J ARTS CREW :: Splendid Feet
By Claire Frost
NSW | 14.08.2006
Splendour In The Grass is as much about footwear fashion as it is about the music. Cybele Malinowski caught it on camera. Cybele Malinowski likes to take photos of people’s feet. “When I was a teenager I didn’t look at a boy’s eyes, I didn’t look at a boy’s hair or his shirt. You look straight to the feet." The Splendour in the Grass weekend just gone (or ‘Splendour in the Mud’ as it has been affectionately named) featured some of the most impressive, innovative and diverse displays of festival footwear fashion you could ever hope to see at an Aussie music festival. So it goes without saying that Cybele had a field day, and spent most of her time with her camera aimed towards the ground. “I was at Splendour last year as well, and the shoes really got me! The footwear! And I must say this year, compared to last year, it was phenomenal! I saw, literally, 500 different styles of gumboots. It was insane!”
“I think that feet - or more so, shoes - explain a lot, not only about a person, but about a situation. I mean where else would you see thousands of people walking around in fluro gumboots. It’s so novel. And honestly I’ve never seen so many gumboots in my bloody life!” There were gumboots to suit every personality. From the tragically fashionable animal-print designer gumboots selling at one entrepreneurial market stall for $100 a pop; to neatly buckled Gucci numbers; to colourful kiddie gumboots suitable only for very little people with very little feet. There were bright yellow galoshes with matching raincoats; painstakingly home-decorated white gumboots complete with glitter, fluro faux fur, pom-poms and posca pen doodlings. And at the other end of the spectrum were the daggy-but-practical, all-terrain black gumboots - a highly sought-after commodity purchased from hardware shops along the Pacific Highway from Sydney to Brisbane.
“I think perhaps one of the other reasons I was focusing so much on people’s gumboots was because I didn’t have any myself. I left mine at home and I was a bit gumboot jealous.” Gumbooted festival goers were at the top of the footwear food-chain, casting smug looks down at cold, wet feet struggling through shin-deep mud puddles that swallowed up flimsy thongs and made sure that the ubiquitous canvas Dunlop Volley would never be quite the same shade of white again.
Occasionally discomfort sparked innovation: “There was a man in bare feet - he’d obviously got his feet completely drenched in mud and crap - and he’d got plastic bags and tied them around his feet, so he was walking around like a space man. I captured that one.” And some punters just wanted to get back to nature: “The bare foot man. This guy was a hippy. Lovely guy, very friendly. And his feet almost become part of the ground. It was quite beautiful - they almost looked like branches of a tree."
When Cybele isn’t taking pictures of dirty feet at festivals, she’s in her Sydney studio doing product, design, architectural and fashion photography for big clients. At 25 she’s already been working professionally for two years and runs her own business, Blue Murder Studios. “That’s really exciting and scary and hard, but there’s so much possibility. And it gives me the freedom to direct my photography in the area that I want to be in, rather than working for somebody else. I’m really trying to make my social photography and my music photography financially viable.”
On a typical Friday night, Cybele grabs her camera and ventures out to local bars and clubs and grimy underground rock and roll venues, in search of indie kids with attitude (the bigger the ego the better the photograph) and looking to “capture the raw youth and sexual energy that comes out with alcohol and night time and music.”
When she first started taking 'crowd' photos she was firmly in the minority. “There would be about 20 cameras focusing up on the stage and I was the one who was roaming around the dark corners at the back." But things are changing. "I think many websites, and street press as well, have realised the value of taking photographs of the crowd. Because if you think of a magazine, every week kids go and look at that magazine to see if they’re in it. There are a lot of photographers who photograph bands and they do a great job of it, but there’s so much happening off the stage that people miss. And I think it's really important to capture that. And of course the people in the photographs love it too.”
Cybele Malinowski’s photographs are published across a range of media, including music magazines and street press, on music and social websites, on the online photo-sharing site, flickr, and on her own website: Blue Murder Studios