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Capturing the lost art

Date

Terry Lane

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Yvan Rodic has carved out a nice, well-paid little career for himself. He travels the world looking for smart, wacky, trendy or just beautiful people in the street - and when he finds them he photographs them.

Rodic seems to have been everywhere, including Melbourne and Sydney, along with New York, Milan, St Petersburg, Buenos Aires, Batumi (look it up) and many more places on his 432,044-kilometre journey. Altogether he has seen the inside of 80 airports, some more than once.

The result of his global excursions in search of the snappable fashions in the street is a book A Year in the Life of Face Hunter (Thames & Hudson, $29.95).

Although the photographs are ostensibly about fashion, Rodic's book is a brilliant crash course in vernacular travel photography. He has elevated the holiday snap to an artform.

The 680 photographs in the book are all technically perfect, but not in the manner of Ansel Adams or Richard Avedon. These are spontaneous moments, interacting with the natives, and in the process capturing the essence of the place he is visiting.

In his Sydney photos, there is only one of the Opera House - the rest capture the city's light and movement perfectly. In Melbourne he is more interested in the shabbily weird.

Rodic is a fashion blogger, and you can see his work at facehunter.org. You have to admire the audacity of a chap who stops strangers in the street and asks to take their photo. It calls for a certain exuberant and extrovert confidence.

However, Rodic's journal comes with a cautionary tale. He survived dangerous Rio de Janeiro with nary a scratch or a stolen camera. But in Oslo - capital of the clean, safe world, he had his laptop stolen. And on the hard drive he had more than 1 million photos. Unbelievable! With no security back-up. A year's work, all gone.

There is a partially happy ending. The thieves were apprehended by the gendarmes in France. The French cops take their work so seriously, they set about tracing the computer owner through Apple's centralised records. Rodic got his MacBook back - but with all the photos erased.

As we have discussed in these pages before, erasing photos doesn't necessarily destroy them for all time. Rodic took his laptop to a service shop in London, and for £100 ($145) he got half his photos back. But he lost the entire picture sets from some cities.

Let that be a lesson to all travelling photographers. Back up!

Rodic reports that in Melbourne, people asked him at least 10 times a day, ''Which city do you prefer, Melbourne or Sydney?'' In Sydney, he says, ''No one ever asks that.''

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