Combining the techniques of manual and technical cameras using natural, studio and handheld lighting, Richard Janson aims to ’paint with light’. Janson’s observance of extreme attention to detail began with his career as a commercial chef and experience in patisserie. From chef to product photographer, Janson then undertook a Bachelor of Arts in Photography, highlighting society’s modern consumerism culture with his contemporary photographic take on early 17th century Baroque-style paintings. This unique blend of cinematographic and photographic practice has seen Janson’s work exhibited widely and as the recipient of the Albury Art Gallery’s Susan Moorhead Memorial Award.
Born in 1950 in London, soon after Janson’s birth, his family moved to South Africa, where they remained until 1952. On their return to the United Kingdom, the family settled in Janson’s mother’s hometown of Farsley, in West Yorkshire. In 1961, the family migrated to Australia. Janson turned 11 on the day they arrived in Adelaide, the South Australian capital. Janson remained in Adelaide until his mid-twenties, when he returned to London. He trained at the City and Guilds as a commercial chef, and in patisserie at London’s Westminster College, where he also commenced working as a chef.
In 1980 Janson returned to Adelaide where he furthered his training, specialising as a chef patissier. In 1985 he graduated from the South Australian TAFE food school in Adelaide. In 1987, he helped establish Kooka Brothas Pty Ltd, where he was chef in charge of production. The company is still in operation, based out of the Victorian border town of Wodonga. Situated in Australia’s food basin of the Murray River, the company has a plentiful source of quality, clean primary produce for its premium, natural cakes and desserts produced for the food service industry.
In 1996, Janson returned to part-time studies, completing a Certificate in Network Publishing from Charles Sturt University in 1999. From 1998, he also undertook subjects towards a Bachelor of Arts in Photography. In addition to doing food styling for Kooka Brothas, Janson took over its product photography, producing medium-format studio work along with the general design for the company’s bi-annual catalogues.
Janson exhibited his first photographic work publicly in 2007 in the ‘Spring Art’ fundraising exhibition held at Albury High School with a work titled Adaminaby Homestead Resurfaced. The exhibition marked his first move away from the culinary industry towards the arts. In the same year, Janson was engaged by the Albury LibraryMuseum to contribute to the 2008 Tobruk Street Community Art Project. This project featured a panorama of Tobruk Street.
After a few years spent working in his studio and developing his creative practice, Janson applied for the Albury Art Gallery’s 2012 Susan Moorhead Memorial Award. Judged by the directors of Arc One Melbourne, Fran Clark and Suzanne Hampel, Janson was named the winner of the Award with his photograph Memento Mori II (2011), a work that commented on the dislocated position of food in contemporary consumer culture.
In the same year, Janson exhibited at his first two-person show, ‘Land Matter’, at Arts Space Wodonga with David Taylor. The exhibition contrasted Janson’s macro shots of food with Taylor’s aerial photographs, commenting on the land and what it produces.
Janson keeps abreast of contemporary movements and current directions in photography. He is particularly interested in the Dusseldorf School of Photography, known for producing larger than life-size works. This technique provides Janson with the opportunity to observe extreme detail and to produce a sense of awe in the viewer based on the sheer size of the works.
Blending contemporary cinematographic and photographic practice, Janson draws inspiration from the works of Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Isaac Julien, Rosemary Laing, Tracey Moffatt and Annie Leibovitz. Engaging with theatre lighting that creates an emotive ambiance, Janson also draws inspiration from the work of painters – particularly the early Baroque painter Caravaggio and the tradition of 17th-century Dutch still life – along with contemporary artists such as Anish Kapoor.