Suburban Endurance and In the Skin

Written by Zigi on Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Amy Crawley

Amy Crawley

Suburban Endurance is a series of images that consist of documentary style portraits of different friends of mine, the entire series consists of currently 33 images and has currently been shot over the course of 8 years.

Each of the individuals live in suburban Victoria, Australia and have faced and endured the consistent cycle of suburban life and exploring their identity within.

Suburban Endurance is an exploration of their lives and in contrast a exploration of my own life and the people around me which is evident and documented within the images.

A number of photographers and works inspired my series such as Richard Billingham’s ‘Ray’s a laugh‘. Nick Waplington’s ‘Living Room‘. Boris Mikhailov’s ‘Case History‘ and Larry Clark’s ‘Tulsa‘.

Majority of the individuals photographed in ‘Suburban Endurance‘ have struggled in a judgemental and superficial society.

They have been searching for a place to fit into as all humans crave and found it difficult to find their place and their identity.

No person is the same so why are we expected to follow and serve a system thats doesn’t provide sufficient help for all of it’s citizens?

– with help that is available consisting of impossible conditions and limitations which sends the individuals into a consistent cycle and not going anywhere.

Each of the subjects included in this series are close friends of mine who I’ve known for years and have watched their struggles with their identity, financial  problems,

unemployment, mental health, horrific events, raising and looking after children with no experience, homelessness and substance abuse.

I tried to capture the innocence of the children who lived at each of the homes I visited while also capturing their vulnerability – to their hard lifestyle and surroundings.

Each of the children that I photographed I did not interfere with while taking the photos purely capturing and documenting them uninterrupted or unprovoked –

evidently exposing their struggles with respect while keeping the essence of the situation true. I found documenting and capturing images of my close friends very therapeutic and rewarding –

it gave me a real understanding of each of my friends lives, their struggles and their achievements while also helping me to discover who I was throughout the journey.

The entire series has currently been progressing over the course of 8 years and I still continue to shoot as apart of this series.

Each series that I produce expose an essence of truth and a hidden real identity of the subject I am photographing – and some of those truths can be shocking to some viewers.


Natalie McComas
In The Skin


Natalie McComas is an editorial, commercial & documentary photographer based on the Gold Coast,  frequently travelling near and far, freelancing to national and international clients and publications.

McComas grew up on the coast of New South Wales spending her free lunch times at high school in the darkroom inspired by the magic of exposing and developing black and white prints by hand. In 2005 she graduated from Queensland College of Art, Griffith University with a Bachelor of Photography and First Class Honors in Social Documentary Photography. Her personal documentary work has previously been recognised in prestigious competitions such as the Moran Photographic Prize, The Leica/CCP Documentary Award and NOISE/ Qantas Spirit of Youth Awards.


When I first met Patience backstage after a Grates gig I saw her deep red birthmark, which covers the entire left side of her upper torso, as truly beautiful and was immediately intrigued.  As we became friends over the years to follow I came to not only admire her vibrant personality, but also her fresh perspective on her birthmark.

Large port wine stains are rare in occurrence and can be accompanied by quite serious health conditions. I knew there would be people out there who looked down upon themselves for having a large, visible birthmark; people who had struggled to fit in and who had gone their entire lives without ever meeting anyone else like themselves.

I felt compelled to take Patience’s portrait to share her radiant beauty and, above all else, her positive and kick-ass attitude with the world and those who needed to hear it most. So, I did - just on my blog... without any real expectations or plan in mind.

In a rather short time a large social media snowball ensued.

People craving acceptance from the world around them found something beautiful and courageous in Patience’s portrait and quote. Hundreds of viewers felt compelled to write to me, to comment, to ‘like,’ to share, to ‘re-gram,’ to 'pin.' People wrote me wishing to share their own touching stories, their heartaches, their hates and loves about themselves and their birthmark. They told me about the way they are treated by others, what they have learned about themselves over time, and parents asked for advice on how to protect their children from the cruel eyes of society. Most commonly, people revealed to me how they wept with joy from seeing Patience’s portrait. From seeing someone like themselves. For the first time. Ever.

In 2014 Natalie McComas became the first artist in Australia to be awarded funding by VSCO's Artist Initiative to undertake her latest documentary project, In This Skin. In 2015 she spent four months travelling around the world meeting and photographing 23 of the people who had written to her sharing their stories about living this life with a prominent birthmark.

In This Skin celebrates these unique skin formations whilst exploring the effects they have had on people’s lives, psyches and health.  These insights allow those who have, for most of their lives, felt isolated or discriminated against, to feel connected and feel a sense of community.  McComas hopes to encourage viewers to be accpeting and compassionate, firstly, towards those who are seen as ‘different’ within their own community circles, and secondly, to themselves, and whatever it may be that makes them stand out in a crowd.

Funded by a grant from the VSCO Artist Initiative™


This exhibition is part of Head On Photo Festival 2016, Australia’s leading photography festival

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Article written by Zigi
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