John Gollings – A unique perspective


As a photographer of some 49 years standing John Gollings knows a thing or two about the importance of perspective when trying to attain that perfect shot.

He knows that an accurate depiction of relative positions and size is everything when it comes to the composition of a photograph and he is only too aware that without any sense of spatial awareness life behind the lens can prove pretty difficult. Which is perhaps why 73-year-old John has become an expert at shooting from the sky.

Something of a shy child and teenager, John says he first took to photography because it allowed him to hide behind the camera during awkward social encounters.

“I always had a strong sense of composition and an instinct for a perverse narrative which must have set me apart. I started using the family camera as a nine-year-old – I loved the technology and the magic of the darkroom. I planned to be an architect, which is what I studied at university, but I got a job in a photo studio as an assistant shortly after and never went back to it.”

His first piece of Nikon equipment was a Nikon F1 camera body, which was purchased for him for his 21st birthday in 1965 shortly after its release. He followed that up by buying a NIKKOR-S Auto 55mm f/1.2 micro lens which was all he could afford at the time.

The early days spent shooting weddings and marketing brochures to save for equipment are now behind him and today John admits to owning almost every one of the lenses Nikon has produced.

His go-to camera bodies of choice are the Nikon D810 and Nikon D4. While holding a master’s degree in Architecture from RMIT and an Honour Fellowship of the Australian Institute of Architects, John specialises in the documentation of cities, and reflecting on urban space, and has had a particular interest in the fires and floods that characterise the Australian landscape.

His work is held by galleries all around the world including the Canadian Centre for Architecture, National Gallery of Australia, the Monash Gallery of Art and the State Library of Queensland. Numerous exhibitions of his work have been staged, he is the recipient of a Visual Arts Board Grant from the Australia Council, twice been given the Presidents Award by the Australian Institute of Architecture and has received many advertising and graphic design awards from Australian, New York and Chicago Art Directors Clubs.

While he happily works as a commercial architectural photographer, he says this affords the freedom to explore photographic projects that he finds culturally and socially challenging. While his talent has seen him weave his way around such diverse spots as Nauru, Ponape, China, India, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Russia and Noumea, John has lost none of that sense of excitement and anticipation he first experienced when he first picked up a camera all those many moons ago.

“[The work I do is] all aerial, from a helicopter. I like the flat two dimensionality of aerials so that I can concentrate on the composition. I’m always looking to transcend the literal with a broader comment on the world. [I like] the excitement and challenges of achieving a good pic from the air and the energy [that comes from] such a different point of view.

“Twenty minutes after sunset [is my favourite time of day to shoot] because the light coming from the building and the sky density are the same at that moment which allows a very efficient look into the building as well as the external form.”

Always eager to try out new equipment, John can often be found trialling new equipment but argues this is more to establish better working practise than it is to record strict technical laboratory results.

Issued with the NIKKOR PC 19mm f/4E ED lens – which is a high-performance, ultra-wide angle 19mm lens with perspective control designed specifically to capture detail rich architecture, interiors and landscapes – John used the lens on commissioned commercial work on two different jobs.

Prior to attaching it to his camera he says he expected to be given a 17mm lens, believing that was all that was available.

“I was expecting a 17mm because I need all the angle of coverage that I can get. I had assumed I would receive a high quality lens and was very impressed.”

John Gollings

John says he was surprised by how easy the lens’ new Perspective Control Rotation mechanism, which enables the direction of tilt and shift operation to be adjusted independently, was to use even for stitching and cross shift. He says the lens, which is easily maintained and durable, works optimally when used as a creative tool for photographers shooting architecture’ landscape and food.

Its strength lies in its quality and resolution however it’s also great for stitched landscape [where] it has no peer, John says. “I’d recommend this lens with no hesitation. It is one of the sharpest Nikkor lenses every made with very little chromatic aberration.”

To see more of John’s work visit

Words: Tracey Porter

Published by mynikonlife Jan 12, 2017
Categories: Gear, News