At the tail end of a hectic year, a first-of-its-kind exhibition opened at Bendigo Regional Gallery, curated by the gallery’s first ever First Nations curator Shonae Hobson. Piinpi features works from more than 70 Indigenous designers and artists. It is dazzling and powerful and demonstrates how fashion is so tied to culture and community.
The exhibition, whose name comes from the language of Hobson’s great grandmother (it refers to seasonal changes across the landscape), is one example of how the Australian fashion landscape might at long last change for the better. (In addition, 2020 has also seen the launch of the National Indigenous Fashion Awards and the establishment of First Nations Fashion and Design, an independent body supporting systemic growth of Indigenous fashion and design).
When tumult seems to run rife, it is vital to celebrate the good whenever possible. This is what Guardian Australia has done, choosing to make its first ever fashion shoot focus on garments and textiles created by 28 First Nations designers and artists. In consultation with the Bendigo Regional Gallery, the story was creative directed by Cobber magazine founder Rhys Ripper, photographed by Doingbird magazine co-founder Max Doyle, with Guardian picture editor Carly Earl and lifestyle editor Alyx Gorman leading production.
In front of the camera you’ll find Walmatjarri/Yamatiji woman Billie-Jean Hamlet and Whadjuk Noongar man Nathan McGuire, as well as fresh face Alinta Carberry—a Gumbaynggirr/Dunghutti woman who signed to Chadwick just one month before the shoot took place.
At the shoot, emerging photographer Shannon Mason got to soak up the magic and even make some of his own (all while assisting the team as the shoot’s resident intern, because he’s just that good). So, as a treat, bask in the beauty of Wiradjuri Country and all the behind-the-scenes action by scrolling through his photo diary above. Then, get to know the man behind the behind-the-scenes lens in our interview below.
Hey Shannon! What have you been up to this week?
This week I’ve been keeping up my fitness routine by going to the gym everyday whilst working in between to keep my week busy.
Where does your mind go when you hear the word ‘home’?
When I hear the word ‘home’ I think of the turquoise coloured water in the inlet of Narooma on the far South Coast of New South Wales, the town I am originally from.
Can you tell us some highlights from the recent shoot you worked on with The Guardian?
One highlight from this shoot would be working with one of the best photographers in Australia, Max Doyle. My expectations are not usually too high, so when I get put on a big job like this one I really enjoy just being in the moment.
What was your role in the shoot—from the initial ideas phase right up until the actual shoot day?
Originally my role was to assist Carly [Earl, Guardian picture editor] with what needed to be done at the shoot and anything that comes with it. As I asked everyone if they needed a hand with anything I found myself also assisting Max over the duration of the day. Carly and I had spoken about it in the weeks leading up to the shoot, which helped when the day came.
What do you think your ancestors would think about the way your life has panned out so far?
I do think they would be proud at this point of my life, previously maybe not. As long I keep my culture alive and keep my family practicing these traditions, I’m sure they will be proud.
Do you consider yourself to be a spiritual person?
Yes, I do consider myself to be a spiritual person. As a Yuin man from the far South Coast of NSW, I am well connected to the land and sea. My dreaming connects with mine and others, family or friend, but never in a direct message; it will mostly consist through animals (totems) and events in the dreaming state.
What advice would you give your 16-year-old self?
Stick to what you love doing the most, don’t let distractions and peer pressure stop you from what you want the most.
What are you most proud of yourself for in 2020?
I am most proud of myself for changing my life, going from an unhealthy lifestyle and wellbeing to a healthy fitness routine.
Fill in the blank: The world would be a better place if…
The world would be a better place if people were not so money/power hungry and more caring towards each other and our surroundings.
What kind of person would you like to be remembered for?
I would like to be remembered as just me, Shannon Mason. I don’t want a lavish lifestyle or anything of the sort, I Just want to record particular moments in my lifetime.
When do you feel most alive?
I feel most alive when I travel back down south to go back on country.
What does freedom mean to you?
Freedom to me is being able to travel and explore whatever you like without any restrictions, whether it be restrictions from the law or from other people.
Photos: Shannon Mason Features Editor: Emily Royal