Off Topic: Stephen Yarwood

Adelaide Lord Mayor Stephen Yarwood is a town planner by trade; one of three careers he considered along with physics and photography. The latter is still a keen hobby.

Off Topic and on the record, as South Australian identities talk about whatever they want… except their day job. Adelaide Lord Mayor Stephen Yarwood is a town planner by trade; one of three careers he considered along with physics and photography. The latter is still a keen hobby. “I did a WEA course in photography when I was at university,” Yarwood begins. “In our planning degree we also had to do a Photography of Landscape unit. Straight out of my university degree, my first job was actually in a photographic studio, so I got to understand the process and the chemistry side of things. I bought a really good camera. Back then not many people had cameras. People used to always lean on me to take photographs and I used that as a driving force behind my desire to travel, see things and keep a photographic record. “I made a conscious effort to walk the streets, explore and look at the architecture, the built form and even urban systems such ;as public transport – I’d even find myself taking photographs of bins. I particularly like the contrast between old and new, rich and poor, and exploring some of the different colours cities used and how it contrasted in different ways, which gives that city or place its uniqueness. I’ve always made a conscious decision to carry a camera with me and I’ve had multiple cameras and certainly have quite a collection of old film sitting in a big pile, which hopefully one day I can do something about.” Yarwood’s hobby resulted in commissions and awards. “I was a volunteer for the Feast Festival as its official photographer. That was for their 10th anniversary. I’ve had some of my photography published in various newspapers. There’s one ;photograph of mine that made it onto a filesharing site that actually came back to me in a council report. I took it in Denmark and I gave it to News Ltd. They used it in the paper and then they put it on a public sharing site. A consultant found the photograph, used it as the back cover of a report, which they presented to council. That’s a one in a billion. “I’ve also been commissioned to do a lot of portrait photography. I’ve done stuff for bands, both live and promotional material. I muck around with some slightly abstract stuff. I’m also very keen to take photos of my family, my kids and all those sorts of things.” Yarwood has a big collection of street art photography – “I wandered around Shoreditch in London for half-a-day with a camera looking for a Banksy” – and he won two Town Planning Awards for his photography. “The Town Planning Institute of South Australia had a photograph competition two years in a row, which was a popular vote competition, and I won, which was great. One of them looked down from a hotel on Ho Chi Minh City and its incredible eclectic building colours with the randomness of the intense density of housing, which was very contrasting. The other is one I’ve got at home, which is the best photograph I’ve ever taken. It’s in Cambodia at Angkor Wat, and the shape of one of the buildings is this perfect brick shape and right next to it, and at sunset, the cloud actually matched the built form. So, I’ve got this photograph of a black silhouette of this built form and the cloud silhouette is identical. You get that fluke photograph once in your life.” Yarwood says his urban photography and observation relates back to the ‘flaneur’ philosophy – the art of watching. “It’s an old philosophy around city ;observation and being separated from the crowd and consciously being somewhere more than anyone else but not physically being there. That’s a sense of watching and trying to understand what works in urban systems. I use the photography as a tool to sharpen that skill. Everyone likes to be a street watcher, I consciously do it and it helps me understand what I’m doing and how things work.”

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