Friday, August 27, 2010

3D's Future, Rolling Stones Arrive, Ken Duncan Speaks Out, Josef Lebovic in Kensington, Outback Roadside Shrines & How Leica Saved Their Jews

LATE NEWS: MGA announces the finalists for $25,000 Bowness Prize
Australia is rapidly becoming a centre for lucrative photographic competitions attracting talented, competitive, artistic photographers. Monash Gallery of Art have just announced the 34 images that have been selected by the judges (from 2,000 photographs submitted by 473 entrants) for the $25,000 William and Winifred Bowness Photography Prize - including (pictured left) Darren Sylvester's "Untitled, from the series, What happens will happen" The winning finalist, to be announced on September 23, will be awarded the $25,000 William and Winifred Bowness non-acquisitive Photography prize. Photography is, as ever, a major part of Monash Gallery of Art's program, with a forthcoming exhibition "More Seeing is Not Understanding" by Ponch Hawkes, (Untitled 1, 2008, pictured, right) opening on September 11. This MGA exhibition will be opened my Dr. Melissa Miles, lecturer in Theory of Art and Design, Monash University. Hawkes will offer her own thoughts in a talk she is giving on September 18.

Readers interested in seeing works selected as finalists in the Bowness can find them at
The Future According to Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner"
When I watched Ridley Scott's moody, prescient 1982 sci-fi epic "Blade Runner" again recently I was struck by how this film's story contained now familiar contemporary technology resonances. Flying cars (pictured) may not have eventuated, but one scene, in which the main character, detective Deckard, (the Blade Runner of the film's title) examines a small photograph which he has inserted into a computer of some kind (the device is barely visible, with only its screen showing). The technique for investigating the image is, however, now technically feasible. Not only does Deckard, played with a bleak truth by Harrison Ford, instruct his computer to scan the image in minute detail, he does it verbally, through a form of voice activation, now known to be one of Microsoft's intense obsessions for the future. As the computer allows this image to be progressively cropped and magnified on-screen (pictured, left) to Deckard's voice commands, Ridley Scott (and presumably Philip K. Dick, whose novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" inspired the film) quietly injects another visionary touch to the scene. Deckard asks the image to go to extreme magnification. As elements within the scene enlarge, we abruptly realise he is not only seeing details before him in great detail, he also can see behind certain elements within the picture, enabling him to subsequently identify a suspect (of whom he then verbally orders a hard copy image) This moment, though brief, reveals Ridley Scott at his visionary best in 1982, suggesting future imaging may well go beyond holography, and literally see around corners. Considering the recent impact of 3D, not only in the creation of Avatar, the most successful motion picture in history (and the prime source of NEWS Ltd's surprising billion dollar-plus profit) but also the increasing numbers of new digital cameras that now incorporate this technology into their still and video imaging, this moment proved truly arresting.
Blender Gallery's Director Tali Udovich is again exhibiting photographs of some of the legendary performers who have created the soundtracks to our lives. After her recent exhibition exploring Bob Dylan's early career, Blender Gallery are exhibiting Ethan Russell's photographs of the Rolling Stones taken in arguably their prime - when touring the United States in 1969. It is hard, now, to look at Russell's colour image (pictured, left) of the Stones at at their free concert at Altamont Speedway, without thinking beyond the ominous visible presence of Hell's Angels performing security - to the murder that unfolded in the turbulent crowd. Mercifully there are lighter moments from Russell, such as a boyish Mick Jagger with Richards (pictured, left) backstage, wearing costumes that seem to anticipate the Las Vegas excesses to come from Elvis. Russell also presents us with a droll image "Patience Please" showing Keith Richards (pictured, right) leaning against a water cooler above which an earnest U.S. government poster warns of the excesses of drugs. LET IT BLEED, Ethan Russell's massive, critically acclaimed 420 page signed, limited edition book (almost A3) is also available for purchase for the duration of the exhibition - which can be previewed online by clicking on Until October 5
Photographers Working in Public Are Angry ...
Well known Australian photographer Ken Duncan, master of the explicit panoramic image (Bondi Beach - pictured, above) is irate. The difficulties of making photographs in public - even documenting an Australian place like Bondi Beach or Uluru means that there are now severe restrictions on photographers. Permits are required at many beaches such as Bondi and even public places such as the Sydney Opera House. (pictured, by Ken Duncan) As a result Duncan has organised a rally for photographers on this coming Sunday, August 29th, coincidentally near the Opera House. "It is bureaucracy gone mad!" says Duncan, "I can't take photographs of my daughter at her swimming carnival without being approached by some official who thinks I might be a criminal. If I am photographing in a National Park and they (the Rangers) deem you're looking professional they will approach you. It's very uncomfortable. If you get a beautiful photograph and you exhibit it and someone buys it - you've broken the regulations - you're a criminal!" I mention to Duncan that similar restrictions exist in France about photographing in public. "Henri Cartier-Bresson would turn in his grave!" says Duncan, adding that in Australia, "If Max Dupain (pictured right, in 1981, preparing a barbecue at his Castlecrag home for Axel and Ros Poignant) went to that beach to photograph "The Sunbaker" today, he’d need a permit. Just the fact that you've got to ring up and get a permit to even go down (to a beach). How do you know when the sun’s going to rise - when that magical moment is going to happen? It's just bureaucracy gone crazy."
Photographers are the environment's best friend maintains Duncan, adding, "we're the ones whose photos were used to annex these areas and turn them into National Parks. Now all of a sudden we're commercial photographers and there to steal from nature. (Arts Minister) Peter Garrett has just been shocking on this ... he keeps trying to turn it into an indigenous issue ... instead this is about the rights of photographers (and artists too) to be able to photograph and tell their stories - to allow them to sell (them) in order to
stay alive to do it! What we're saying is this: if a photographer is having no more impact than the general public on the environment (then) there should be no permits or fees required. End of story." ozphotoreview intends to approach Arts Minister Peter Garrett, despite these fragile political times, for his perspective on this issue, and will post his answer as soon as possible.
Josef Lebovic Gallery Moves to Kensington

One door in Paddington has closed for this distinguished Sydney photography and print gallery, with another, wider door opening in Kensington. After many years in an elegant, though compact building at the corner of Paddington and Cascade streets, the Josef Lebovic Gallery has relocated to 103a Anzac Parade, on the corner of Duke Street, Kensington. With two floors of increased gallery space in a building that was formerly a bank, this could mark a change away from Josef Lebovic's familiar, dense displays of works arranged as classic 'Salon' hangs. Despite extensive renovations to his new premises, photographic works from the current exhibition "Australian & International Photography" can still be viewed, but by appointment only, at the gallery's new Kensington address. Among many outstanding works is Henri Cartier-Bresson's classic 1944 portrait of a great French artist just entering the last decade of his life, Henri Matisse (pictured, above) visibly frail, wheelchair-bound but firmly clasping a white dove with his left hand and continuing to draw. This picture is also full of irony considering Cartier-Bresson had just escaped from German wartime imprisonment and travelled across France to reach Matisse - as clearly as this dove had left its open cage. An interesting commentary on this and other Cartier-Bresson pictures can be found on the following blog I once advised a friend who asked, "if you could buy one Henri Cartier-Bresson photograph - apart from his famous leaping man behind the Gare St. Lazare railway station - which would it be?" I suggested this Matisse portrait, which they bought and have never sold, despite its value steadily increasing in following years. Ansel Adams's magnificent vista of "The Moon and Half Dome, Yosemite" is here (pictured, above right) as well as an equally planetary landscape by the late David Moore (1927-2003) "Sydney Harbour From 20,000 feet, 1992". Moore's other sculptural masterpiece, "Sisters of Charity, Washington DC, USA, 1956" is also present (pictured, left) in Lebovic's selection. Other welcome surprises in this display were two sensitive artist portraits by Kerry Dundas - of John Passmore in 1970 and an earlier 1948 observation of Godfrey Miller. The real surprise however, was Roger Scott's restrained portrait (pictured, right) of the influential photographer Carol Jerrems (1949-1980) made in Paddington in 1976. Fine portraits of Jerrems do exist, such as those by the late Rennie Ellis (1940-2003) but it was refreshing to see this quiet, simple observation of the melancholy photographer, made by her friend and B&W printer, Roger Scott, perhaps better known for his eloquent street photographs.
I should add, in a spirit of full disclosure, that I am represented by Josef Lebovic Gallery.
Australian roadside memorials.
Glenn Campbell is an accomplished Australian photojournalist, based in Darwin, equally at home documenting serene Aboriginal traditional owner Yvonne Margarulla standing in the idyllic Kakadu landscape or Prime Minister Julia Gillard (pictured, below) enjoying a lighter moment on an Australian Navy patrol boat. Recently Campbell became fascinated with the number and variety of memorials created by the side of highways (pictured) where loved ones had perished in road accidents. "After (covering) Bali in 2002, (when) it was ... my first exposure to real grief, I cut loose a bit ... hit the road, went on a long drive ... to NSW and Queensland. I'm at home in the desert. I was born in Mt. Isa. I did the same thing when I came back from Pakistan - I just found myself not moved to photograph anything for a while." The first (memorial) Campbell remembered noticing was on the road to Kangaroo Valley. "It was a gum tree with five crosses on it and there were messages scratched into the bark ... with posters and a letter stapled to the tree." Despite having spent time speaking to people who had lost loved ones (when he covered the Bali Bombing) Campbell had never thought about photographing roadside memorials in his work as a press photographer. "(But) these were young guys with the oldest twenty two." Campbell continued, "I (now) think these are sites of real importance." When I remarked to Campbell that roadside shrines suggest the democratisation of grief, he agreed. "It says a lot about the place of grieving in (our) society, which is not so much in the cemetery any more. It (grief) leaves people adrift. I couldn't have done this body of work without talking to the people who had set up these memorials. I wanted to give voice to this great anonymous grief that is permeating the country. Everyone ... is only one or two steps removed from road trauma." Campbell's "Shrines" exhibition is currently showing in the Supreme Court in Darwin until August 28. When I ask why at the Court? The photographer simply answered, "I needed somewhere big and somewhere quiet," adding, "my motives are pure ... I've learned a lot about myself. Ultimately these places are about love."
How Leica protected their Jews
Bob Davis an Australian photographer based in Hong Kong, China, forwarded this remarkable story of the behaviour of the Leitz family, of Leica camera fame, in Germany in the face of the coming holocaust.
"The Leica (pictured, left and at right, Henri Cartier-Bresson's first Leica) is the pioneer 35mm camera. It is a German product - precise, minimalist, and utterly efficient. Behind its worldwide acceptance as a creative tool was a family-owned, socially oriented firm (founded in 1869) that, during the Nazi era, acted with uncommon grace, generosity and modesty. E. Leitz Inc.,designer and manufacturer of Germany 's most famous photographic product, saved its Jews. And Ernst Leitz II, the steely-eyed Protestant patriarch who headed the closely held firm as the Holocaust (pictured, below left, trains arriving at Auschwitz-Birkenau) loomed across Europe, acted in such a way as to earn the title: "The photography industry's Schindler." As soon as Adolf Hitler was named chancellor of Germany in 1933, Ernst Leitz II began receiving frantic calls from Jewish associates, asking for his help in getting them and their families out of the country. As Christians, Leitz and his family were immune to Nazi Germany 's Nuremberg laws, which restricted the movement of Jews and limited their professional activities. To help his Jewish workers and colleagues, Leitz quietly established what has become known among historians of the Holocaust as "the Leica Freedom Train," a covert means of allowing Jews to leave Germany in the guise of Leitz employees being assigned overseas. Employees, retailers, family members, even friends of family members were "assigned" to Leitz sales offices in France , Britain , Hong Kong and the United States. Leitz's activities intensified after the Kristallnacht of November 1938, (pictured, right) during which synagogues and Jewish shops were burned across Germany. Before long, German "employees" were disembarking from the ocean liner Bremen at a New York pier and making their way to the Manhattan office of Leitz Inc., where executives quickly found them jobs in the photographic industry. Each new arrival had around his or her neck the symbol of freedom - a new Leica. The refugees were paid a stipend until they could find work. Out of this migration came designers, repair technicians, salespeople, marketers and writers for the photographic press.
Keeping the story quiet
The "Leica Freedom Train" was at its height in 1938 and early 1939, delivering groups of refugees to New York every few weeks. Then, with the invasion of Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, Germany closed its borders. By that time, hundreds of endangered Jews had escaped to America thanks to the Leitzes' efforts. How did Ernst Leitz II and his staff get away with it?
Leitz, Inc. was an internationally recognized brand that reflected credit on the newly resurgent Reich. The company produced range-finders and other optical systems for the German military. Also, the Nazi government desperately needed hard currency from abroad, and Leitz's single biggest market for optical goods was the United States. Even so, members of the Leitz family and firm suffered for their good works. A top executive, Alfred Turk, was jailed for working to help Jews and freed only after the payment of a large bribe. Leitz's daughter, Elsie Kuhn-Leitz, (pictured, left) was imprisoned by the Gestapo after she was caught at the border, helping Jewish women cross into Switzerland . She eventually was freed but endured rough treatment in the course of questioning. She also fell under suspicion when she attempted to improve the living conditions of 700 to 800 Ukrainian slave laborers, all of them women, who had been assigned to work in the plant during the 1940s. (After the war, Kuhn-Leitz received numerous honors for her humanitarian efforts, among them the Officier d'honneur des Palms Academic from France in 1965 and the Aristide Briand Medal from the European Academy in the 1970s.)
Why has no one told this story until now? According to the late Norman Lipton, a freelance writer and editor, the Leitz family wanted no publicity for its heroic efforts. Only after the last member of the Leitz family was dead did the "Leica Freedom Train" finally come to light.
It is now the subject of a book, "The Greatest Invention of the Leitz Family: The Leica Freedom Train," by Frank Dabba Smith, a California-born Rabbi currently living in England.
Copyright: Robert McFarlane 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Dean Sewell wins Moran Prize and Trent Parke's Adelaide show opens & Wend Lear's Closes.

Going, going ... gone!
Like her friend and fellow artist Trent Parke, Adelaide-based photographer Wend Lear is preoccupied with photographing the nuances of street life. Sadly her intriguing exhibition "blindspot" has just closed at the Hill Smith Gallery in Adelaide but I was lucky enough to visit the display with the artist, on the last day. Stylistically Lear, 40, works in a distinctly square format, compared to Parke's 6x7cm film format and presents her observations in tightly butted pairs - diptyches either similar in image content or blatantly incongruous. Like Parke, Lear (pictured, left) also sets the street back where it belongs - as a theatrical stage on which humans play and work. The atmosphere in her colour images is cool and graphic, with human presences subtly inferred, whether through pedestrians' limbs barely emerging from the shadows - a single word "self" labeling a streamlined facade on a modernist building - or mannequins stacked in store window disarray. Lear is an interesting, complex photographer and the coolness displayed in this exhibition was vividly contradicted by a catalogue she showed me of photographs made on self-assignment to Palestine in 2007 (pictured, left). Here, Lear's streets (and interior environments) were vividly rendered though the tragic, fractured prism of the Middle East. After looking through these colour images, Lear's photographs at the Hill Smith Gallery seem to take on a positively therapeutic, meditative nature - for both their author and this late arriving gallery visitor.
Photographer Phil Klaunzer has had an interesting way of seeing the Australian landscape for some time; I recall reviewing for the Sydney Morning Herald a series of his evocative landscapes celebrating a sense of place, Spirit of Place, at the Addison Road Art Gallery, in Marrickville, Sydney. While this blog is mainly dedicated to exhibitions and photographic issues, I intend to periodically show photographers' works in progress, such as these intense landscapes by Klaunzer, taken on a recent odyssey to Lake Mungo which, the photographer tells me, is 1000 kms west of Sydney and roughly 110 kms from Mildura. "I've been interested in the place for many years." says Klaunzer. "It's the oldest site of ritual cremation(s) anywhere in the world and is widely recognized as having been continuously occupied by Aboriginal people for over 50,000 years. I am (also) interested in the passage of time for humans on the planet. It is such a strange landscape that as a photographer I'm drawn to it. The earliest ice age human footprint is literally there." Klaunzer photographed this suitably planetary landscape digitally, originally in colour, (except for the star-trail image, above) but decided to convert his digital colour images to black and white. "I thought it was more in keeping with the graphic nature of the landscape itself - more pure," says Klaunzer, adding, "I used SILVEREFEX software which is brilliant and can replicate a filmic 'feel'. I am doing print tests at the moment. I did a couple of tests on a metallic paper and it kind of really suited ... " More later on this intriguing project.
Gary Cockburn - Taking Coals to Newcastle
Another talented Adelaide photographer is making waves, this time in another country, exhibiting his distinctively stylized colour images of the Adelaide Fringe (pictured, above) to the home of such inclusive festivals - the Edinburgh Fringe.There is a serious feeling of strangeness in Cockburn's pictures, but achieved without any obviously mannered trickery. This photographer instead relies on subtle timing and a visual signature that is both entertaining but at the same time true to the scene before his lens. No mean feat. In a note from Edinburgh, Cockburn detailed the interest (and frustrations) he has had in displaying his work in Britain, further. (pictured, left) "Met the Australian Deputy High Commissioner at lunchtime, and managed to show him some of the work (on my mobile again – it's one of the new Apple iPhones and has a truly incredible screen). Think he'd seen about ten shots or so before he was talking about the idea of exhibiting them at Australia House. Unfortunately one of his assistants was nearly as quick to point out that it wouldn't work. They only have one room that's suitable, and that's only if they spend £20k on temporary walls (since the building is heritage listed) to allow a hanging system to be installed. There's also the problem of the room in question being inside their security cordon." Travellers to Scotland can see this exhibition of Cockburn's photographs at Into The Fringe, "C" venues, Chambers Street, Edinburgh, Scotland, U.K and this link - until August 30
LATE NEWS: Dean Sewell - now on a hat-trick with the Moran Photographic Prize
For the second year running, Sydney photojournalist Dean Sewell has won the $80,000 Open Section of the Moran Contemporary Photographic Prize, with a typically candid observation, (pictured, below) capturing a traditional Sydney moment - the atmosphere inside the Cockatoo Island ferry. Sewell has made a career of photographing Australian life above and below ground - from the perilous lives lived by the Cave Clan, who explore the maze of tunnels beneath Sydney - to more recent observations of the rivers of Australia within the Murray/Darling basin. Accomplished combat photojournalist and documentary film-maker Stephen Dupont who judged the Moran Prize, said, "This year's Moran (Prize) judging was a visual rollercoaster ride through contemporary Australian landscape and society. Many ... entries were moving and surprising ... making the final selection ... unbelievably challenging ..." Dupont then went on to praise the photographs entered by school students, a unique feature of the Moran. "Many produced work of a high standard, fresh and inspiring. Not just simple pictures ... but moments of time, place and history." CEO of Moran Arts Foundation, Mark Moran added, "amongst many artists and now significantly, schools,the (Moran) Prizes are now considered a leading cultural event ... a million hits a month online at confirm how (our) Prizes and art are ... engaged at a grass roots level in Australia." I personally enjoyed the playfulness of some entrants, such as year 11/12 student Christine Butcher's digitally manipulated "20 year drought" (pictured, right) and Patrick Riley's dead straight, emotionally engaging black and white portrait "Eleanor Weare" (pictured, left) Secondary school awards went to: Year 7&8 Lorren Chiodo: $2,000 for "Falling". Year 9&10 Tamara Schier: $2,000 for "Innocent Killers". Year 11&12 Annie Rose Armour: $5,000 for "Brother". An equal amount to each student's prize was awarded by the Moran Art Foundation to their respective schools, to assist in purchasing photographic equipment. The Moran Prizes are on exhibition at the N.S.W. State Library until September 5 before touring nationally.
Trent Parke - on exhibition in Adelaide at Hug
o Michell Gallery
In the middle of an incandescent career that has seen Trent Parke become the first Australian photographer to join the legendary photo-agency Magnum Photos, the thirty nine year old Australian has, with his wife Narelle Autio and their children, recently chosen to live, work and exhibit in Adelaide, currently showing a mixture of old and new work at Hugo Michell's stylish Beulah Park gallery., with Autio, his equally talented partner in life and art, seem to have discovered what John Lennon suggested several decades ago: "Think globally... act locally". Speaking briefly with Parke (pictured, right) at the exhibition's opening, he described being courted by perhaps the world's premier photographic book publisher, Steidl run by its passionate, startlingly decisive founder Gerhard Steidl. Typically, Parke's attitude was equally fearless, considering he was on the verge of signing a book deal with another well known publisher - a highly desirable goal, one might assume, until he heard Steidl wanted to meet. (word is clearly out on Parke's talent) "After Magnum’s annual general meeting in New York in June this year, I flew straight to Germany to see Gerhard. He had already made the decision to publish Christmas Tree Bucket and Minutes To Midnight, and together we laid out both books in three days. His next question was only: 'What paper do you want for Minutes To Midnight?' I looked at a paper stock that was almost like heavy, traditional (fibre-based) silver paper, and he simply said 'fine'.” Parke's pictures at Hugo Michell Gallery range from large, almost floor to ceiling black and white prints of photographs taken during he and Autio's 2003 odyssey around Australia, to slightly smaller colour prints of later work (pictured, below) with a selection of newer black and white pictures displayed in a smaller, adjoining space along with several of partner Autio's magical undersea observations. Looking at Parke's pictures again, after some time, I was again struck by how quickly the viewer passes the borders of each image to be forcefully - even urgently - confronted by this gifted artist's celebration of the phenomenal hidden within the ordinary. The 2005 moment observed as a young woman pauses before crossing George Street, Sydney suggested something much older to me - the way street scenes since Pompeii have defined our lives through the significance of seemingly trivial details - such as in this picture of a sign simply saying "Today Coldwater $1.50" or visible evidence of the wind that ruffles the woman's skirt. And an astonishing, aerobatic flight of flying foxes filling the skies above the remote Northern Territory community of Mataranka (pictured above) recalls nothing less than a sci-fi moment of soaring, predatory alien paratroopers. Nearby we get to share Parke's amazement at the savage face of a feral pig-hunter's dog, Conan, (pictured, left) or a small boy's helpless seduction by a tiny glowing television screen, glimpsed by Parke in an anonymous caravan park. Parke seems effortlessly drawn towards such archetypal, sometimes untidy moments, which, like his nearby black and white print of a careering white horse photographed at dusk, are now stubbornly lodged in our memory. Until August 28.
Canon Australia announce two new smart, Pixma wireless printers
Canon have responded to the need to print wirelessly, PC free, from the new generation of smartphones by introducing two elegantly designed WiFi printers, the Pixma MG6150 and the top of the line Pixma MG8150 (pictured, above) each featuring an arsenal of useful features: Easy PhotoPrint for wireless printing from Apple iPhone and iPod, durable Chromalife 100+ inks (print permanence is a given these days) and a user friendly interface Canon call their Intelligent Touch System. There is also a new feature which responds to another recent, popular technology - HD video. Both printers offer what Canon calls full HD Movie Print in which it is possible to print out individual frames from HD movies. I suspect there must be some enhancement involved in this mode, but it is an interesting response to the convergence now occurring between digital still and HD video cameras. Two other features also caught my eye. Both printers have six inks and Canon technologies such as Wireless LAN - print/scanning from anywhere at home. Their 9600x2400 dpi printing also has dedicated black and grey inks to produce quality grayscale B&W prints as well as colour - creating, according to Beryl Thomas, Canon's brand manager, "a 4x6 inch borderless photo of superb quality in approximately 20 seconds." The other feature that will undoubtedly prove useful is the Pixma MG8150's ability to scan film transparencies and negatives. Their specifications, just supplied, promise a remarkable 0ptical resolution of 4800 x 4800 dpi and negative and transparency scanning at 4800 x 9600 dpi. The world's photographers may have gone digital but Canon's experience building excellent scanners for film (and prints) suggests they have not forgotten traditional photography's origins and the ongoing need photographers have to digitize their film archives. Both Pixma printers are available in October 2010 with RRP's to be announced.
Copyright Robert McFarlane 2010

Alfred Stieglitz - a complex photographic legacy - on show at AGNSW
Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) lived at the pivot of the modern age in American and world art. It is difficult to think of his photographs today without sensing the thrust of modern energy then pulsing through early 20th century America - a society brimming with technological confidence. (pictured, right, From An American Place, southwest 1931) His role in bringing the word "modern" into conjunction with American art was crucial. Stieglitz, through 291, the gallery he founded, was the first, between 1908-1914, to exhibit Matisse, Picasso, Cezanne and that streamlined, peerless example of Modernism, Brancusi, in America. Stieglitz also, as Sarah Greenough writes eloquently in her catalogue essay, "wanted nothing less than to place what he termed 'the idea of photography' at the heart of the evolving discourse of modern art." This generous exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW documents his evolution from early diffuse Pictorialist images to what Greenough notes a colleague of Stieglitz (later) recognizing as "the straightest kind of straight photography; giving us as its best, the results of the honest photographer ... who loves [photography] too much to attempt any suggestions of another medium." These two streams of Stieglitz's life would be enough to make this exhibition "Alfred Stieglitz - the Lake George Years" the photography show of the year. But there is also the portraiture that this artistic pioneer produced - and of course his extraordinary photographs calibrating the life, and love, he shared with the woman who eventually became his second wife - the great U.S. painter Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) Astonishingly candid, even now, with their fusion of carnality and domesticity, Stieglitz's pictures of O'Keeffe (pictured, above left) and technology (pictured, right, Ford V-8 1935) banished derivative Romanticism (and sentimentality) from American photography forever. The Lake George referred to in the AGNSW exhibition's title was a private family refuge, familiar to Stieglitz from early childhood, and to which he would later return, each year, until his death. Photographs Stieglitz made at Lake George still provide lessons in seeing with the greatest simplicity and clarity. This photographer is also the only artist I can think of who could make a resonant, memorable photograph of a rainbow, in black and white. Until September 5
"Received Moments" reaches Broken Hill
On Wednesday, July 8th, I travelled to Broken Hill to give a floor-talk for my retrospective exhibition "Received Moments" at the Broken Hill Regional Gallery, located in a spacious, redesigned 1882 hardware emporium (once named Sully's) in the mining city's historic Argent Street. Broken Hill, even now, still resonates with its mining past and having once photographed miners chipping away at a coalface miles beneath the Irish sea, I have nothing but respect and admiration for men who have made the decision to work beneath the earth. Gallery Director, Bruce Tindale (pictured, right, in Argent Street outside the Gallery) also took a friend, Michelle Sexton (with her small child Lachlan, and I) to the Junction mine (pictured, above left) and a more remote place to which I had always wanted to return - Mutawintji National Park. When I was shooting stills on Gillian Armstrong's 1992 film, "The Last Days of Chez Nous" we had filmed outside Broken Hill, including once at a magical location in Mutawintji, (pictured, left) after being guided there by an eloquent local indigenous man, Badger Bates. Regrettably Badger was away in Sydney, sitting on a panel at Sydney's MCA art gallery. But the timeless Mutawintji was still there, with its quiet, dry creek beds (pictured, left) that perhaps trace mysterious aquafers far below. While we watched, eagles swept down to devour kangaroo carcasses and flights of two and three white cockatoos (pictured, left) shrieked dry, urgent cries as they fled from us. The landscape (pictured, left) reminded me of a metaphor Australian novelist Christina Stead (1902-1983) once expressed to me, describing a giant who carelessly threw large objects into a landscape, letting them fall where they may. Around Mutawintji, gently rising ridges were occasionally lined with rows of seemingly carelessly scattered boulders, below which stratas of stone pierced through the land at improbable angles, perhaps provoked by an ancient cataclysm. Returning to Broken Hill, I revisited the exhibition, noting how well it had been hung by the Gallery's assistant Darren Parker. With less space to work with than the three great chamber galleries of the Manly Art Gallery & Museum, Parker had nevertheless created a denser, but still accessible display. Also showing in an adjoining space was a provocative exhibition of layered, poignant colour photographs by Broken Hill artist Boris Hlavica (pictured, left) dealing with the cultural shocks that followed his emigration from a politically turbulent Europe to Australia. Regional Galleries are nothing, it seems, unless they show fine regional artists. Until July 18.
Post-Script: "Received Moments" has now completed its Broken Hill season and is on exhibition at Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre, NSW until October 3.