Monday, April 16, 2012

Redefining The Australian Landscape

Burnt by Sun and Flame
John Gollings has an enviable reputation as a fine architectural photographer and also an acute observer of the Australian landscape - both urban and rural. Recently Gollings re-photographed Gold Coast vistas he had previously documented dedades before - with telling results. Now Gollings, in a new exhibition at Edmund Pearce Gallery in Melbourne, has observed the elapsed effects following bushfires - creating highly graphic black and white  and colour images that suggest both the terror that must occur when fire sweeps through the country - but also, ironically, fire's other role in effecting the land's renewal. In a perceptive essay in the exhibition catalogue Monash Gallery of Art Director Shaune Larkin comments "These pictures address a number of Gollings’ primary concerns as a photographer ... they demonstrate the regenerative power of nature, evident in the traces of life beginning to emerge in the face of a bushfire’s terrible blackness. They also reiterate Gollings’ long-standing interest in documenting the power of nature, again registered in the indications of regeneration and the fact that such tremendous beauty can be found in places of chaos and destruction."
Gollings' pictures, taken from the air only a week after the Black Saturday bushfires, reveal the burnt landscape in its most graphic, injured mood. (pictured, top) Through Gollings' eyes, scorched earth resembles a giant's stubbled cheek, bisected by a road that simultaneously resembles a curved scar - or the classic serpent from Aboriginal mythology.(pictured, above) There are also other surprises hidden within the photographer's tightly textured observations: trees whose crossed, broken branches resemble crucifixes. In Gollings' colour images there is the irresistable feeling that the photographer playfully references Australian painting's most astringent poet - Fred Williams.

Edmund Pearce are also showing "Australian Gothic" a series of wry observations  by Jane Brown who celebrates  Australia's obsession with elevating creatures from nature to larger than life, iconic status. (pictured, above)
Brown's distinct gift for photographing sensed human presences in unpeopled landscapes and interiors can clearly be seen in this sombre image. (pictured, right) Further evidence of this unique vision can be found on her website When interviewed in the Weekend Australian Review on August 6-7, 2011, Brown commented "I find it interesting how monochrome is used to differentiate the living and the dead, the past and the present. It has an ability to transcend the constraints of time, memory and death. I examine this a lot in my work – landscapes seem to have vestiges or traces of past life and memorials become otherworldly.” Until May 12
Richard Millott 1946-2012
Reading Rob Imhoff's detailed tribute to Richard Millott (pictured, right)) it was obvious that Australian photographers, and perhaps especially those in Melbourne, are part of a community - an extended family that mentors, nurtures and indeed constructively criticises. I did not know Richard Millott, but it is clear the positive influence he had and the many lives he affected. Ed.
Prominent Australian photographer Richard Millott died in Melbourne of cancer on 14th March following a four-month battle with advanced melanoma, which he fought with courage, dignity and good humour until the end.
Richard was a giant among his peers, not only did he physically tower over them but his innate ability as a photographer was second to none. A master of his craft, Richard could match the best when it came to fashion and beauty photography in the 1970’s. Inspired by global giants such as Richard Avedon and Barry Lategan, Richard could emulate the highest global standards and yet leave his own unique indelible mark of perfection.
I first met Richard when he wandered into the Chapel Street South Yarra studios of Brian Brandt & Associates, now Bridie O’Reilly’s Irish Tavern, in late 1972. At the time Richard had just completed 2nd year of the 3 year BA photography course at RMIT under the guidance of noted photographer Michael Wennrich. Richard was a mature age student who after completing year 12 at Carey Grammar, had spent four years working as a wharf labourer, dishwasher, taxi driver and, in his own words, general tramp, searching for his place in society. His flat-mate at the time, photographer Graham Nicholson who worked with Henry Talbot at Newton (Helmut) & Talbot, sparked Richard’s initial interest in photography. This occurred at a time when he had a desire to work in the film industry and was persevering with the idea of getting a job at the ABC. In a cover-story that I wrote for the Institute of Australian Photography (IAP) Magazine in 1973 Richard commented that “Because of our bureaucratic society and its vicious ‘Who you know’ outlook, I became extremely frustrated and decided to seek full time enrolment at RMIT”
In his first two years as a student at RMIT Richard found a direction in a profession that he believed would give satisfaction to himself and others. He learnt to balance both the technical and the practical demands, and became a great believer that technique should be used only as a vehicle for one’s imagination. 
In late 1973, after completing third year at RMIT, Richard joined the Brian Brandt & Associates stable of photographers that included Brian Brandt, Peter Bailey, Klaus Wimhoff, Douglas Coates and myself. Richard quickly bypassed the usual assistant training period and built his own impressive list of clients that included leading fashion and beauty companies. 
Angie Heinl teamed with Richard during this period in what became one of the professions great mentor/assistant relationships and in turn Angie, with Richard’s blessing and encouragement, went on to become an outstanding photographer in her own right.
Stylist, Carol Silk, then wife of photographer Rennie Ellis, was another important member of the personal team and further support came from the in-house colour lab (CPL Services) headed at the time by Herman Bauer and B&W lab operated by Di Lancashire and Ross Dufty. Diana Gribble, later a founding partner in publishing company McPhee-Gribble,administered the bookkeeping, Karen Lewis managed the office and Paul Stedman tried his hardest to manage the photographers during this halcyon period in Richard’s life. 
Late in 1973 I shared a house in Evansdale Road Hawthorn with Richard and his partner, Tina Blomfield (now Millott). I have fond memories of our time at Evansdale Road where an eclectic group of Richard, Tina and my friends would visit. Tina’s dog, an Afghan named Veruschka, added another dimension to our domestic life and her endearing playful behaviour was always a delight, particularly when we walked in the nearby park. Richard and I would regularly drive into the CBD for lunch at Pellegrini’s Italian/New York style Bistro in Bourke Street or their back-restaurant in Crossley Street where we often observed the then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam enjoying the exquisite Italian cuisine. A visit to Pellegrini’s was often followed by a pleasant stroll through the The Paperback and The Hill of Content bookshops at the top end of Bourke Street where we both managed to acquire intellectual fodder and material for our respective photography libraries. Following frequent long nights working in the darkrooms at 462 Chapel Street, Richard and I would race each other home, he in his Mini-Moke and me in my Fiat. Arriving with amused expressions on our faces, we would have breakfast and retire for some sleep, often as Tina was making her way off to work. Both Richard and Tina were regulars at various social functions including the monthly MADC (Melbourne Art Directors Club) luncheon and Mogg’s Creek Moving Clickers film weekends at Lorne. Later in 1974, following Richard and Tina’s purchase of a house in North Melbourne we retreated from the Evansdale Road premises. At their new home Richard and Tina became avid supporters of the local North Melbourne Football Club and were regular visitors to games.
On the 26th October 1974 Richard & Tina were married and held a reception in the front Studio at 462 Chapel Street, I had the pleasure of taking the official group 8x10 B&W portrait. It could be said that Richard and Tina’s greatest achievement was to combine their busy professional lives with the raising of four wonderful children, Ashley, Amber, Celeste and Jenna. In 1983 the family moved to Kew where they were closer to the childrens’ school.
On leaving Brian Brandt & Associates in the mid 70s, Richard joined Bob Bourne & Peter Gough at Still Picture Company (later Paradise Pictures). Later he moved into a partnership with fellow ex-RMIT student Derek Hughes at 264 Park Street South Melbourne. At this time another ex-RMIT student and close friend Wanda Tucker joined Richard as studio manager, and shortly after he and Derek leased the historic former Wesleyan Methodist Church at 167 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda. Fellow RMIT Student, photographer Nick Bernardo joined the studio during this time and Richard became a pillar of support as Nick fought his own battle with cancer. In 1987 the partnership dissolved and Richard took over the magnificent premises. Subsequently Richard succumbed to the landlord’s desire to develop the site as residential apartments and he relocated his business to Lord Street Richmond. In 2007 the studio was closed and Richard based himself from home in Kew. 
During his career Richard inspired and nurtured the careers of many, he gave generously of his time to enhance the professional status of Australian photography and had strong association with both the AIPP (Australian Institute of Professional Photography and ACMP (Australian Commercial & Media Photographers) of which he was a founding member and later a director.
Our sympathies go to Tina, the children, Ashley, Amber, Celeste, Jenna and their extended families. Richard, the gentle giant who was seen and admired by many as an honourable, well-principled, down-to-earth human being leaves us with cherished memories that will stay forever.                                                 

This obituary was written by AIPP ‘Honorary Life Member’ & ACMP Patron Rob Imhoff at the request of close friend Ian McKenzie.