Dr Jamie McWilliam
I have been a practising photographer for about 20 years, developing creative projects, documenting daily life, international travel and scientific research & development. I regard photography as visual poetry from photographing tango dancers of Buenos Aires to capturing the wilderness of Patagonia and the Congo. The camera for me represents a powerful medium of observing and interacting with the world, directing the observer into new ways of seeing.
Growing up in Southern Africa and the Scottish Highlands initiated my love of travel and cultural diversity, which fuelled a life exploring the natural environments of South America, Africa, Europe and Australia. My scientific and technological background strongly influences my work, particularly when capturing our connection and relationship with nature.
My university training is in ecology and marine biology. I completed a Bachelor of Science at Edinburgh University, a Masters in Tropical Ecology at Newcastle University (England), and a Doctoral Degree in Marine Biology at Curtin University. Since 2014, I have been studying the sounds of coral reefs of the Great Barrier Reef and publishing this research in scientific journals.
‘Meet Me In The Background’ PS Artspace, Fremantle 2021.
‘Insects’ The Cameo Gallery, Edinburgh, 2010.
‘Untitled’ Under the Stairs, Edinburgh, 2009.
I have sold photographic works to private clients, and exhibited publicly. The photographic series, ‘Meet Me in the Background’ is a collaboration with artist Lora Flora. We have created a unique series exploring how the environment transforms humans both physically and emotionally.
My current work is as an environmental consultant, international wildlife guide and audio technologist, recently working on an upcoming Apple TV documentary series Earthsound. My audio recordings feature in the award winning Netflix documentary, Chasing Corals.
PhD 2013 – 2017 ‘Coral reef soundscapes: The use of passive acoustic monitoring for long-term ecological survey’ Curtin University, Centre for Marine Science and Technology
M.Sc. in Tropical Coastal Management (Distinction) 2012 Thesis: “Investigating spatial patterns of marine soundscapes using ambient sound recordings” Newcastle University, School of Marine Science and Technology, UK
B.Sc. in Ecology with Honours (2.1) 2009 Thesis: “The use of GIS modelling to predict potential dispersal networks of the invasive grey squirrel and evaluate native red squirrel habitat security” University of Edinburgh, UK
Grants and awards
Elsevier Highly Cited Research Award 2017: Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology most cited paper 2014 – 2016 and Top 5 Highest cited paper.
Sea World Research and Rescue Foundation Research Grant 2017: $60,000
Australian Acoustical Society Education Grant 2014: AUD $5000
Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment: $14,000
Lizard Island Doctoral Fellowship and Travel Grant 2015 $13,350
Former Research Grants (US $50,000) – Royal Geographic Society, Edinburgh University, Zoological Society of London.
Acoustic Consultant 2020 – present
Curtin University: Data Analyst 2020-2021
Noble Caledonia: Wildlife Expedition Guide 2018-2021
Curtin University: Research Associate 2018-2021
James Cook University: Casual Research Worker 2017-2018
Lizard Island Research Station: Station Assistant 2015
Loughine Ltd: Field researcher 2012-2013
James Hutton Institute: Field researcher 2009-2010
James Hutton Institute : GIS assistant researcher 2010
University of Edinburgh Expedition Co-leader and Logistics Officer 2008
Art has always been a way for me to explore and connect with my surroundings. Being a practising artist is a crucial form of self expression, it allows me to visually verbalise ideas and messages, such as those on environmental conservation. My passion for nature conservation led me to graduate with a Bachelor of Conservation Biology and Botany (with First Class honours) from the University of Western Australia, and then to begin a career as an environmental educator conducting workshops in schools and the community.It was important for me to continue to explore and develop my art alongside my environmental career, which lead me unexpectedly to body art.
I became fascinated with the process of merging the human form with wild landscapes when I competed in the World Body Paint Competition in Austria in 2018. I was inspired by some of the great European body artists who were merging humans with stunning alpine landscapes. Returning to Australia, I felt driven to explore my newfound techniques in the diverse Western Australian landscape which I had not encountered anywhere in Australia before.
Body art has allowed me to explore the intimate and complex connection between people and nature. I find that the ceremony of body painting in nature reconnects us on a deeper level with the environment. The act itself feels very ancient and deeply familiar, as humans have been painting themselves for thousands of years and evolved from a past with a far greater connection with the natural environment. With each brush stroke the line between model and environment becomes increasingly blurred. The human form merges with the space around it. Bare skin can be transformed with paint into an endless variety of natural forms such as bumpy tree bark, granite rocks speckled with electric orange lichen or luminous green moss, resulting in a mesmerizing scene where the human form is inseparable from nature.
I enjoy incorporating live performance into my body art pieces as it captivates spectators and allows them to be fully present and immersed with the work. I have created live pieces for audiences in a range of environments including Melbourne, Dubai, Mount Maunganui in New Zealand, and Perth. Most recently I painted two dancers for an emotive performance at PSAS in Fremantle, which encouraged viewers to consider the habitat of the threatened black cockatoos.
I am currently working on a project with my photographer-partner Jamie McWilliam, which centralises around the theme of ‘the elements: stone and water’. We have begun to capture models in exquisite water bodies. In 2021, we are organising a trip throughout the Kimberley region of Western Australian to highlight and display this wild and powerful landscape, famous for its dramatic iron rich rock formations, gorges and water systems. We are excited to share the next series of work with our patrons.
2021 – Meet Me in The Background, PS Art Space, Fremantle
2016 – Strangers Again: Solo Exhibition, The Bird, Northbridge.
2019 – Sustain the Nest, The Swans Nest, Fremantle
2018 – Perth Body Art Competition, Fremantle
2016 – 25 under 25, Moore and Moore Gallery, Fremantle
2009 – Group Show, Joondalup Blendr Gallery
2021 – Murals, various private residences, Perth & Fremantle
2020 – Mural, Two Dogs Laughing Café, Fremantle
Mural, Discover Deadly Reptile Park, Carbunup
Mural, Newton Primary School, Perth
Murals, various private residences, Perth
2019 – Live body art street camouflage performance, Melbourne
2016 – Mural at Miss Potz Restaurant, Mount Lawley
2021 – Body art dance performance, PS Art Space
2020 – Body Forest Art Show, Fremantle
2019 – Mural camouflage performance, Blazing Swan, Kulin
2018 – TedX Fremantle
Kraken Festival, Live mural body art camouflage, Fremantle
2017 – Body art show, Camp Doogs, Harvey
Body art show, Sydney
Body art show, Brisbane
2016 – Body art show, Camp Doogs, Harvey
2020 – Sand Art Project with Jamie Hawkins, New Zealand
2018 – Featured artist at Dubai Canvas 3D Art Festival, Dubai
Live camouflage body art performance, Borderland Festival, Denmark
World Body Painting Festival ( 6th place installation category), Austria
BSc. Degree in Botany and Conservation Biology with First Class Honours 2013 Thesis: “Seed Dispersal of Five South West Australian Weeds” University of Western Australia
Co-director of Eco Action 2019 to present
Conservation Volunteers Australia: Program Manager 2017
Botanic Gardens & Park Authority: Research Assistant 2017
Conservation Volunteers Australia: Green Army Supervisor 2016
Conservation Volunteers Australia: Team Leader 2015
The Department of Parks and Wildlife: Research Assistant 2015