Nick Gleitzman

Photo: Annie (2007)

Award-winning photographer Nick Gleitzman’s first contact with photography was via his mum's Box Brownie, which she regularly used to document her three offsprings’ childhoods, and family summer holidays.

The first camera he used himself, and his first 35mm, was a Kodak Retina folding rangefinder, borrowed from his girlfriend who had inherited it from her late father. He used it for his early clumsy attempts to capture the unique beauty and character of the Australian landscape – with very mixed results.

Later in his teens, he again used a borrowed camera, a Pentax Spotmatic II, this time from a friend who worked in a camera shop who was able to liberate a demonstrator for Nick to shoot rock concerts. There was no internet, or even phone bookings, in those days, but the booking office at the Hordern Pavilion in Sydney was just across the park from his school, so Nick and his mates were usually able to secure front-row seats by taking an extended morning recess (and copping the resulting detention every time for being late to their next class) to run over and buy front row tickets.

Now totally hooked, but after continued mixed results with his concert photographs, Nick finally bought his own camera, a Nikon FE, and set about learning how to take photographs properly at Sydney Technical College, where photography was taught as a trade, alongside plumbing and panel-beating. Four years part-time, mostly evening classes after a full day’s work at Kodak as a Customer Relations Assistant (read “order entry clerk and occasional technical support guy”), saw Nick leave college with a Certificate of Photography (Honours), a deep understanding of the science of photography, and a job as an assistant to a real commercial and advertising photographer.

His first task at the studio: sweep the floor. Second: take every piece of equipment out of their road cases and clean them. He then proceeded to learn about photography as a profession in the real world by assisting at shoots, both in the studio and on location, and operating the black & white darkroom, for two years.

Going freelance, Nick can still clearly remember shooting studio still-lifes and products with sweaty hands because he wasn't sure if he could get it right. But he managed, and then spent the next twenty years producing commercial photographs for some of Sydney’s best art directors and designers, developing an uncommon eye for detail, a distinctive sense of colour and style, and a passion for aesthetic and technical excellence. He also got really good at sweeping studio floors.

Eventually, though, feeling somewhat unfulfilled by a career that had largely consisted of translating others’ visions into commercial photographs, he took a break and spent five years making his living from website design and development. During a 15,000km trip across Australia, he was privileged to fall in love with photography all over again, but this time choosing to concentrate on pictorial, landscape and fine art photography. For two years, he ran The River Gallery in Brooklyn, north of Sydney, where he lived.

Visiting Hong Kong for the first time in 2007, Nick was immediately blown away by the visually rich urban landscape. He went about recording his first impressions of the transience, the impermanence, that exists at the fringes of the development of the modern city. He found and photographed fragmentary evidence of past stories, suggestions of layered information, and transformed them into powerful graphic images that provided his personal insight into the recent – and not-so-recent – history of the city and its people. Palimpsest, an exhibition of approximately sixty images captured during his first week in the city, was first shown in Hong Kong in July of 2008, exactly one year later.

Nick continues to capture the colours, culture and heritage of Hong Kong, from the sweeping panoramic cityscapes to the smallest details of life at street level, and continues to make images as he travels and explores new landscapes across Asia and beyond.