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A serious man

by Alistair McGhie, 1 September 2010

Alistair McGhie discusses Andrew MacColl's portrait photograph of Australian comedian Mick Molloy.

Mick Molloy, 2009 by Andrew Maccoll
Mick Molloy, 2009 by Andrew Maccoll

The opportunities to see film stars, television stars, rock stars, and sports stars caught unprepared or unawares in weekly magazines and posted on the internet are endless. Unposed, unpaid photos of celebrities exist on the threshold between public and private realms.

Whatever the reasons for their popularity and ubiquity, our experience of seeing an actress struggling with an infant on a hip, shopping bags in the hand, car key between the teeth is one of gratification; they are, after all, real people.

Some celebrities attempt to convince us of the truth of their existence via the medium of television. Reality television goes beyond the limits of the real past the absurd to end up as some form of semi-scripted artifice. There is nothing objective about looking at an image of a someone in the public eye. Even though we’ve never met the person and have no way of ever knowing them, it is impossible for us to be neutral and resist an opinion.

So, is it the public or the private persona that is presented to us in the recently acquired photographic portrait of a wellknown Australian actor/producer/comedian/footy-fanatic and writer? A gift of the artist, Andrew Maccoll, the photograph shows, as Mick Molloy puts it, ‘me, in my natural habitat.’ Molloy and Maccoll were paired up in 2009 for an assignment for the Australian monthly magazine, Ralph. The images devised for the article were of Molloy in a pub at the bar in his pyjamas pouring a beer over a bowl of breakfast cereal. With his background being in comedy, Molloy says he’s often asked to ‘ham it up for the camera’. This is what we expect from an entertainer. At the end of a shoot, once the obligations of the assignment are taken care of and the client is happy, it is Maccoll’s standard practice to compose a photographic portrait of his own. In this way Maccoll has created portraits of Australians such as Michael Klim, Nick Cave and American actors, Seth Rogen and Jason Schwartzman.

Still at the pub, Molloy agreed to sit for the portrait. The result neither conceals or reveals, Molloy simply says it ‘confirms’. It is candid, honest, unpretentious. No props, costumes, nothing set up for a laugh, no frozen smile, just the man sitting down to a beer at the British Crown Hotel in Collingwood, Melbourne. Molloy and Maccoll agree, if anything, Mick’s look is ‘gubernatorial’.

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