From sport to crime scenes: Andrew Brooks reflects on two decades of photography

BEHIND THE LENS: Andrew Brooks has been taking photographs for Australian Community Media newspapers for the past two decades, after taking on a weekend sport photography position with the 'West Coast Sentinel'. Photo: Luca Cetta
BEHIND THE LENS: Andrew Brooks has been taking photographs for Australian Community Media newspapers for the past two decades, after taking on a weekend sport photography position with the 'West Coast Sentinel'. Photo: Luca Cetta

For Andrew Brooks, it was the $50 gig that opened the doors to new possibilities.

Mr Brooks recently celebrated 20 years taking photos for Australian Community Media newspapers, first with the West Coast Sentinel, and more recently, the Port Lincoln Times.

From breaking news to major events, sporting action and wildlife shots, he has been on the scene - camera in hand - since 2001.

It was the opportunity to do weekend sport photography for the Sentinel that provided him with new openings.

"The West Coast Sentinel were looking for a sport photographer and were offering $50 to do it, but nobody took it," Mr Brooks said.

"It was mentioned to me and I said I was happy to do it - I'd go watch sport on a Saturday and take some photos.

"By taking that $50 job that nobody else wanted, it has opened so many doors for me and I have made a living out of photography."

Born in Ceduna and now based nearby at Denial Bay, Mr Brooks said he was always a keen amateur with a camera, but the Sentinel was his first employment as a photographer.

He said that newspaper, and now the Times, had been a "consistent part" of his life.

Over the past two decades he has taken photos of murder scenes and fatal road crashes, as well as big sporting events and events across the region.

He covered the opening of the Iluka mine at Jacinth-Ambrosia, and was busy in the mouse plague that hit the region in 2010 - during which he worked with a Discovery Channel team from England for a week.

In addition, Mr Brooks worked with a documentary film crew diving with whale sharks off Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia for three weeks, and with visiting international crews filming car commercials.

He also remembers taking photos of a young Scott Lycett when he played under 17 football for Thevenard, before he was drafted to the AFL and would become a premiership winner with West Coast.

Mr Brooks' Sentinel work has led to other opportunities, and he has also taken photos for The Advertiser and sister newspapers, plus publications overseas, as well as providing video footage for Channel Seven.

When not behind the lens he is busy offering tourists handy tips for their stay on the West Coast as a staff member at the Ceduna Visitor Information Centre.

He said he enjoyed taking different types of photos, from sport and action to nature and wildlife, while also tinkering with the creative side of photography such as time lapse photos.

His most cherished photo opportunity is that of migrating wader birds, which come to Australia each year before heading to the northern hemisphere to breed.

"I like photographing internationally flagged wader birds - you could spot one that comes from Shanghai or Siberia - and I get satisfaction from that," Mr Brooks said.

He noted that like any job, there were positives and difficult situations to encounter.

"I like that you never know what will come next with photography, and the variation in the role," he said.

"One hard aspect is meeting the deadline and the pressure of that, as well as being involved in sensitive situations."

Such is the nature of the role, he said you did not know what may come next.

"Sometimes I might get three jobs in a week and I am running to keep up with the deadline, then I might have nothing for a few weeks - it is dependent on what is going on in the region.

"I am on call 24/7 - I could get a call at any moment saying I need to go to the (Western Australia)border to cover a story."

Clicking away with camera in hand is something Mr Brooks said he wanted to continue doing for a while yet.

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