Mike Skelton exhibition: photos of fantasy and realism

Photographer Mike Skelton with his stunning portrait of a mother, her son and their goats on a freezing morning - Bolivia 2005. Scott Calvin photo.
Photographer Mike Skelton with his stunning portrait of a mother, her son and their goats on a freezing morning - Bolivia 2005. Scott Calvin photo.
Director of the Manning Regional Art Gallery Sue Mitchell, photographer Mike Skelton and his wife Carolyn Serich at the exhibition opening. Ashley Cleaver photo.

Director of the Manning Regional Art Gallery Sue Mitchell, photographer Mike Skelton and his wife Carolyn Serich at the exhibition opening. Ashley Cleaver photo.

Brisbane-based photographer Eric Victor stands next to Portrait of a young girl village  Uganda 1998. Ashley Cleaver photo.

Brisbane-based photographer Eric Victor stands next to Portrait of a young girl village Uganda 1998. Ashley Cleaver photo.

Quinn Patch with Portrait of a young slum dweller  Dhaka, Bangladesh 2004. Ashley Cleaver photo.

Quinn Patch with Portrait of a young slum dweller Dhaka, Bangladesh 2004. Ashley Cleaver photo.

Barry Devitt from Hannam Vale with 'Environmental portrait of a country woman' - Mexico 2005. Ashley Cleaver photo.

Barry Devitt from Hannam Vale with 'Environmental portrait of a country woman' - Mexico 2005. Ashley Cleaver photo.

Melbourne photographer Stuart Crossett with Mike's work 'Portrait of Domingo, a farmer in his home with his dogs' - Mexico 2005. Ashley Cleaver photo.

Melbourne photographer Stuart Crossett with Mike's work 'Portrait of Domingo, a farmer in his home with his dogs' - Mexico 2005. Ashley Cleaver photo.

Catherine Calvin with 'Australian Champion Arab Stallion'. Ashley Cleaver photo.

Catherine Calvin with 'Australian Champion Arab Stallion'. Ashley Cleaver photo.

Julie and Tim Bale with Still Life, farming implements hanging on an adobe wall  Nepal 1997. Ashley Cleaver photo.

Julie and Tim Bale with Still Life, farming implements hanging on an adobe wall Nepal 1997. Ashley Cleaver photo.

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

The audience gathers to hear from photographer Mike Skelton at the official opening of his exhibition, Exposed - A restrospective. Ashley Cleaver photo.

The audience gathers to hear from photographer Mike Skelton at the official opening of his exhibition, Exposed - A restrospective. Ashley Cleaver photo.

Lyndal Forrest with 'A woman making roadbase' - Nepal 1997. Ashley Cleaver photo.

Lyndal Forrest with 'A woman making roadbase' - Nepal 1997. Ashley Cleaver photo.

Noah Vandeveer with 'Portrait of a country woman' - near Potosi, Bolivia 2005. Ashley Cleaver photo.

Noah Vandeveer with 'Portrait of a country woman' - near Potosi, Bolivia 2005. Ashley Cleaver photo.

Ros Maas from Hannam Vale with 'Dhaka slum scene' - Bangladesh 2004. Ashley Cleaver photo.

Ros Maas from Hannam Vale with 'Dhaka slum scene' - Bangladesh 2004. Ashley Cleaver photo.

Bruce Pottinger from L&P Digital Photographic with Mike Skelton's 'Potosi' - Bolivia 2005.

Bruce Pottinger from L&P Digital Photographic with Mike Skelton's 'Potosi' - Bolivia 2005.

Mike Skelton's children Ben and Bella with their mum, Kaaren Peterson. Ashley Cleaver photo.

Mike Skelton's children Ben and Bella with their mum, Kaaren Peterson. Ashley Cleaver photo.

Sydney-based photographer Murray Vanderveer with 'A typical kitchen scene' - Peru 2005. Ashley Cleaver photo.

Sydney-based photographer Murray Vanderveer with 'A typical kitchen scene' - Peru 2005. Ashley Cleaver photo.

A friend of Mike Skelton, Jane Robinson, travelled from Sydney for the exhibition opening. Ashley Cleaver photo.

A friend of Mike Skelton, Jane Robinson, travelled from Sydney for the exhibition opening. Ashley Cleaver photo.

Jocelyn Strong with Mike Skelton's 'A woman going to market' taken at Burkina Faso in 1996.

Jocelyn Strong with Mike Skelton's 'A woman going to market' taken at Burkina Faso in 1996.

Photographer Mike Skelton. Ashley Cleaver photo.

Photographer Mike Skelton. Ashley Cleaver photo.

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.

Related story: "I was totally obsessed" http://bit.ly/1iXGyu0

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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