The Randwick home of photographers Bart Celestino & Bec Parsons reflects the pair’s love of visual imagery. Streams of light fill open spaces, landing atop towers of art books. Spread across the space are sporadic touches of greenery. Artwork and photographic prints by Derek Henderson, Stephan Ormandy, Kate Banazi and by the pair themselves cover the walls.
“It’s a playground,” says Celestino. “We like to keep everything soft and colourful, rather than sterile or overdesigned. Remember how in the ‘50s and ‘60s, homes had bright-coloured themes? That kind of environment is inspiring for kids to play and learn in. You want a comfortable house. It’s a little sanctuary.”
The sanctuary is also home to their daughter Olive, who is two, and two “crazy cats,” Kashi and Duster. “I wanted Olive to be around pets as she grows up. I think she gets along with the cats, but I don’t know if the cats get along with her … ”
Celestino is a multidisciplinary artist; his career predominantly focusing on large-format landscape stills. His works are considered observations of the natural world; sophisticated and thought provoking. “Natural light is a powerful driver in my imagery; be it the hardness of the direct sun in summer or the black light of a winter’s day,” says Celestino.
In contrast, Parsons is a fashion photographer, spontaneous and carefree in her approach. Her pieces feel effortless and raw, at times like a personal, private moment between photographer and subject. Parsons’ impressive client list spans advertorial and high fashion, from Trenery and General Pants to Harper's Bazaar and Oyster.
“Bec definitely has a way with light. It’s almost a naivety. It’s part of what I loved when I first met her. I have to set up a camera, to visualise a whole scene, like in film where you light for a space and the actors move through it. Whereas Bec has this carefree approach where she just starts to take pictures.”
“I met Bec on a shoot, we fell in love at first sight. I did have to get rid of her other boyfriend before anything could happen, though,” laughs Celestino. “She’s a real free spirit. It’s been almost 10 years now, but we still clash all the time. I think it’s important to be surrounded by different opinions. You don’t want followers, you want people who push you to do good things.”
Parsons is absent for the interview, which Celestino confirms is a common occurrence. “Every time we have an interview together she always goes ‘OK Bart, enjoy … ’ and manages to wander away,” he laughs.
The duo’s first artistic collaboration is Love Want, a creative outlet for the two. It’s a magazine published bi-annually, the eighth edition launching today.
“We were frustrated that you could never run a story the way you wanted to. There’s so much going on inside a magazine in terms of how many boxes you have to tick, we decided to do something design-wise where we can do exactly what we want. If I want to run the same picture over eight pages, I can run that sequence. It’s very hard to convince magazines to be creative. They play it very safe.”
Celestino recently branched out into film, in collaboration with acclaimed cinematographer Stefan Duscio. Their installation, A Romance of Many Dimensions, is an observation of the ocean and the relative moments between space and time, inspired by the 1884 book, Flatland.
The process was a new experience. “Stefan is brilliant. These huge waves are crashing over us, we’ve got this 4K Phantom camera and the guys are doing everything they can to keep it steady, Stefan is pulling focus and I’m just there going, ‘Man, it’s really cold in the water and I don’t know how they’re even focusing this thing’.”
Love Want is reflective of the duo’s individual talents; serene but imposing land and seascapes and daring portraits, seamlessly strung together. Analogue triumphs over digital, craft over manipulation. Words are few. Advertising is almost non-existent. The reader is left to wander the pages, to develop an interpretation of the imagery without being led to a pre-conceived conclusion. The goal is for readers to find a moment and to close the book with an overall feeling, as opposed to a memory of a specific image. It’s a unique approach.
“I’ve always said that focus is overrated,” says Celestino. “If you just point the camera in the right direction, things will happen. It’s that feeling, that moment you’ve really got to keep an eye out for. The magazine is like that too. For the static image, something that you want to study and to enjoy, nothing beats a magazine.”
Love Want issue #8 launches Tuesday May 19.