James R. Napier
B I O G R A P H Y
James R. Napier is a photographer, soundscape artist, and singer based in Newcastle, Australia. He graduated from The McDonald College of Performing Arts and later majored in photography and film at The College of Fine Arts (COFA). He has studied both contemporary and classical singing with teachers including Max Orwin, Jenny Miller, Virna Sanzone and Meryl Leppard.
Photography: James likes to create images that suggest mysterious or supernatural narratives. He derives inspiration from gothic literature (citing Henry James, Edgar Allan Poe, Charlotte Perkins and Daphne Du Maurier as particular favorites). James’ work is permeated with mysterious and supernatural themes. He often shoots in a sombre low-lit style, depicting lone figures with blurred or obscured faces in natural settings. He sees these characters as lost souls, caught in a supernatural slip-stream. He recently debuted his first solo exhibition of photographs 'Good Luck Everyheart' on the 26th of February, 2021, at The Owen's Collective, Newcastle (for further details see 'Events' tab above).
Singing: James' singing career began when he was a young boy soprano singing sacred music in the echoey crypts of St James Church, Sydney. Inspired by the large, euphonious voices of Maria Callas and Pavarotti he spent time in his early twenties studying classical singing, and briefly dreamed of a career as an opera singer. Around this time he also began listening to jazz and blues and started emulating the raw, powerful tones of Billie Holiday, Nina Simone and Bessie Smith. He believes this was when he really evolved his more contemporary, hi-tensile vocal style for which he is now known. Since then, James became a regular blues/jazz singer in pubs, clubs and cafes around Sydney. He has performed and toured internationally with gospel choir Cafe of the Gate of Salvation and the sacred music choir The Jacobean Singers. He’s sung with funk and rock bands The Diving Ducks, Platonic, Midnyt Sun, Reuben & Robert (with Robert Taylor from Dragon) and Mic Conway's National Junkband. He’s played support gigs for The Backsliders and Paul Capsis and appeared on media shows such as Austin Harrison's Stormy Monday and Doug Mulray's The Basement Live. Recently he's been a guest-singer with jazz vocalist Simone Waddell and her band. In 2013 he appeared on the second season of The Voice Australia.
Sound Art: James uses industrial and environmental loops combined with his own vocal samples to create evocative and haunting soundscapes. As in his photographic work, he likes to hint at narrative interpretations and draws particular inspiration from cinema. In 2011 he collaborated with queer photographer and film-maker Tina Fiveash on her powerful series of portraits and animations, 'Grace'.
Bachelor of Fine Art (incomplete) Photomedia and Time-Based Art | The College of Fine Arts (COFA): University of New South Wales, Sydney
2021 Good Luck Everyheart | The Owen’s Collective | Islington | 26-28 Feb
(as sound artist with photographer Tina Fiveash)
2012 Grace | Queensland Centre for Photography | Brisbane| 22 SEPT - 21OCT
2011 Grace | Kudos Gallery | Sydney | 23 February- 5 March
Private collection Hunters Hill, Sydney
Private collection Glendale, Sydney
Private Collection Palm Beach, Sydney
Private Collection Peakhurst, Sydney
Private Collection Lake Macquarie, Newcastle
2022 FINALIST: Head On Photography Portrait Award | Head On Photo Festival | SYDNEY
2022 WINNER: People's Choice Award, Hunter Emerging Art Prize | Newcastle Art Space (NAS) | NEWCASTLE
2022 FINALIST: Hunter Emerging Art Prize | Newcastle Art Space (NAS) | NEWCASTLE
1994 Winner: The Max Orwin Opera Scholarship | SYDNEY
1992 Winner: The Ann McDonald Scholarship for Drama | SYDNEY
1992 Winner: The Ann McDonald Scholarship for Music | SYDNEY