people I’m working with. I’m usually very lucky to have great assistants and collaborators and I like to tune into their passion when they’re talking about things that I might have started taking for granted. This helps me to go back and look at things in a fresh light.

There are so many great photographers who have inspired me over the years, from David Simms back when I was an assistant, to Richard Alvedon, Jurgen Teller, Araki, Wolfgang Tillmans, and William Egleston. The list is endless.

I’m inspired by a lot of filmmakers as well, but that list is also endless.

Who would you would love to photograph?

I know it’s predictable but Cate Blanchett. I recently saw here in the Manifesto exhibition by German artist Julian Rosefeldt. I haven’t felt that moved by a work of art or performance for a long time. Cate Blanchett was mesmerising. I think I need to go back and see it again but I definitely need to shoot her now.

What were the origins of your magazine, doingbird?

When I moved back to Sydney from London I wanted to do something that would help keep me connected to my friends in the business back there. I met up with Malcolm Watt who is a great designer and we decided to make a small zine together. Once we started working on it we got a bit carried away and it blew out to a full-blown magazine. doingbird is cockney rhyming slang for doing time in prison, so I was kind of making a joke about moving back to the colonies.

What is something most people don’t know about you?

Ha, there is a lot but most people in the business don’t seem to know that I’ve been a musician for most of my life and that with my last band I released albums and played festivals and toured in the US. It’s like a completely separate world.

In your opinion, do you feel a symbiosis between fashion and art?

At it’s very pinnacle I think there can be a symbiosis, but it’s rare that fashion is detached enough from commerce for this to be the case.

What are you currently listening to?

Rehearsal recordings of my new band, Hank Williams. Classic FM.

To which era do you most relate?

Ha, lately I’ve been feeling like I should have been around in the 40’s or 50’s. I feel overwhelmed in this digital technological age. I feel like there were still so many interesting things happening in those times but without all the haze of information everything is buried in today.

What is your star sign?

Scorpio.

Is travel a major component of your work? Where is one destination you found particularly moving?

YES! All the best jobs happen away from home. Botswana was pretty special but I think my all time favourite destination was Cuba in the 90’s. It had so much crazy energy. We spent a lot of time street casting and going into people’s homes and eating with them. We shot at a big outdoor dancehall. It was really wild.

Another stand out was a job that required spending several days in a dive bar in the desert on the fringes of LA. We got to know some very interesting characters. I also loved Bhutan.

What’s next on your agenda?

I’ve got a few things on the boil. A couple of interesting trips including a quick LA visit which is always fun. Like always, I never know until the last minute.

Words by Sophie Flecknoe. Images courtesy of Max Doyle.

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