Posts Tagged ‘Australian street photography

12
Sep
15

Exhibition: ‘Impressions of Paris: Lautrec, Degas, Daumier, Atget’ and ‘Impressions of Melbourne’ at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 17th July 2015 – 20th September 2015

National Gallery of Australia touring exhibition

 

 

Eugène Atget. 'No title (Brocanteur)' c.1898-1905

 

Eugène Atget (France 1857-1927)
No title (Brocanteur)
c. 1898-1905
Albumen silver photograph
17.8 x 21.9cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1980

 

 

Impressions of Paris: Lautrec, Degas, Daumier, Atget is a particularly dry and uninspiring National Gallery of Australia touring exhibition, which was only enlivened for me by the enlightened presence of 20 or so vintage Eugène Atget photographs, specifically added for this showing at the Monash Gallery of Art, the home of Australian photography.

Atget’s photographs have an almost ether/real quality to them in their visual representation and, physically, an ephemeral feel to the quality of the paper – as though the images are about to dissolve into nothing – even as he photographs solid objects such as stairways, doors and door knockers. Observe the photographs Hôtel du Maréchal de Tallard, 78 rue des Archives (c. 1898-1905), A la Grâce de Dieu, 121 rue Montmartre (c. 1900) and Heurtoir, 6 rue du Parc Royal (c. 1901-1914), below, to witness this shimmering phenomenon. It is as if the emulsion of the plate is insufficient to capture the light of life.

In an accompanying exhibition in the smaller gallery, Impressions of Melbourne, photographs by Nicholas Caire, Charles Kerry, Max Dupain, Mark Strizic and Noel Jones investigate the city of Melbourne… but it is the stunning photographs by Atget that make the long drive out to Wheeler’s Hill worth the visit.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Monash Gallery of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Eugène Atget. 'Versailles, Grand Trianon' c.1901-25

 

Eugène Atget (France 1857-1927)
Versailles, Grand Trianon
c. 1901-25
Gold-toned silver chloride photograph
17.6 x 22cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1980

 

Eugène Atget. 'Hôtel du Maréchal de Tallard, 78 rue des Archives' c. 1898-1905

 

Eugène Atget (France 1857-1927)
Hôtel du Maréchal de Tallard, 78 rue des Archives
c. 1898-1905
Gold-toned silver chloride photograph
22 x 18.1cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1980

 

Eugène Atget (France 1857-1927) 'A la Grâce de Dieu, 121 rue Montmartre' c. 1900

 

Eugène Atget (France 1857-1927)
A la Grâce de Dieu, 121 rue Montmartre
c. 1900
Printing out paper photograph
22 x 17.7cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1984

 

Eugène Atget (France 1857-1927) 'Heurtoir, 6 rue du Parc Royal' c. 1901-1914

 

Eugène Atget (France 1857-1927)
Heurtoir, 6 rue du Parc Royal
c. 1901-1914
Gold-toned silver chloride photograph
21.9 x 17.8cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1980

 

 

Monash Gallery of Art is delighted to present its major international exhibition of 2015, Impressions of Paris: Lautrec, Degas, Daumier, Atget featuring over 120 prints, posters and photographs drawn from the collection of the National Gallery of Australia.

Impressions of Paris: Lautrec, Degas, Daumier, Atget examines the major contribution to French art made by key figures: Honoré-Victorin Daumier (1808-1879), Edgar Degas (1834-1917), Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) and includes a selection of photographs by Eugène Atget (1857-1927) specially conceived for Monash Gallery of Art.

Newly appointed Gallery Director Kallie Blauhorn states, “I’m thrilled that for my first exhibition at MGA we are able to present a major international show, Impressions of Paris. Residents of Monash and art lovers across Melbourne will experience the extraordinary works by household names, Toulouse Lautrec, Edgar Degas, Honore Daumier and the wonderful photographer Eugène Atget.”

“This is a first for MGA and a true testament to the reputation of the gallery that we can host this important and significant exhibition,” said Blauhorn.

A generation apart, Lautrec, Degas and Daumier were consummate draughtsmen whose innovative compositions and embrace of modern subject matter played a significant role in artistic developments in France over the nineteenth century. Atget, the only specialist photographer among these artists, spent much of his life documenting the streets of Paris as they underwent modernisation. His photographs show us how modern life was expressed in the architectural experience of France, giving us a glimpse of what modernity left behind.

The generation of French artists who followed Daumier in the nineteenth century were inspired by his critical observations, which became an extraordinary reservoir of ideas. Both Degas and then Lautrec were enthusiastic admirers of French caricature, delighting in its animated qualities, stylistic freedoms and contemporary themes. They were particularly enamoured of Daumier’s caricature.

Degas adopted themes of modern French life, the ballet, the race course, the café-concert and the demi-monde and played an important role in the rejection of mythological and historical subjects favoured by the Impressionists. Many of Degas’ ideas on composition and subjects were, in turn, drawn from Daumier. This French satirist was both extraordinarily gifted and prolific, making a name for himself by lampooning the affectations, stupidities and greed of members of the French bourgeois society in caricatures, which Degas avidly collected.

The youngest of the artists, Lautrec, who sadly dies before reaching 37, borrowed themes and compositions from Degas, an artist he much admired and emulated. Images of drinkers at a table, ballet and cabaret scenes and nudes reveal the powerful influence that Degas had on the younger artist, as well as Lautrec’s own considerable originality, particularly as a portrayer of individuals rather than the depiction of types often favoured by Degas.

For the most part, Atget’s pictures of streets, parks, courtyards, buildings and their ornamental motifs record remnants of Old Paris. While there is a nostalgic aspect to these views, for contemporary viewers these pictures were about modern Paris. They recorded and helped make sense of changes to the city as it struggled to cope with modernism. Atget’s views of modern Paris focussed on its intimate places, those spaces of the everyday in which people had always worked, loved and lived.

These four artists captured the spirit of Paris in their prints, posters and photographs. Through the examination of this work, we find clues as to why dramatic changes took place in French art over the nineteenth century. They formed part of other generations of artists who admired Daumier and who adapted the caricaturist’s critical lithographic observations. In this way Daumier’s legacy was a brilliant journalistic record of the modern capital and contributed to an era in France ripe for a new art.

Press release from the MGA website

 

Eugène Atget: growth and decay in the great city

After an unspectacular career in the theatre, Eugène Atget (1857-1927) began to take photographs of Paris in 1892. By 1897 he had established a successful business photographing the spaces that remained of Old Paris. In all, Atget made over 10,000 images of Paris and its surrounds, each taken with a straightforward approach that laid the basis for much of the documentary photography that followed. Atget’s pictures were immensely popular: he sold thousands of prints, satisfying a strong demand for views of a city undergoing massive social and architectural transformation.

For the most part, Atget’s pictures of streets, parks, courtyards, buildings and their ornamental motifs record remnants of pre-Revolutionary Paris. While there is a nostalgic aspect to these views, for contemporary viewers these pictures were about modern Paris. They recorded and helped make sense of changes to the city as it struggled to cope with modernism. Street traders and other workers are seen selling their wares along old streets and laneways; ancient buildings stand in laneways and courtyards undergoing physical transformation; cafes and shops await bustling crowds. Atget’s views of modern Paris focussed on its intimate places, those spaces of the everyday in which people had always worked, loved and lived.

 

Impressions of Melbourne

17th July 2015 – 20th September 2015

In response to the photographs by Eugène Atget (1857-1927) included in the National Gallery of Australia’s touring exhibition, Impressions of Paris, this exhibition offers views of Melbourne’s streets, laneways and urban landscape. Drawn from the Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection, this selection traverses a period from the late nineteenth century to the late twentieth century.

Atget photographed Paris during a time when the French capital was undergoing significant transformation. From the 1850s through to the 1920s, the dark medieval neighbourhoods of the city were demolished to make way for the wide avenues and open public spaces that Paris is known for today. Atget’s ambition was to produce clear and detailed photographs that would document the heritage of Paris before it disappeared. Typically taking his photographs in the early morning when the streets were empty, Atget imbued the city with ghostly nostalgia.

The earliest photographs in Impressions of Melbourne, taken by Nicholas Caire and Charles Kerry in the late nineteenth century, are contemporary to those of Atget. While Atget focused longingly on the past, however, these Australian photographers celebrated the civic accomplishments of modern progress in the colonies. The portrayal of Melbourne as a civilised metropolis, attractive to both immigrants and tourists, persisted through the twentieth century. Max Dupain captured the city as a lively and enterprising place, while Mark Strizic lingered on the shimmering ambience of window shopping and city strolling.

Impressions of Melbourne showcases a range of photographic responses to our urban environment, revealing some of Melbourne’s many moods and highlighting the city as a rich photographic subject. The exhibition includes photographs by Nicholas Caire, Charles Kerry, Max Dupain, Mark Strizic and Noel Jones.

 

Nicholas Caire

Nicolas Caire was born in Guernsey and arrived in Australia, settling in Adelaide, in 1858. He set up his first photographic studio in Adelaide in 1867. He moved to the Victorian goldmining town of Talbot in 1870 before relocating to Melbourne in 1876. At this time, Melbourne was the largest Australian city.

While Caire is best known for his picturesque landscape photographs of the Victorian countryside, he also produced photographs of major city thoroughfares, public buildings, parks and gardens. These subjects were common amongst photographers in the second half of the nineteenth century, conveying a sense of local pride and achievement. Caire’s photographs were often mounted in albums and accompanied by individual descriptive texts, a format that was popular amongst local and overseas visitors at the time.

 

Charles Kerry

Charles Kerry grew up in country New South Wales before moving to Sydney at the age of 17 to begin his photographic career. After a failed studio partnership, which left him with a lot of debt, Kerry rebuilt his business and by 1890 found himself running a successful studio that had a monopoly on the popular postcard market. By 1898 Kerry’s studio was the largest in Australia, housed in a three-storey building at 310 George Street, Sydney.

Throughout his career, Kerry photographed a broad range of subjects including social and sporting events, portraits of Indigenous people, city streets as well as the New South Wales countryside. He also spent a year documenting every station homestead in New South Wales. Kerry retired in 1913.

 

Nicholas Caire (born United Kingdom 1837; arrived Australia 1858; died 1918) 'View of Bourke Street, Melbourne' 1877-78

 

Nicholas Caire (born United Kingdom 1837; arrived Australia 1858; died 1918)
View of Bourke Street, Melbourne
1877-78
From the series Views of Victoria
Albumen print
13.4 x 18.7cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 1987

 

 

Original album caption: Bourke Street is the principal business thoroughfare in the great City of Melbourne. It is about a mile in length, extending from the Parliament House to the Spencer Street Railway Station. On the left hand side of the picture is the Post Office, and at the extreme end of the street can be seen the Parliament House.

 

Nicholas Caire (born United Kingdom 1837; arrived Australia 1858; died 1918) 'The Government Domain of Victoria' 1877-78

 

Nicholas Caire (born United Kingdom 1837; arrived Australia 1858; died 1918)
The Government Domain of Victoria
1877-78
From the series The public buildings of Melbourne and suburbs
Albumen print Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 1987

 

 

Original album caption: The Governor’s Residence is on an eminence near the Botanical Gardens, and occupies one of the best positions around the City of Melbourne. Looking westward from the front of the Domain, a splendid view is obtained of Hobson’s Bay, with the townships of St Kilda, Emerald Hill, Sandridge, and Williamstown on the coast. On the north side can be seen the City of Melbourne, with its busy suburban towns – Hotham, Carlton and Fitzroy. From the rear of the building towards the east, in the distance, the retired towns of Richmond, Hawthorn, and Toorak can be distinguished. The building, as seen in the illustration, was completed in the year 1876. Sir G F Bowen, GCMG, being the Resident Governor at the time.

 

Nicholas Caire (born United Kingdom 1837; arrived Australia 1858; died 1918) 'The Royal Mint, Melbourne' 1877-78

 

Nicholas Caire (born United Kingdom 1837; arrived Australia 1858; died 1918)
The Royal Mint, Melbourne
1877-78
From the series The public buildings of Melbourne and suburbs
Albumen print
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 1987

 

 

Original album caption: The Royal Mint of Victoria is situated in the north-easterly part of William Street, West Melbourne. This Government Building is not thrown open to the public for visitation at any time; but an inspection by visitors can be effected on an order from a Member of the Ministry, conditionally that there be no fewer than eight persons at each visitation; one of the number being required to become responsible for the conduct of the party.

 

Nicholas Caire (born United Kingdom 1837; arrived Australia 1858; died 1918) 'The Post Office, Melbourne' 1877-78

 

Nicholas Caire (born United Kingdom 1837; arrived Australia 1858; died 1918)
The Post Office, Melbourne
1877-78
From the series The public buildings of Melbourne and suburbs
Albumen print
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 1987

 

 

Original album caption: This imposing structure is erected at the junction of Bourke and Elizabeth Streets, which may be considered perhaps the most central position in Melbourne. It is provided with a very long corridor for the posting and delivery of letters, & c. The Telegraph Department, as also the Post Office Savings Bank and Money Order Office, are all conducted in connection with the General Post office, Melbourne, of which the Hon. R Ramsay, MLA, is at present Postmaster-General.

 

Charles Kerry (Australia 1858-1928) 'Collins Street, looking south' c. 1890

 

Charles Kerry (Australia, 1858-1928)
Collins Street, looking south
c. 1890
Albumen print
14.5 x 17.5 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 1984

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92) 'Melbourne with rain' 1946

 

Max Dupain (Australia, 1911-92)
Melbourne with rain
1946
Gelatin silver print
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 1987

 

 

Max Dupain

Max Dupain began his photographic career in 1930 as an apprentice in the studio of Cecil Bostock. In 1934 he established his own studio in Sydney and continued to produce a broad range of commercial work over the course of his life. Dupain was strongly influenced by modernist photographic principles and is renowned for his architectural photography as well as his iconic images of Australian beach culture.

While he primarily worked in Sydney, the photographs exhibited here are among several he took of otherAustralian cities. They highlight his interest in documenting city life as well as his use of light, shadow and aerial perspective. They were taken during the post war period; in the year that Dupain was commissioned by the Department of Information to photograph Australia’s way of life as part of a campaign to increase migration to Australia. This period marked a shift in Dupain’s practice, away from advertising and fashion toward social documentary.

 

Mark Strizic (born Germany 1928; arrived Australia 1950; died 2012) 'Near 101 Collins Street, Jan 1963' 1963

 

Mark Strizic (born Germany 1928; arrived Australia 1950; died 2012)
Near 101 Collins Street, Jan 1963
1963
Gelatin silver print
36 x 53.5cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated by the Bowness Family through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2008
Reproduction courtesy of the artist

 

Mark Strizic (born Germany 1928; arrived Australia 1950; died 2012) 'Collins Street at McPherson's building - 1, 1967' 1967

 

Mark Strizic (born Germany 1928; arrived Australia 1950; died 2012)
Collins Street at McPherson’s building – 1, 1967
1967
Gelatin silver print
53.8 x 36cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated by the Bowness Family through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2008
Reproduction courtesy of the artist

 

 

Mark Strizic

Mark Strizic was born in Berlin and migrated to Melbourne from Zagreb, Croatia in 1950. Strizic had no formal training in photography, but began taking photographs of Melbourne in the 1950s. He abandoned his studies in physics to become a full-time photographer in 1957, taking up subsequent commissions in architectural, industrial, interior design and portrait photography.

Among Strizic’s most widely recognised images are those he created of Melbourne between 1955 and 1970. Strizic documented the streets of Melbourne, showing many sides of the city, from derelict back alleyways to the grand arcades and buildings of Melbourne’s ‘Paris end’. Strizic’s photographs were produced during a period of dramatic change, a time when Melbourne’s Victorian-era buildings were being replaced by modern architectural developments. The images not only serve to document this change but also provide significant and important records of Melbourne pre-modernisation.

 

 

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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12
Aug
15

Exhibition: ‘Crowd Source’ at the State Library of New South Wales, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 4th April – 23rd August 2015

 

Arthur K. Syer (d. 1935) 'Argyle Cut, The Rocks' c. 1880s - 1900

 

Arthur K. Syer (Australian, d. 1935)
Argyle Cut, The Rocks
c. 1880s-1900
Albumen print
From an album of Sydney street life, harbour and beach scenes, domestic animals
81 photographs in album: 15.2 x 20.4cm or smaller

Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

 

 

There is an almost Dickensian mellow dramatic feel to some of these 1880s-1900 albumen photographs by Sydney photographer Arthur K. Syer.

While the photographs offer a unique point of view (low down by the waist) of Victorian era Sydney, you get the feeling that Syer was more interested in the fact that his camera was hidden, and the game he was playing to get these photographs, than in the visual construction of the images themselves.

The best of them are photographs – such as Hawker haggling with customers, with its links to the photography of Atget, and crowd scenes like Men in street, where the different poses of the men and the rising and falling of the six items of headgear – which offer a rhythmic consideration and interest that other photographs in the posting lack.

The gem in this group of images is the outstanding Forest Lodge double decker steam tram stopped on Elizabeth Street near Supreme Court N.S.W. Again, it is the attitude and rhythm of the protagonists within the image frame that makes this diorama so engaging. The man at left looks away from us with his back to the camera, while above him a man stands in the tram perpendicular to him, giving a nice play to the space between the tram carriages. Three people in alternating dark and light hats wait patiently for a old biddie to descend from the open door of the tram, the man holding on to the hand rail of the tram ready to pull himself up, just as everyone still does on old trams in Melbourne to this day. Above on the top deck sits a young man staring straight at the camera (without knowing it is there), with his legs crossed in a most unusual and uncomfortable way.

Below him to the right a gent in a bowler hat talks with his wife, cigar stuck in his mouth. His facial outline, lit by the sun, is echoed in the darkness of the interior of the tram by another man with a beard and hat sitting in shadow. In front of this husband and wife is a son with his mother / grandmother – she, clutching her bag in heavy tassel-fringed cloak, protecting herself with umbrella against the sun – he, in long gents morning coat and hat looking very dapper. It must be mid afternoon by the length of the shadows cast by the sun. To the right of this pair is an older, heavy set man with great beard and hat, looking out of the image to the right. His gaze is cut across by a man sitting in the tram, all darkness and outline, beard and hat, looking out onto the scene from the interior. Finally, to ground the foreground of the image, there is a mother and daughter at bottom right of the image, with the small child clutching at the mother’s dress.

The characters in this Dickens play rise and fall from left to right. They wash over you in their happenstance, frozen interaction. It is a superbly constructed image. Interesting as they are in their own vernacular way, it just makes the other images in this posting seem rather, well, prosaic.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thankx to the State Library of New South Wales for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Arthur K. Syer (d. 1935) 'George Street, The Rocks' c. 1880s - 1900

 

Arthur K. Syer (Australian, d. 1935)
George Street, The Rocks
c. 1880s-1900
Albumen print
From an album of Sydney street life, harbour and beach scenes, domestic animals
81 photographs in album: 15.2 x 20.4cm or smaller

Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

 

Arthur K. Syer (d. 1935) 'George Street, The Rocks' c. 1880s - 1900 (detail)

 

Arthur K. Syer (Australian, d. 1935)
George Street, The Rocks (detail)
c. 1880s-1900
Albumen print
From an album of Sydney street life, harbour and beach scenes, domestic animals
81 photographs in album: 15.2 x 20.4 cm or smaller

Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

 

Arthur K. Syer (d. 1935) 'Martin Place near the GPO Colonnade' c. 1880s - 1900

 

Arthur K. Syer (Australian, d. 1935)
Martin Place near the GPO Colonnade
c. 1880s-1900
Albumen print
From an album of Sydney street life, harbour and beach scenes, domestic animals
81 photographs in album: 15.2 x 20.4cm or smaller

Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

 

Arthur K. Syer (d. 1935) 'Devonshire and Chalmers Streets near Central Station' c. 1880s - 1900

 

Arthur K. Syer (Australian, d. 1935)
Devonshire and Chalmers Streets near Central Station
c. 1880s-1900
Albumen print
From an album of Sydney street life, harbour and beach scenes, domestic animals
81 photographs in album: 15.2 x 20.4cm or smaller

Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

 

Arthur K. Syer (d. 1935) Forest Lodge double decker steam tram stopped on Elizabeth Street near Supreme Court N.S.W. (detail) c. 1880s - 1900

 

Arthur K. Syer (Australian, d. 1935)
Forest Lodge double decker steam tram stopped on Elizabeth Street near Supreme Court N.S.W.
c. 1880s-1900
Albumen print
From an album of Sydney street life, harbour and beach scenes, domestic animals
81 photographs in album: 15.2 x 20.4cm or smaller

Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

 

Arthur K. Syer (d. 1935) 'Forest Lodge double decker steam tram stopped on Elizabeth Street near Supreme Court N.S.W.' (detail) c. 1880s - 1900

 

Arthur K. Syer (Australian, d. 1935)
Forest Lodge double decker steam tram stopped on Elizabeth Street near Supreme Court N.S.W. (detail)
c. 1880s-1900
Albumen print
From an album of Sydney street life, harbour and beach scenes, domestic animals
81 photographs in album: 15.2 x 20.4cm or smaller

Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

 

Arthur K. Syer (d. 1935) 'Forest Lodge double decker steam tram stopped on Elizabeth Street near Supreme Court N.S.W.' (detail) c. 1880s - 1900

 

Arthur K. Syer (Australian, d. 1935)
Forest Lodge double decker steam tram stopped on Elizabeth Street near Supreme Court N.S.W. (detail)
c. 1880s-1900
Albumen print
From an album of Sydney street life, harbour and beach scenes, domestic animals
81 photographs in album: 15.2 x 20.4cm or smaller

Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

 

Arthur K. Syer (d. 1935) 'Forest Lodge double decker steam tram stopped on Elizabeth Street near Supreme Court N.S.W.' (detail) c. 1880s - 1900

 

Arthur K. Syer (Australian, d. 1935)
Forest Lodge double decker steam tram stopped on Elizabeth Street near Supreme Court N.S.W. (detail)
c. 1880s-1900
Albumen print
From an album of Sydney street life, harbour and beach scenes, domestic animals
81 photographs in album: 15.2 x 20.4cm or smaller

Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

 

 

Some of the world’s earliest street photographs, capturing many previously unseen views of Sydney from the 1880s will go on public display for the first time in a new exhibition opening at the State Library of NSW, from Saturday 4 April. Crowd Source presents over 50 rare snapshots of Sydneysiders and Sydney’s bustling streets secretly taken with the world’s first hand‐held camera – branded the ‘Detective Camera’ – by amateur local photographer Arthur Syer.

“Arthur Syer took candid photographs of ordinary people in everyday situations which he supplied to illustrators to use as ‘source material’ to help them create a life-like quality and characters in their drawings,” says exhibition co-curator Margot Riley. “Syer’s distinctive low angle photographs evocatively capture the buzz of 1880s Sydney showing the shoe-shiners and fruit sellers, road workers, transport deliveries and barrow shopping, queues at Circular Quay, children playing, shipping and scenes at the horses races,” said Ms Riley.

Syer crossed into the publishing industry through his artist brother Walter, who introduced him to internationally renowned English cartoonist, Phil May. Invited to Sydney by The Bulletin in 1885, May often used Syer’s images to add authenticity to the backgrounds for his illustrations, for example drawings of people at the racecourse.

When the hand‐held camera was introduced in Australia in the mid‐1880s “it became a craze much like the smart phone or selfie stick of today, with photographs for the first time being able to be taken quickly and unnoticed,” said Ms Riley. The camera resembled “a square case… disguised as a … shoeblack’s box, or even a book. The operator places it upon the ground, or under his arm, the pressure of the pneumatic ball opening or closing the hidden lens at the required moment.” (The Sydney Mail, 2 July 1881).

No skill was required to operate the Detective Camera, signalling the beginning of mass photography. It used dry plate negatives – commercialised by George Eastman of Kodak fame – which were available over the counter at photography shops where negatives could be taken for developing and printing.

“This new technology, which also saw the introduction of other novelties like the ‘vest camera’ and ‘watch camera’, triggered debate around issues of privacy which led to the passing of new privacy laws in America,” says Ms Riley. “Manners and rules around candid photography continue to be a hot topic today.”

The State Library holds over 170 original Arthur Syer photographs – the most extensive collection of early Australian street photography known to exist. With the help of the Flickr community the Library has been able to label many of the images in the collection.

Crowd Source is a free exhibition at the State Library of NSW from 4 April to 23 August 2015. #1880Sydney @statelibrarynsw

Press release from the State Library of New South Wales

 

Arthur K. Syer (d. 1935) 'Tram, West Crescent St., North Sydney' c. 1880s - 1900

 

Arthur K. Syer (Australian, d. 1935)
Tram, West Crescent St., North Sydney
c. 1880s-1900
Albumen print
From an album of Sydney street life, harbour and beach scenes, domestic animals
81 photographs in album: 15.2 x 20.4cm or smaller

Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

 

Arthur K. Syer (d. 1935) 'Tram, West Crescent St., North Sydney' (detail) c. 1880s - 1900

 

Arthur K. Syer (Australian, d. 1935)
Tram, West Crescent St., North Sydney (detail)
c. 1880s-1900
Albumen print
From an album of Sydney street life, harbour and beach scenes, domestic animals
81 photographs in album: 15.2 x 20.4cm or smaller

Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

 

Arthur K. Syer (d. 1935) 'Pyrmont Bridge looking across to City' c. 1880s - 1900

 

Arthur K. Syer (Australian, d. 1935)
Pyrmont Bridge looking across to City
c. 1880s-1900
Albumen print
From an album of Sydney street life, harbour and beach scenes, domestic animals
81 photographs in album: 15.2 x 20.4cm or smaller

Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

 

Arthur K. Syer (d. 1935) 'Circular Quay near First Fleet Park' c. 1880s - 1900

 

Arthur K. Syer (Australian, d. 1935)
Circular Quay near First Fleet Park
c. 1880s-1900
Albumen print
From an album of Sydney street life, harbour and beach scenes, domestic animals
81 photographs in album: 15.2 x 20.4cm or smaller

Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

 

Arthur K. Syer (d. 1935) 'Children crowd around a ladder' c. 1880s - 1900

 

Arthur K. Syer (Australian, d. 1935)
Children crowd around a ladder
c. 1880s-1900
Albumen print
From an album of Sydney street life, harbour and beach scenes, domestic animals
81 photographs in album: 15.2 x 20.4cm or smaller

Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

 

Arthur K. Syer (d. 1935) 'Children crowd around a ladder' (detail) c. 1880s - 1900

 

Arthur K. Syer (Australian, d. 1935)
Children crowd around a ladder (detail)
c. 1880s-1900
Albumen print
From an album of Sydney street life, harbour and beach scenes, domestic animals
81 photographs in album: 15.2 x 20.4cm or smaller

Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

 

Arthur K. Syer (d. 1935) 'Royal Exchange Building in Bridge Street' c. 1880s - 1900

 

Arthur K. Syer (Australian, d. 1935)
Royal Exchange Building in Bridge Street
c. 1880s-1900
Albumen print
From an album of Sydney street life, harbour and beach scenes, domestic animals
81 photographs in album: 15.2 x 20.4cm or smaller

Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

 

Arthur K. Syer (d. 1935) 'Men in street' c. 1880s - 1900

 

Arthur K. Syer (Australian, d. 1935)
Men in street
c. 1880s-1900
Albumen print
From an album of Sydney street life, harbour and beach scenes, domestic animals
81 photographs in album: 15.2 x 20.4cm or smaller

Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

 

Arthur K. Syer (d. 1935) 'Hawker haggling with customers' c. 1880s - 1900

 

Arthur K. Syer (Australian, d. 1935)
Hawker haggling with customers
c. 1880s-1900
Albumen print
From an album of Sydney street life, harbour and beach scenes, domestic animals
81 photographs in album: 15.2 x 20.4cm or smaller

Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

 

Arthur K. Syer (d. 1935) 'Shoe shiner with customer' c. 1880s - 1900

 

Arthur K. Syer (Australian, d. 1935)
Shoe shiner with customer
c. 1880s-1900
Albumen print
From an album of Sydney street life, harbour and beach scenes, domestic animals
81 photographs in album: 15.2 x 20.4cm or smaller

Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

 

 

State Library of New South Wales
Macquarie Street, Sydney
NSW 2000 Australia
Phone: +61 2 9273 1414

Opening hours:
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22
Aug
14

Review: ‘The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975’ at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 13th June – 31st August 2014

Artists: Micky Allan, Virginia Coventry, Gerrit Fokkema, John Gollings, Tim Handfield, Ian North, Robert Rooney, Wes Stacey

 

 

Virginia Coventry (Australian, b. 1942) 'Service road' 1976-78

 

Virginia Coventry (Australian, b. 1942)
Service road
1976-78
1 of 34 gelatin silver prints and two text panels
26.5 x 32.5cm (each)
Collection: Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
Courtesy of the artist and Liverpool Street Gallery (Sydney)

 

 

This is another stimulating exhibition at the Monash Gallery of Art, a gallery that consistently puts on some of the best photography exhibitions in Melbourne each year. Kudos to them.

Each of the eight artists in this exhibition present mainly conceptually based work. Each body of work is individually strong but in the context of the exhibition they come together seamlessly to form a kind of giant jigsaw puzzle of images, a series of impressions of Australia and the road: work that responds to the experience of automotive travel in Australia, announcing “the road-trip as the quintessential Australian journey, highlighting the challenges to life and culture that accompanied suburban expansion and the ways that Australians embraced the road during the 1970s and ‘80s.”

It is a pleasure to finally see Ian North’s colour series Canberra suite (1980-81, below). Having seen but a few images online, to see the whole body of work in the flesh was illuminating. While lacking the formal rigour and structure of some of the other work in the exhibition, I enjoyed the natural simplicity of the photographs, their planned naïveté, which perfectly captures the suburbs of Canberra at that time. I also delighted in the intimacy of the small silver gelatin prints of Micky Allan’s Mock-up for ‘My trip’ 1976 (1976, below) with their pithy aphorisms such as “Need help?” when the car is bogged.

Another great series is Wes Stacey’s spunky The road (1974-75, below) – small automated chemist shop prints with their 1970s colours and rounded corners all housed in cheap plastic sleeves pinned to board. This series is beautifully resolved which today allows for a sensually self-indulgent nostalgia to form for the time in which they were taken. The cars, the colours, the travel, people and places so evocatively captured on an Instamatic camera form a captivating narrative of “the sense of movement and adventure that underpins a road trip in a relatively cheap and expedient way.” Another strong series of photographs are by Tim Handfield who I have always thought is an excellent photographer with a good eye. As can be seen by the four images in this posting, Handfield is a master at handling form, structure and colour in the image field. In these photographs he almost seems to compress the space inside the photograph so that they have a vaguely threatening presence.

Finally, there is the wonderful Surfers Paradise Boulevard (1973, below) by John Gollings. The artist’s riff on the American artist Ed Ruscha’s book Every building on the Sunset Strip (1966) – which presented composite black and white panoramas of each side of Los Angeles’s Sunset Strip – Gollings vision is in glorious Ektacolour film which highlights the sensuality of what can, at that time, be seen as a sleepy surf coast town. The shock comes on seeing the main strip of the town and envisioning in your mind what a monster it has become today… how human beings almost always despoil the very thing that is beautiful and valuable in a spiritual sense (such as my favourite place in Australia, Byron Bay). This fragmented, Hockney-esque view of the vernacular forms of cultural expression perfectly captures the insouciance of a town that doesn’t yet know what’s going to hit ’em – through an ideal representation of contemporary urban space and the automotive experience of it.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thankx to the Monash Gallery of Art for allowing me to publish the text and photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All installation photographs © Marcus Bunyan and Monash Gallery of Art

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of Ian North's series 'Canberra suite' 1980-81 at the exhibition 'The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of Ian North's series 'Canberra suite' 1980-81 at the exhibition 'The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of Ian North's series 'Canberra suite' 1980-81 at the exhibition 'The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of Ian North’s series Canberra suite 1980-81 at the exhibition The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975 at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of Wesley Stacey's series 'The road' 1974-75 at the exhibition 'The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of Wesley Stacey's series 'The road' 1974-75 at the exhibition 'The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation views of Wesley Stacey’s series The road 1974-75 at the exhibition The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975 at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

 

This exhibition brings together a range of photographic projects that responded to the experience of automotive travel in Australia during the 1970s and ’80s. The work in this exhibition shows that there was a strong relationship between photography and the road in Australian culture at this time. Photography helped to make sense of the particular experience of movement made possible by faster cars and better roads; at the same time, it helped to demonstrate the challenges to life and culture that accompanied suburban expansion and the rise of the road in Australia.

The road is one of the great subjects in Australian visual culture. In many of our greatest films, books and works of art, the road is a place where personal identity is negotiated, where the national story unfolds, and where culture, technology and nature come together at times in extraordinary ways. MGA’s latest exhibition The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975 brings together a range of photographic projects that explore the road as experienced by many Australians in the 1970s and ’80s.

Presenting the work of eight prominent Australian artists, The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975 announces the road-trip as the quintessential Australian journey, highlighting the challenges to life and culture that accompanied suburban expansion and the ways that Australians embraced the road during the 1970s and ‘80s. Using a range of strategies – from Instamatic cameras and chemist-shop printing, to expansive composite panoramas and photographic grids that replicate the experience of the modern city – these photographers helped to make sense of the particular experience of movement and landscape made possible by faster cars and better roads, in a way only photography could.

The exhibition features some of the most significant photographic projects produced by Australian photographers during this period. Wes Stacey’s mythic series of over 300 photographs The road presents an epic travelogue of road trips made by the artist in his Kombi Van during 1973 and 1974. The exhibition also features John Gollings’s monumental, ten-metre long streetscapes of Surfers Paradise Boulevard from 1973, as well as Robert Rooney’s iconic Holden park, featuring the artist’s Holden car parked in 20 different locations across Melbourne. The road also features work by two of Australia’s most important feminist photographers, Micky Allan and Virginia Coventry, who both challenged many of the gendered assumptions about the road, automotive travel and Australian life during the ‘70s and ‘80s.

As MGA Curator Stephen Zagala notes, “The road has often provided Australian photographers with a means to an end, whether a landscape or a picturesque community in some distant part of the country. But as this important exhibition shows, during the 1970s, the road took on a whole new meaning for Australian photographers. It provided a space for innovation and experimentation, and also a photographic reconsideration of Australian life.”

Gallery Director Shaune Lakin states, “The history of MGA – with its genesis in the late 1970s – is intricately linked to The road, one of our most important exhibitions of the year. Relatively cheap and accessible petrol, increased private car ownership, and a vastly improved network of roads encouraged the suburban expansion of Melbourne, and MGA is one of the many legacies of this expansion. We are proud to present this exhibition, which provides an as-yet untold account of Australian photography and has such a close historical association with our gallery.”

Press release from the MGA website

 

Installation view of Micky Allan's 'Mock-up for 'My trip' 1976' (1976) at the exhibition 'The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of Micky Allan's 'Mock-up for 'My trip' 1976' (1976) at the exhibition 'The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of Micky Allan's 'Mock-up for 'My trip' 1976' (1976) at the exhibition 'The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation views of Micky Allan’s Mock-up for ‘My trip’ 1976 (1976) at the exhibition The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975 at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

 

Micky ALLAN (Australia, b. 1944)

Micky Allan’s My trip is a conceptual art project based on a road trip that she made through country Victoria in 1976. Allan’s conceptual premise was to photograph everyone who spoke to her and then invite these people to use her camera to photograph whatever they chose. Allan also recorded the conversations that transpired in these encounters, and subsequently compiled all these elements as a photographic essay that was printed and distributed as a broadsheet. Like many road trip narratives, Allan’s My trip conceptualises travel as a trajectory of chance encounters that illuminate social differences.

Micky Allan completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Melbourne in 1967 and a Diploma of Painting at the National Gallery School in 1968. Allan began taking photographs in 1974 after joining the loosely formed feminist collective at Melbourne’s experimental arts and theatre space the Pram Factory. In this context Allan was part of a vibrant community of feminist artists that included Sue Ford, Ruth Maddison, Ponch Hawkes and Virginia Coventry, who taught her how to take and print photographs. Allan is well-known for reclaiming the antiquated practice of hand-colouring monotone photographs, as a way of investing the photo-mechanical process with subjective qualities. She has often used the theme of travel to embed her practice in a personal journey of discovery.

 

Installation view of Virginia Coventry's series 'Service road' 1976-78 (detail) at the exhibition 'The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation views of Virginia Coventry’s series Service road 1976-78 (detail) at the exhibition The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975 at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Virginia Coventry (Australian, b. 1942) 'Service road' 1976-78

 

Virginia Coventry (Australian, b. 1942)
Service road
1976-78
1 of 34 gelatin silver prints and two text panels
26.5 x 32.5cm (each)
Collection: Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
Courtesy of the artist and Liverpool Street Gallery (Sydney)

 

Virginia Coventry (Australian, b. 1942) 'Service road' 1976-78

 

Virginia Coventry (Australian, b. 1942)
Service road
1976-78
1 of 34 gelatin silver prints and two text panels
26.5 x 32.5cm (each)
Collection: Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
Courtesy of the artist and Liverpool Street Gallery (Sydney)

 

Virginia Coventry (Australian, b. 1942) 'Service road' 1976-78

 

Virginia Coventry (Australian, b. 1942)
Service road
1976-78
1 of 34 gelatin silver prints and two text panels
26.5 x 32.5cm (each)
Collection: Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
Courtesy of the artist and Liverpool Street Gallery (Sydney)

 

 

Virginia COVENTRY b. Melb 1942

Virginia Coventry’s Service road continued the artist’s interest in reflecting social and emotional experiences that differed from dominant, particularly masculine positions and experiences. The series presents two rows of reverse-angle photographs of houses and empty blocks that line a service road near the recently-completed Princes Freeway at Moe, Victoria. The weatherboard houses and the scene no doubt reflect the experience of many Australians living in postwar suburban developments who commuted between home and work, in this case the thousands of men who worked at the nearby Yallourn and Morewell power stations. Coventry photographed these homes and empty blocks as if viewed from a car passing by. Coventry has also included a number of views of the road, seen from inside the homes. The dark interiors take on a particular psychological and emotional countenance, one that contrasts starkly with the brightly lit outside. In this way, the series illuminates the experience of many women for whom the service road was a place of loneliness and dislocation.

Virginia Coventry studied painting at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology during the early 1960s, before undertaking postgraduate studies at the Slade School of Fine Art, University College, London. While painting and drawing have remained a constant part of Coventry’s practice, she started taking photographs during the mid-1960s and developed a significant reputation during the 1970s for her photographs and installations. Her photographic work often comprised sequences of images combined with text and other fragments, and examined the relationship of landscape, place and power – particularly in relation to the experience of women. Her photographs were included in a number of key exhibitions of the period, including Three women photographers at George Paton Gallery, the Sydney Biennales of 1976 and 1979, Ten viewpoints (Australian Centre for Photography, 1976), and Self portrait/self image (Victorian College of the Arts, 1980).

 

Gerrit FOKKEMA (b. 1954, Papua New Guinea; Australia since 1958)

During the 1970s Gerrit Fokkema used the spacious streetscapes of Canberra to compose surreal photographs of contemporary urban life. In Exit Canberra and Ligertwood Street, the infrastructure of new suburbs has become overgrown with grass while waiting to be populated. The road itself doesn’t appear in these photographs, but its presence is alluded to with street signs and a lamp post. In this way, Fokkema suggests that these places exist at the ‘end of the road’ or on a ‘road to nowhere’. The optimistic skies that feature in these photographs seem to mock the aspirations of Canberra’s town planners.

Gerrit Fokkema studied photography at Canberra Technical College (1974-77) while working as a press photographer. In 1980 he moved to Sydney to work for the Sydney Morning Herald, and in 1986 he left the paper to pursue a freelance commercial career. Throughout his professional life Fokkema has maintained a personal photographic practice and exhibited his work on numerous occasions. He held his first solo exhibition at the Australian Centre for Photography in 1975, where he exhibited regularly throughout the late 1970s. His photographs are executed in a social-documentary mode, with a particular interest in urban landscapes and situated portraits of ‘everyday’ Australians.

 

John Gollings. 'Surfers Paradise Boulevard' 1973 (installation view)

John Gollings. 'Surfers Paradise Boulevard' 1973 (detail)

John Gollings. 'Surfers Paradise Boulevard' 1973 (detail)

John Gollings. 'Surfers Paradise Boulevard' 1973 (detail)

 

Installation and detail views of John Gollings’ work Surfers Paradise Boulevard 1973 (details) at the exhibition The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975 at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

 

John GOLLINGS (Australian, b. Melb 1944)

John Gollings is best known for his architectural photography, and has over the last four decades photographed most of Australia’s and Asia’s most significant architectural projects. In 1973, Gollings travelled to Surfers Paradise to photograph its buildings, streetscape and signage. He had recently read influential architects Robert Venturi, Denise Scott-Brown and Steven Izenour’s book Learning from Las Vegas (1972), which asked architects to pay closer attention to vernacular forms of cultural expression in favour of heroic or monumental architecture of the past. Gollings was also familiar with the work of the Californian artist Ed Ruscha, notably his book Every building on the Sunset Strip (1966), which presented composite panoramas of each side of Los Angeles’s Sunset Strip. For many urbanists at the time – including the authors of Learning from Las Vegas – Ruscha’s book realised an ideal representation of contemporary urban space and the automotive experience of it.

Gollings undertook a depiction of Surfers Paradise Boulevard that drew on Ruscha’s composite panorama of Sunset Strip. Sitting on the bonnet of a V8 Valiant station wagon, Gollings drove up and down Surfers Paradise Boulevard on a quiet Sunday morning, progressively photographing each side of the strip with his Nikon camera using Ektacolour film. The resulting composite panorama has become a remarkable historical record of an urban setting that has undergone radical transformation in the time since 1973.

 

Installation view of Tim Handfield's work 'Babinda' 1981 at the exhibition 'The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of Tim Handfield’s work Babinda 1981 at the exhibition The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975 at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of Tim Handfield's work 'Gordonvale' 1981 at the exhibition 'The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of Tim Handfield’s work Gordonvale 1981 at the exhibition The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975 at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Tim Handfield (Australian, b. 1952) 'Promenade' 1985

 

Tim Handfield (Australian, b. 1952)
Promenade
1985
Silver dye bleach print
51.0 x 67.0cm
Collection of the artist
Courtesy of the artist and M. 33 (Melbourne)

 

Tim Handfield (Australian, b. 1952) 'Bayview Heights, Cairns' 1980

 

Tim Handfield (Australian, b. 1952)
Bayview Heights, Cairns
1980
Silver dye bleach print
51.0 x 67.0cm
Collection of the artist
Courtesy of the artist and M. 33 (Melbourne)

 

 

Tim HANDFIELD (Australian, b. Melb 1952)

These photographs come from an extended series of pictures taken by Tim Handfield on the road. The series features images of the roadside landscape of places Handfield travelled through and visited along Australia’s eastern seaboard during the 1980s. The photographs relate to a broad body of often diaristic postwar literature, cinema and visual arts that considered the particular experience of the world made possible by the road (at least in the West). In this way, the pictures reflect the dominance of American culture at this time, when earlier assumptions about the road as a place of quest and opportunity were giving way to accounts of the road as a place of boredom, sameness and danger. The series is also about the particular experience of travel and landscape in Australia, at a time when the impending bicentennial of European settlement led many to reconsider the assumptions upon which Australian life was based.

Tim Handfield has been working at the forefront in Australia of new colour photographic processes since the mid-1970s. Spending extended periods of time in the United States during the early to mid-1970s, Handfield became interested in the work of American photographers such as William Eggleston and Stephen Shore, who found deadpan beauty in the banality of American suburban life. After returning to Australia, Handfield sought out non-dramatic urban sites, which he photographed in highly formal ways. These images were ideally served by the Cibachrome printing process, a dye destruction positive-to-positive photographic process noted for the purity of its colour, clarity of image and archival stability.

 

Ian North (born New Zealand 1945; arrived Australia 1971) 'Canberra suite' 1980-81

 

Ian North (born New Zealand 1945; arrived Australia 1971)
Canberra suite
1980-81
1 of 24 chromogenic prints, printed 1984
37.0 x 46.0cm (each)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through the NGV Foundation with the assistance of David Symen & Co. Limited, 2001
Courtesy of the artist

 

Ian North (born New Zealand 1945; arrived Australia 1971) 'Canberra suite' 1980-81

 

Ian North (born New Zealand 1945; arrived Australia 1971)
Canberra suite
1980-81
1 of 24 chromogenic prints, printed 1984
37.0 x 46.0cm (each)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through the NGV Foundation with the assistance of David Symen & Co. Limited, 2001
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Ian NORTH (b. 1945, New Zealand; Australia from 1971)

Ian North developed his Canberra suite while living in Canberra during 1980-84. The suite reflects North’s experience of the particular suburban interface that is so intrinsic to Walter Burley-Griffin’s vision of Canberra. Having grown up in New Zealand, making artwork about the sublime urban spaces of Wellington, North brought a particularly soulful sensibility to Australia’s suburban capital. Canberra suite also reflects North’s professional experience of the city. He moved to Canberra in 1980 as the first Curator of Photography at the National Gallery of Australia. A key feature of NGA’s collection development at the time was the acquisition of work by contemporary American photographers, including prints by William Eggleston and Stephen Shore and books by Ed Ruscha. After work hours, North made a pastime of wandering the streets of Canberra and taking photographs in a similar vein. Like his American contemporaries, North embraced the roadside as an uncanny threshold between public and private space, systematically documenting the everyday in order to imbue it with a sense of mystery.

Ian North initially studied art history and spent most of his professional life working as a curator and an academic. Alongside his career as a curator, North developed a substantial artistic practice which flourished when he moved away from museum-based work. Working with photography and painting, North’s art practice focuses on the representation of the landscape.

 

Installation view of Robert Rooney's series 'Holden Park 1 & 2, May 1970' at the exhibition 'The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of Robert Rooney's series 'Holden Park 1 & 2, May 1970' (detail) at the exhibition 'The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation views of Robert Rooney’s series Holden Park 1 & 2, May 1970 at the exhibition The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975 at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

 

Robert ROONEY (Australian, b. Melb 1937-2017)

Robert Rooney’s Holden Park 1 & 2, May 1970 is one of the key works of postwar Australian photography. The work comprises a grid of photographs depicting Rooney’s Holden car parked at 19 different sites around the artist’s East Hawthorn home, locations which Rooney chose at random from a street directory. Holden Park draws on a range of influences that include the photographic books of American conceptualist Ed Ruscha, the absurd topographies of the Swiss conceptualist Daniel Spoerri, and the American composer John Cage’s interest in chance as a creative principle. However, and while the work is very ‘literate’ in relation to these influences, Holden Park is very much a product of postwar Melbourne. Rooney has always maintained a strong interest in the suburban experience and the way that Melbourne has developed around this experience. While it would be disingenuous to say that Holden Park is a product of social history, it was certainly informed by and reflects the sensation of driving around Melbourne’s suburbs on a Sunday afternoon.

Robert Rooney is one of Australia’s best-known artists. Rooney studied art and design at Swinburne Technical College and quickly developed a significant reputation for his abstract painting and art criticism. Rooney gave up painting during the early 1970s and for over a decade focussed largely on photographic work. Using an Instamatic and later a 35 mm camera, Rooney photographed in great detail his suburban life, organising his pictures according to gridded frameworks that seemed to distil the rigour of European and American conceptualism and performance art, the humour of Pop Art, and the particular countenance of Australian suburban life during the 1970s. Examples include AM/PM of 1974, for which Rooney photographed his bed each morning and night for 107 days, and Garments 1972-73, for which he photographed the clothes he would wear each day for 107 days.

 

Installation view of Wesley Stacey's series 'The road' 1974-75 (detail) at the exhibition 'The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of Wesley Stacey's series 'The road' 1974-75 (detail) at the exhibition 'The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation views of Wesley Stacey’s series The road 1974-75 (detail) at the exhibition The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975 at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of Wesley Stacey's series 'The road' 1974-75 (detail) at the exhibition 'The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of Wesley Stacey's series 'The road' 1974-75 (detail) at the exhibition 'The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of Wesley Stacey's series 'The road' 1974-75 (detail) at the exhibition 'The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of Wesley Stacey's series 'The road' 1974-75 (detail) at the exhibition 'The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of Wesley Stacey's series 'The road' 1974-75 (detail) at the exhibition 'The road: Photographers on the move 1970-1975' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Wesley Stacey (Australian, b. 1941)
The road (details)
1974-75
304 chromogenic prints
9.0 x 12.7 cm (each)
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Wesley STACEY (Australian, b. 1941)

Wesley Stacey’s The road is an epic travelogue that documents a series of specific road trips made by the artist in his Kombi Van during 1973 and 1974. This project grew out of Stacey’s interest in Instamatic cameras and automated colour printing, which became readily available during the early 1970s. Remote Australian landscapes are a persistent theme in Stacey’s photography, but these new technologies allowed him to document the sense of movement and adventure that underpins a road trip in a relatively cheap and expedient way. The road was initially exhibited as a series of sequential panels at the Australian Centre for Photography in 1975, and then re-configured as a series of photobooks containing 305 prints. A second version containing 280 photographs was printed for the National Gallery of Australia in 1984.

Wesley Stacey studied drawing and design at East Sydney Technical College (1960-62) before working as a graphic designer and photographer for the ABC in Sydney and the BBC in London through the 1960s. In the late 1960s he worked as a magazine photographer in Sydney and from 1969-75 worked as a freelance commercial photographer. In 1973 Stacey helped establish the Australian Centre for Photography and was a member of its inaugural board of management. In 1976 Stacey moved to the Bermagui area of the NSW South Coast, where he purchased land and established a rudimentary bush camp where he continues to live.

Text © Monash Gallery of Art 2014

 

 

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Victoria 3150 Australia
Phone: + 61 3 8544 0500

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20
Jan
13

Review: ‘Ingeborg Tyssen: photographs’ at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 23rd November 2012 – 3rd February 2013

 

Ingeborg Tyssen. 'Untitled' from the series 'People' 1977

 

Ingeborg Tyssen (Netherlands, Australia 1945-2002)
Untitled
1977
From the People series
Gelatin silver print
Image size 20.1 x 25.2cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated by Janice Hinderaker through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2003

 

 

“Tysenn clearly felt a deep sense of dislocation from her country of birth, its national identity and cultural conventions. It was apparent in her ongoing explorations of the Australian landscape that on her arrival she had met with more than just an initial linguistic barrier, and there were also barriers to understanding the Australian landscape which was so far and different to European forests and Dutch tales and legends about them that she grew up with.”

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Essay “Remembering Ingeborg” by Sandra Byron

 

“Tyssen’s people are not known to her, rather are studies of anonymous people: in action, in the city, at a fairground. The People series – City Light 1977 images reveal a sense of isolation in a crowd. People emerging from the dark shadows of the same station/ mall and march into the sunlight. They are expressionless, uncommunicative, isolated, yet display a keen sense of self and appearance. Mostly minding their own business, doing their own thing, they seem undisturbed by the female photographer standing nearby. She must not have been intrusive or demanding, just there with her camera at the ready.”

.
Fiona McIntosh on the art out there blog 2012

 

 

Ingeborg Tyssen. 'Untitled' from the series 'People' 1977

 

Ingeborg Tyssen (Netherlands, Australia 1945-2002)
Untitled
1977
From the People series
Gelatin silver print
Image size 20.1 x 25.2cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated by Janice Hinderaker through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2003

 

Ingeborg Tyssen. 'Untitled' from the series 'People' 1977

 

Ingeborg Tyssen (Netherlands, Australia 1945-2002)
Untitled
1977
From the People series
Gelatin silver print
Image size 20.1 x 25.2cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated by Janice Hinderaker through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2003

 

Ingeborg Tyssen. 'Untitled' from the series 'People' 1977

 

Ingeborg Tyssen (Netherlands, Australia 1945-2002)
Untitled
1977
From the People series
Gelatin silver print
Image size 20.1 x 25.2cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated by Janice Hinderaker through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2003

 

Ingeborg Tyssen. 'Untitled' from the series 'People' 1977

 

Ingeborg Tyssen (Netherlands, Australia 1945-2002)
Untitled
1977
From the People series
Gelatin silver print
Image size 20.1 x 25.2cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated by Janice Hinderaker through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2003

 

Ingeborg Tyssen. 'Untitled' from the series 'People' 1977

 

Ingeborg Tyssen
Untitled
1977
From the People series
Gelatin silver print
Image size 20.1 x 25.2cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated by Janice Hinderaker through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2003

 

Garry Winogrand. 'Untitled' from Women are Beautiful' Nd/1981

 

Garry Winogrand (American, 1928-1984)
Untitled
Nd (1960s) / published 1981
From the portfolio Women are Beautiful
Silver gelatin print

 

Harry Callahan. 'Chicago' 1961

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999)
Chicago
1961
Gelatin silver print
Overall (image): 40.6 x 27.1cm (16 x 10 11/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of the Callahan Family
© Estate of Harry Callahan, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

 

“Ingeborg Tyssen was one of the great Australian photographers of her generation.” (Press release)

“Ingeborg Tysenn was one of Australia’s most important post war artists.”
(Essay “Remembering Ingeborg” by Sandra Byron)

 

 

This is a very disappointing exhibition of the work of Australian photographer Ingeborg Tyssen at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne encumbered as it is by the above two statements. On the evidence of the work presented neither statement is true. Whoever is pushing this barrow (and it is a large barrow to push) should really stop and have a damn good look at the work to see whether it is worthy of such claims and what they hope to achieve by promoting such statements. If they really looked objectively they would see that the art just is, and nothing more.

Being a cultural commentator means that you have to form an opinion on the work presented. For me this involves the eye (what the work looks like), the head (undertaking research into the artist) and the heart (how I feel about the work). Then and only then can you make an informed decision on the merits of the work. With Tyssen’s work there were four standout photographs in the exhibition (people in a swimming pool taken in the Modernist style, part of the 1981 Ryde Pool, Sydney series, none of which I can show you in this posting) and the rest of the photographs were serviceable but derivative of other artists.

Tyssen was born in The Netherlands and arrived here when she was 12 years old. Her photographs show a European and Australian sensibility, a dislocation from but also an attraction toward both her native country and her adopted country Australia. Her photographs can be divided into various styles: early documentary street photography (the People series, 1977), Modernist photography (Ryde Pool, Sydney series, 1981 and From the heart of the forest to the edge of the road series, 1982-84), New Topographics photography (Billboards and Trees series, 1981-82) and Romantic photography (The voice of silence series 1991-92). Unfortunately, Tyssen never seems to have developed a voice of her own, a signature style that you could say was unique to her own art practice. So many of these photographs are derivative of other photographers who have already invented and mastered that style that nothing seems to belong to Tyssen herself. She seems to have been enamoured of style after style.

In the high contrast, small scale People series (1977, above) the animals are particularly unapproachable. While exhibiting a sense of Australian light and an intimation of Australia’s white only policy – there is a specific Australian-ness in the people she has chosen and the atmosphere of Whitlam / post Whitlam remaking of the Australian identity; even the lady with the European aura knows she is in Australia, perhaps she even knows she is in the Australian light – these are hard images to engage with emotionally, unlike the psychological works of Harry Callahan and Garry Winogrand. Problematically, the Billboards and Trees series (both 1981-82, below) are so redolent of American photography (both in physical dis/location and surface remarks) that I felt I had seen it all before and done better. In these series Australia morphs into America and not in a good way; I did not find the artist’s purported wit and humour any help either. In the panoramic series From the heart of the forest to the edge of the road (1982-84, below) Tyssen comes closest to capturing the intensity of the Australian landscape only to be let down by a) the quality of the prints and b) the fact that the title is a coat hanger, allowing the artist to hang disparate images together that really have no relationship to each other – an overall lumping together concept. The prints themselves do nothing to support the work, being sometimes too pale and insignificant to hold the image, too flat. Playing with the print and its tonal range and surface qualities does little to help an overall vision of the work or help the viewer engage with the content.

In my notes I wrote in capital letters: THEY DON’T ENGAGE ME!
In other words, there was nothing that held my attention image after image, time after time.

Tyssen seems to have known her limitations as well. She just wanted to be a photographer and kept persevering at her art. At their best Tyssen’s photographs lie somewhere between Kertesz and Cartier-Bresson without the decisive moment (look at the photograph Taronga Zoo, Sydney, 1974 below and you will understand what I mean). The weakness of her images was really brought home to me when, in a small gallery off to the side of the main space, there in all its glory was one of the iconic images of a generation – Vale Street (1975) by Carol Jerrems. This one image, one image, had more power over me, more feeling, more beauty than all of Tyssen’s images put together. People really do need to stop making grandiose statements about the work of artists and let the viewer just look clearly at the art. That way there is little expectation, the work will be taken on its merits, and everyone may be quietly surprised at the outcome.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

.
Many thankx to the Monash Gallery of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. Download the essay by Sandra Byron, “Remembering Ingeborg: A personal appreciation of the life and work of Ingeborg Tyssen” (2.24Mb pdf)

 

Ingeborg Tyssen. 'Perisher Valley, NSW' from the series 'From the heart of the forest to the edge of the road' series 1984

 

Ingeborg Tyssen (Netherlands, Australia 1945-2002)
Perisher Valley, NSW
1984
From the series From the heart of the forest to the edge of the road 1982-84
Silver gelatin print

 

Ingeborg Tyssen. 'Perisher Valley No 6, NSW' 1984

 

Ingeborg Tyssen
Perisher Valley No 6, NSW
1984
From the series From the heart of the forest to the edge of the road 1982-84
Gelatin silver print
14.5 x 35.7cm
Hallmark Cards Australian Photography Collection Fund 1989
© Ingeborg Tyssen, 1984. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney
Collection of the Estate of Ingeborg Tyssen
Courtesy John Williams & Sandra Byron Gallery

 

Ingeborg TYSSEN. '
Royal Easter Show, Sydney' 1982

 

Ingeborg Tyssen (Netherlands, Australia 1945-2002)

Royal Easter Show, Sydney
1982
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the Estate of Ingeborg Tyssen

 

Ingeborg Tyssen. 'Untitled' from 'The voice of silence' series 1991-1992

 

Ingeborg Tyssen (Netherlands, Australia 1945-2002)
Untitled
1991-1992
From The voice of silence series 1991-92
Gelatin silver print

 

Ingeborg TYSSEN. 'Taronga Zoo, Sydney' 1974

 

Ingeborg Tyssen (Netherlands, Australia 1945-2002)
Taronga Zoo, Sydney
1974
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the Estate of Ingeborg Tyssen

 

Ingeborg Tyssen. 'Royal Easter Show, Sydney' 1979

 

Ingeborg Tyssen (Netherlands, Australia 1945-2002)
Royal Easter Show, Sydney
1979
Silver gelatin print
Collection of the Estate of Ingeborg Tyssen

 

 

Ingeborg Tyssen (1945-2002) was one of the great Australian photographers of her generation. Although generally overlooked by critics during her lifetime in favour of many of her male counterparts, Tyssen left us a remarkable body of work. Ingeborg Tyssen: photographs is the first museum retrospective of her work in Victoria, and the first major exhibition since her memorial show was held at the Art Gallery of NSW in 2002.

This exhibition provides a great opportunity for audiences to view the work of this major figure. Spanning 20 years of creative output from 1974-94, Ingeborg Tyssen: photographs shows Tyssen as a highly original observer of modern life. Her candid photographs of pedestrians in city streets, young kids playing in suburban swimming pools, and images of the Australian and American landscape reveal an artist whose concerns were at the forefront of Australian photographic practice.

MGA Gallery Director Shaune Lakin states, “Tyssen’s story is one of the great stories of Australian photography. Her arrival in Australia at the age of 12 as an immigrant from her native Holland and her struggle with displacement and new language and landscape is one that many Australians are familiar with. Being one of Australia’s first street photographers, she made a significant contribution to the history of Australian photography. Her experience of migration gave Tyssen a rare ability to observe people in their environment. Her earliest photographs, taken in the city streets, fun parks, and suburbs of 1970s were acute depictions of the urban isolation she felt in her new homeland. Her experience and pictures certainly remain relevant to contemporary Australia.”

In 1995 the Art Gallery of New South Wales presented a mid-career survey of her work and she continued to exhibit in commercial galleries and museums in Australia and abroad until she died as a result of a motor accident in 2002. In her obituary, critic Robert McFarlane wrote: “With Tyssen’s death, Australia has lost one of the most talented photographers from the postwar generation…The originality and lack of ego in these images will ensure their enduring place in the history of the medium.”

Tyssen studied photography under John Williams, who became her husband. She was a co-founder of the Photographers Gallery in South Yarra in 1975.

Press release from the Monash Gallery of Art website

 

Ingeborg Tyssen. 'Ryde Pool, Sydney' 1981

 

Ingeborg Tyssen (Netherlands, Australia 1945-2002)

Untitled
1981
From the series Ryde Pool, Sydney
Ink-jet print
Collection of the Estate of Ingeborg Tyssen

 

Ingeborg Tyssen. 'Pyrmont, Sydney' 1982

 

Ingeborg Tyssen (Netherlands, Australia 1945-2002)
Pyrmont, Sydney
1982
From the series Billboards 1981-82
Silver gelatin print

 

Ingeborg Tyssen. 'Annandale, Sydney' 1981

 

Ingeborg Tyssen (Netherlands, Australia 1945-2002)
Annandale, Sydney
1981
From the series Trees 1981-82
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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