Monday, December 6, 2010

Sydney and its Photographic Tribes

Sydney is always rewarding to visit - to see friends and enjoy the sense of community that now exists among photographers in that city. In November I returned to Sydney, following that bleak avenue of warehouses, vacant lots and late night service stations in Waterloo (pictured, below) to where I was staying in Redfern. I had come to Sydney primarily to open the "Black and Light" exhibition mounted by the industrious and talented Primrose Park Photographic Group at the Don Bank Museum in North Sydney. This modest house/museum/gallery is the oldest wooden dwelling on Sydney's North Shore and proved an appropriate setting for the photography of Jill Lacina, Tony Peri and Graham Butler. Lacina had previous exhibited a series of Cyanotypes at Primrose Park but this time showed an essay using primarily silver gelatin prints and photogravures illustrating those ghastly calibrations of human corruption - World War 2's death camps. (pictured, below right) "I wanted to remind people of our humanity," Lacina (pictured, left, leaving the Don Bank Museum) remarked simply at the opening. Peri showed a series of prints made using his now familiar antique Bromoil process (pictured, below left) derived from photographs taken on a recent trip to Italy and Hungary (Peri's late father Otto was Hungarian) Graham Butler's immaculate traditional black and white prints explored the British seashore with simple economy. "Black and Light" finishes on January 30. (There will be an artists' talk on Sunday, January 16th) While I was in Sydney I also travelled to Cowra for the opening of my exhibition "Received Moments"(pictured. left) I quickly discovered it is no longer easy to go directly to significant regional centres such as Cowra and was forced to travel by train from Sydney to Blayney where I was met at the station and driven on to the town. On the way to Blayney, I saw vivid symptoms of the breaking of the drought. Instead of the desiccated landscape we have become used to, what I viewed through the window of the XPT train as it passed beyond Lithgow was a luxuriant green land, with flowing watercourses, contented cattle and punctuated by trees (which I could not identify) shedding their blossoms on the land like cornflour on baize. It also occurred to me while on the XPT that having once experienced elite European train travel (In 1969 I travelled on the original Orient Express from Istanbul to London with my first wife, the artist Kate Burness) Australia could benefit from a massive upgrading of our adequate, but slow and unremarkable rail system. In Cowra, regional gallery Director Brian Langer had, with his enthusiastic staff and their many motivated volunteers, mounted Curator Sarah Johnson's work from Manly Gallery & Museum handsomely. The opening was well attended and on the following day, a Saturday, I gave a floor-talk for Cowra citizens that was supposed to last twenty minutes. Country people seemed both curious and courteous and the dialogue we established (their questions were thoughtful and abundant) lasted two hours after which I was driven back through the freezing landscape to wait for the XPT at Blayney, and travel on to Sydney. "Received Moments" opens next at the Gold Coast Art Gallery on January 15th.
Photographing Aboriginal Artistry in Motion
One of the ongoing joys of Australian sport is the contribution, at the highest level, of Aboriginal athletes - from Eddie Gilbert (the Cherbourg man who bowled Bradman, and was subsequently vilified as a 'chucker' for such heresy) to Lionel Rose and today's startlingly gifted Wallaby Kurtley Beale - a superstar in the making. Sydney documentary photographer Amanda James has gone back to the heartland of Aboriginal sport and photographed Rugby League in the local competitions that nurture future champions - through such celebrated teams as the Redfern All Blacks (their team slogan: "Keep The Ball In Motion!") I once had the privilege of photographing this remarkable group playing at Redfern Oval against a North Shore team. A man from the Redfern team proudly told me that the ages of their players ranged from 17 to 54 - and that four had played professionally for Australia! Amanda James' photographs, curated by Arthur Chan, can be seen at Customs House, Circular Quay, opening on December 9 and continuing until January 30. Her pictures can also be seen online at from December 11.
Staying In A House Littered With Still Life Images
While in Sydney I stayed at the home of a friend, Louise Havekes, widow of that remarkable portraitist and theatre photographer, Robert Walker. With her artistic heritage (her aunt Elsa Russell, was a pioneering Australian painter of real talent) and three talented daughters, of which the eldest, Saskia, runs the elite Potts Point florist Grandiflora the Redfern house is always filled with art, flowers and beautifully arranged fruit. Subsequently I found it difficult to resist taking pictures of roses that may come from Ecuador, exotic orchids and fruit thoughtfully arranged (pictured, left) throughout the house. While staying in Redfern I also had a surprise visit from photographer Belinda Mason (pictured, right) who came to show me a lenticular 3D image of a portrait she had made of me previously. Not used to seeing myself in three dimensions and many times life size (pictured, right) I was rendered speechless.
Marian Drew continues to follow her elegant, dark path to exploring the nuances of bird life - and death (pictured, above) Artist are defined by their commitment to a vision, no matter where it may lead them. Marian Drew is just such a dedicated person and her work at Robin Gibson Gallery Sydney (which finishes this week) is remarkable for its poetic expression. One of several Australian photo-artists who concentrate on exploring still life (Robyn Stacey and Anna-Maryke are two notable others) Drew's elegant necrogenic tableaux should not to be missed.
The Passing of Jeff Carter and Peter Carrette
Two very different photographers have sadly left us. Jeff Carter, (pictured, left) whom I was pleased to say I knew for over forty years, died in October. He was 82. I wrote this obituary for Carter in Timelines for the Sydney Morning Herald. Peter Carrette (pictured, right) who I knew less well, died only weeks ago. He was 63. Carter loved the bush - and the city - and will be missed for his compassionate, honest vision of Australians everywhere. A retrospective exhibition "Beach, Bush and Battlers" drawn from Carter's remarkable archive (and curated by Sandra Byron) will open on January 4th at the State Library of NSW. Peter Carrette, known as "King of the Paps" (Paparazzi) was far more than the intrusive personality such professionals are generally taken for. Since his death, I have had a stream of calls from people Carrette had assisted, mentored - quietly and without any publicity. When I last saw him, I had just stepped off a flight to Sydney and was waiting outside the airport for a taxi. Carrette suddenly appeared with a camera and I knew he was on the prowl. "I can't stay and talk. (Brazilian supermodel) Giselle Bundchen has just arrived from London and I know which flight she's on." And then he was gone.
REPORTAGE is now 10!

While in Sydney, I also attended the screenings and exhibition associated with that great advocate for fine photojournalism, REPORTAGE. This year, their tenth anniversary, brought an unusually staged exhibition and several screenings of photographers' work, to the National Art School, in Darlinghurst. This institution has the feeling of an enclosed, colonial community with its sturdy walls and classic 19th century sandstone buildings. Photojournalist Glenn Lockitch, recently back from documenting the ramming of the radical catamaran Ady Gil by Japanese whalers in Antarctic waters, mentioned casually that the National Art School complex was originally a jail - and that they used to hang prisoners not far from where the photographers of REPORTAGE displayed their pictures. It is worth commenting on the way these prints were made and displayed. Printed using weatherproof inks and paper by by master fine art printer Warren Macris these photographs survived wind and rain to carry their message to enthusiastic patrons. One of the driving forces of REPORTAGE, Jacqui Vicario, then mentioned to me that the CEO of Contact Images in New York, Robert Pledge, had been delayed for an extra day in Beijing, and would I mind saying a few words to the eloquent Mr Pledge's expectant audience on opening night. Having contributed an essay to the book of the first 10 years of REPORTAGE, I couldn't refuse so I made some hurried notes on goals met and achievements hopefully to come, and with Christopher Stewart of the National Art School, opened the event.
The Occasional Image
This space is dedicated to images which deserve their own level of attention. This picture, by David Seymour, a talented photographer from Young, New South Wales, caught my attention when I was visiting Cowra's excellent regional gallery for "Received Moments". Seymour showed me a number of images he had made using Infrared film which I found interesting. This image, however, resonated with a book project I am currently working on in Perth which involves documenting mental illness. Seymour explained this picture's importance simply:"A couple of k's out of town is a lovely picnic area called Chinaman's Dam ... where the original photo was taken. It's an Infrared taken at 1pm on a beautiful day. The bubble and moon were added via my software and the moon and reflection in the bubble were given a yellow tinge to tie it all together. This image was created to share with people the path I have travelled with my depression over the past decade. I have been doing photography as a hobby for more than thirty years and it has been the one constant throughout my life which helps me to keep focussed and continue enjoying life."
There is an abundance of books to be recommended for the festive season. Not only have REPORTAGE published the best of their ten years of existence (through Momento but Thames & Hudson, historically one of the great publishers of photography, have brought out two contrasting books on the joys (and otherwise) of photographing on the street. Perhaps this photographic genre's greatest exponent is the centre of Peter Galassi's book, Henri Cartier-Bresson - The Modern Century while Sophie Howarth and Stephen McLaren's STREET PHOTOGRAPHY NOW shows how this timeless way of photographing has evolved. Australian photographers are well represented through Trent Parke, Narelle Autio and Jesse Marlow. Parke's abrasive use of light illuminates his street observations while Autio's classic, ironic image of an angel stepping into a taxi is also present. Marlow's droll observations of the physically damaged (from his acclaimed book "Wounded" are also here. Mimi Mollica produces a 2008 colour image taken in Dakar, Senegal which was instantly reminiscent of one of Henri Cartier-Bresson's timeless American images. In Mollica's image a man is glancing towards a young African woman from a flight of stairs. But the real revelation is the surreal humour consistently captured in the mostly colour images of this book. Time and again we are amazed at follies embraced publicly by humanity. This is a worthy addition to this increasingly threatened genre of photography. What are our political leaders afraid that we will discover and photograph on the street? The other book worth looking at is Focus on Australia, (pictured, left) a completely commercial venture, aimed squarely at promoting the cause of Panasonic's Lumix digital cameras. If you look past the sometimes garish landscapes and sentimental sunset images, there are some remarkable pictures showcasing the fine definition and colour rendition of digital photography. I enjoyed Bill Bachman's contrasting of opposites in a young girl and her pink poodle (pictured, below left) compared with the grit, grime and sweat of a shearing shed (pictured, right) That well known lover of panoramic imagery, Ken Duncan, is one of the forces behind this book in much more than a cosmetic way. His Walk a While charity, which benefits indigenous children, is a tangible beneficiary of sales of this sometimes lush look at Australia. Duncan adds an uncommon spontaneity to his photograph of two kangaroos bounding towards the coast in South Australia (pictured, right) His temporary waterfall cascading down the side of Uluru also surprises. This book is clearly an intelligent, practical way of promoting photography using digital cameras. Not only are well known professionals such as Bachman and Duncan present but also amateurs contribute. This seems eminently preferable to endlessly marketing cameras based purely on price, features and megapixel envy. Focus on Australia is available online at and at all Ken Duncan galleries for $59.95.
Shows Not to Miss before Christmas
In 1985 photographer Juno Gemes documented the handover of perhaps indigenous Australia's most visible sacred site - Uluru - to its original owners. Her black and white photo essay is currently on exhibition at the site of this historic event - Uluru. Entitled "Sacred Ground - Uluru Handback 1985", these historic photographs can be seen at the Uluru Kata Tjuta Culture Centre - Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park, NT. Until 31st January 2011.

Tali Udovich, the energetic Director of Blender Gallery with its incorporated Just Shoot Lomo Camera shop, has again turned to the icons of rock for her latest exhibition. On Thursday, December 2nd, Udovich is opening Blender Gallery's Greatest Hits, featuring classic rock photography made on and off stage. If you could live with your own framed portrait of John Lennon or Queen looking over you, this is the show for you. There will also be a performance from the boy/girl duo The Falls, showcasing classic rock and their own compositions. At Mary Meyer Gallery, small is everything in her "Small Show" featuring such Meyer Gallery stalwarts as Ellie Young, Jill Lacina, Bob Kersey (his remarkable sea/landscape pictured, above right) Kate Baker and Renee French. This show will be open until December 24 "Earth, Air, Flower, Water" (pictured, left) is also opening at the Superintendent's Residence, Paddington Gates, Centennial Park venue featuring photographs by, among others, Peter Solness. This exhibition is associated with HeadOn Portrait Competition. Cam Neville perhaps better known as a fine-art digital printer, is showing his own work at Storm Gallery, 65-67 Foveaux Street, Surry Hills in an exhibition "The Nature Table". Neville presents tiny fragments of nature (pictured, right) at their most desiccated, but surprisingly monumental. There is a meditative quality to these images, made after Neville was severely injured in a car crash. Working on this project became, says Neville, "a matter of life and death. I cannot stress how important this process was to my recovery - and to my development as a photographer." Until December 17th.
At Point Light Gallery its co-founder Gordon Undy, that enduring Australian pioneer of traditional fine art photography is showing a series of natural and man-made landscapes, made in Australia and overseas. Anyone interested in the finesse involved in traditional forms of photography (pictured, left and right) should find this exhibition, Point Light's 100th, rewarding. At Point Light Gallery, 50 Reservoir Street, Surry Hills. Until December 19th. Finally don't miss Annie Leibovitz's sprawling retrospective, "A Photographer's Life" at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, Anton Bruehl's exhibition the National Gallery of Australia and Martin Schoeller's confronting "Close Up" exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery - both in Canberra.
Copyright Robert McFarlane 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Stephen Dupont's Epic Afghanistan Odyssey

Afghanistan: The Perils of Freedom 1993 - 2009
This extraordinary exhibition may be one of the most intricately constructed displays ever seen at the Australian Centre for Photography Not only has photojournalist Stephen Dupont sought to encompass fifteen years of working in Afghanistan’s historically conflicted land, he has managed to display his photography in literally, a floor to ceiling, wall to wall tapestry of pictures. Reminiscent of another legendary exhibition (which I didn’t see personally, but saw much of its documentation) - by acclaimed French war photographer - Raymond Depardon) Dupont seeks to populate his exhibition with cast members of this ancient, ongoing drama - Afghan citizens, both armed and members of the public - and of course, the soldiers - as ever, from elsewhere. In this, Dupont departs from the traditions of previous war photographers who simply amplify the drama of war. Dupont clearly wishes to reveal which forces are in play and to understand, as much as possible, reasons for and possible resolutions to the conflict. To achieve this the Australian photographer employs an unusually varied visual grammar - from telling, almost 19th century style portraits of Afghan citizens (pictured, below left) using a medium format Polaroid camera to panoramic observations (pictured, above) made with a Hasselblad camera that are remarkably cinematic in their sweep. Dupont's observations belong more to the tradition of the late Philip Jones-Griffith’s epic book “Vietnam Inc.” than even Don McCullin’s highly charged, epic war observations. “I am a great fan of Jones-Griffiths,” says Dupont, “he went beyond the bang-bang - going behind closed doors - and also into combat to uncover the soul of the U.S. military machine ... and (finally) show what it was like to be a US soldier - giving a humanistic edge to something inhuman. Not just the power and the glory ... he (also) uncovered the grit and the filth of what was going on the villages. Jones-Griffiths was an activist who didn’t hold back ... he was an inspiration (to me).” Dupont (pictured, right, at the ACP) had followed conflict in Afghanistan since that country's war with the Russians. “After the revolution of the Mujahideen, I was inspired to go and see for myself,” says Dupont, “the (country’s) history had an impact (on me) even through Kipling’s “The Man Who Would Be King” - but I had no idea (photographing) Afghanistan would affect me so much. There was nowhere in the world like it. Something ... got into my soul. (And) I was achieving something historical that was not being recorded. I was photographing ... history and doing it for the people - who did not have a voice.” Even the U.S. Marines were given their voice by Dupont who asked individual soldiers to write in a small moleskin journal their answer to the simple question: “Why am I a Marine?” The pages of this journal occupy a large part of one wall at the ACP with Dupont adding that the original journal has now been acquired by the U.S. Library of Congress.
Afghanistan: The Perils of Freedom 1993 - 2009 is not an exhibition to simply walk through. It demands the visitor arrive, and take the time to meditate on fifteen years of hard, remarkable work by this talented, tenacious photographer - pictures illuminating the timeless ability humanity has to seek the last option of government - war - as a solution to political differences. “You have this incredibly beautiful country that could be opened (up) if it was peaceful. (But) I don’t see there being a resolution soon ... it seems that Afghanistan has never known anything but war. And it’s not just about Afghanistan anymore ...” Until November 20
Co-incidentally there is a major display of the finalists for the Nikon/Walkley Press Photography Awards also on view at the Australian Centre for Photography. It was noticeable the ongoing evolution of newspaper photographers into photojournalists with the presence of an agile, searching photo-essay (pictured, above) on Julia Gillard's ascent to power by the Daily Telegraph's Phil Hillyard. "I wanted to record the private moments as they happened," said Hillyard. While this kind of intimate photojournalistic coverage is common in U.S. Presidential politics, it was a revelation in Australia for the manner in which Hillyard's camera captured an abundance of seemingly trivial details in strong black and white images - such as the way the incoming Prime Minister cast aside her shoes in one picture. The increasingly visible role of our armed forces was also poignantly captured in Brendan McCarthy's award-winning regional observations. (pictured, right)
New Sydney Art space for Photography Opens Soon

Moshe Rosenzveig, the director of Head On and Peter Solness are opening a new gallery space sited within the handsome, Superintendent's Residence in Sydney's historic Centennial Park. "Because of the success of our last venture in May this year, during the Head On Photo Festival, the management of Centennial Park have invited us to create an exhibition program for this unique space," stated Rosenzveig. The new program will begin on Saturday, October 23rd with 23 images on show from Solness's impressive "Illuminated Landscape" series (pictured, left and right) Solness promises that "at least a third of these will be new works, created within the last three months" (Drinks will be offered on Sunday between 3-6pm)

David Roberts Faces His Mysteries At Point Light
is nothing if it doesn't confront our mysteries. Think of Surrealist painter Rene Magritte's lovers about to kiss, while their heads remain shrouded in fabric. Or Diane Arbus and her elliptical response to a question on what her photographs meant. "Why ... they're about recognizing what I've never seen!" And Edward Weston's famous (and sensuous) photograph of a capsicum that conveyed a Rodin torso as much as mere nutrition. There is a hidden calligraphy of form in David Roberts' photographs at Point Light (pictured) that suggests that this talented photographer is mining a familiar lode in photography - by exploring the camera's hidden vocabulary, abstraction. Robert's vision discerns portals in bleak facades, compositional rhythms in the human form (pictured, above) and our inevitable, ongoing fascination with mortality. His portrait of distinguished humanitarian lawyer (pictured, right) Julian Burnside, Hamlet-like in his contemplation of a skull - appears bleak at first - until we notice the fearless, granite disposition of the lawyer's gaze. My only reservation with this photographer's vision lies in the first artistic decisions Roberts makes. Sometimes they seem more urgent than considered, leaving the viewer to make a conscious effort to embrace his vision. Until November 14
Text Copyright Robert McFarlane 2010

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Visions of Steel, Flesh, Fire and Ice

Nicholas May's almost Mythic look at Australia Day
"Sydney Life" has one of the most perfect venues in which to display the people's photographic view of the Harbour City. From the Archibald Fountain to Park Street a stroll along the central walkway of Hyde Park, (pictured, right) viewing well-printed, evocative, bedsheet size photographs taken of Sydney life, has now become a subtle, inner city Sydney pleasure. Even as my fellow judges - prolific photographer/curator Edwards and curator, distinguished author and environmental blogger Ace Bourke were making our deliberations - it was, as always, a difficult choice) the walkway was full of life with families with young children, a talented busker singing a medley of Neil Young songs and a man blowing huge, colourful bubbles, some as long as a park bench. Watched over through the trees by the golden helmet of Centre Point tower (pictured) we ultimate chose Nicholas May's timeless observation of last year's Australia Day at Bondi Beach. (pictured) By common consent this picture almost chose itself with all three judges agreeing May had taken "a sculptural, deeply unsentimental look at Australians at play (showing) the cultural ambiguities found on Sydney's most famous beach." and earned his generous $10,000 prize and one of Sony's newest digital cameras - the NEX5. (pictured) "Sydney Life is a signature event of Art&About Until October 24
An Occasional Picture - Could This Be The Eye of God?
"There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy"
Act 1,
Scene 5. "Hamlet"
by William Shakespeare

When I first saw this picture in the New York Times it reminded me, once again, of the divinity to be found within nature - whether viewing living coral under a microsco
pe at 100X magnification, as I once did at Heron Island when I was half a century younger, and then having the magnification suddenly increased - revealing a completely different marine garden. Or contemplating how faint the skeins of electricity are that we know must control a tiny insect's locomotion. Film footage of sunspots unleashing almost incomprehensible power always gets my attention but this recent (July 1,2, 2010) colour photograph - the sharpest yet made using visible light - employing a 'deformable mirror' and 'adaptive' optics, by Professor Philip R. Goode and his Big Bear Solar Observatory team at the New Jersey Institute of Technology - had an intimate, different kind of mystery. I thought simultaneously of flower petals, the eye's iris or, more ominously, a dark portal to another dimension. It also occurred to me that despite its golden aura, this picture seemed as much about the power the sun was concealing beneath the sunspot; and that ultimately there was no real scale that could be applied to this image (even knowing NJIT's camera can cover 50 miles of the sun's surface) The meaning of this picture then eluded further poetic thought, whether summoned up through art - or science - or even Shakespeare. My thanks to Peter Jensen, lover of the Bard, for remembering the perfect quote to affix to this picture.

No sooner had I posted this blog about the extraordinary sunspot photographs by Prof. Philip R. Goode and the Big Bear Solar Observatory, than that professor has written a generous note and sent another, equally remarkable sunspot image (pictured, above) with a comment that Shakespeare's words "bring to my mind another image of the same sunspot, but off-centre and somewhat more in the 'heavens' of the solar atmosphere," according to the Professor, adding, "the black hair-like strands are about 50 km across and are jets arising from the bright magnetic features at the edge of the spot."
Art and the Bush at Point Light
Landscape photographer David Tatnall treads lightly on the land he photographs. By allowing his pictures to be used for environmental campaigns Tatnall clearly practises what he preaches. In "Field of View" Tatnall's first exhibition at Point Light Gallery a seductive photographic aesthetic emerges. This photographer's black and white pictures are well composed and use such now familiar camera grammar as shutter speeds so low the flow of water against a rocky shoreline is reduced to snow-white, fluffy plasma.(pictured, below) But definitely seductive to the eye. Tatnall essentially presents a personal artistic dialogue with the Australian landscape. His camera doesn't intrude beyond seeking strong compositional coherence of what lies before him - artistic appreciation for merely being present on the land. As such they are rewarding to the viewer and follow a well known artistic path, but one quite different to a bushwalker/photographer's pictures I recently saw. As I read the journal, in words and pictures, of a group of quite senior South Australian men and women who had just completed the 1200 km "Heysen Trail" walk from Cape Jervis to Parachilna Gorge, I came across two colour pictures which greatly interested me. One showed a small clearing beyond which a tight copse of curved gum trees obscured the horizon. In the foreground, almost tonally invisible against the red earth, was a small, vigilant kangaroo. Immediately I felt part of this scene. The second picture was even more pedestrian, (an appalling pun considering both pictures were taken by one of the bushwalkers, Helen Thomas) and showed an upward slope intermittently populated by small, thin trees, rocks and tiny yellow wildflowers. (pictured, left) I was entranced by this picture's undiluted rendering of the Australian landscape without needing to reference more elegant (and established) ways of seeing. "I had stopped walking for a moment and suddenly realised I was in a garden," remembered the bushwalker, Helen Thomas. This picture suggested that there are moments when the Australian landscape demands to be met on more basic terms and not necessarily translated comfortably into art. From September 23 to October 17
Street Photography Abides - Ever Drawing the Lens

Photographer Katrin Koenning recently noticed there was a strange space in a Melbourne street. "I came across this place in the (Melbourne) CBD where light reaches it directly for only twenty minutes a day, around lunchtime. During these few minutes a transformation happens - faces are illuminated, dust twirls through rays of sun, cigarette smoke becomes an almost glistening silver blue against dark buildings." This was Koenning's cue to begin a series of observations that explored the merging of private and public personae. "It's a 'mis en scene', a theatre stage on which people become my protagonists for an instant. Here, every minute detail counts ... everything ordinary turns into something extraordinary, begging me to have my eyes wide open." Her spontaneous, graphic observations have become part of an exhibition on street life THIRTEEN:TWENTY LACUNA with two other photographers, opening in London next month as part of Right Here Right Now - Exposures in the Public Realm - at the Front Room Gallery in Clerkenwell, London. More information on this exhibition can be found at
The Plywood Violin Returns
What is it about the melancholy songs sung by Leonard Cohen? If they were judged on the range of his voice - minimal - success would have been elusive. However, Cohen's words carry poetic resonances, that, like other song-poets such as Neil Young, endure. Peter McMahon has created a disparate exhibition celebrating Cohen's influence which is on display at 88 George Street, Redfern. The Plywood Violin uses everything from photography to collage to pay homage to Cohen. "We have commandeered some Cohen-esque themes," says McMahon, "Saints and Sinners, Love, Longing and Loss." Paul Mallam's photograph "Hallelujah", (pictured) named after one of Cohen's most recorded songs, seemed particular appropriate. In this sombre picture, Mallam has cast a nude female figure - surely Cohen's familiar muse - into the darkness that lies beyond two luminous columns. Artists contributing to Plywood Violin include Lewis Morley, Therese Kenyon, Jan Fieldsend, Jack Frawley, Marie McMahon, , Peter McMahon (pictured) Sue Pedley and Jeff Stewart.
Until September 26 at 88 George Street, Redfern
Up Close at Heide & Wolfgang Sievers at UniSA
The middle of September has seen an explosion of important exhibitions around Australia. From the four Australian and International artists featured in Up Close, at Heide Museum of Modern Art Melbourne, to a soon to open, posthumous look at the muscular vision of industrial documentary photographer Wolfgang Sievers (1913-2007) (pictured, above, his iconic Vickers Gears image) at the University of SA in Adelaide.(works are for sale to raise funds for the Graham F. Smith Peace Trust Inc., a humanist organisation which Sievers supported) Other exhibitions, like Up Close at Heide, are necessarily more massive, featuring the combined visual output of photographers Carol Jerrems, Larry Clark, Nan Goldin and William Yang. This selection of pictures, sensitively curated by Natalie King, explores social landscapes of flesh and emotion to which each photographer has courageously (or perhaps, helplessly) addressed their deepest feelings. If sentimentality is the Achilles Heel of art then these four photographers banish such thoughts forever. Looking over the tragically short life, and career of Carol Jerrems (1949-1980) it is clear there was never a soft aesthetic to her art. From her beginnings (a telling self portrait on the endpapers of the substantial Up Close catalogue shows a vigilant, confident young woman with a wide mouth and large, soft eyes wearing a badge stating "you're among equals") Jerrems well understood the changing nature of her times. During her life, suggests Up Close's editor and curator, Natalie King, Jerrems became "the impassioned photographer of social relationships in an era of free love, youth, beauty, violence and intoxication," capturing, adds King, "tender connections ... enacted before her camera." The most famous of these, "Vale Street, 1975" (pictured, right) shows a partially nude young woman standing before two bare-chested youths. The woman's direct gaze to camera seems as opaque as the Mona Lisa - and measurably cooler emotionally. The two youths present very differently from each other, with the heavily tattooed young man on the right of the picture staring with rough intimacy, deep into the lens of Jerrems' humble Pentax Spotmatic SLR. On the left, his companion's body language seems less assured as the youth rests a hand on his hip and lowers his gaze. I always saw "Vale Street 1975" as essentially a documentary image but curator King tempers this thought by showing revealing sequences from Jerrems' proof sheet of the shoot. It soon becomes clear this was a subtly managed event in which each of the three subjects were complicit with Jerrems in ways of offering themselves up to her lens, culminating in the iconic, eighth to last frame Jerrems took. Carol Jerrems also produced, during this period, another remarkable portrait which personified the changing nature of Australian women. In her composed, light-dappled 1976 observation of film-maker and unionist Lynn Gailey, (pictured, left) Jerrems effortlessly reflected her subject's intelligence, confidence and beauty. Up Close also features prominently signature works by American photographers Larry Clark and Nan Goldin. No one has photographed the young with more intimacy than Clark (pictured, above left) and Goldin's celebrated documentation of being personally abused (The Ballad of Sexual Dependency) remains as bleak and eloquent as ever. Australia's William Yang contributes a series of unblinking observations of another sexual revolution, from an equally turbulent era, (pictured, right) but which chronicled what King calls "the intimate world of his particular social milieu, Sydney's gay and inner city culture : drag queens and flamboyant parties." Up Close, says King, mines "the emotional depths of friends, lovers and family ... (providing) an empathetic close-up glimpse into semi-private worlds (amplifying) the emotional tenor of their times." If one ever needed a reason to visit that most inclusive of Australian cities, Melbourne - Up Close is it. Not to be missed.
Until October 31
A Landscape Like No Other
British photographer Tim Rudman sees Iceland (pictured, above - under the Aurora Borealis) as a coiled spring. "Its volcanoes will erupt again (within) our lifetime. The whole fault-line running through the country is like a time bomb. The country has a strong, omnipresent "middle earth" feel to it." In Iceland - An Uneasy Calm at the Meyer Gallery Rudman explores the light and space of this delicately poised, remote 'end' of the earth. Using conventional, film-based photographic technique, Rudman conveys the eerie beauty of this northern European nation using only B&W, which he believes "removes possible distractions that colour can introduce - reducing landscapes to ... form, texture, light and tone."
From September 29 to October 24
Kerry Dundas 1931-2010
It is with sadness that I note the passing of photographer Kerry Dundas on August 10. (pictured, right with Sandy Edwards L, and Lewis Morley, at photographer Ian Dodd's 70th birthday at Faulconbridge, NSW in 2007) As a pioneer of documentary photography in Australia, Dundas was as much at home photographing massive steel structures (he once worked with Max Dupain, after all) as people. His portraits of Australian artists such as Godfrey Miller (pictured, left) were as remarkable for their subtle use of naturalistic lighting as their revelation of the subject's character. Born in Sydney, Kerry Dundas became interested in photography at school after which he joined Monte Luke's portrait studio, gaining experience in more commercial fields. Dundas was one of the Six Photographers who had their influential exhibition at David Jones Art Gallery in 1955. In 1958 Dundas travelled to Britain where he successfully worked as a photojournalist for the Sunday Times and Observer newspapers. He returned in 1967 and was appointed as the photographer for the Art Gallery of NSW. His photographs are represented in most state art galleries.
The Modest, Poetic Vision of Jill Crossley
I first encountered Jill Crossley in the early 1960's when she worked as an assistant to Sydney photographer Robert Walker (1922-2007) processing and printing the fine black and white photographs he took of his main two subjects: Australian Artists and performance in Sydney theatre. Crossley was a supremely competent printer and went about her work for Walker with great diligence. Now 81 and retired, this tenacious, talented photographer continues to pursue her photography by exploring the Australian landscape. As Crossley no longer has access to a darkroom in which to use her classic B&W technique, she now works in colour (pictured). Her latest pictures, entitled "Grounded", are on exhibition at the Kerrie Lowe Gallery Crossley's colour images are simple, affectionate homages to nature, devoid of any overt ambition to impress. Instead she uses her camera to marvel at nature's diversity - discovering what she refers to as "the wondrous manifestation we call the natural world" photographing everything from small insects suspended within the bush - to the more organic forms encountered within the stone boulders that lie scattered throughout remote areas of the Hunter Valley - where Crossley's pictures were made.
Until October 5
When I heard about this exhibition at the Gallery Cats Studios, Brookvale, I initially wondered whether my leg was being pulled. Not so. Tony Peri, a dedicated Primrose Park Photography member who enjoys exploring such arcane printing methods as making Bromoils(pictured, left) has mounted an exhibition - part of a group show - to raise money for OXFAM. 30% of print sales will be donated to buy appropriate animal stock (such as goats) for needy families in Malawi, Africa. Peri's familiar bromoils (pictured, left) will be shown together with his less well known, but powerful infra-red landscapes (pictured, right) made using an ancient Rolleiflex. For more information go to
Things are getting interesting in the digital ultrazoom camera category. Until now,Fujifilm's remarkable Finepix HS10 (pictured, left) held sway with its amazing 30X Zoom and a host of other features including a panorama mode and manual, yes, manual zoom control. The camera was, of course, also capable of shooting HD video. Ted's Cameras currently sell the Fuji Finepix HS10 for $579.95 Now Canon stepped up to the plate to challenge Fuji with their PowerShot SX30IS camera with a 35X Zoom, (pictured, right) which starts at its genuine wide-angle setting of 24mm(equivalent) and finishes at 840mm ultra telephoto. With a 14 megapixel sensor, image stabilization, HD video capacity and Ultrasonic autofocus, surely these cameras will provide universal picture-taking for many amateur and semi-pro photographers. More later on this trend. Canon's camera is so new they have not yet announced their RRP.
Copyright 2010 Robert McFarlane