Amanda Waschevski has come a long way to create what she has today. From the ashes of Black Saturday, she has built Ipswich Photography Studio, begun the passion project People of Ipswich, and cemented herself in a community that has welcomed her talents, humour and warm heart.
Despite her natural affinity for the craft, Amanda never started out as a photographer. For fifteen years she was a restaurant owner before the Black Saturday fires took it all. With the brink of flames upon them, a pregnant Amanda, along with her husband Shadow and two cats, was forced to flee. The family made it to a local oval with minutes to spare. Exhausted they collapsed where they could. When they awoke, they were sitting on the only green space, a scorched circle of the burnt landscape surrounding them.
“With the fires, we had a life that was erased. That was gone, everything was gone. One of the reasons photography peaked my interest is because I had no photographs after the fire. You just don’t realise the value.”
Once Amanda came to Ipswich, she soon grew to love the community that surrounded her and became keen to offer her skills in some way. There began People of Ipswich, a project that allowed Amanda to meet and mingle with new people, exchange stories and to offer – what she had come to realise as a precious gift – a photograph, in return.
“I wanted to educate the community on what a portrait was, so I offered free portraits to the community, but it was a bit big. Then, Damien Roache started Barberaid in 2018 and I’ve been watching his project progress since then. Portraits of the homeless and the vulnerable just fits. Everybody wants to be seen, especially those of us that feel invisible, but they want to be seen in a good light. I try to take portraits that are strong and connected and to help these people be seen as people.”
The feedback from People of Ipswich has been good, yet when someone does question why they might need a portrait, Amanda has a swift reply.
“Photographs aren’t always about you. They are about the people around you, who love you. Photographs are what we hold on to when we can’t hold on in person.”
In her main studio, Ipswich Photograph Studio, Amanda specialises in corporate portraits like no other. Suits smile and starched collars crease with laughter as Amanda performs her magic in getting people to relax and feel comfortable in front of a camera.
In tune with her focus on people and relationships, family portraits make up a large part of her portfolio. But Amanda’s new forte: kid actors who need head-shots.
“Those littlies are gold. They are my favourite, they will just go at it. No holds barred.”
She has recently introduced the innovation of the cube to her studio. A literal cube where families will climb inside and take a number of playful and lighthearted pictures. The result is a framed set of four cube shots, a candid piece of art that captures a moment in time, where each family member is simultaneously themselves, and a part of the greater whole.
Amanda stresses that this is the key difference between a portrait and a candid shot.
“A portrait of a person is a considered moment. A portrait is something that’s not taken lightly. Two parties, the photographer and the subject come together to create a piece of art that did not exist before. That’s what a portrait is. It’s very different to a candid photograph, which is a moment in time, a document. A portrait is a creation.”
A portrait has become more than a business or a craft for Amanda, it’s become a way to share her way of looking on the world. And this strength and empathy has led her to become a strong advocate for the importance of community, looking after one another and focusing on the essentials.
“Since Black Saturday, I’m no good in big groups anymore. I’m not interested in small talk. After going through something like that- you are changed for life. There’s stuff you just won’t put up with anymore. I can understand loss, dispossession and community. I am always looking to engage with the community.”
These lessons learned become louder as the Ipswich community faces the next steps in the wake of not only COVID-19 but the changes of the last few years. Amanda is adamant that working together is the key so that when we are able to go out again, the relationships built will still be standing.
“We can stop supporting and promoting mediocrity and go to the specialists around. Instead of going to Officeworks to get your supplies, go to Kate from Arttime Supplies, Go to Toni at Cute to Boot, Janette at Obsession Shoes, Emma at House of Resin. It’s people like these who give us a brick and motor premise. If we support those guys, we’re not only supporting them, we’re supporting people that they support.”
In the meantime, Amanda is working on a book with Toni from Cute to Boot, called Kids of Ipswich, which will begin in 2021 when things have returned to a gentler pace. It will be a glossy collection of gorgeous photographs recording the upcoming generation who will be the next to join the community of tomorrow that Amanda is helping to build today.