Glass takes a trip down memory lane with Kiwi artist Poppie Pack

POPPIE Pack hates forcing things. The Kiwi-born, Sydney-based photographer would never buy flowers or search for pretty pieces of coastline to snap. Instead, there’s a sense of calm that permeates her practice – everything must be discovered.

From bustling Sydney beaches, to flash summer storms and lone long-boarders, the artist captures her world as it is. You can feel the archetypal beat that courses through her prints as they pierce through to a latent world we all know but seldom go, somewhere between memory and dream.

Poppie Pack unpacking one of her prints

A self-described “tech nerd”, cameras beckoned Pack from a young age. As we chat from the upstairs studio of her Paddington gallery, she tells me, “I’ve always liked the tangibility of cameras, the quick action and the gratification of creating something.”

The obsession started when she was a teenager. Back then, her weapon of choice was a Minolta 35mm – the artist reminisces on her days shooting with it like she’s speaking about an old friend.

The darkroom of her high school photography studio became a second home where hours passed by, lost to that strange, quiet world that seemed to exist outside time, suspended between art and science.

It’s clear Pack has an enduring attachment to her craft, but the artist’s path into photography wasn’t so clear-cut. She studied design before working in publishing and the tech world.

Punjab in Pink’, limited edition print, shot in Punjab, Poppie Pack, 2018

Far from being some unwanted interruption, Pack credits her design career as a crucial training ground that influences her practice to this day, “When I went back to photography, I shot with such a graphic eye. As opposed to being so focused on what I shot, it was more about what that shot could become… I am such a fierce editor.”

In many ways, editing has become the new dark room for Pack. Although she now works digitally, playing with light, colour and exposure allows her to capture feelings, “People often edit to smooth skin or create something better. What I do is almost the opposite of hyperrealism. I make my works less realistic so it feels more like a memory.”

Trading realism for relatability is Pack’s modus operandi and the results are telling. The artist points to a print of white hydrangeas leaning up against the wall, before telling me a buyer called up the other day and asked, “What did you do to make me feel nostalgia when I look at it? I feel like I miss it and I’ve never even seen it.”

‘Who’s That Girl’, limited edition print, shot at Cabarita Beach, Poppie Pack, 2021

It seems I’m not the only one who’d like to know her secret. Pack’s art manages to infuse private moments with universal appeal. A lone Los Angeles palm rustles in the breeze; three surfers are buoyed up by the crest of a glassy wave; a summer shower comes down hard, thick droplets clinging to the undersides of leaves – you don’t have to have been there, but the allure feels personal all the same.

Whether it’s the pearly streets of Punjab or the milky wash of the shore at Tamarama, hazy washes of light encase each piece like a Turner painting. Through these portals, Pack invites us to leap into our own interior worlds. Who knows what you might find buried below?

Whilst her dreamy snaps encourage us to look back, Pack’s sights are set on the future. Forever in pursuit of the new, she wants to use technology to satisfy her main creative urge – making things bigger. In the physical world, there’s always a limit whether it’s the border of a frame or the height of a roof.

Poppie Pack

The photographer leans forward and her eyes glow as we begin to discuss new territories, “I want to make a virtual world. I’m always thinking about doing an immersive experience but with VR, it can last forever.”

For now, you can find Pack at her Paddington store, juggling her art, business and motherhood. As we wrap up, she tells me about two best friends who lived together in Bondi and bought a pair of prints to sit above their sofa.

Right now, somewhere in the buzz of Manhattan, the same shots hang above a different couch – when one friend moved to New York, she bought identical prints so the two would always be connected. No matter how far you roam, the magic world of Poppie Pack stays with you.

by Christiana Alexakis