INTERVIEW – Melbourne Photographer, Fran Watson

Location: Princes Pier, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Location: Princes Pier, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Following our interview with Australian photographer Mark Watson last week, we discovered he also has an older sister who loves photography just as much as him. Meet Fran Watson – she’s been photographing a little while and helped out with Google Plus’ ‘Walk Down Under’. Fran currently resides in Melbourne whilst her younger brother Mark lives in Sydney.

Originally using a point and shoot for holiday snaps, (like most photographers do), she developed some skills in photography from then on. Taking photography as a subject in secondary school she used and developed in manual, with most of her shooting done in black and white. We caught up with Fran to speak younger brother things, and what it’s like to delve into the realm of photography.

Hi there how are you?

Hi! I’m really pretty good thanks. There are people in my life who make me smile so I have to admit I’m lucky and happy. Thank you also, for this opportunity. It is truly flattering to be approached. ~blushing~

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became involved with photography…

It was kind of a two part birth, with a big break in the middle.

I remember having a little point and shoot, cartridge type thing when I was young. Maybe mid- to late- eighties. One of those ones you put a square flash cube on the top. I was only a kid then though and it was all about holiday photos and family birthdays. My first real learning experience was in upper secondary school when I took photography as a subject. I loved it! Shooting in black and white, that smell of the dark room and developing, the magic of seeing an image just appear from a blank page. It was a buzz. Regretfully though, life lead in other directions. School, work, relationships; all those things we get distracted by every day.

It wasn’t until I fell in with the ‘wrong’ crowd … ooops sorry, the photography nerds, last year that I really revisited photography as a creative outlet. It was through Google Plus; a (then) budding new social network that seemed to attract the IT geeks and the creative types. Thanks to some respect from Google, the platform they developed seemed to encourage photographers to engage. Image upload and sharing was encouraged without the pitfalls of heavily compressed images, and loss of quality.

In March 2012 I decided to stick up my hand to help put with the Google Plus ‘Walk Down Under’. A nationwide photowalk in cities all over Australia. Despite having only my phone camera, it seemed like a fun activity. Since then the photography bug has bitten and the infection spread. Acquisition of gear, learning and sharing. It’s been fast but rewarding. From my trust Samsung Galaxy phone, I’ve evolved to the mirrorless Nikon 1 V1, then on to the Nikon D300S, and now, the love of my life, the Nikon D800.

So I guess, if there was a ‘big bang’ moment, it would have to have been March 2012. Everything before that was just dipping my toes in the water.


Photography seems to run in the family it seems?

So it would seem. Although you wouldn’t have thought it when meeting Mark and I. Mark was born on my first birthday. For a long time, that shared birthday seemed to be all we had in common. LOL. Mark obviously found his passion and his talent very early on and pursued it with vigour. Now, as I discover my creative side, it would seem that perhaps we have a similar eye for the beauty this world has to offer, and the desire to capture, preserve and share that.

What type of camera do you use?

My love, my baby, my one and only is the Nikon D800. There’s nothing I don’t like about this camera. For the lighter, more versatile option though, I have the Nikon 1 V1 which fits nicely into my handbag and has a great scope for almost any occasion.

Do you ever look up to Mark for help in photography or is he continuously leading the way?

Just between you and me, I admire Mark and his amazing work. I’m incredibly proud of his achievements and more than just a little be envious of his talent and natural ability to capture a moment. Of course, I may never hear the end of it having said that. LOL

I try not to compare myself to Mark as much as I can though. I have to remind myself that he’s a good 20+ years and a professional photographer away from where I am today. We also seem to have different interests in what we capture. His focus on the adventurous side of life is apparent, while I tend to be (in his words) more focused on the ‘arty’. I’m absolutely OK with that. I don’t have any desire to ‘stand in knee-deep snow on top of a glacier at midnight and risk first degree frost bite’.

You would think that the one benefit of having a younger brother who’s in the game, would be the free stuff. I’m still working on this! I was able to commandeer borrow his Nikon D300S and AF-S 28-70 1:2.8 D though, and for that I’m eternally grateful. It clarified my umm’ing and ahh’ing over buying the D800. Unfortunately Mark lives in Sydney and I live in Melbourne, so the ‘Watson lens library’ is a bit far away for me to regularly access. This is possibly all part of Mark’s cunning plan.

What has been one of the best experiences whilst out photographing your subject?

I’m not sure I can think of just one moment. Every time I go out with the camera there is something new and fabulous to discover. Overall though, the one common factor has been the people. The social aspect of photowalks with friends, the admiration of learning from my peers, and the beauty I see in those I shoot.

One shoot that comes to mind, was my first ever model shoot. I really did go in with absolutely no idea of what I was doing; however, with the guidance and advice of the three talented photographers I shot with, and the absolutely professional, patient and relaxed model, I came out with shots that, to this day, are some of my proudest.

Credit: Model – Britty LaBelle

Do you have any advice for someone who wants to take up photography as a hobby?

Do it! In this day and age it doesn’t have to be expensive. Cameras in phones are increasingly better, the point and shoot market is producing some fabulous, inexpensive devices, and then there’s the mirrorless/hybrid cameras. It doesn’t have to be all about high-end DSLRs and pricey lenses. It’s about taking what you have, getting out there and seeing the world. It’s about looking at the beauty this planet has to offer in nature, architecture, and people. Capture a moment, a smile, a sunrise and enjoy sharing that with the people around you. Explore your creativity. Photography fits all personalities; it’s great alone time for the introverts, and/or can be energizing in a social environment for the extroverts.

You have completed a project called 52 Black and White. What was that like to complete and how did you go about taking an image once a week?

You’ve caught me out here. I’m actually a few weeks behind in my P52B&W album. There are a lot of these sorts of projects out there. This one was flagged by a friend at the start of the year. I’d been looking at some of the 365 projects but knew that I’d struggle to keep up with the ‘photo a day’ commitment. A photo a week seemed reasonable, and I really love playing in monochrome. I wanted to try to challenge myself, so P52B&W appealed.

How have I gone keeping up with an image a week? I was acing it for a while there, but the past three weeks have been a bit hectic with my day job and other commitments, so I’m ashamed to say that I’m falling behind. That said, the themes are fabulous and give a whole lot of scope for exploring outside the box, and challenging the creative mind. I’d encourage people to give projects like this a go. It’s a great way to motivate and try something different.

Location: Flinders Street Station, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Location: Flinders Street Station, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

It seems like as your brother you have travelled a lot. Where is your favourite place to go and have you taken lots of images there?

I adore travel! I want to see it all. I want to get out and be a part of the world. I don’t want to read about it in a magazine. I’m a tactile person and being in a place, feeling the world around is an amazing buzz. Mark’s professional career has certainly lead him to many amazing places. Places I am yet to reach. My travel has been primarily recreational. I tend to pick a spot and immerse myself for longer periods of time. It’s not always easy, but it is always rewarding.

My most recent challenge was China. Five weeks travelling solo from big cities, to rural areas, and ancient villages. It was incredibly difficult at times. Not being able to read signs, or ask for help opened my eyes to just how resourceful and independent I can be when forced to make my own way. China is a world apart from my day-to-day existence. I adored my time there, despite the odd moment of tears and frustration. The country is incredibly beautiful, and the people just so generous.

Where to next? I’m open to suggestions. As soon as I can scrape together the funds, I’ll be on the next plane. Like I said, I want to see it all, feel it all, experience it all, and now … shoot it all!

If you had one chance to speak to a very large group of people, old and young, what would you say?

You know, one of the hardest things in life these days is to learn to accept ourselves for who we are. Embrace that and be proud of it. The world can seem to be trying to pull you down at every turn, but ultimately, it’s how you feel about you that makes the biggest difference. I know that sounds a bit clichéd, but it can be that simple.

Someone recently said to me that I need to value myself. Focus on the aspects of my life that add value. He’s not wrong!I may get the words jumbled up occasionally, but the message is sinking in. So to him, and his wisdom, thank you, and … I’m OK!

It’s not easy all the time, and there are days where I’m convinced that life is actively working against me, but if you can wake up the next morning and say to yourself, ‘I’m OK’ and believe that you’re worth it, then you’re winning, and the people around you will respond to that positivity.

If you were given the option to have coffee and chat with a notable person such as a famous photographer, writer or actor (dead or alive) who would it be and why?

Right this very minute, there are a couple of people who I would like to just sit down on the sofa with and share a bottle of wine, but they’re not famous/notable, they’re just special. The famous person question is harder to answer!

I think I’d have to say Douglas Adams. I don’t doubt that an evening with him would be full of laughs and fascinating stories. I’d love to hear him talk about his Last Chance to See adventures. I think Douglas Adams is one of those people around who I could immediately feel comfortable. His literary talent, humour, and passion for the environment, photography and tech. I suspect I’d want more than one coffee or a glass of wine with Adams though.

You can view the rest of Fran’s images below at her website:



Fire spinner: Charles Strebor



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