Posts Tagged ‘Anzac Day

29
Jun
18

Review: ‘My last 60 years on the streets: John Williams Retrospective (1933 – 2016)’ at Magnet Galleries, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 14th June – 7th July 2018

Curator: Merle Hathaway

 

 

John Williams. 'Paper Seller, Farmer’s Building, Sydney' 1965

 

John Williams (1933-2016)
Paper Seller, Farmer’s Building, Sydney
1965
Silver gelatin print
© John Williams

 

 

An Australian Classic

When I think of Australian photography, I invariably think of four themes / concepts / era: Pictorialism, Modernism, contemporary (mainly talented female artists) … and street photography. In the latter category, the artist John Williams is an Australian classic. Personally, I have never had the facility or confidence to be a street photographer. It takes a particular kind of person with a very special “eye” to be successful in this genre of photography. Williams had that “eye” in spades.

This retrospective of his work at Magnet Galleries in downtown Melbourne Central Business District is fascinating. You know that you are having a good time at an exhibition when you walk around looking at image after image and chortling to yourself. And laughing out loud. While the quality of some of the prints might not be the best in the world, the aesthetic, fun and irony which the images contain more than make up for it. To actually see these compositions in a spilt second and recognise them for what they are, in that instant, is incomparable.

The paper seller with the woman top right, the woman half appearing at left, the table in the distance and the vanishing point far left. The woman in Paddington with her hand on her hip, looking at the camera and thinking to herself, “what the hell do you think your doing”. The man at Clovelly Beach sunning himself in all his masculinity, not knowing that there is another man with his legs spread in shot behind him. Oh the irony! My particular favourite is the photograph Anzac Day, Melbourne (1965, below) in which what looks like a homeless man, fag in hand, casts a disparaging look towards a veteran in suit and tie displaying all his medals. You can just hear him thinking: “what a tosser”. There are many more: the hand and expression on the face of the women second from the right in Rocks Pub Crawl, Sydney (1973, below) and the disparaging grimace of the man on the left in St Kilda (1975, below). The look on the attendant’s face in front of the Leonardo da Vinci Mona Lisa is an absolute cracker.

Williams’ street photography emerged out of the culture that inspired it. In his photographs we can observe the White Australia policy, the remains of British Empire in the stiff upper lip of ANZAC veterans, powerful white men sitting behind desks with nameless female secretaries, rebellious youth culture, the informality of beach culture and the larrikinism of pub crawls everywhere in Australia. While “Williams embraced the ‘element of chance’ or the ‘decisive moment’ [Cartier-Bresson] … to socially document the raw character of Australia”, in so doing investigating the myth of national identity, his photographs are much more complex than traditional street photography.

There is a much more formal, classical aesthetic going on in these photographs than in other street photography, for example the work of the Americans Lee Friedlander and Garry Winogrand. Here is an artist who, while working with a necessary immediacy, implicitly understands the formal composition and structure of the image plane. Williams loves his off-centre vanishing points, he loves spatially layering the image, and understands how the eye of the viewer wanders across the surface of the image. Look at the two images of the beach, Bondi Beach, Sydney (1964, below) and Clovelly Beach (1964, below) and just let your eye play over the diagonals and verticals, the negative and positive spaces, the ways of escape that the eye has out of each image. The shadow of the two heads ground the first image, while the space either side of the lying man at the top of the image allows your eye to escape the strong diagonal below; while in the second image the horizon line is breached by the sitting woman. If she were not there the image would not work.

Williams’ photographic work deserves to be better known. Here is a talented man who as a historian wrote many books on the First World War; a far sighted man who (with film maker Paul Cox and Rod McNicol), established one of the first commercial fine art photography galleries in Melbourne (The Photographers’ Gallery, Punt Road, South Yarra) in 1973; and a man who took damn good photographs that held a mirror up to Australian culture at that time, which question Australian identity through humour and irony balanced by a complex, classical aesthetic.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to John Williams’ widow Jean Curthoys, curator Merle Hathaway, Michael Silver and Magnet Galleries for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

John Williams (1933- 2016) 'Paddington' 1962

 

John Williams (1933-2016)
Paddington
1962
Silver gelatin print
© John Williams

 

John Williams (1933- 2016) 'Clovelly Beach' 1964

 

John Williams (1933-2016)
Clovelly Beach
1964
Silver gelatin print
© John Williams

 

John Williams (1933- 2016) 'Clovelly Beach' 1964

 

John Williams (1933-2016)
Clovelly Beach
1964
Silver gelatin print
© John Williams

 

John Williams (1933-2016) 'Bondi Beach, Sydney' 1964

 

John Williams (1933-2016)
Bondi Beach, Sydney
1964
Silver gelatin print
© John Williams

 

John Williams (1933- 2016) 'Open Air Shower, Bronte Beach' 1964

 

John Williams (1933-2016)
Open Air Shower, Bronte Beach
1964
Silver gelatin print
© John Williams

 

John Williams (1933- 2016) 'Anzac Day, Sydney' 1964

 

John Williams (1933-2016)
Anzac Day, Sydney
1964
Silver gelatin print
© John Williams

 

John Williams (1933- 2016) 'Anzac Day, Martin Place' 1964

 

John Williams (1933-2016)
Anzac Day, Martin Place [also titled Sydney]
1964
Silver gelatin print
© John Williams

 

 

Sydney photographer, lecturer and historian John F. Williams has a long and personal interest in the ramifications of the Allies’ commitment to and sacrifice in the First World War which he later explored in his 1985 series From the flatlands. Williams became an amateur street photographer, inspired by Henri Cartier-Bresson and the photojournalist W. Eugene Smith. He read The family of man catalogue and saw the exhibition in 1959 but he rejected its “saccharine humanism and deliberate ahistoricism” choosing instead to socially document the raw character of Australia.1

When interviewed in 1994 Williams said: “After the [First World War] you had a range of societies which were pretty much exhausted, and they tended to turn inwards. In a society like Australia which had a poorly formed image of itself, where there was no intellectual underpinning, the image of the soldier replaced everything else as a national identity.”2

Sydney expresses the ‘Anzac spirit’ born in the battlefields of Gallipoli, the Somme and Flanders, a character study of an independent, introspective soldier. With an air of grit, determinedly smoking and wearing his badge, ribbons and rosemary as remembrance, Sydney stands apart from the crowd, not marching with his regiment. Williams embraced the ‘element of chance’ or the ‘decisive moment’ as he documented the soldier in a public place observing the procession. Taken from a low angle and very close up the man is unaware of the photographer at the moment the shot was taken, apparently lost in his own memories. The old soldier represents a generation now lost to history but portraits such as these continue to reinforce the myth of national identity.

1. Jolly, M. “Faith sustained,” in Art Monthly, September 1989, pp. 18-19
2. “John Williams – photographer and historian: profile,” in Sirius, winter, Macquarie University, Sydney, 1994, p. 5

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007

 

John Williams (1933- 2016) 'Anzac Day, Melbourne' 1965

 

John Williams (1933-2016)
Anzac Day, Melbourne
1965
Silver gelatin print
© John Williams

 

 

Melbourne’s best photographic gallery, Magnet Galleries, will feature the work of two major Australian photographers, John Williams and Ingeborg Tyssen.

John Williams always wanted to hold an exhibition with his photographer wife, and sadly it did not occur during either of their lifetimes. Magnet Galleries, at 640 Bourke Street now fulfils this wish with a double exhibition running from 14 June to 7 July 2018.

The two exhibitions, “My last 60 years on the streets: John Williams Retrospective (1933 – 2016)” and “Swimmers: Ingeborg Tyssen (1945 – 2002)” feature their superb black and white photography. Both artists were keen observers of people in their environments and preferred the black and white format.

On the day she was fatally injured in an accident Tyssen was in Holland, learning to use her new digital camera. She died two days later with John at her side. Williams’ work was also darkroom generated until 2002 when he became concerned at the effects of chemicals on photographers. From then on he only used the digital format, and increasingly played with the effects of overlaying images and stitching multiple images.

Williams became well known for his 1960s and 1970s Sydney street scenes, and Anzac Day marches over the decades. He described himself as a photographer who wrote history and a historian who took photographs. He wrote seven books and many articles about World War 1. This exhibition will show the full extent of his legacy.

The exhibition at Magnet Galleries is organised by John Williams’ widow Jean Curthoys and curator Merle Hathaway.

 

John Williams (1933-2016) 'Tesiphon, Iraq' 1965

 

John Williams (1933-2016)
Tesiphon, Iraq
1965
Silver gelatin print
© John Williams

 

John Williams (1933-2016) 'Brighton Beach, Sussex' 1967

 

John Williams (1933-2016)
Brighton Beach, Sussex
1967
Silver gelatin print
© John Williams

 

John Williams (1933- 2016) 'Pisa' 1968

 

John Williams (1933-2016)
Pisa
1968
Silver gelatin print
© John Williams

 

John Williams (1933- 2016) 'Rozelle, Sydney' 1968

 

John Williams (1933-2016)
Rozelle, Sydney
1968
Silver gelatin print
© John Williams

 

John Williams (1933- 2016) 'Rocks Pub Crawl, Sydney' 1973

 

John Williams (1933-2016)
Rocks Pub Crawl, Sydney
1973
Silver gelatin print
© John Williams

 

John Williams (1933- 2016) 'Rocks Pub Crawl, Sydney' 1973

 

John Williams (1933-2016)
Rocks Pub Crawl, Sydney
1973
Silver gelatin print
© John Williams

 

John Williams (1933- 2016) 'St Kilda' 1975

 

John Williams (1933-2016)
St Kilda
1975
Silver gelatin print
© John Williams

 

John Williams (1933- 2016) 'Louvre' 1975

 

John Williams (1933-2016)
Louvre
1975
Silver gelatin print
© John Williams

 

John Williams (1933-2016) 'Chicago' 1975

 

John Williams (1933-2016)
Chicago
1975
Silver gelatin print
© John Williams

 

John Williams (1933- 2016) 'Haymarket, Sydney' 1977

 

John Williams (1933-2016)
Haymarket, Sydney
1977
Silver gelatin print
© John Williams

 

John Williams (1933-2016) 'William McMahon, Australian Prime Minister' 1971-2

 

John Williams (1933-2016)
William McMahon, Australian Prime Minister
1971-2
Silver gelatin collage
© John Williams

Photographed in his parliamentary office in 1980 when he was ‘Father of the House’

 

John Williams (1933-2016) 'Andrew Peacock and Secretary' 1980

 

John Williams (1933-2016)
Andrew Peacock and Secretary
1980
Silver gelatin collage
© John Williams

At the time of this photograph, Andrew Peacock was Minister for Foreign Affairs

 

John Williams (1933-2016) 'Ed Douglas (photographer)' 1980

 

John Williams (1933-2016)
Ed Douglas (photographer)
1980
From the series Living Room Portraits, 1980
Silver gelatin collage
© John Williams

 

John Williams (1933-2016) 'Christine, Sydney' 1980

 

John Williams (1933-2016)
Christine, Sydney
1980
From the series Living Room Portraits, 1980
Silver gelatin collage
© John Williams

 

John Williams (1933- 2016) 'Anzac Day, Sydney' 2000

 

John Williams (1933-2016)
Anzac Day, Sydney
2000
Silver gelatin print
© John Williams

 

 

Magnet Galleries Melbourne Inc.
Lv 2 / 640 Bourke Street
Melbourne, Australia

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Friday – 11am to 5pm
Saturday and Sunday – 11am to 4pm

Magnet Galleries website

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03
Jul
10

Exhibition: ‘Icon & Archive: photography & the World Wars’ at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 16th April – 11th July 2010

 

Many thankx to Mark Hislop and the Monash Gallery of Art for allowing me to reproduce the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photos for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Photographer unknown. 'Matron Grace Wilson doing a round, Mudros' 1915

 

Photographer unknown
Matron Grace Wilson doing a round, Mudros
1915
Gelatin silver print

 

 

“NOTHING could have prepared Grace Wilson for her first day at Turks Head Point on the drought-stricken island of Lemnos, where she was to run a field hospital for injured soldiers being shipped out from Gallipoli, 65km away.

“Things are just too awful for words. . . we found only a bare piece of ground with wounded men in pain, still in filthy, bloodstained clothes, lying amid stones and thistles,” she wrote in her diary.

Matron Wilson and her 40 nurses had arrived in the island’s Mudros harbour aboard the Dunluce Castle on August 2, 1915, to discover to their dismay there was no sign of the supply ship Ascot, which had been due there a week earlier with the tents, medical equipment, crates of tinned food and other essentials.

In a bizarre display of military pomp, a regimental piper led the women – wearing heavy, ankle-length dresses and petticoats – on a long march in searing summer heat to what would be their home for the most harrowing five months of their lives…”

Read the full article: Daryl Passmore. “Brisbane snubs unsung war heroine Matron Grace Wilson,” The Sunday Mail (Qld) on The Courier Mail website April 21, 2013 [Online] Cited 15/10/2019

 

Norman Stuckey (Australian, 1914-83) 'The Pimple, Shaggy Ridge, New Guinea' 1943

 

Norman Bradford Stuckey (Australian, 1914-1983)
The Pimple, Shaggy Ridge, New Guinea
1943
Toned silver gelatin print

 

 

The Battle of the Shaggy Ridge was part of the Markham and Ramu Valley – Finisterre Range campaign, consisting of a number of actions fought by Australian and Japanese troops in Papua New Guinea in World War II. Following the Allied capture of Lae and Nadzab, the Australian 9th Division had been committed to a quick follow up action on the Huon Peninsula in an effort to cut off the withdrawing Japanese. Once the situation on the Huon Peninsula stabilised in late 1943, the 7th Division had pushed into the Markham and Ramu Valleys towards the Finisterre Range with a view to pushing north towards the coast around Bogadjim, where they would meet up with Allied forces advancing around the coast from the Huon Peninsula, before advancing towards Madang.

A series of minor engagements followed in the foothills of the Finisterre Range before the Australians came up against strong resistance centred around the Kankiryo Saddle and Shaggy Ridge, which consisted of several steep features, dotted with heavily defended rocky outcrops. After a preliminary assault on a forward position dubbed The Pimple in late December 1943, the Australians renewed their assault in mid-January 1944 and over the course of a fortnight eventually captured the Japanese positions on Shaggy Ridge and the Kankiryo Saddle, after launching a brigade-sized attack up three avenues of advance. In the aftermath, the Australians pursued the Japanese to the coast and subsequently took Madang, linking up with US and Australian forces.

Text from the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 25/10/2019

 

Barbara Joan Isaacson (Australian, b. 1923) 'Journalist Iris Dexter standing under the starboard engine of a Douglas C-47 aircraft' February-March 1943

 

Barbara Joan Isaacson (Australian, b. 1923)
Journalist Iris Dexter standing under the starboard engine of a Douglas C-47 aircraft
February-March 1943
Gelatin silver print 2008
Image courtesy of the AMW

 

 

Joan Barbara Isaacson was born into a dynamic and family. Her mother, Lynka Isaacson (also known as Caroline Isaacson), was the first female journalist to be employed by a metropolitan newspaper in Australia, and was a strong role model for her daughter. After the war Isaacson’s mother and brother set up the Southern Cross publishing business.

Isaacson attended the Melbourne Technical College, where she studied photography. When she was 18 years old she joined the Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS). Working in the Army Public Relations section, she travelled the east coast taking documentary and recruitment propaganda photographs and meeting press journalists and photographers.

In 1943 Isaacson married Richard L. Beck, a graphic designer and photographer. During the period from 1946-1948 they set up their own photographic business in Melbourne, specialising in child portraiture. Isaacson took over the business c.1950 when her husband went back to working as a graphic designer, and continued to manage the studio until the birth of her third baby. After her departure from the photography business Isaacson was involved in a variety of other ventures and gave up her photography.

Text from the Australian Women’s Register website [Online] Cited 24/10/2019

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992) 'The dozing soldier' 1943

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
The dozing soldier (Tired Soldier in Train North Queensland)
1943
Gelatin silver print

 

 

“Photographs are an inseparable part of our memory of the First and Second World Wars. They help us remember events which many of us have no direct experience.

Monash Gallery of Art’s new special exhibition Icon & archive: photography and the World Wars draws on the Australian War Memorial’s vast photographic collection to consider the relationship of photography and war. This extraordinary exhibition opens to the public on Friday 16 April.

Direct from the Australian War Memorial, Icon & Archive demonstrates the powerful role played by photography in the efforts of Australians to make sense of and remember the terrible events of the First and the Second World Wars.

“Visitors to MGA will see many ‘iconic’ photographs that have become lodged in our national memory”, said MGA Director and curator of the exhibition, Dr Shaune Lakin.

“Icon & archive also presents previously unseen photographs to showcase the experiences of both service personnel and the families left behind during the wars. These photographs provide contemporary audiences with a remarkable picture of the effects of the World Wars on private, family and social life in Australia. In doing this, the exhibition will help members of our community better understand that experience and its relevance to contemporary Australia” said Dr Lakin.

Icon & archive will play a significant role in the City of Monash’s Anzac Day commemorations, in this the 95th anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli. Icon & archive includes some of the most historically significant pictures from Gallipoli, as well as other important sites involving Australians during both the First and the Second World Wars.”

Press release from the Monash Gallery of Art website

 

Algemon Darge (Australian, 1878-1941) 'Private George Beamish Swanton with his wife Nellie and their young baby Joan' 1915

 

Algemon Darge (Australian, 1878-1941)
Private George Beamish Swanton with his wife Nellie and their young baby Joan
1915
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Studio portrait of 1159 Private (Pte) George Beamish Swanton, Australian 24th Battalion, of Werribee, Victoria, with his wife Nellie and young baby, Joan Helen. Pte Swanton enlisted on 28 April 1915 and embarked on board HMAT Euripides on 8 May 1915. He died of wounds on 28 July 1916 at Pozieres, France. Pte Swanton had two brothers who were also killed in action; 222 Pte John (Jack) Swanton, 2nd Battalion, enlisted on 27 August 1914 and was killed in action at Gallipoli Peninsula on 2 May 1915; and 2760 Pte Henry Swanton, 29th Battalion, enlisted on 5 March 1916 and was killed in action at Pozieres, France on 2 November 1916.

This is one of a series of photographs taken by the Darge Photographic Company which had the concession to take photographs at the Broadmeadows and Seymour army camps during the First World War. In the 1930’s, the Australian War Memorial purchased the original glass negatives from Algernon Darge, along with the photographers’ notebooks. The notebooks contain brief details, usually a surname or unit name, for each negative. The names are transcribed as they appear in the notebooks.

Text from the Australian War Memorial website [Online] Cited 25/10/2019

 

 

Norman Bradford Stuckey (Australian, 1914-1983)
Engineers exhausted after destroying obstacles, Tarakan
1945
Gelatin silver print

 

 

The Battle of Tarakan was the first stage in the Borneo campaign of 1945. It began with an amphibious landing by Allied forces on 1 May, code-named Operation Oboe One; the Allied ground forces were drawn mainly from the Australian 26th Brigade, but included a small element of Netherlands East Indies personnel. The main objective of the landing was capture of the island’s airfield. While the battle ended with success for the Allied forces over the Japanese defenders, this victory is generally regarded as having not justified its costs. The airfield was so heavily damaged that it ultimately could not be repaired in time to make it operational for other phases of the Allied campaign in Borneo.

Text from the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 25/10/2019

 

Asti Studios. 'Studio portrait of an unidentified First World War soldier in Australian service uniform' 1914-18

 

Asti Studios
Studio portrait of an unidentified First World War soldier in Australian service uniform, including greatcoat and slouch hat
c. 1914-1918
New South Wales, Sydney
Toned silver gelatin print

 

 

Monash Gallery of Art
860 Ferntree Gully Road, Wheelers Hill
Victoria 3150 Australia
Phone: + 61 3 8544 0500

Opening hours:
Tue – Fri: 10am – 5pm
Sat – Sun: 12pm – 5pm
Mon/public holidays: closed

Monash Gallery of Art website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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