Darwin-born George Fragopoulos is Casuarina Square’s resident photographer – and an extraordinary talented one at that. But as we discovered, it takes far more than just the click of a shutter to capture the sorts of images that jump out from his portfolio! Read on to discover George’s story, from a humble start as a photography assistant, to an inspired life running his own successful studio.
Tell us about your childhood. Were you a creative child?
I was born and raised in Darwin, so naturally I was always playing outside. I loved the beach and dragnet fishing with my grandfather. I have been told I had a colourful imagination growing up and was fascinated by nature. As a student, I loved to draw. I was quite an introverted kid so I think the camera gave me the confidence to explore the world around me.
Tell us about your time with Jerry and Nick Ghionis.
While still at high school, I was introduced by a family member to Jerry and Nick Ghionis who owned XSiGHT Photography & Video Studio. They must have seen something in my high school folio, because they gave me a job at the studio as their photography assistant! I spent about two years helping out at weddings, holding equipment and the like. This was before I even started shooting. It was my apprenticeship into photography and I am forever grateful for the experience and the knowledge I was able to obtain.
You’re also a registered chiropractor. What made you hop from the health industry to a creative career as a photographer?
Toward the end of high school, during the time when you’re choosing your career path, I was encouraged to get a stable ‘respectable’ job, like becoming a doctor. I have always had a caring nature and enjoyed the natural therapies, so chiropractic seemed like a good fit. I was told that ‘there are a lot of unemployed photographers out there, you should get a real job.’ So I did. I spent five years at university, getting my Doctor of Chiropractic education. At the same time, I was continuing my passion for photography working at XSiGHT, and learning as much as I could.
At what point did you realise a freelance career was possible?
I was living in Melbourne, and I’d been happily married to my Darwin-born wife, Fiona Hatzivalsamis. We decided that there were lots of opportunities for both photography and chiropractic back in Darwin, so in July 2009 we moved back and setup an XSiGHT Photography & Video studio. I worked as a Chiropractor as well during the first year, but quickly realised I couldn’t do justice to either if I didn’t choose one, and give it one hundred per cent! It was at that point that I chose to turn my freelance photography career into my profession, and turn my love for Chiropractic and health into a side passion. I still make sure I do enough hours as a Chiropractor, mainly as a locum, to maintain my registration and continued professional development.
It sounds like you certainly made the right choice! How did you come to take up residency as Casuarina Square?
Last year I did a shoot for Casuarina Square to showcase carnival wear for the races, as well as the opening of the new Quarter space. That led to photographing Casuarina Square’s Fashion Edits for 2017! From there, the opportunity arose to open a studio in the new Quarter area and I jumped at it. It’s a perfect space for a photography studio, located in the two shipping containers opposite the Coffee Club. It has an edgy, artistic feel, and it’s a great place to work.
Describe a typical day at your studio.
One of the things I love about photography is that no two days are the same. Every shoot is different, with different challenges that you need to solve. One day I’ll be photographing a magazine cover and the next a family shoot in the studio. The Darwin Dry season is also a very busy time, with weddings and corporate events.
The studio at Casuarina has been great as it’s a place to shoot portraits and a gallery to showcase my work.
Could you tell us a little bit about your creative process?
Understanding the story, ideas or feelings that the client wants to communicate in their photos is a big part of what I do. So working with a brief – or creating one with a client – is an essential part of organising a photoshoot. Once we have a ‘visual story’, I will work with stylists, models, make-up artists and other talented individuals to bring together the vision for the shoot.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I’m always on the lookout for things that inspire me, and I get a lot from visiting galleries and museums. I find Darwin is a great place to work, but I’m often getting inspirations for travelling outside of Darwin and bringing those ideas back.
Do you have a favourite location to shoot in Darwin?
One of my favourite places to shoot in Darwin is East Point. It’s hard to beat the open spaces and sunsets there.
What advice would you give to others looking to pursue a freelance or creative career?
Set aside time each week to pursue your passion because you never know where it may lead. And set aside time to learn business and entrepreneurial skills – they’re just as important as learning your creative craft.
When he’s not out and about on location, you’ll find George at George F Photography, within The Quarter (opposite The Coffee Club). Alternatively, you can phone 0406 436 437 to organise a shoot.