Craig “Watto” Watson worked for several years in retail and industrial camera shops before beginning a course in photography at RMIT in 1986. This led to a part-time position as photographer at Leader Newspapers in Blackburn, which in turn led to a full-time position as darkroom technician at the Herald & Weekly Times.
Watto worked in the darkroom for two years, before taking up a position as photographer on The Weekly Times newspaper, covering all aspects of country life, including farming, news, sport, politics, gardening, cooking, the environment and industry. During his six years on the The Weekly Times, he won numerous prestigious photographic awards, in state and national media competitions.
He began photographing motorsport and classic cars in 1994, and in 1996 left the paper to begin a freelance career specialising in classic motoring, motorsport and corporate events. Since then he has been published in over 40 magazine and newspaper titles in Australia, the United Kingdom and USA, being the sole Australian contributor to six UK motoring magazines for a decade.
His corporate work has included official events photographer at Sovereign Hill in Ballarat, including a visit by a Chinese delegation for the opening of the Chinese mining display in 1998, the relaunch of Blood on The Southern Cross in 2003 and the Royal Visit by The Queen and Prince Phillip in 2000.
In 1997 he was the official photographer at the Avalon International Air show, and he has been official photographer on charity bush rallies for Camp Quality, Canteen and Make-A-Wish, as well as numerous other events.
In 2000 he worked as Photographic Supervisor (Cycling) at the Sydney Olympic Games and Photographic Manager (Cycling) at the Sydney Paralympic Games. While not photographing at these events, his role was looking after international photographers to ensure they had everything they needed to carry out their work.
From 2004 to 2017, Watto ran his own niche market motoring magazine covering British cars from Mini, Morris, Austin, MG, Austin-Healey, Jaguar, Rover, Leyland and others. Unfortunately, the bottom fell out of the market in 2017 and the magazine was closed down in June of that year.
Following twelve months’ research and planning, and acquiring of equipment, Watto and his family opened Focal Point Darkroom and Gallery in North Geelong in February 2019. The primary purposes of the business were to support and encourage local photographers, from students and amateurs to professionals; to provide a local photographic hub, bringing photographers together to create and celebrate photography; and to bring the best photographic exhibitions to Geelong, to inspire and entertain local photographers and the general public.
Focal Point provided Australia's best-equipped and largest public-access darkroom, a small but productive photography studio and the largest library of its type in Australia dedicated to books on photography (over 700 books). On top of this, the gallery presented some of the best photographic exhibitions to visit Geelong, including the Nikon-Walkey Press Photography Exhibition for five years and a number of exhibitions curated and created by Watto himself. These included See The Music (three times), Australia's Antarctic (which is now planning to travel across Australia and New Zealand) and Stills Alive - stills photography from Australian cinema, 1896 to 1986 (in collaboration with film historian Joyce Agee).
For five years, Focal Point struggled on, refusing to be defeated by COVID, the recovery that never came and rising interest rate rises. But, following the death of his wife Jayne in June 2023, Watto lost his drive and the business was closed down. Watto now works for himself, photographing for his own enjoyment and doing photorestoration work, scanning and mentoring.
Watto in the gallery in 2021, with the 2020 Nikon-Walkleys exhibition. Photo courtesy Phil Nitchie.