Communicator’s Corner – coffee, Cash & cameras with Fiona Hamilton

Fiona Hamilton communicates through photographs, and does so with poise, passion and a wealth of knowledge. Prior to becoming a freelancer, Fiona spent more than two decades at the Herald Sun. She has rubbed shoulders with some of the world’s most famous. Her international experience ranges from royalty such as Princess Diana and heads of states to Australia’s last six PMs. Fiona has also shot for the Australian Open and all its sporting glamour, and has always been called upon for the ‘big’ stories. Her photographs have also captured tragic moments in history such as the Black Saturday bushfires. Fiona’s ease with, and love of, the lense is obvious when you look at her photographs.

We sat down with Fiona this week for a Q&A on her career as a photographic communicator. After our work with Fiona – we can see she makes the ordinary, extraordinary. We chat coffee, [Johnny] Cash and cameras…

Tell us about a typical day?

There’s no such thing. It depends on what the client is looking for.

When did you first know you wanted to be a photographer?

The honest answer? I was sacked as a barmaid & knew dad would hit the roof. So I stole his telephone book and found the number for the head of the Herald; it was the only job going … and the rest is history.

Which tools can’t you live without?

My camera.

Fiona Hamilton at Aust Open trophy shoot for Li Na
Fiona Hamilton at Aust Open trophy shoot for Li Na 2014

What are the biggest challenges in your role?

Convincing people: I’m only a photographer, not a miracle worker.

Tell us about the most interesting shoot you’ve ever worked on?

It would be a Pacific Heads of State meeting I attended with K Rudd and the crew in Nui. There were no hotels or restaurants on the tiny island, so we had to drive around until we found a house with a light on and that meant we could head in for some dinner.

Who’s the most interesting person you’ve ever photographed?

Johnny Cash. It was a doorstop photo, and I was soooo flustered at meeting the real Johnny Cash that I couldn’t get the camera to work! He came over to me and put his hand on my should and said “take a deep breath” … and I got my photo.

What’s been the biggest change to photography since you began your career?


Which photographer do you most admire?

Brian Lanker – amazing photographer who was able to truly capture people’s stories with a pic. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1973 and published one of my favourite photo books “I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America

What’s a coffee table book everyone should own?

Brian’s book, which I worked on too,

Finish this sentence: ‘Communication is…’ the answer to a hell of a lot of first world problems.

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