About Karin Gottschalk of ‘Unititled’

I prefer being on the other side of the camera, like this.

I was brought up, as so many of my generation were, to be seen and not heard, and preferably never to be seen at all. Modesty was considered the supreme virtue. So speaking about achievements does not come easy. Here is an attempt at a list of some of them.

  • Family background is ethnic, rural, uneducated and working class, and I was born in a little hospital in a tiny town beside a river in far north Queensland aka FNQ. My father wanted to train as a graphic designer, or layout artist as they were then called, as a teenager but was refused that right by his parents who wanted him to take up a clerical position. This disappointment coloured the rest of his too-short life.
  • I took up documentary photography as a means of coping with extreme culture shock after I was moved at the age of 13 from an eastern states capital city to a tiny west coast town on the edge of the desert and the southern ocean, going from one of the finest senior high schools run on university lines on the east coast to one of the most disadvantaged junior high schools in Australia.
  • From having the world at my feet and full of endless possibility, with a large circle of friends, relatives and fellow scholars around me, that boundless world shut down overnight to the size of a packing crate, and all that endless possibility felt like it was lost forever. No parent should ever do this to their child. Never, ever, ever.
  • My formal secondary schooling effectively ended at the age of 13, following family tradition.
  • After teaching myself photography with a Kodak Instamatic 33 and staging my first photography exhibition, was offered a job as part-time newspaper photographer and then district correspondent for a newspaper group in regional Western Australia from age 15, later moving to another regional newspaper group closer to Perth.
  • Exhibits officer for a regional museum in southwest of Western Australia producing photographs, artworks and restoring historic farm and industrial machinery, while also working as a wedding photographer to put myself through university.
  • I enrolled in photography, conceptual art, printmaking, painting and art history at Curtin University School of Art and Design in Perth, Western Australia in what was purported to be a four-year degree. I was denied right to study filmmaking there due to being enrolled in Fine Art and not Design. As a consequence, concurrent to my enrolment at Curtin I studied filmmaking and cinematography at Central College of TAFE, later tutoring there in cinematography and consulting on design of new photography teaching facilities. The undergraduate degree’s promised fourth year of study suddenly vanished as did the photo major and post-graduate degree opportunities that had also been promised during our enrolment intake interviews.
  • Winner of tertiary-level Channel 7 Young Filmmakers Festival Award and special cinematography award for a groundbreaking 28-minute science fiction feature film co-produced with Central College of TAFE as a student there, along with several friends and family members. The awards were then rescinded by festival board members from Curtin University’s School of Art and Design due to their dispute with Central College of TAFE on its right to tertiary status. “I’m sure you understand the School’s prestige mustn’t be damaged by TAFE college students winning for the very first time,” we were told minutes before curtains-up on Festival Award presentation night. The prizes were apparently to be an all expenses-paid trip to the Australian Film, Television and Radio School (AFTRS) in Sydney along with accelerated entry into a degree stream and a scholarship. I would have chosen the Cinematography degree program. It is easy to forget how tightly access to information and professional training was controlled by powerful men in the era before the World Wide Web, #MeToo and #TimesUp. To those two tenured senior lecturers from Curtin University, shame on you for the lives, families and careers you damaged if not destroyed in one casual fell swoop due to the scandal and blacklisting that ensued.
  • Production assistant on German telemovie and Canadian television series in Western Australia.
  • Fellowship in Photography at Edith Cowan University where I worked on personal documentary photography projects and consulted on design of new photography teaching facilities.
  • Photography teacher for creative high schools and self-run independent photography workshops.
  • I was headhunted to take over and reform the photography department of what is now Central TAFE in Perth, but the appointment fell through as the two male joint incumbents refused to accept these changes. Advised on new courses, methods and teaching facilities there on a de facto basis then exited the tertiary and TAFE sector. While studying fine art at Curtin, I had asked the pair for permission to enrol in their photography classes in order to fill the gaps in my own knowledge but they refused, telling me they had “nothing to teach me”. The photography teacher at Curtin had wandered off in my first or second year there and we were left to our own devices whereupon I befriended the departmental technicians and began teaching other students, illicitly and informally extending three years as an undergraduate into four.
  • Commercial and corporate photographer on location for mining companies and corporations in Western Australia.
  • Magazine editorial portrait photographer for a range of glossy magazines and broadsheet newspapers in Sydney, specializing in emotive full-face close-up portraits, semi-surreal environmental portraits and documentary reportage about creative and innovative Australians. Discovered my work was being collected by a number of respected Australian art directors and designers.
  • Acquired photochemical reaction dermatitis leading to permanent photochemical allergy requiring stepping away from analog photography, later taking up digital photography and moviemaking when hardware and software had become sophisticated, accessible and affordable. I later discovered that these allergic reactions were widespread amongst newspaper photographers, purportedly due to the environmentally unsafe darkrooms they were required to use.
  • Conceived, cofounded and worked as European Contributing Editor for (not only) Black+White magazine, based in Sydney then London.
  • Built global networks of photographers and directors twice, once as subjects for magazine stories and once for commissioning and producing for global advertising campaigns for major brands including adidas, BBC, English Heritage, Harrods, Hyundai, Porsche and many others.
  • AMX Studios pioneered e-commerce with some of the first online stores and I worked with them on proofs of concept of new online business models for BT (formerly British Telecom) using the latter’s world-first high-speed fibre broadband network in central London. If only Australia’s National Broadband Network aka NBN was even a fraction of what I had back then.
  • Conceived processes and technologies for placing photo libraries online in early days of the World Wide Web then set about convincing established London photo agencies and picture libraries to develop online presences.
  • Commissioned, briefed and produced established and up-and-coming photographers and directors for global and national advertising campaigns, scouted talented young photographers to help them get their first step up the advertising photography and directing career ladder, with special emphasis on undervalued female photographers and promising young Australian photographers seeking to build brilliant careers outside Australia.
  • I was motivated to do this by my own lack of peers, mentors and teachers of photography and moviemaking, in the hope that others would not have to go through what I did and so that they might attain that about which I could only dream. I had to work it all out by myself when nobody should have to resort to that in lieu of a real education and career guidance.
  • Fortunate enough to have worked with some of the finest copywriters, art directors, photographers and directors in the world, and my partner is one of the finest technical writers/illustrators in the world, one of the rare ones with a combined engineering and advertising agency background.
  • Researched, wrote and pre-produced a documentary TV series on the motivations and methods of notable Australian and foreign photographers. My New Director Program commission to produce and direct the first 50-minute episode of the series for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation was cancelled at the very last minute due to demands from the then Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard, as he imagined that the first episode based on the experiences in Laos of a war photojournalist might just possibly reveal the illegal actions of past US Presidents during and after the Vietnam War. Consequently the whole TV series and my nascent mainstream documentary directing career has been shelved indefinitely. I was required to hand over my TV project to a selected member of a shortlist I was given of male directors along with all of my rights, in return for a cursory cheque and an “Original idea by…” credit that seems to have vanished altogether now. The male director’s effort ended up telling the very opposite story to my intentions for the movie, and he alienated the subject so much that the project screeched to a halt twice.
  • Independent self-funded media professional working in photography, moviemaking and self-publishing, based in Sydney.

Image Credit

Header image by Carmel D. Morris.