Fieldnotes Hong Kong – Nicole Reed and Leigh Ryan

The collaborative work ‘Fieldnotes’ began development when Nicole Reed and Leigh Ryan began exploring and documenting their travels together. Centred on the city of Hong Kong, ‘Fieldnotes’ engages a uniquely tailored adaptation of their travel experience, blending the insights of Reed’s photography along with Ryan’s soundscapes.


“Hong Kong has always been a place that has held a massive interest for us, and when we visited, we naturally documented our travels as much as we could. We fell in love with Hong Kong and what we captured exceeded our expectations which lead us to the idea of Fieldnotes.”

“I have always wanted to produce a book of my photography and people have always asked me when I’ll be working one. The images I took in Hong Kong have really inspired me to pursue this. We brainstormed the idea of using field recordings and thought the music created from them made an incredible backdrop for the images.”

“We wanted to combine our work in a unique and complimentary way, and as a creator of records and a fan of collecting them, the idea of inserting a vinyl record into the back seemed a perfect way of creating something tangible, analog and beautiful.

The project’s end result is an amalgamation of mediums, aimed to entice both audio and visual stimulation. Field Notes uses the platforms of print and recorded vinyl, developed into one distinctive package. Reed’s photography is displayed throughout a 80 page hard bound book, while Ryan’s music inspired by his field recordings & sounds of Hong Kong, have been masterfully woven into a percussive electronic soundtrack, pressed onto limited edition 10 inch vinyl.

This rare mixture of mediums highlights how varied travel experiences can be, with the physical result being not only that of cultural diversity and intrigue but also a delicate and respectful gratitude from the collaborators as they pay homage to the cities they visit and the impressions they leave.


Prior to its official release next Thursday 24 March 2016, at
Union Heights (136 Chapel Street, Melbourne, Australia 3181) we spoke to the super talented duo about their experience releasing such an ambitious project.

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At what point do you conceive the idea of Fieldnotes, and what was the catalyst that pushed you to make it a reality?

We wanted to do a project together, combining what we both do, Nicole, photography and Leigh music, about something we both really love – travel. Originally we thought of doing a video with a soundtrack, and just releasing it online.

The catalyst I guess was once we got home from Hong Kong and we started going through the images and looking at them properly we realised that they really have to be seen large and printed to really understand the detail involved. A big part of that was the camera I use when I travel, an Olympus E-M 1. It was the first time I’d been anywhere without the gear I work with, and I felt really free without carrying around a kit that weighs over 5kgs at its simplest. I took many more images then I usually do when I travel, and when I saw the quality and the detail in the images that we thought that only a book would to them justice. It was Leigh who really pushed for this, as I didn’t think publishing a book in this day and age would be achievable. I’m glad he did! As someone who has made a lot of vinyl records throughout his career, it seemed fitting to include the soundtrack on that format.

Why did you choose to self publish the project? When you release the next edition of Field Notes, would you go down a similar path?

We choose to self publish by necessity really. It was a hard project to explain to people. We had one meeting with a publisher who just didn’t understand where we were coming from, so instead of potentially going through that over again we decided to do it ourselves. Also so we could retain full creative control over the project. Leigh is a great believer in independent record labels, and no stranger to the DIY ethic.

We originally applied for a grant, which was unsuccessful, so we then decided to use the Pozible platform. We crowd funded this issue, which was hugely successful, but it also put a lot of pressure on us to get things done by a certain time which potentially could have compromised some design aspects, we’re really happy with what we were able to produce, but probably wouldn’t do that again unless absolutely necessary.

Ideally we want to release one a year. If we can make enough money from the sales of Fieldnotes – Hong Kong, it will hopefully fund the next issue.


What as the biggest challenge you faced producing Fieldnotes?

I think the biggest challenge was to do with the business side of the project. There were so many hidden fees and expenses that no one warned us about that really threw a spanner in the works. Issues like the Australian dollar dropping dramatically (our printer is payed in American Dollars), customs fees, damaged stock, orders being delivered damaged etc. We also underestimated the interest in the project too. As an incentive we offered free postage on all books ordered as part of the campaign, we didn’t think that we would pre sell 145 books, which has cost us nearly $1500 in postage!

There was so many components to the project all being done in different parts of the world – Hong Kong, China, Germany, France, USA and here in Melbourne, we are pretty lucky it all came together in the end!! We are also marketing dunces, so getting the word out there has been a challenge too.


You are both evidently super talented in your field, and have collaborated with a huge number of people. What was it like collaborating on a project with your partner?

Leigh and I have a very similar aesthetic and similar goals and neither of us felt like we had to compromise on anything for the other, so it was pretty smooth. We travel very well together too, I guess it just comes down to us liking the same stuff. Without sounding too sentimental I couldn’t imagine a better person to be sitting at the kitchen table with at 1am packing boxes.


Was it important to you to have an artistic director for the project?

It was nice to have someone else, with fresh eyes, who hadn’t been staring at the photos for a year to sound board ideas off. When it came to laying out the book it was really handy to have Eddie (Zammit) there to keep it all in order and under control. I was getting a little overwhelmed at how the images should be placed, and he really helped give it some perspective.
The music side of the project was all done and sent to the pressing plant by the time we started to put the book together.


You hinted that this wont be the last Fieldnotes. Where will we be transported to next?

Where are we going? Somewhere totally opposite to Hong Kong… Somewhere open and dry…

If you could collaborate with anyone (on Field Notes or another project), who would it be and why? (and what would the project be?).

Nicole: I would like to work with Ian Strange photographing the behind the scenes of one of his projects.

Leigh: I would really like to make a soundtrack for Gil Scott Heron’s (RIP) poetry.



All photos: Nicole Reed and Leigh Ryan.