I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not one of those 90s children who grew up immersed in 90s pop culture, who knew every Spice Girls’ lyric, who had a Tamagotchi to keep alive at recess, who tracked every gloriously grainy move of Johnny and Kate, or Johnny and Winona, or Gwyneth and Brad, or Gwyneth and Ben. I smile-and-nodded my way through schoolyard debates as to which Power Ranger each girl in the group would be. I learned the moves to the Macarena by peer observation.
I was just a nerdy child of immigrant parents, raised on second-hand records and VCRs from the thrift store. For most of my childhood, my favourite music consisted of Edgar Winter’s White Trash album and Chopin’s Nocturnes (both of these remain central fixtures of my shoot playlist, much to my producer’s embarrassment); my favourite TV show (we had the full box set of Rowan + Martin’s Laugh-in for reasons unknown) hadn’t aired in 25 years, and I didn’t even understand that I didn’t understand the political commentary and innuendo; I read the entire Harry Potter series in reverse order; and I legitimately believed, by way of Nancy Drew, that in the event of a snakebite, one ought to razor the wound and suck out the poison. As it turns out, this is a terrible idea. My first high school outdoor education instructor was utterly mortified.
Of course, after living out my first decade as an accidental 40-year-old, I later absorbed all of the above imperative 90s knowledge in costume design and lighting references images in film photography classes, and have somehow transplanted the extensive fashion, art, music and general entertainment information into my mind as memories – as if I was actually there at Marc Jacob’s infamous Perry Ellis Spring 1993 show and shared in the shock factor of unbridled teen spirit on fashion, just because it was my year of birth, or as if Diana’s death actually had any emotional impact on me as a 4-year-old, when the most important thing in my day was actually that I had on odd socks, and that I would surely get in trouble for that before the day was out.
It’s strange how the mind works to build history in such detail, despite the information only being received as second-hand smoke.
So I guess, in capturing these frames and working with Vicki on the superimposed art in stark contrast, I was looking to project what I thought the glowy skin, unruly brows, man coats and turtlenecks of unapologetically blasé models (not supermodels – just models) of the 90s must have looked like, by way of Tommy Hilfiger’s building blocks of a Winter wardrobe as the Aussie chill fast approaches (now that we’re all sick of over-embellished, statement outerwear that won’t stand the test of time). While the time pressure of shooting the whole thing in a few hours wasn’t terribly unusual, the mission for an unpretentious and raw fresh start in everything from working around disappearing light and resisting the urge to layer incessantly, manifested in my favourite story I’ve worked on all year.
Back to basics, if you will – all the while, spewing technicolour dreams courtside, and repainting the past in polychrome.