Mike Skelton exhibition: photos of fantasy and realism

AN extraordinary photographic exhibition now showing at the Manning Regional Art Gallery certainly has the wow factor.

Exposed A Retrospective is the work of retired advertising photographer Mike Skelton from Hannam Vale. The images showcase some of the incredible creations from his time in the industry as well as striking social images he captured in countries including Bolivia, Bangladesh, Nepal, Burkina Faso and Mexico for various aid organisations.

Internationally lauded for his work, the exhibition opening on Friday attracted commercial photographers from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

Mike worked in Sydney for most of his career and completed work for Asian companies (Hong Kong and Singapore were his biggest client base) as well as those in New York, Europe and Australia.

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His photographs have been seen around the world in magazines (including Time and Newsweek), at bus stops, on posters and more.

"My life was pure fantasy," he said. "I went to work every day and I didn't feel like I was going to work. I think it is ideal."

Mike became renowned in the commercial industry for his ability to fill any brief he was given.

The budgets would often be huge and teams of people would work on model making and special ef fects to help him get it right.

"It was like a film set."

Humour has been an integral part of his commercial work.

"You need lightness."

On the other end of the scale, the social documentary photos for aid organisations including PLAN and The Hunger Project are very real.

Over the course of 18 years (in between his commercial work), Mike went into these communities and was welcomed with open arms by people who allowed him into their homes and would often offer him a gift before he went on his way.

The gift could be a goat, sheep, a calf or chooks and he would often travel with them in his vehicle until he got a few villages away and donate it to them.

Each visit resulted in an exhibition, which he said was a great way to raise awareness and education.

"I did it because I felt I had such a privileged life in Australia when compared to half the population on the planet. I wanted to give back for the life I had.

"It was my reality check"

Exploring the nitty-gritty of everyday life there, he said it changed the way he thought and felt.

"These people fight just to get food every day.

"I was amazed at how dignified they were. They had nothing... they are extraordinary people."

The exhibition of almost 50 images is a mix of colour and black and white prints.

Mike said the black and white images have been printed using piezography, a custom made system which prints in black and white through inkjet printers (no colour ink is used).

The majority of photos in the exhibition were taken with a film camera.

Exposed A Retrospective is on at the Manning Regional Art Gallery until May 11.

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