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Toby Burrows for Russh Magazine

Artist | Toby Burrows

WORDS Clare Alstin

He’s worked alongside David Bailey and Richard Avedon at London’s Holborn Studios. But that’s not why we want to share Toby Burrows with you.

We found This picture on the wall at Bondi’s The Corner House. It’s Toby Burrows’ Fallen – one in his series of surreal landscapes, each of them with a redheaded woman floating through the picture. We hunted down his details and chased until he answered our call. What’s special is how 
these photographs make you feel. It’s as though they capture 
that moment before you wake up, those precious few seconds where reality is suspended and imagination is still limitless but semi-consciousness is able to reach out, blink and hold a snapshot of that dream, like a memory. There’s a familiarity and stillness that exists in his work and you could stare and stare for hours. It’s difficult to believe, though, that Burrows created such stillness, such a peaceful image. He isn’t still, he isn’t slow – actually, he is anything but.

There is definitely magic in Fallen and you can see the influence his mother and the great painters that were around him while he was growing up have had (Burrow’s mother owned a gallery in Sydney’s Paddington and he was exposed to great painters including Charles Blackman and David Boyd very early on). The photo is set up as though painted. Burrows’ fine arts background, then, comes as little surprise. Of the redhead, he insists, “it is her natural hair colour”. In fact, everything about these magical shots are real. No photoshopping or superimposing. Think more along the lines of incredibly skilled trampolining or strategic cabling and you’re close. But a magician never reveals his secret and Burrows politely directs the conversation elsewhere when asked to go into too much detail on his method.

Burrows the man is a great storyteller in the flesh, but perhaps his best stories are those documented through his lens: “I think a picture can conjure up a story in everybody’s mind, and I think a picture can say different things to different people … Some people would find a particular image really uplifting, and others will find because of their own personal experience it would bring up another feeling,” he explains. “I think essentially they are little snapshots of the world and there is a surreal nature about it, and it’s a little story in itself and it’s for the viewer to write it.”

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