My biggest fear as a parent is not being able to pay for anything (laughs), because it’s especially challenging in Sydney.
In the lead up to Father’s Day, Map of the Heart is interviewing dads to celebrate and discuss how they balance fatherhood and a burgeoning creative career.
Max Doyle, Photographer
Hi Max, where are you from?
It’s a bit complicated. I’m English, but I mostly grew up in New Zealand. I moved to Sydney and was a musician, and then I was living in England for all of the 90’s which was where I became a photographer. We moved back here when the girl I was seeing got pregnant.
Was she pregnant with your eldest child?
Yeah. We hadn’t known each other very long but she was Australian. My career was going off at the time and I had just bought a flat and started settling down. We were going to have our baby there, but we had an appointment at the hospital and it was quite confronting. It was a different kind of healthcare system in comparison to here, and so we wanted to go back to Australia to have the baby. We always planned to go back over, but we’ve been here ever since. That was 18 years ago.
How did you become a photographer?
I was travelling with the girl I was seeing, who was a stylist. She was a Junior Fashion Editor at Australian Vogue, and we left Australia to go on a big trip but ended up in London. She was styling on jobs and I had no work, so she asked photographers if they needed any help. Something came up for me, so I went to set and a week later I was in Miami on a big catalogue shoot, then to the South of France. It just seemed like a good job to be doing.
So it happened really naturally.
Yeah, I always liked taking photos. Playing in bands I would always have a camera, but I never considered it to be a career. I hadn’t given it any thought or context, and didn’t even know there were jobs as assistants. It’s fantastic when you’re doing it out of London as you’re just travelling the whole time.
What kind of music did you play?
Over the years it’s evolved a lot. In New Zealand we were sort of the first notable synthesiser band around, called The New Romantics.
It was sick, but shocking. (Laughs). Actually it was pretty terrible, but it evolved. My favourite band was my last band. I had given up music in London and I thought it was all pretty much over until I met Jeff (from Songs). We started talking about music, then we had a jam together, and a whole new musical life opened up for me.
And what was the band called?
Songs. We did two albums and played festivals, and it was going good but you know like all bands, it’s so hard to keep it together. Now I have a really great combination of guys who have kids, and have the same time challenges as me. I think we’re going to do a record. The brand comprises of two guys from Youth Group, and one of them was the base player in The Vines. We just get together and make some noise, and my old assistant Mason is playing drums. I just feel that if I don’t have band going, you kind of lose it because its so hard to get one together and keep the momentum going. I don’t think I’d ever be motivated to do solo stuff.
How many kids do you have?
Three. Jemima is going to be 18 in a couple of months. Frankie is going to be 14, and Wilco is 8.
Wilco is a really cool name. How do you find balancing photography, your music and fatherhood? Do all of your kids live with you full time?
Yes, but Jemima is potentially moving out soon which will be interesting. It’s really challenging, but I’m sure it is for everyone. I find freelancing presents unique challenges and I often wonder what it would be like to have a 9-5 job where you can actually plan everything and schedule your kids. With us it’s all over the place. And because a lot of what I do happens when I’m not actually shooting, you have to remain self-motivated to stay creative. There’s all sorts of family admin stuff as well to juggle with.
“In terms of inspiration, my kids influence me in a very loose and abstract way. I don’t really think about them when I’m shooting. And my family snaps are notoriously terrible."
Mostly, I just like hanging out with the kids and not doing anything. That’s a dream. When it comes to fitting in music, that’s fairly easy nowadays because I just jam at night with the other dads, and they understand if I can’t make it.
I think the biggest challenge for me is now that I’m in the older generation of photographers, the younger guys are coming through, and I often remember what it was like when I had nothing else to think about. It was easier to be creative and spontaneous, and sometimes I feel like I’m not applying myself like I could be. There’s other projects I want to be doing, for example Innen Books have been asking me to do a zine with them and I’m like “Fuck! I really want to do that”, but then I keep putting it off. It’s been two years of them asking. I also started making short films a few years ago, and I thought that was going to be something which I could continue doing, but it’s just finding that extra leg of time. So much of your time gets taken up by kids. Everyone has commitments, but family commitments just seem huge in comparison.
You primarily shoot portraits and editorial. Do you ever feel that your children influence your work? Not necessarily in scheduling, but perhaps in terms of subject matter or creative intention?
Funnily enough, I’m going to post something today because my middle girl Frankie has decided that she’s a public figure.
An influencer” (Laughs).
According to her Instagram. I recently worked on something for the British magazine Banshee, and they wanted me to create some of my scrap book style stuff. It’s a female focused publication and so I shot the women in my life. I made a page on Frankie. I love working with her, but in terms of inspiration, my kids influence me in a very loose and abstract way. I don’t really think about them when I’m shooting. And my family snaps are notoriously terrible.
How do you feel about Frankie becoming a public figure on social media, and the rising influence these technologies have on kids?
It’s just too much of a puzzle for me to ever understand. I don’t know what’s going on, but it’s my natural instinct to be skeptical and steer her away. I’m not really a control person though. I can think of so many times in my life where someone could’ve tried to stop me from pursuing something. I like to think that they’re following their own path, and to keep an eye on her for safety.
But really, I don’t know what’s going on in the world of social media. Frankie’s take on it all is so far removed from mine. I just like seeing her happy.
What were, or still are, are some of your fears as a father?
Our eldest teenager was the most challenging, in terms of almost every scary scenario you can imagine as a parent. It looked like it was going to manifest with her, but I think we were just being over sensitive. She’s turned out fantastic. As a parent, you just hope that you’re making it possible for them to reach their potential and not get in the way.
My biggest fear as a parent is not being able to pay for anything (laughs), because it’s especially challenging in Sydney. It’s all just basic money shit really.
And is this contributed by the high expectations from your kids’ social environments?
Yeah. Some of their social network’s just aren’t very realistic in terms of expectations. And sometimes it takes a lot of explaining, but they’ll understand one day.
A lot of people believe that the most important thing to give a child is unconditional love. What do you think is the most important thing, aside from money? (Laughs).
My kids never really have to question my love. For me, I just want them to have security and to know that I’m always here no matter what. I think that because growing up, my parents separated, and that had a big impact on me. So no matter what’s happening, no matter what shit is going down, I’ll be here every day… except for when I’m shooting (laughs).
Jeffrey Darling,Director & Co-Founder Map of the Heart
When did you become a father?
In 1991 with my eldest daughter.
And what were you doing at the time?
Same as what I’m doing now – making films as a director.
You founded Map of the Heart with your partner Sarah Blair and both of you have a history of ongoing film production companies, which is now Velvet. Your children are very much integrated between the two and contribute either through production or as filmmakers. Was this an active choice of yours?
Family has always been part of what we’re doing. Right from day one it was integrated because there was so much travelling involved. It’s really an experience you’re putting together for your children. I was trying to incorporate work with family as a lot of the times you’d end up editing for months in London, or wherever, and they were young enough to travel with you. You could set up in a house or hotel, and be there with them for an infinite period of time. It always felt like family adventures.
Did you ever feel that they were slowing you down?
No, it never slowed you down. It’s just a different story that you have out there and a different time of your life. From what I understand, it’s not conflicting, but better for what I do because I needed more life experience to be able to see and understand the value in what I’m portraying (in film).
In saying that, do you then think your children have influenced your work conceptually?
I think the values in what you do really shift. It’s hard to explain to somebody what it means to have a child. Suddenly, it’s not so much the responsibility, but the change in values. Your self value totally diminishes because now you would throw yourself under a train for these other people, and it feels so innate and instinctive. I don’t think you could ever explain that to somebody because it’s a different thing unto itself, to actually experience fatherhood. It changes who you are, for sure. I’ve seen it through numerous people, suddenly there’s a huge transition in that persons character because the value of their own life is really different. That’s the biggest influence.
Do you think that family oriented companies experience conflict in the industry?
In filmmaking there’s a lot of small companies and family is always a part of what it is. I think there’s value in second or third generations within these industries because a lot of it is awkward to understand and learn. So much of it is out of hours, and slowly you’re finding a network of people crossing over as they learn the curve together. It’s kind of like being born into theatre. It’s a very unique kind of industry.
“The paradigm of fatherhood shifts and changes, and it’s so different. There’s nothing you can put into words."
What do you think is the most important thing you can give to your children?
Memories. Throughout their whole lives, especially when they’re young, you’re trying to find place and story. You want them to have a sense of memory to fall back on. I think that’s important. A lot of my world is travelling, so it’s important having our family based here (in Sydney) and set that in stone, then travel out from it. It was a very conscious act to have a definitive home, as opposed to being nomadic. Sort of like, “Ok. We’re here. We’ll always be here” and then to find refuge and move out from there. I definitely think one of the strongest things you can give your kids are memories.
Do you have any advice for other fathers?
No. I don’t think you can because no-one will ever understand the advice you give. The paradigm of fatherhood shifts and changes, and it’s so different. There’s nothing you can put into words. I find it so surprising and interesting how it happens instantaneously from the moment of birth. Fatherhood is just an instinctive thing.
Photography by Traianos Pakioufakis
Interview by Jodie Hill