Retired architect finds his passion for photography

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Brendan Rees

When retired architect Ralph Domino discovered a love of photography just before the pandemic hit, little did he know his work would be recognised globally.

But after reading about 150 books on photography during Melbourne’s lockdowns and adopting his own style, the CBD resident of 30 years has made an impressive mark on the photography world.

He has won a slew of awards including two recent honourable mentions at the prestigious Monochrome Photography Awards in Europe – a feat for which he still pinches himself with disbelief.

As an architect, he is instinctively drawn to the urban scene with city skyscrapers being one of his favourite subjects.

Of his current exhibition, Metropolis, he set out to reinterpret Melbourne’s CBD buildings as “highways in the sky”. Some have described it as reminiscent of not only the classic 1920s movie Metropolis, but also Blade Runner, and even the animated 1960s television series, The Jetsons.

“My aim is to create images that provide visual stories that are abstract and enchanting.”

During lockdowns, he connected with other like-minded photographers and a group called The Creative Collective was formed.

The group of four Victorians share a great admiration for one another’s work, channel support and sensitivity as well as a sense of positivity. They are also close friends.

Such is their bond the group recently launched its first photography exhibition called Reimaginings, which is being held in the art space of the CBD’s Jasper Hotel.

Along with Mr Domino, the artists include Gaye Beal, Renee Stirling, and Lesley Bretherton – with their conceptual images ranging from places and nature to objects.

Mr Domino has 10 images on display which so far has attracted the interest of a Port Melbourne business that will look to purchase a series of his photos to decorate their new offices.

But Mr Domino conceded it’s not about selling his work, rather getting his name out there.

“You just never know what is going to happen tomorrow,” he said.

“I was a late starter, everyone has a head start on me … but I’m catching up, I’m doing my own thing and attracting attention.”

Mr Domino said he never imagined enjoying photography as much as he has – with his interest having been sparked when he visited Lord Howe Island in NSW in 2018 with a photographic group with the intention of learning about photography and techniques.

“I just got hooked,” he said after joining the 14 avid photographers.

 

That planted the seed to do photography. It was just so good, there were no hard and fast rules … it was exactly what I wanted to do, the freedom to be creative.

 

Today, Mr Domino said while he often faces criticism because his photography doesn’t “conform to their rules”, he is not bothered.

“The most creative photographers say to always do your own thing and not to be constrained by convention.

“After two years of exploring various genres of photography, I’ve just developed my own style and technique and I’m not going to give it away,” he laughed.

While he admitted his biggest issue was being colour blind, Mr Domino said he had overcome this obstacle by identifying “colours by numbers” using Photoshop which “makes it easy to deal with.”

And it is working – he has taken out several awards with the Melbourne Camera Club.

On his very first day of buying a new camera, an image he took of a shoplifter, who was physically caught by security guards while trying to fell from David Jones in the CBD, won the club’s Best Photojournalist award.

He was also awarded Best Photographer in 2020 in only his second year at the club.

“It’s a good lesson to always have the camera turned on, ready to shoot,” he said.

Mr Domino said he was grateful to have his work recognised and will continue pushing himself.

“Someone once said to me if you can’t get someone’s attention with your images in the first 10 seconds they’re going to walk away.

“When you look at my images, your eye is drawn to different elements in the photo that pull you in. If I can do that, I’ve been successful.” 

The Reimaginings exhibition at the Jasper Hotel runs from March 17 to May 28. Entry is free •

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