Saturday, April 24, 2010

Mid-year promises astonishing visual abundance

Head On Photo Festival Nears - Opening April 30
This year the highly successful Head On Photographic Portrait prize (pictured, above Jonathan May’s entry "Mr Universe") has now evolved into a fully fledged photo festival, which will be launched by Federal Arts Minister Peter Garrett (with the announcement of Head On Prize winners) on Friday, 30th April 6-8pm at the Australian Centre for Photography in Sydney.
is inaugural festival will employ 67 venues to show over 80 exhibitions and events which will include a revisiting of Gary Heery’s 1996 B&W exploration of the animal world, "Zoo", on display at Customs House. For a full list of artists and exhibition venues go to
Ben Ali Ong - modern visions with ancien
t roots
There is really no one quite like Ben Ali Ong. There are times when I think his impressionistic vision finds its roots in the Pictorialist movement of the late 19th century. Other times, I can sense a rock riff ... a touch of Hendrix somewhere in his pictures. Ali Ong's "Song of Sorrow" at the Tim Olsen Gallery Annex however, has roots that go far deeper, being nominally based on the writings of 11th century Persian poet, astronomer, mathematician and philosopher Omar Khayyam. As a result Ali Ong claims he has now "abandoned any notion of a photograph being a document of the real ... each work is a performance; a visual fable that finds its truth in imaginative resonance rather than hard evidence." Ben Ali Ong's remarkable images will be on view at Tim Olsen Gallery Annex, 53 Jersey Road, Woollahra. From May 5 to May 15
Photography's Arcane Past Still Sells
Two Daguerreotypes from the Stanley Yalkowksy Collection have recently gone to auction at Sotheby's New York. Depicting the Melbourne garden of Dr. Godfrey Howitt during the 1840's they were expected to return $5/7000. Anne Wall of Sotheby's Australia reported yesterday that the two images had "sold quite handsomely (realising) a Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium of 18,750 US dollars." There was no news available as to the identity of the buyer but Ms Wall added that "it would be marvellous if they (the two Daguerreotypes) returned to Australia."
Neil Duncan brings Impressionism to photographing sports

Veteran press photographer Neil Duncan is nothing if not prolific - and inventive. After his recent, successful exhibition "The Works" (see March 2 blog) at the Watchhouse Gallery, Balmain Duncan was invited to participate in the first Head On Photo Festival, this time showing "Hey Sport!" his impressionistic images of sport, shot at slow shutter speeds. This is a theme to which photographers serially return, after dissatisfaction with merely capturing, in razor-sharp detail, those familiar, peak moments that sport provides. Both David Potts (see also this blog) and David Moore experimented with these techniques in London in the 1950's and Neil Duncan now brings his preoccupation with the fluid, undefined moment to the surface with this selection at Airport North Gallery. Duncan will discuss his vision and shooting methods with gallery visitors next Saturday, May 1, between 12 and 4pm. Until May 5
Heery’s "Zoo" revisited
- endangered animals seen afresh
Accomplished Sydney photographer Gary Heery will reprise a selection of his large format black and white images from "Zoo", his 1996 book (Random House Australia ISBN 13: 9780091832599) on endangered species, at Customs House, Circular Quay. Originally photographed at Taronga Park and Western Plains Zoo over two years, Heery’s evocative B&W images capture an essence of each animal’s personality. They are, quite simply, resonant portraits of our vulnerable fellow creatures, who may just happen to be tapirs, pygmy hippos or our more fraternal primates - chimpanzees or orang-utan. “Zoo” opens in the Red Room at Customs House, Circular Quay on April 29th
STUART SPENCE brings nuance to photography
The dictionary defines the word 'nuance' literally as "a delicate difference ... of shade(s) of meaning, feeling, colour." I couldn't help feeling this defined Stuart Spence's impressionistic colour essay "What Gives" showing at the Damien Minton Gallery in Sydney's Redfern. Photographer Spence is a master of creating distilled images conveying oblique personal meanings. Rather than a thousand words, his photographs carry within them a single, often melancholy chord. This is the last week in which to visit this exhibition. Until April 24
GRAPHY: From two very different perspectives.
At Point Light Gallery directors Gordon and Lyndell Undy keep the faith with exhibiting classic ways of photographing the landscape. Displays at their elegant, modest space in Surry Hills consistently trumpet virtues pioneered by masters of U.S. West Coast landscape photography such as Edward Weston - using large format view cameras to find lyrical moments within nature, then realised in fine, traditional photographic prints. In announcing Stephen Tester’s new exhibition “Lanjanuc” (pictured, left) Point Light says “Stephen works with an 8x10 view camera ... to create these contact photographs in the same way Edward Weston did in the 1940's in Point Lobos in America.” Until May 16
However, in curating The Challenged Landscape” at Sydney's UTS Gallery Sandy Edwards has assembled six contemporary Australian photographers with very different ways of expressing beauty (or its damaged opposite) within the landscape. Stephanie Valentin’s history as an artist has been marked by the stylized, poetic manner with which she informs her pictures with symbols. Her work here is no exception. “Rainbook” shows her father’s ledger (pictured, right) in which he carefully recorded the meagre rainfall on the property in the semi-arid eastern edge of South Australia where she grew up. Valentin places her father's book within a forbidding, desiccated Australian landscape. In this strangely beautiful image, sparse notations of rainfall sit on each page like flies on a summer dining table. Michael Hall’s “Trouble on Lake Hume 1, 2009" (pictured, left) offers an alien landscape where the sky wilts above a meagre watercourse like an artist's pale watercolour wash. Dead trees punctuate the landscape on either side of the river. It is left to Peter Solness to find lyrical warmth in the Australian landscape , predictably with one of his elegant recent night illuminations “Mangrove Forest #2 2010" (pictured at left). I had a momentary thought when seeing these six photographers and their varied visions of the landscape that this exhibition might become as influential as the “Six Photographers” exhibition proved to be, at the David Jones Art Gallery, Sydney, a half a
century ago. Until May 21
David Potts Colour Work extended to May 1
Josef Lebovic Gallery's current display of David Potts' pioneering colour visions has been extended to the end of the month. For a photographer generally regarded as one of Australia's classic B&W photojournalists, Potts has had a long standing parallel interest in testing the boundaries of the colour medium - sometimes with impressionistic views of British pageantry made over a half century ago (pictured, left). However, this important Australian photographer continues to delight in exploring colour, recently choosing to approach still life subjects with his playful, mischievous imagination. There is also a sense of referencing contemporary Australian painting present in the vivid, mandala like forms to which this artist responds. (pictured, right). Not to be missed by any serious collector, or student, of Australian contemporary photography. Now in his early 80's this show proves that the fertile, surprising imagination of David Potts continues undimmed. Until May 1
OCULI now on show at Manly Art Gallery
One of the most eagerly awaited exhibitions of Australia’s younger documentary photographers has opened at Manly Art Gallery & Museum TERRA AUSTRALIS INCOGNITA celebrates the individual visions of Oculi, a unique Australian photographic collective that consistently “explores Australian identity and place”. With talented members such as Donna Bailey, James Brickwood (pictured left with Parkour series 2006), Tamara Dean, Jesse Marlow, Nick Moir, Jeremy Piper, Andrew Quilty (The Domain 2006, pictured right), Dean Sewell, Steven Siewert and Tamara Voninski, Oculi are uniquely positioned to create a unique body of work on contemporary Australia. Until June 16.
"Portraits From The Edge" opens at STC Wharf Gallery
Jon Lewis's evocative black and white photographs depicting how climate change may affect the tiny Pacific nation of Kiribati, has now opened at the Wharf Gallery, Sydney Theatre Company as part of their "Greening" program. Subtitled "Putting a Face to Climate Change" these deceptively simple B&W images by Lewis capture an outwardly carefree nation as an environmental crisis threatens change. From April 20
It's No Sin To Entertain
One of the best and brightest barometers for the evolving world of visual journalism is the New York Times photography blog LENS. In a recent (April 13 issue) we got a lighthearted insight into a photojournalist’s lot when covering the US President addressing the recent 47 Nation Nuclear Security Conference in Washington. NY Times Picture Editor Patrick Witty reported that photographer Luke Sharrett demonstrated the patience and invention required of ‘pool’ photographers, not to mention that of the US President himself. In a time lapse sequence of 1338 photographs Sharrett documented the US President greeting each leader in turn, then assembled his images into an amusing video where Obama appears to almost dance from leader to leader. To see Sharrett’s take on President Obama’s extreme social endurance, as reported by Witty, go to
In the same online issue the NY Times also explores, thoughtfully, the visual dialogue between two photographers, one female, the other male, both exploring their sexual identities in differing ways. Their dialogue can be found in this link to Karen Rosenberg’s article

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