When I asked photographer and pal, James Adams, about the inspiration behind his latest exhibition 'Null & Void' at Sonics Gallery, his response was refreshingly candid. 'Put simply, Null & Void is a photo show in a streetwear shop,' he explained. 'I’m no longer of the belief that you need a grand reason to print photos large, gather friends, and enjoy a handful of complimentary drinks.'

But as I delved deeper into conversation with James and Fabio, the owner of Sonics Gallery, their dialogue revealed a shared commitment to fostering connections and making art accessible in a laid-back setting. It soon became evident that 'Null & Void' goes beyond being a mere showcase—it's a celebration of collaboration, community, and creative expression.

James summed it up aptly, 'It’s an excuse to hang out and look at images, not through a screen. It’s an excuse to talk over a carefully curated playlist. It’s an excuse to buy a photo for your wall, a shirt for your back, or a tote for your crumpled notebook. It’s an excuse to talk to a stranger.'

Funnily, that's how 'Null & Void' came together in the first place...



Guys, thanks for taking the time to chat. James, could you tell us more about the concept behind 'Null & Void'? Is there rhyme or reason to the show, or is it just an excuse to throw a good party?

James: It’s always an excuse to look at pictures bigger than palm-size while having a drink with new and old mates. The concept is me trying to avoid becoming 'Null & Void' after moving to Melbourne as a middle-aged photographer amid a professional crisis. Photographically there isn’t a firm theme other than a visible difference in styles between the two rooms. You’ll have to attend to see what I’m on about.

What makes for a good exhibition?

James: Vibe. You want to make it easy for people to have a good time, which involves a multitude of factors. This includes a convenient location, good tunes, welcoming lighting, and drinks, fostering open conversation. However, the primary focus should be on the images themselves—they need to be strong enough to evoke thought and spark conversation.

Fabio: I agree, it’s all about creating good memories, achieved through the right music, crafting the desired environment in the space, and inviting friends and art lovers to come along for the experience and enjoy the night. It's crucial that whatever is showcased can tell a compelling story from multiple perspectives. That's what keeps us curious and wanting more—a good story.

How did 'Null & Void' come to be hosted at Sonics Gallery?

James: In mid-October, Fab slid into my DMs and pitched the idea. He was about to open the shop and flattered me when he mentioned a mutual friend had recommended my work to be featured in a show. I love nothing more than when people put themselves and an idea out there to a stranger, so that was enough for me. It didn’t hurt that when I went to meet Fab at Sonics Gallery for the first time, it felt natural, like we’d been mates forever. I really hope he feels that way about me, haha.

Fabio, what drew you to collaborate with James, and how does his work or self align with the ethos of Sonics Gallery?

Fabio: Deciding to collaborate was an easy move for me, especially after seeing James’ talent behind the lens, particularly his work with musicians — it was a no-brainer. James’ skill in capturing raw moments really intrigues me. As a musician myself, Sonics Gallery's core foundation is music, evident from the name, to our logo, to my drumkit being in-store. I believe both James and Sonics Gallery complement each other seamlessly. I'm hopeful that this is the first of many collaborations with James and Sonics Gallery, allowing us to push the boundaries even further down the line.

Tell us more about how Sonics Gallery came into existence? 

Fabio: True story (I feel like a bunch of people go through this as well): I had nowhere to put my drum kit for years, and a studio was out of the question. Now, it has a perfect home in the shop. I always dreamed of having my own little shop in the neighbourhood, where mates could chill out and jam. I found a shop front down the road from me that was ticking pretty much all the boxes I needed for the concepts and ideas I had in mind, and here we are. Sonics opened last October, and at its core, it's a curated space for streetwear, art, and music.

I love that he drum kit is the cornerstone. What goods are you currently stocking?

Fabio: We primarily stock skate/streetwear brands, many of which I've worked closely with in the past. Once I told them that I've got my own thing running, they were down for the ride. I wouldn't be here without their support.

And the gallery side of the biz?

Fabio: Things are different in the retail space post-COVID. I always knew selling a t-shirt wasn’t going to be as easy as it used to be back in the day. Creating a point of difference for Sonics has always been at the forefront. We have a minimal layout in-store, which left all this blank space on the walls to be filled. Thornbury, where we are located, is a thriving community of independence and creativity, so what better way to add some colour to the store than by showcasing local talent and giving artists an alternative space to showcase their work... I feel like I’ve rambled, but Sonics is a space to come hang, have a good chat, check out some art, and maybe buy a t-shirt while you're at it.

How do you approach curating shows like 'Null & Void'?

Fabio: The whole curation side is still completely new to me, but I feel like I’m getting the hang of it. So, next time you see me, expect me to have my 'curator's beret' on, haha. When putting a show like 'NULL & VOID' together, it all starts with the concept and the experience we’re trying to create. Our space can be divided into two rooms, which really opens up opportunities to explore different themes and concepts. It’s an exciting journey from start to finish – seeing all the ideas in your head being sketched on paper, and then turning those ideas into a public event for all to enjoy. I feel like the hardest thing is giving whatever you’ve created a name. I suck at naming things.

You kinda nailed the name 'Sonics Gallery', haha. What criteria do you consider when selecting artists to showcase?

Fabio: Currently, there’s no real criteria when selecting artists to showcase in-store. The artists have no idea the favour they are doing for Sonics by allowing us to showcase their work, so we are forever grateful. Art is so subjective, so who are we to say what is or isn't good? Through my years, I’ve realised that what I may not vibe with, someone else will completely love, so it’s good to showcase a bit of everything. When there are no solo shows on, we rotate pieces every month to keep things exciting. Surprisingly, all the different mediums in-store speak so well to each other.

James, what inspired the selection of photographs for 'Null & Void'?

James: I've only shown work in Melbourne once before, back in 2017, in a joint show with Sam Brumby, the big stallion. I see this as a reintroduction and have tried to select images that are striking. My aim is for people to really engage with the photos, to be entertained for more than just a fleeting second. I hope they'll see things that raise questions and pique their curiosity.

Are there certain themes or messages you're hoping to convey to viewers?

James: If there’s a message I’m trying to get across when people look at the images, it'd be... 'buy me.' No, I’m just happy for people to take a look, hopefully like what they see, and come and say hi.

As a photographer, you have some skin in the game. From shooting surfing and music to campaign work, how has your journey influenced the style and content of the photographs featured in 'Null & Void'?

James: I'd say my journey hasn’t influenced the style and content; it is the style and content of the show itself. It’s impossible to distill over 20 years behind the lens into one show, and I’m not trying to do that. These are simply images that, as of right now, I’m happy with or at least curious to see nicely printed and framed, hanging on a wall in a public space.

In regards to you move to Melbourne, you previously mentioned you feel 'like a small fish in a big fucking pond'. As a creative, how daunting is it rolling into a new city and trying to make a mark or new connections?

James: I've always relished an adventure, a challenge, and moving to a new city isn't foreign to me either. However, the difference now is that I'm married, with a child and a mortgage. And, I'm getting older and uncool. These additional responsibilities and life stages certainly add pressure, but experience teaches you to deal with pressure; it's par for the course. So, you just deal with the cards you're dealt and be proactive. This show embodies that spirit. It's about doing something to draw attention to myself and what I can offer, whether you're a member of the public or a brand. This is a marketing exercise, but it's also a fucking fun one to attend—for me and for you.

Haha, any advice for people who are in a similar boat?

Get a real job.

Why do you believe it's crucial to forge connections with individuals like Fab?

James: Because who are we without friends? I'm not friends with Fab as a business strategy; if he were an asshole, I wouldn't have done this with him. I'm certain I've been able to maintain my livelihood partially because I can take a nice picture and shoot to a brief, but also because being a normal person and having a chat with anyone is all it takes to forge a connection. And that's what keeps you employed when your goatee starts getting greyer than your tramp stamp.

When it comes to photography, what are your sources of inspiration?

James: I used to collect photo books, and then I followed photographers I liked on Instagram when that started. But nowadays, I almost actively avoid looking at too much of other people's work. Sometimes it negs me out how shit their work is. Sometimes it negs me out that I didn’t think of their idea. What gives me the most inspiration is seeing beautiful natural light falling onto banal objects, making them appear romantic or nostalgic.

Do you have a favourite photograph from the exhibition?

Fabio: All of them, ha. But there's one with the water doing its thing that I keep going back to. He's good.

James: I don’t know if I have a favourite, but I’m curious to see how the curtains turn out. I've enjoyed printing images onto different things, and I've never tried curtains until now. I'm also excited to see the 'studded belt buckle'. It’s a photo of almost nothing, but it’s got me excited to see it in print.


Can you share the story behind your favourite shot?

James: It’d have to be The Lonely Cloud. People seem to like the image and ask questions about it, which makes me happy. But they can’t like it as much as I enjoyed the experience of taking it. I was touring Europe with a pretty big band, and we were in Istanbul with a scheduled day off after the show before heading to Switzerland. Some festival in Egypt got wind that the band was close(ish) and must have made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. They sent a private jet for us, and halfway there, I shot the image out the window over the Sahara desert. The experience was pretty euphoric. The next day, on the jet to Switzerland, we had to detour around a bomb blast and almost ran out of fuel, having to land in Milan. I didn’t think much of the image and threw it on my social media to break up all the band photos, and later found it to be one of my most popular images ever.

What can we anticipate from you both in regard to future projects or collaborations?

Fabio: I'm defs planning some future projects, and I've already got heaps of ideas in the works for the next collab. I love the idea of creating a theme where people can interact. I want to use the ceiling somehow for the next thing, so expect to look up for the next gig.

James: I don’t want to share my main idea just yet, but it does involve printing onto materials other than paper. Fab has such a welcoming space that ideas outside of the box are not only welcome but encouraged. That's the kind of space where I see my work thriving in the future. Thanks Fab.

Null & Void opens this Saturday, February 17th @ Sonics Gallery, 687 High Street, Thornbury, Victoria. 5pm - late. 

Can't make it? Peep more of Jame's work, here. Need some new threads? Shop Sonics Gallery, online here.

James: @the.james.adams

Fabio: @sonicsgallerymelb




February 15, 2024