“So, I’m trying to make sure I have photographed enough different angles. Everyone has a different agenda. So you’re trying to make sure there is something there that everyone can use.”
Tracey Nearmy is someone who follows her passions and the motives behind them with equal fervour. As a young girl growing up in Queensland, Nearmy always had an interest in photography; she did not know that it would be her calling.
“I’ve got a photo of me at three [years old] with a camera.”
After beginning her studies in photography at University, Nearmy was still uncertain about her career. During her first year, she studied a range of subjects like commercial photography, art photography and photojournalism. “It was during that first year that I discovered my passion for storytelling through photographs,” Tracey says.
She simply knew that she would soon choose to be a photojournalist.
She always found comfort in her parents’ support of her happiness.
Nearmy believes that her parent’s ability to remain passionate about her surroundings growing up played a major role in influencing her decisions.
Nearmy believes that being a successful photojournalist requires an interest in humanitarian issues.
“Since I started my career, I have wanted to work with the Australian Associated Press (AAP.) So, it took me a few years to get in there,” she says.
Nearmy describes photojournalism as a very competitive field. After six months of freelancing, she was taken on board as a staff photographer. She continues to work as a full-time photojournalist after 12 years.
On field and in-action, Tracey describes, “My mind goes clear and completely focuses on what’s happening around me. I find that’s really exhilarating. It’s quite an addictive feeling. I’m kind of just watching what’s happening, the expressions, the movements, and anticipating what the subject’s going to do next. In the back of my mind, I’m always thinking of possible other new news angles.”
“Personally, I feel it’s all very consuming for me.”
As she works for an agency, she has got to be everything to everyone, she adds.
Also, it is not limited to that.
“So, if it’s a politician, their certain expression, if they are not doing well, you are looking for them looking sad. Or happy. It’s not particular that day. You are thinking about future stories people might want to see.”
“It can be quite frantic. You can be working very hard and kind of nerve-wracking, making sure you get everything. So, I’m trying to make sure I have photographed enough different angles. Everyone’s got a different agenda. So, you’re trying to make sure there is something there that everyone can use,” she says.
In these 12 years, work has taken her many places. Recalling a few of her favourite moments, Tracey shared her freelancing experience of East Timor. East Timor had just gotten its independence from Indonesia in 2002. She reminisces that those three months were life-moulding.
“How much I learned kind of working on stories, working in the field was really really hard and amazing being there. And, I think it really toughened me up,” Tracey says.
Also, she is a true nature enthusiast. From being a keen cyclist to doing cycling tours with stuffed camping gear.
She shares, “I was camping on the side of the road amongst cactuses. And, it was really amazing. Some great experiences. Lots of positive experiences with Mexicans, showing hospitality.”
It reminded her of the hippie culture back in the 60s in Australia when people enjoyed their lives.
She enjoys cycling or catching up with friends or seeing exhibitions in her free time and visits family members in states during holidays.
“There are not a lot of women in the field, and it’s kind of been that way since I started in 1998. There are not many female photojournalists, but there are many female photographers and freelancers out there,” she says proudly.
Speaking about the current market scenario, especially of the news industry, she expresses her concerns.
“It’s a niche market. It is tough to get work now. So, I think it affects quality and publications because they do not have dedicated staff anymore, which is unfortunate.”
On receiving national recognition for work in cross projections, the reportage festival and at the Walkley slide nights, she feels happy her work got recognized.
“It helps you get confident. And gives you something to aims towards,” she says.
It was a portrait of her nephew with a black eye, which bagged her an award. He had been mucking around the backyard and got accidentally got hit in the eye. She was interested in it and wanted to show the coming of age of young boys their knocks and bruises.
Tracey’s enthusiasm keeps her going. At the moment, she is trying to improve her skills because she believes everyone in media needs to be multi-skilled going forward.
Tracey says, “I can move more into content creation across the board. And have more control over the stories I’m covering. I like the idea of being able to tell on all platforms.”
Even though she has achieved success it was all not a piece of cake for her.
Tracey accepts, “I think confidence has been the biggest obstacle. Like I said before, it’s a very competitive field, male-dominated field, so having confidence in my skills and my abilities always is kind of been an issue for me.”
“I’m very passionate about photojournalism. And, I really like that if a photograph’s really amazing, it can elicit an emotional response. I think that’s where the passion comes from. I think photojournalism is so important. It catches the time and our history, usually not set up or brought out. It is how it is.”
Photo: Tracey Nearmy courtesy of the author. Full permissions were given to use this image. It has not been modified.