Patrick McGrath

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Patrick McGrath says he has always been intensely interested in how things work … Taking apart and re-assembling electrical or mechanical items helped him focus and stay calm through his anxiety, which was later diagnosed as Autism. That love of figuring out how things worked led him to start collecting old cameras, and eventually he started using them and realised he had a very good eye and a talent for taking beautiful photos.

Hi Patrick. Tell us a little about your connection to the Coffs Coast?

I moved to Coffs Harbour with my family in 1995 when I was 10 years old and have called this city home ever since. I went to Coffs Harbour Community Christian School, both primary and high school campuses. 

So, having spent most of my life here, I feel more comfortable with my Coffs Coast surroundings than I do when visiting larger cities like Sydney or Brisbane. I’ve been on a few short photography expeditions to places further afield in recent years, but I’m always happy to come home. 

I love the ease of access to nature here on the Coffs Coast and exploring the beach or the hinterland with my camera and a friend or two makes me feel really happy and relaxed.  But I also enjoy it when locals smile and say g’day in the street or shopping centre. It makes me feel part of this community. 

I like hanging out with friends I’ve made at Lifehouse Church, and spending time with family members who also live here. I’m not sure I could live happily anywhere else.

What’s your “back story” behind the lens … What inspired you to first pick up a camera? 

I’ve been intensely interested in how things work since a very young age, before I even started school. In fact, my parents once caught me hiding under my blankets in the dark with a broken radio I’d just got to work, after I’d been put to bed. I believe I was about four years old at the time.  

I had major learning difficulties and anxiety as a child, and tinkering with unwanted electronic or mechanical items used to help me focus and calm my anxiety. People would often give me broken radios and electrical appliances, and I would pull them apart, figure out how they worked and build something new.  

In my early teens I was diagnosed with Autism, which helped explain a lot of my anxiety and enabled my family to seek appropriate medical assistance for me. 

So, my very first interest in cameras was purely to see how they work. After a while, I started to gather a collection of old cameras that I would pick up at garage sales and charity shops. A few years ago I was offered a short course in photography and discovered that it’s also fun to use a camera to express how I see the world and the environment around me. I found out I was good at taking photos and with the encouragement of my family and mentor, decided to try to turn my hobby into a part-time business.  

Where do you draw your inspiration from? 

I guess I’m inspired by nature to a large degree, but I’m also drawn to the quirky and unusual, things that other people may miss. I can look at an incoming wave and see a face hiding inside it, or a piece of rough timber and see a bird or an animal within the grain. I’ve been told I have a unique perspective, and sometimes that different perspective comes out in my photos. It’s just the way I see the world.

What are some of the most memorable photos you have taken on the Coffs Coast and why? 

My personal favourites are my photos of the old bunker near Gallows Beach, which is a Coffs Harbour icon that looks especially good in black and white. It’s part of the town’s history. 

Sawtell Headland and Urunga Wetlands are places I also visit frequently, as the environment is always changing in those places. 

What do you love most about photography?

I love the sense of freedom that comes with getting out into the local environment, finding something that catches my eye, and capturing it with my camera, then sharing it with my audience. I feel so lucky to live where I live, because the photo opportunities are abundant. For me, every time I get to go out and about with my camera it’s like an expedition of exciting new discoveries.

Where can people see more of your work?

I’m always taking new photos, so my portfolio is constantly growing. Most of my work can be seen and purchased as wall art or digital downloads on my website:  

I also have Facebook and Instagram platforms. I’m currently in the process of preparing to showcase some of my artwork at the Palate and Ply Espresso Bar in Vernon Street, Coffs Harbour, at the kind invitation of Gary, the owner.  

I’d love to hear from any other business owners on the Coffs Coast who might be interested in showcasing some of my work!

Thanks Patrick.

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