Image by Jaime Murcia, 'Semana Santa, Cartagena, Spain' in Head On's Paper Tiger exhibition and book.
19/12/59 - 31/08/21
by Andrew Chapman
3rd September 2021
An acquaintance of mine once said, "you’ve got to want to burn to be a photographer". What she meant was that many photographers can take photographs, but there are those who are driven, who will go to many lengths to obtain their vision of how things should be. Jaime Murcia was one of those burning photographers.
Image credit: Andrew Chapman
Jaime was working as a doorman at State Parliament of Victoria in the early eighties, when he was asked to escort legendary 'The Age' photographer Bruce Postle up onto parliament's roof to take some photographs of a demonstration that was happening down on Spring St. Bruce's enthusiasm must have rubbed off on Jaime, because it was like a light switched on in his head and all at once, he knew where his future lay.
Jaime did his photographic 'apprenticeship' at the Gasworks Studios in the old Pelaco factory in Richmond. By the time he had done further stints at the Color Factory and Fine Art Studios in York St, Sth Melbourne he was on his way. A job at 'The Melbourne Weekly' honed his skills on a weekly basis and turned him into the photographer we can see today.
Beneath the commercial and editorial work though, lay his true passion, documentary photography. He joined the documentary collective 'Many Australian Photographers Group' around 2005 and immediately joined their 'Beyond Reasonable Drought' project, documenting the millenium drought.
Image by Jaime Murcia, MAP Group contribution.
Jaime had a really bright idea about documenting Melbourne‘s lane ways and small streets. In MAP Group, we developed the project 'Little Big Town' and the group produced quite a solid show on it. But Jaime had given his all to it and really had enough material to do a project on his own.
Many an early morning was spent alongside Jaime, exploring the city's backstreets and alleyways. Jaime knew them all and was always showing me their secrets, like the 'Banksy' stencilled Rat. Out of all this laneway work, he developed a successful Laneway Tour business, taking groups of interested photographers on photo walks.
I had been publishing for a few years with Five Mile Press, when Julia Taylor, my editor, said they were going to do some small books to try something different. I went into bat for a number of photographers projects including of course, his 'Little Big Town'. It was duly published in 2014.
Image by Jaime Murcia, from his book 'Little Big Town'. A photographic journey through Melbourne's famed little streets and laneways.
Jaime's other extensive project amongst his many others was on the Camino de Santiago pilgrim trail, an 825 kilometre walk which starts in Southern France and ends at Finestere on Spain's west coast. Along with his wife Tina, he first undertook the walk in 2011 He returned in the European winter to complete a shorter walk in the snow and cold, giving the project a new dimension. Jaime was even contemplating a third walk, should he ever recover from his ongoing cancer. Plans, plans, plans, right up till the end. We thought it would make a great publishing opportunity from a long and committed project, but finding a publisher to get on board ultimately proved too difficult from down under.
In 2012 we formed a small three man team of photographers to photograph a book on Camperdown race track, titled 'Camperdown and It's Cup'. Jaime, Noel Butcher and I photographed the book in a day and a half. Adam McNicol from Ten Bag Press and Phil Campbell came on board as publisher, writer and designer and the Ten Bag team was born.
Little did we know it at the time, that that would lead to many new publishing projects, chief amongst them being 'They're Racing at Manangatang', followed by 'The Mallee' and the just published, 'The Wimmera'. Jaime managed to get himself well enough to take a trip down to the Wimmera with his son Daniel in June, so keen was he to make sure he had done his share of the work! He was fortunate enough to see the first copy of 'The Wimmera' two weeks ago when Adam McNicol made sure to give him the first two copies straight from the printers. He was really thrilled to see them before he passed on.
Image by Jaime Murcia, 'Tempy Primary School' from the 'The Mallee' book. A collection of images taken in north-west Victoria. The aim of the project was to capture life in the small towns of the Mallee and on the farms that surround the towns.
Jamie was a photographers photographer. Other photographers instantly recognised his genius, his creativity and his drive. His infectious nature endeared him to so many people who travelled around his orbit. I never heard a bad word spoken of him and that’s a great compliment, a fitting one indeed.
It’s too soon to say how big a hole Jamie will leave in my life, not just mine but everybody who came in contact with. He is ever present and it’ll be a while till I shake his presence out of my mind and my life.... What am I saying, that will never happen!
They certainly threw the mould away when they made Jaime Murcia and I’m kind of glad they did. He was a one off, and that’s the way I like it.