Home ContentCrisp is so good, it’s goong!

Crisp is so good, it’s goong!

Published : June 25, 2020

GOONG!!!!!!!! by Simon Cowling and Juraj Horniak.

Reviewed by P.A. Sinclair.

Book Review: Photography.

Self-published. blurb.com. 2020. www.templedog.com.au

Goong is a Thai word for prawn but when two seasoned creatives, photographer Simon Cowling and art director Juraj Horniak joined forces on a rollicking road trip to the wilds of the Pilbara, the temptation to turn such an animated word into something far more relevant to their “brief” could not be resisted.

So, when the two famished travelers feasted on a dish of goong kra, crispy prawns, in a Port Hedland restaurant, the birth of a new adjective to describe crisp, simple and intense was born, as was a collection of Simon’s images curated by Juraj in their recently published book, GOONG!!!!!!!!.

Juraj says every image he chose had to be “goong”. “Impact is everything,” he states. “Brutally simple shapes and intense colours, no frills, no subtlety and no apologies.” Indeed, GOONG!!!!!!!! is a retina burning collection of some of Simon’s extensive portfolio from years of travelling.

For additional guidance, the pair turn to the photographs of Jeffrey Smart whom Simon describes as one of his cornerstones of hard-edge minimalist perfection.

“On the assignment where the word goong came into our dictionary, Juraj’s entire brief to me for that shoot was two words: ‘Jeffrey Smart’…so for me, that was perfect – no further instruction needed. That brief and the coining of that word came to define our working relationship together,” Simon explains.


The purples and greens and yellows and reds dominate the 50 travel images from Fez, Tuscany, Zimbabwe, Mauritania, Marrakech, Andalusia, Rottenest Island, Perth and many other exotic locations. This is not a photography book of images of the Pilbara despite Port Hedland being the origin of their new moniker.  

Self-published via blurb.com GOONG!!!!!!!! is an art-exhibition in a book. Dense matt stock delivers page after page of unrelenting colour saturating the senses from start to finish. From ships to street art, temples, lilies and nice hats, Simon breathes interest and excitement into our everyday environment. He sees the world sharply, geometrically with precise composition and lashings of goong.

On digital photography Simon says he loves it. He does not miss the old film days.

“I don’t care if I never see another darkroom in my life” he laughs. However, he explains that while he loves the artform he bemoans somewhat that digital photography has changed the entire playing field.

“It has bought photography into a lot of people’s consciousness but it has made everyone a photographer. It’s also bought about a lot of very earnest young people who have turned photography into an intellectual exercise. Just get a decent picture down. That takes about twenty years,” says Simon, who has mastered the craft over fifty years.

Simon loves the photoshop aspect of his art. For him the Photoshop or Lightroom side of it is where he can really rub his hands together and drive the image.

 “The digital side of it lets you delve into the image so much more than you could in a darkroom, it’s really wonderful. The stuff you can pull out of shadow detail and colours and the ease,” he says. Simon explains that the digital process lets you get so much more out of an image than you could in a darkroom. “Colour processing in a darkroom is really tricky and difficult, expensive and destructive as far as chemicals,” he explains.

Simon likens the difference between shooting in RAW versus jpeg as sandpapering a piece of beautiful sold jarrah versus plywood.

“You can sand a piece of jarrah for years and not touch the surface whereas you get to the other side of plywood in about twelve minutes. You can find detail in RAW image without destroying the image and really guide your viewer toward how you want them to look at it. That’s the trick.”

Simon started in photography by accident as an eighteen-year old when he met a chap at a family barbeque who set up a meeting with his friends who had just started a photography business. Three years later Simon left and forged a career in commercial photography for thirty years. After a short burn out period his photo mojo returned and his life the for last seven years has been working with artists, recreating their work for books and exhibitions on photographic paper he processes and prints in his studio, a den beneath his house.

Simon believes photography is story-telling and “the way you process an image draws the viewer’s eye to the point you are making,” he concludes. In this collection of his images that point is crisp, clear, with no frills and definitely no apologies. Juraj is a happy art director and goong will spread amongst the photographic world as a word to describe crisp though it will always mean prawn in Thailand.

GOONG!!!!!!!! is available to purchase online via blurb.com, Simon doesn’t make any money out of his books, they are purely a legacy for his family. You can see some of Simon’s other books on the website too and can take advantage of occasional discounts of up to 50%.  

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