Posts Tagged ‘Gallipoli

17
Sep
14

Exhibition: ‘The Great War: A Cinematic Legacy’ at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

Exhibition dates: 4th August – 21st September 2014

 

Art Blart is running hot at the moment, with lots of exhibitions finishing up around the 5th October 2014. I shall then scale things back for a while to start making a new body of my own art work. To get the ball rolling the next three postings on consecutive days feature photography and the First World War.

In this posting I have included text about each film, theatrical film posters and video to supplement the media images.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

'The Lost Patrol'. 1934. USA. Directed by John Ford

 

The Lost Patrol. 1934. USA. Directed by John Ford

 

The Lost Patrol is a 1934 war film made by RKO. It was directed and produced by John Ford. During World War I, the commanding officer of a small British patrol in the Mesopotamian desert is shot and killed by an unseen Arab sniper, leaving the Sergeant (Victor McLaglen) at a loss, since he had not been told what their mission is. He decides to try to rejoin the brigade, though he does not know where they are or where he is.

Eventually, the eleven men reach an oasis. During the night, one of the sentries is killed, the other seriously wounded, and all their horses are stolen, leaving them stranded. One by one, the remaining men are picked off by the unseen enemy. In desperation, the Sergeant sends two men chosen by lot on foot for help, but they are caught and tortured to death, before their bodies are sent back. The pilot of a British biplane spots the survivors, but nonchalantly lands nearby and is killed before he can be warned. The men take the machine gun from the airplane and set the plane on fire in a desperate bid to signal British troops. Sanders (Boris Karloff), a religious fanatic, goes mad.

In the end, only the Sergeant is left. When the Arabs finally show themselves, he manages to kill them all with the machine gun. Moments later, another British patrol arrives, attracted by the smoke from the burning plane. (Text from Wikipedia)

 

'The Lost Patrol' original theatrical poster

 

The Lost Patrol original theatrical poster

 

'Seventh Heaven.' 1927. USA. Directed by Frank Borzage

 

Seventh Heaven. 1927. USA. Directed by Frank Borzage

 

7th Heaven (1927) is a silent film and one of the first films to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture (then called “Outstanding Picture”). The film was written by H.H. Caldwell (titles), Benjamin Glazer, Katherine Hilliker (titles) and Austin Strong (play), and directed by Frank Borzage.

 

'Hearts of the World'. 1918. USA. Directed by D.W. Griffith

 

Hearts of the World. 1918. USA. Directed by D.W. Griffith

 

'Hearts of the World'. 1918. USA. Directed by D.W. Griffith

 

Hearts of the World. 1918. USA. Directed by D.W. Griffith

 

Hearts of the World (1918) is a silent film directed by D. W. Griffith, a wartime propaganda classic that was filmed on location in Britain and near the Western Front, made at the request of the British Government to change the neutral mindset of the American public.

Two families live next to one another in a French village on the eve of World War I. The Boy in one of the families falls for the only daughter in the other family. As they make preparations for marriage, World War I breaks out, and, although the Boy is American, he feels he should fight for the country in which he lives.

When the French retreat, the village is shelled. The Boy’s father and the Girl’s mother and grandfather are killed. The Girl, deranged, wanders aimlessly through the battlefield and comes upon the Boy badly wounded and unconscious. She finds her way back to the village where she is nursed back to health by The Little Disturber who had previously been a rival for the Boy’s affections. The Boy is carried off by the Red Cross. Von Strohm, a German officer, lusts after the Girl and attempts to rape her, but she narrowly escapes when he is called away by his commanding officer.

Upon his recovery, the Boy, disguised as a German officer, infiltrates the enemy-occupied village, finds the Girl. The two of them are forced to kill a German sergeant who discovers them. Von Strohm finds the dead sergeant and locates the Boy and Girl who are locked in an upper room at the inn. It’s a race against time with the Germans trying to break the door down as the French return to retake the village.

“I don’t believe that Mr. Griffith every forgave himself for making ‘Hearts of the World.’ ‘War is the villain,’ he repeated, ‘not any particular people'” said Lillian Gish, actress playing ‘The Girl’ (Text from Wikipedia)

 

'Hearts of the World' lobby poster

 

Hearts of the World lobby poster

 

'The Mysterious Lady'. 1928. USA. Directed by Fred Niblo

 

The Mysterious Lady. 1928. USA. Directed by Fred Niblo

 

The Mysterious Lady (1928) is an MGM silent film starring Greta Garbo, Conrad Nagel, and Gustav von Seyffertitz, directed by Fred Niblo, and based on the novel War in the Dark by Ludwig Wolff.

In Vienna, Captain Karl von Raden (Conrad Nagel) purchases a returned ticket to a sold-out opera and finds himself sharing a loge with a lovely woman (Greta Garbo). Though she repulses his first advance, she does spend an idyllic day with him in the countryside. Karl is called away to duty, however. Colonel Eric von Raden (Edward Connelly), his uncle and the chief of the secret police, gives him secret plans to deliver to Berlin. He also warns his nephew that the woman is Tania Fedorova, a Russian spy. Tania comes to him aboard the train, professing to love him, but he tells her he knows who she is. Dejected, she leaves. The next morning, when Karl wakes up, he finds the plans have been stolen. As a result, he is sentenced to military degradation and imprisonment for treason. However, Colonel von Raden visits him in prison and arranges for his release. He sends his nephew to Warsaw, posing as a Serbian pianist, to seek out the identity of the real traitor and thus exonerate himself.

In Warsaw, by chance, Karl is asked to play at a private party where he once again crosses paths with Tania. She is being escorted by General Boris Alexandroff (Gustav von Seyffertitz), the infatuated head of the Russian Military Intelligence Department. Foolhardily, Karl plays a tune from the opera they attended together. She recognizes it, but does not betray him. As the party goers are leaving, she slips away for a few stolen moments with her love. The jealous Alexandroff suspects their feelings for each other. He hires Karl to play the next day at a ball he is giving at his mansion for Tania’s birthday.

While Alexandroff and Tania are alone in his home office, he receives a parcel containing the latest secrets stolen by the traitor, whom he casually identifies as Max Heinrich. Later, Tania steals the documents, gives them to Karl, and sends him out via a secret passage. However, it is all a trap. Alexandroff comes in and tells Tania that what she stole was mere blank paper; he shows her the real documents. He pulls out a gun and announces that he intends to use it on Karl, who has been captured outside. She struggles with Alexandroff and manages to fatally shoot him; the sound goes unheard amidst the merriment of the party. When the guards bring the prisoner, she pretends the general is still alive and wants to see him alone. She and Karl escape with the incriminating documents and get married.  (Text from Wikipedia)

 

'What Price Glory'. 1952. USA. Directed by John Ford

 

What Price Glory. 1952. USA. Directed by John Ford

 

What Price Glory is a 1952 American Technicolor war film based on a 1924 play by Maxwell Anderson and Laurence Stallings, though it used virtually none of Anderson’s dialogue. Originally intended as a musical, it was filmed as a straight comedy-drama, directed by John Ford and released by 20th Century Fox on 22 August 1952 in the U.S.

 

'Broken Lullaby (The Man I Killed)'. 1932. USA. Directed by Ernst Lubitsch.

 

 

Broken Lullaby (The Man I Killed). 1932. USA. Directed by Ernst Lubitsch.

 

Broken Lullaby (1932) is an American drama film directed by Ernst Lubitsch and released by Paramount Pictures. The screenplay by Samson Raphaelson and Ernest Vajda is based on the 1930 playL’homme que j’ai tué by Maurice Rostand and its 1931 English-language adaptation, The Man I Killed, by Reginald Berkeley.

Haunted by the memory of Walter Holderlin, a soldier he killed during World War I, French musician Paul Renard (Holmes) confesses to a priest, who grants him absolution. Using the address on a letter he found on the dead man’s body, Paul then travels to Germany to find his family.

Because anti-French sentiment continues to permeate Germany, Dr. Holderlin (Barrymore) initially refuses to welcome Paul into his home, but changes his mind when his son’s fiancée Elsa identifies him as the man who has been leaving flowers on Walter’s grave. Rather than reveal the real connection between them, Paul tells the Holderlin family he was a friend of their son, who attended the same musical conservatory he did.

Although the hostile townspeople and local gossips disapprove, the Holderlins befriend Paul, who finds himself falling in love with Elsa (Carroll). When she shows Paul her former fiancé’s bedroom, he becomes distraught and tells her the truth. She convinces him not to confess to Walter’s parents, who have embraced him as their second son, and Paul agrees to forego easing his conscience and stays with his adopted family. Dr. Holderlin presents Walter’s violin to Paul, who plays it while Elsa accompanies him on the piano. (Text from Wikipedia)

 

'The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse'. 1921. USA. Directed by Rex Ingram

 

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. 1921. USA. Directed by Rex Ingram

 

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921) is an American silent epic war film produced by Metro Pictures Corporation and directed by Rex Ingram. Based on the Spanish novel The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, it was adapted for the screen by June Mathis. The film stars Pomeroy Cannon, Josef Swickard, Bridgetta Clark, Rudolph Valentino, Wallace Beery, and Alice Terry.

The film had a huge cultural impact, becoming the top-grossing film of 1921, beating out Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid, and going on to become the sixth-best-grossing silent film of all time. The film turned then-little-known actor Rudolph Valentino into a superstar and associated him with the image of the Latin Lover. The film also inspired a tango craze and such fashion fads as gauchopants. The film was masterminded by June Mathis, who, with its success, became one of the most powerful women in Hollywood at the time.

The film premiered in New York to great critical acclaim. Many critics hailed it as a new Birth of a Nation. However, the German press was less enthused with the portrayal of Germans in the film. With its extended scenes of the devastated French countryside and personalized story of loss, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is often considered to be one of the first anti-war films made. (Text from Wikipedia)

 

'Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse' Metro Pictures poster for the film (1921)

 

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse Metro Pictures poster for the film (1921)

 

 

Opening on the 100th anniversary of the day World War I began, The Museum of Modern Art’s The Great War: A Cinematic Legacy runs from August 4 through September 21, 2014, highlighting 60 feature-length films and thematic programs that attempt to provide a comprehensive view of the war as portrayed in film. The various films focus on prewar activities; espionage; the battlefields in the trenches, in the air, and on and beneath the sea; actualités; and the various homefronts before, during, and after the war. Familiar films, such as A Farewell to Arms (1932) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962), along with several lesser-known works from as far away as New Zealand – including Chunuk Bair (1992) – reflect the universality of a war that reshaped the prevailing values of what passed for civilization. In August, the program is predominately drawn from the early years, either during the war or in the succeeding decades, and includes several silent films. The program in September will concentrate mainly on later, more contemporary films up to, and including, Steven Spielberg’s War Horse (2011). The Great War is organized by Charles Silver, Curator, with Dave Kehr, Adjunct Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art.

Many of the films in the series deal with the entrenched stalemate in France, including Verdun, Vision d’Histoire (Verdun, Vision of History) (1928) directed by Leon Poirier. The film, largely pacifist in nature, is based on the great 1916 battle and integrates actual footage with realistic restaged material using many actors who had been soldiers in the war. Similarly, Les Croix de bois (Wooden Crosses) (1932), directed by Raymond Bernard, forms something of a pacifist trench-based trio with Lewis Milestone’s All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) and G. W. Pabst’s Westfront 1918 (1930). The Oscar-winning All Quiet on the Western Front, adapted from the novel by Erich Maria Remarque, depicts the disillusionment of German youth after experiencing the realities of war.

Another series of films highlights the importance of aviation in the war. William Wellman’s Wings (1927) was the first film to win the Oscar for Best Picture. The romantic action-war film, which effectively launched Gary Cooper’s career, features the story of a pair of American pilots fighting over Europe. The film was praised for its spectacular aerial sequences, which have an added air of authenticity because Wellman was himself an ace pilot with the Lafayette Escadrille and winner of the Croix de Guerre. Hell’s Angels (1930), directed by Howard Hughes, includes lavishly produced scenes of aerial warfare and Zeppelin bombing. Howard Hawks’s Dawn Patrol (1930) emphasizes the tension of a commander sending men on suicidal aerial missions in flying crates. Lilac Time (1928), from George Fitzmaurice, stars Cooper as a British aviator in a squadron based in France, who falls in love with a farmer’s daughter.

Several of the newer films in the exhibition exemplify how the horrors of the war have had a lasting effect on civilization. Steven Spielberg’s War Horse (2011), an adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s children’s novel about a thoroughbred in France, reminds us that war, and particularly World War I, is also a horror for non-human creatures. In My Boy Jack (2007), directed by Brian Kirk, Rudyard Kipling pulls strings to get his son John sent to France early in the war. Based on a play by David Haig, the film ends tragically at the Battle of Loos. Joyeux Noel (Merry Christmas) (2005), directed by Christian Carion, is a moving re-creation of a Christmas truce on the 1914 battlefield in France, as German, British, and French soldiers fraternize and exchange gifts.

Special thanks to Pacific Film Archive, Janus Films, Universal Pictures, Turner Classic Movies, Pathe.

Press release from the MoMA website

 

'Friendly Enemies'. 1942. USA. Directed by Allan Dwan.

 

Friendly Enemies. 1942. USA. Directed by Allan Dwan.

 

'The Great Dictator'. 1940. USA. Directed by Charles Chaplin.

 

The Great Dictator. 1940. USA. Directed by Charles Chaplin.

 

The Great Dictator is a 1940 American satirical political comedy-drama film starring, written, produced, scored, and directed by Charlie Chaplin, following the tradition of many of his other films. Having been the only Hollywood filmmaker to continue to make silent films well into the period of sound films, this was Chaplin’s first true talking picture as well as his most commercially successful film.

At the time of its first release, the United States was still formally at peace with Nazi Germany. Chaplin’s film advanced a stirring, controversial condemnation of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini’s fascism, antisemitism, and the Nazis. Chaplin’s film followed only nine months after Hollywood’s first parody of Hitler, the short subject You Nazty Spy! by the Three Stooges which itself premiered in January 1940, although Chaplin had been planning it for years before. Hitler had been previously allegorically pilloried in the German film by Fritz Lang, The Testament of Dr. Mabuse. In his 1964 autobiography, Chaplin stated that he would not have made the film had he known about the actual horrors of the Nazi concentration camps at the time. (Text from Wikipedia)

 

'The Heart of Humanity'. 1919. USA. Directed by Allen Holubar.

 

The Heart of Humanity. 1919. USA. Directed by Allen Holubar.

 

The Heart of Humanity is a 1918 American silent war propaganda film produced by Universal Pictures and directed by Allen Holubar. The film stars Dorothy Phillips, William Stowell and Eric von Stroheim. A copy of the film is preserved at the EmGee Film Library and in private collections.

The film “follows the general theme and construction of [D. W. Griffiths’s film] Hearts of the World and, in places, parallels [its] plot”. The film was made toward the end of World War I and is known for showcasing von Stroheim as a lecherous ‘Hun’. The most notorious scene from this movie is the depiction of a near-rape prior to the defenestration of a crying baby.

 

'Kameradschaft (Comradeship)'. 1931. Germany. Directed by G. W. Pabst.

 

Kameradschaft (Comradeship). 1931. Germany. Directed by G. W. Pabst.

 

 

Comradeship (German: Kameradschaft, known in France as La Tragédie de la mine) is a 1931 dramatic directed by Austrian director G. W. Pabst. The French-German co-production drama is noted for combining expressionism and realism.

The picture concerns a mine disaster where German miners rescue French miners from an underground fire and explosion. The story takes place in the Lorraine/Saar region, along the border between France and Germany. It is based on an actual historical event, one of the worst industrial accidents in history, the Courrières mine disaster in 1906 in Courrières, France, where rescue efforts after a coal dust explosion were hampered by the lack of trained mine rescuers. Expert teams from Paris and Germany – miners from the Westphalia region – came to the assistance of the French miners. There were 1,099 fatalities, including children.

Kameradschaft in German means a bond between soldiers or those who have similar opinions and are in friendship. The word is similar to comradeship, camaraderie or fellowship.

In 1919, at the end of World War I the border between France and Germany changes, and an underground mine is split in two, with a gate dividing the two sections. An economic downturn and rising unemployment adds to tension between the two countries, as German workers seek employment in France but are turned away, since there are hardly enough jobs for French workers. In the French part of the mine fires break out, which they try to contain by building many brick walls, with the bricklayers wearing breathing apparatus. The Germans continue to work on their side, but start to feel the heat from the French fires.

Three German miners visit a French dance hall and one of them almost provokes a fight when Francoise (Andree Ducret), a young French woman, refuses to dance with him. The rejected miner thinks its because he’s German, but it’s actually because she’s tired. She and her boyfriend, Emile (Georges Charlia), a miner, leave, and she expresses her distress over the stories about fires and explosions in the mine. The next morning, he stops in to say goodbye to her before she leaves for Paris, then he and her brother, Jean (Daniel Mendaille), another miner, leave for work.

The fire gets out of control, causing an explosion that traps many French miners. In response, Wittkopp (Ernst Busch) appeals to his bosses to send a rescue team. As they ride out of town to help, the leader of the German rescue effort explains to his wife that the French are men with women and children and he would hope that they would come to his aid in similar circumstances. The trio of German miners breaks through the gate that marks the 1919 border. On the French side, an old retired miner (Alex Bernard) sneaks into the shaft hoping to rescue his young grandson (Pierre-Louis).

The Germans successfully rescue the French miners, not without difficulties. After all the survivors are rescued, there’s a big party with speeches about friendship between the French and Germans. French officials then rebuild the mining gate, and things return to the way they were before the disaster and rescue.

When the film was released in the United States in 1932, Mordaunt Hall, film critic for the New York Times, praised the realism and the screenplay, writing “[Kameradschaft is] one of the finest examples of realism that has come to the screen … [the] scenes in the mine are so real that one never thinks of them as being staged … [and] [t]hroughout the length of this tale of horror one feels as though one were permitted through some uncanny force to look into all parts of the mine … All the noises and sounds are wonderfully natural.” (Text from Wikipedia)

 

'The Road Back'. 1937. USA. Directed by James Whale.

 

The Road Back. 1937. USA. Directed by James Whale.

 

The Road Back is a 1937 drama film made by Universal Pictures, directed by James Whale. The screenplay is by Charles Kenyon and R. C. Sherriff from the eponymous novel by Erich Maria Remarque. Combining a strong anti-war message with prescient warnings about the dangers of the rising Nazi regime, it was intended to be a powerful and controversial picture, and Universal entrusted it to their finest director, James Whale.

The novel on which the film is based was banned during Nazi rule. When the film was made, Universal Pictures was threatened with a boycott of all their films by the German government unless the anti-Nazi sentiments in the script were watered down. Carl Laemmle and his son, Carl Laemmle, Jr., the former heads of Universal, had recently been ousted by a corporate takeover. The new studio heads, fearing financial loss, caved in to German pressure and the film was partially reshot with another director, and the remainder extensively re-edited, leaving it a pale shadow of Whale’s original intentions. To the director’s further displeasure, writer Charles Kenyon was ordered to interject the script with comedy scenes between Andy Devine and Slim Summerville, which Whale found unsuitable. Disgusted with the studio’s cowardice under its new management, Whale left Universal after completing Wives Under Suspicion, an unsuccessful remake of his own The Kiss Before the Mirror. He returned two years later to direct Green Hell, but never made another film for Universal after that. (Text from Wikipedia)

 

'The Road Back' theatrical poster

 

The Road Back theatrical poster

 

'The Secret Agent'. 1936. Great Britain. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

 

The Secret Agent. 1936. Great Britain. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

 

Secret Agent (1936) is a British film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, loosely based on two stories in Ashenden: Or the British Agent by W. Somerset Maugham. The film starred John Gielgud, Peter Lorre, Madeleine Carroll, and Robert Young. Future star Michael Redgrave made a brief, uncredited appearance; he would play the male lead in Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes two years later. This was alsoMichael Rennie’s film debut (uncredited).

Gielgud plays a British officer, a famous writer whose death is faked during World War I, and who is sent by the mysterious “R”, head of British intelligence, to Switzerland on a secret mission. Carroll plays a female agent who poses as his wife. Lorre appears as a British agent working with them, a killer known variously as “the Hairless Mexican” and “the General”. Typical Hitchcockian themes used here include mistaken identity and murder. (Text from Wikipedia)

 

'Tell England (The Battle of Gallipoli)'. 1931. Great Britain. Directed by Anthony Asquith, Geoffrey Barkas.

 

Tell England (The Battle of Gallipoli). 1931. Great Britain. Directed by Anthony Asquith, Geoffrey Barkas

 

Tell England is a 1931 British drama film directed by Anthony Asquith and Geoffrey Barkas and starring Fay Compton, Tony Bruce and Carl Harbord. It is based on the novel Tell England by Ernest Raymond which featured two young men joining the army, and taking part in the fighting at Gallipoli. Both directors had close memories of Gallipoli, as did Fay Compton’s brother, Compton Mackenzie. Asquith’s father Herbert Asquith had been Prime Minister at the time of the Gallipoli Landings, a fact which drew press attention to the film, while Barkas had personally fought at Suvla Bay in the Gallipoli campaign. In the United States it was released under the alternative title The Battle of Gallipoli.

 

 

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11
May
14

Text / exhibition: ‘Australian vernacular photography’ at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Sydney

Exhibition dates: 8th February – 18th May 2014

 

Australian vernacular photography. Such a large subject. Such a small exhibition.

With only 27 photographs from various artists (18 of which are shown in this posting), this exhibition can only ever be seen as the runt of the litter. I would have thought such a large area of photographic investigation needed a more expansive exposition than is offered here. There are no photobook, photo booth, Aboriginal, anonymous, authorless, family, gay or marginalised cultural photographs / snapshots. There are no light leaks, blur, fingers obstructing lenses, double exposures – all examples of serendipity and happenstance which could enter into an aesthetic arena.

Vernacular photography1 can be defined as the “creation of photographs, usually by amateur or unknown photographers both professional and amateur, who take everyday life and common things as subjects… Examples of vernacular photographs include travel and vacation photos, family snapshots, photos of friends, class portraits, identification photographs, and photo-booth images. Vernacular photographs are types of accidental art, in that they often are unintentionally artistic.”2 ‘Found photography’ is the recovery of a lost, unclaimed, or discarded vernacular photograph or snapshot.

While all of the photographs in the exhibition are unique images, some are definitely not vernacular in their construction – they are planned and staged photographs, what I would call planned happenstance (after John Krumboltz’s theory of career development). A perfect example of this are the photographs by Sue Ford (Sue Pike, 1963, printed 1988, below), Anne Zahalka (The girls #2, Cronulla beach, 2007, below) and Fiona Hall (Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia, October 1975, below) which have an air of ceremonial seriousness that belies their classification as part of this exhibition. My favourites are the fantastic images by Glen Sloggett – witty, colourful, humorous with the photographer “acutely aware of the photographer and photograph’s role in pointedly constructing a narrative around Australian identity and history” – they are nevertheless self-deprecating enough that this does not impact on their innate “found” quality, as though the artist had just wandered along and captured the shot.

The route that the AGNSW has taken is similar to that of MoMA. Residing in the collection and shot by artists, these “vernacular” photographs are placed in a high art context. Their status as amateur or “authorless” photographs is undermined. This exhibit does not present vernacular photographs as just that. As the article on the One Street blog notes, what is being exhibited is as much about what has been collected by the AGNSW, its methodical and historicising classification, as it is about vernacular photographic form: chance, mistake and miscalculation. It is about creating a cliché from which to describe an ideal Australian identity, be it the beach, larrikinism, or the ANZAC / sporting “warrior”, and not about a true emotional resonance in the image that is created by, or come upon by, chance.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to the Art Gallery 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.

 

1. “Vernacular photography,” on One Way Street blog 20th October 2007 [Online] Cited 11/05/2014

“What is vernacular photography? Too broad to be understood as a genre per se, it can encompass anonymous snapshots, industrial photography, scientific photography, “authorless” photography, advertising, smut, as well as work that might be perceived as “other” than any of this random list. It could be understood as an oppositional photography – outside technical or artistic histories, yet, especially with the snapshot, it could also be entirely conventionalized, a manifestation of visual banalities, or an image so enigmatic that its meaning or genesis is entirely obscured. It is mistakes & failures as much as it may not be. & how we understand the images may or may not be separate from their initial intents. Is this a category we are making up?
The idea of the vernacular in photography is also an indication of photography as a medium informing the everyday, prevalent, “naturalized.””

2. Szarkowski, John. “INTERVIEW: “Eyes Wide Open: Interview with John Szarkowski” (2006)” by Mark Durden, Art in America, May, 2006, cited in “Vernacular photography,” on Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 11/05/2014

 

Words and Photos: Geoffrey Batchen’s Writing About Vernacular Photography

“At first, I was simply interested in bringing attention to a diverse range of photographic objects and practices that had not been much written about. But I soon recognized that these objects represented a significant challenge to the predominant history of photography. This history, dominated by the values ​​and tropes of art history, was not well-equipped to talk about photographs that were openly commercial, hybrid and mundane. Ie: the history of photography ignores most types of photography. My interest, therefore, has become more methodological and theoretical, in an effort to establish new ways to think of photography that could address the medium as a whole. I suggest that any substantial inclusion of vernacular photographs into a general history of photography will require a total transformation of the character of that history…

I suggest that any inclusion of vernacular photography in the larger story, will require a complete transformation of the character of that story; it will require a new kind of history altogether. My writings may have encouraged this idea, but I am just one of many scholars who have been pursuing this goal. Indeed, I would say that this idea is now the norm. The next step is to look beyond this and engage other parts of the history of photography that have been similarly neglected. For example, there are many researchers at the moment that are examining the photographs produced outside Europe and the United States, such as China, Indonesia, and Africa…

Snapshots are complicated objects. They are unique to each maker and almost always completely generic. They happily adopt the visual economy that mediates most photographic practices: same but different. You might say that every snapshot is an authentic copy of a prescribed set of middle-class values and familiar pictorial clichés. That does not make them any less fascinating, especially for people who treasure them. But it does make them difficult to write about…

It is certainly possible to recognize the existence of regional practices of photography. I wrote, for example, about the making of fotoescultura in Mexico, and about a specific form of ambrotype in Japan. No doubt one could claim to see some regional aspects of snapshots made in the United States that distinguish them from ones made in Australia or, say, Indonesia. But the more challenging task is to talk about those things that can’t be seen. For example, snapshots made in Australia and China may look exactly the same to my eye, but it stands to reason that they don’t mean the same thing (after all, access to the camera for personal photos is a fairly recent phenomenon in China). We must learn how to write these kind of differences.”

Interview by LG. “Words and Photos: Geoffrey Batchen’s Writing About Vernacular Photography,” on the LesPHOTOGRAPHES.com website Nd (translated from the French) [Online] Cited 04/05/2014

 

Ed Douglas (United States of America, Australia 06 May 1943 - ) 'City-spaces #28, (John Williams), Sydney' 1976 printed 2012

 

Ed Douglas (United States of America, Australia 06 May 1943 – )
City-spaces #28, (John Williams), Sydney
1976 printed 2012
From the series City-spaces 1975-78
Purchased with funds provided by the Photography Collection Benefactors’ Program 2012
© Ed Douglas

 

After relocating from USA to Australia in 1973, Ed Douglas spent a few years living in the country prior to taking on a teaching position at Sydney College for the Arts in 1976. The series City-spaces was commenced in Sydney and then developed further when Douglas moved to Adelaide in 1977. Having been schooled in the formal traditions of American documentary photography, Douglas’s images appear like notations of an urban explorer attempting to locate himself in a new country. Seemingly fragmentary, they look at the specificities of the mundane and the ordinary. Close acquaintances such as photographers Ingeborg Tyssen and John F. Williams appear in City spaces #29 and City spaces #28, indicating the personal nature of the series.

Intimately scaled and tonally rich, the black and white images exalt the formal beauty which can be found in the random textures of daily existence. They are also permeated with gentle humour and a sense of quiet drama that unfolds in the strangely misplaced confluences of objects, figures and spaces. Douglas’s interest in the formal and emotional qualities of topography was emblematic of new approaches in documentary photography of the time. His 1983 series of colour photographs depicting the gypsum mine on Kangaroo Island (collection of AGNSW) developed this trajectory further by fusing the aesthetics of abstraction and objective documentation.

 

Ed Douglas (United States of America, Australia 06 May 1943 - ) 'City-spaces #40, Sydney' 1976 printed 2012

 

Ed Douglas (United States of America, Australia 06 May 1943 – )
City-spaces #40, Sydney
1976 printed 2012
From the series City-spaces 1975-78
Gelatin silver photograph
23.6 x 30.7 cm image
Purchased with funds provided by the Photography Collection Benefactors’ Program 2012
© Ed Douglas

 

Gerrit Fokkema (Papua New Guinea, Australia 1954 - ) 'Woman hosing, Canberra' 1979

 

Gerrit Fokkema (Papua New Guinea, Australia 1954 – )
Woman hosing, Canberra
1979
Gelatin silver photograph
34.9 x 46.5 cm image
© Gerrit Fokkema

 

Gerrit Fokkema’s photographs of everyday Sydney and Canberra in the early 1980s are examples of Australian photography becoming more self-aware. These decisive snapshots of suburban life reveal an irony and conjure Fokkema’s own history growing up in Queanbeyan. Though captured in seemingly banal settings, the images intrigue, pointing to issues beyond what is represented in the frame. The housewife watering the road and a young tattooed man in front of a car are both depicted alone within a sprawling suburban landscape, suggesting the isolation and boredom in the Australian dream of home ownership. The sense of strangeness in these images is consciously sought by Fokkema, aided by his embrace of the glaring and unforgiving ‘natural’ Australian light.

Gerrit Fokkema’s Woman hosing, Canberra is an affectionate and gently ironic portrait of suburban life in Canberra. Fokkema was familiar with his subject matter, raised as he was in the nearby township of Queanbeyan. After studying photography at Canberra Technical College 1974-77 he became the staff photographer for the Canberra Times in 1975. He held his first exhibition in the same year at the Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney. His career as a photo-journalist lead him to work with the Sydney Morning Herald in 1980 and participation with several international Day in the life of…. projects between 1986 and 1989.

Fokkema uses the ‘decisive moment’ of photo-journalism to reveal the incidental quirks of ordinary life in this image. The bland uniformity of the streetscape, with its identical archways and mundanely shuttered doors, is punctuated by the absurd proposition of a woman watering the street rather than the adjacent grass. Her presence is the only sign of life in an otherwise inanimate scene, and her actions suggest a kind of strangeness that lies within the normality of suburbia. Many of Fokkema’s images play with such chance incidences and odd juxtapositions, revealing his interest in surrealism and the notion of automatism. Indeed, the repeated archways and the lone figure inhabiting otherwise empty urban space of Woman hosing, Canberra recall the proto-typical surrealist painting, Mystery and melancholy of a street 1914, by Giorgio de Chirico. Fokkema’s image is, however, very much a product of Australia – of its bright ‘available’ light and of the dream of home-ownership. Fokkema has continued to document the Australian way of life. In 1986 he left newspapers to freelance as a commercial photographer and published Wilcannia, portrait of an Australian town. He has since exhibited works based on tender observations of his family members and of family life.

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

 

Gerrit Fokkema (Papua New Guinea, Australia 1954 - ) 'Blacktown man' 1983

 

Gerrit Fokkema (Papua New Guinea, Australia 1954 – )
Blacktown man
1983
Gelatin silver photograph
30.6 x 40.6 cm image
© Gerrit Fokkema

 

The work of Gerrit Fokkema exhibits a particular sensitivity to the uneasiness of people in Australian landscapes, both urban and rural. Fokkema was born in New Guinea in 1954, but raised in Canberra and worked as a press photographer before freelancing from 1986. Although his photographs demonstrate an interest in the formal qualities of landscape, the sense of rhythm his compositions generate also evoke the monotony of Australian space – sweeping terracotta roofs and long straight paths. This monotony is only interrupted by the presence of the human figure, usually isolated, alone and awkwardly out of place. In Blacktown Man 1983, the flat image of the man appears dramatically superimposed on the land and sky of the suburban street. By reminding us of our sometimes uncomfortable relationship with the spaces we inhabit, Fokkema’s work rejects any attempt to romanticise Australian life.

 

John F Williams. 'The Rocks, Sydney' 1973

 

John F Williams
The Rocks, Sydney
1973
Gelatin silver photograph
22.6 x 34.1cm
Purchased 1989
© John F Williams

 

Trent Parke. 'Backyard swing set, QLD' 2003

 

Trent Parke
Backyard swing set, QLD
2003
From the series Minutes to midnight
Type C photograph
109.9 x 164cm
Gift of Albie Thoms in memory of Linda Slutzkin, former Head of Public Programmes, Art Gallery of New South Wales 2006
© Trent Parke

 

 

Australian vernacular photography traces developments in photographic practice from the postwar period through to the present day, with images ranging from documentary or ‘straight’ photography (where the subjects are usually unaware of the camera), through to those that look self-reflexively at the constructed nature of the medium.

The increasing role of photography in the latter part of the 20th century attests to the rising need Australians felt to apprehend the nation, personal identity and society through images. Many of these photographs offer frank perspectives on Australian culture without the romanticising tendencies of earlier photographers. Photographing the everyday became a way of understanding how Australia saw (and sees) itself, with recurrent themes such as beach culture, suburbia, race relations, protest and the role of women among the central concerns of image-makers then and now.

By the 1960s Australian photographers were comparing their work with international peers, thanks to photographic publications and the watershed 1959 tour of The family of man exhibition organised by the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Institutional support for photography didn’t come until the 1970s; however those committed to the medium forged on, intent on capturing their visions of Australia photographically. The family of man exhibition toured Australia in 1959 and was enormously influential, with its themes of birth, love and death common to all humanity. However, possibilities for Australian photographers to be noticed were rare until the 1970s due to the lack of institutional support. Nonetheless, photographers from David Moore and Robert McFarlane to the young Sue Ford forged on, trying to find their own vision of Australian life and how it could be represented photographically. This exhibition looks at some of the photographers from then as well as those working more recently – such as Anne Zahalka, Trent Parke and Glenn Sloggett – to consider their various approaches to the depiction of modern Australian life.

In the Australian Photography Annual of 1947, photographer and director of the Art Gallery of NSW Hal Missingham wrote: “In a country supposedly occupied by people indulging in a vigorous outdoor life, where are the [photographic] records of beach and sport… where are the photographs of the four millions of people who live and work in our cities? What are they like – what do they do – what do they wear, and think?”

Text from the AGNSW website

 

Jeff Carter (Australia 05 Aug 1928 - Oct 2010) 'The Sunbather' 1966

 

Jeff Carter (Australia 05 Aug 1928 – Oct 2010)
The Sunbather
1966
Gelatin silver photograph
39.1 x 27.6 cm image
© Jeff Carter

 

“I don’t regard photography as an art form, although I know it can be for others… To me the camera is simply an unrivalled reporter’s tool. It is an aid to getting the story “properly true,”” Jeff Carter said in 2006. Working mainly as a photojournalist, Carter wanted to make images that depicted social reality. He aimed to show the ‘unknown’, those people who are rarely seen. His approach resulted in frank, arguably even unflattering, images of Australian life, such as this of a beach-goer in the 1960s, heralding the changing social mores of the time.

 

John F. Williams (Australia 1933 - ) 'Sydney' 1964, printed later

 

John F Williams (Australia 1933 – )
Sydney
1964, printed later
Gelatin silver photograph
24.3 x 24.3 cm image
© John F 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

 

Robert McFarlane (Australia 1942 – ) 'Happening Centennial Park, Sydney' c. 1968

 

Robert McFarlane (Australia 1942 – )
Happening Centennial Park, Sydney
c. 1968
Gelatin silver photograph
25.9 x 17.6 cm image
© Robert McFarlane

 

Hal Missingham (Australia 08 Dec 1906 – 07 Apr 1994) 'Surf carnival, Cronulla' 1968, printed 1978

 

Hal Missingham (Australia 08 Dec 1906 – 07 Apr 1994)
Surf carnival, Cronulla
1968, printed 1978
Media category
Gelatin silver photograph
38.1 x 26.3 cm image
© Hal Missingham Estate

 

Photographer and former Art Gallery of NSW director, Hal Missingham wrote in the 1947 Australian Photography annual: “In a country supposedly occupied by people indulging in a vigorous outdoor life, where are the [photographic] records of beach and sport…? Where are the photographs of the four millions of people who live and work in our cities? What are they like – What do they do – What do they wear, and think?” This image points to Missingham’s own attempts to answer that question. An interesting counterpoint to the images taken at Cronulla around 40 years later, here Missingham shows a group of young women standing behind a fence watching as young men train to be lifesavers.

Hal Missingham often holidayed at his beach house at Garie in the Royal National Park south of Sydney, not far from Cronulla. In 1970 he published Close focus a book of photographic details of rocks, pools, sand and driftwood. As a beachcomber and observer of beach culture Missingham delighted in his immediate environment. Surf carnival, Cronulla is a quintessential Australian scene, one that frames an important aspect of national identity and culture. As passive observers, the 1960s was a time when many girls were still ‘minding the towels’ for the boys who surfed or competed in carnivals. Barricaded from the beach and its male activity the young women in bikinis are oblivious to the photographer who has foregrounded their relaxed tanned bodies behind the wire as they in turn observe and discuss the surf lifesavers in formation at the water’s edge. Although a beach is accessible for the majority of Australians and is now an accepted egalitarian space where women bodysurf, ride surfboards and compete along with beachgoers from diverse ethnic backgrounds, Surf carnival, Cronulla suggests a specific demography.

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

 

Fiona Hall (Australia 1953 - ) 'Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia, October 1975' 1975

 

Fiona Hall (Australia 1953 – )
Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia, October 1975
1975
Gelatin silver photograph
28.2 x 27.9 cm image
Hallmark Cards Australian Photography Collection Fund 1987
© Fiona Hall

 

 

Australian vernacular photography considers how photographers have used their cameras to depict Australian life, and how ideas of the nation have been constructed through photographic images.

Sixteen Australian photographers are represented by some 27 photographs taken from the 1960s to the 2000s. The photographs range from the more conventionally photo-documentary through to later works by photographers positioned more consciously in an art context. A selection of photography books of the period are also on display.

Artists include: Jeff Carter, Ed Douglas, Peter Elliston, Gerrit Fokkema, Sue Ford, Fiona Hall, Robert McFarlane, Hal Missingham, David Moore, Trent Parke, Roger Scott, Glenn Sloggett, Ingeborg Tyssen, John F Williams, William Yang and Anne Zahalka. Each of these artists in their own way interweave personal, documentary and fictional aspects through their images.

The works in Australian vernacular photography expose the sense of humour or larrikinism often seen as typical to Australia through showing aspects of beach and urban culture that hadn’t been imaged so bluntly before the 1960s. The characters that emerge range from leathery sunbathers, beer-drinking blokes and hippies, to beach babes, student protesters and suburban housewives, shedding light on the sense of liberation and self-recognition that arose during this period.

As photography struggled to gain recognition as an art form in the mid 20th century, the influence of exhibitions such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York’s Family of Man, which toured Australia in 1959, was vital in allowing Australian photographers to compare their work to that of their international peers.

Throughout the 1960s and ’70s, photographers such as Jeff Carter, Sue Ford, David Moore, Roger Scott and John F Williams worked in a photo-documentary mode that was less about staging a shot or creating formal harmony within the frame than about capturing a moment of lived reality. To this end, such photographs involved minimal intervention from the photographer, both before and after the shutter release. Subjects were often unaware of being photographed and extensive darkroom manipulation was frowned upon, the rawness of prints was supposed to signal authenticity.

This approach resulted in images that seemed to offer a frank perspective on Australian culture, without the romanticising tendencies of earlier photography, which had sought to construct ideals rather than document what was actually there. As artists began to realise what they could do with the camera, so too did the images evolve. By the 1980s and ’90s photographers were making images that showed the subject’s awareness of being photographed, as with Gerrit Fokkema, or presented a harsh, even aggressive perspective on the depicted situations by removing people altogether, as with Peter Elliston. This signalled the increasingly self-conscious role of photographers themselves in the equation, suggesting the influence of post-modern theories of subjectivity and their effect on the images produced.

By the time we reach the 2000s, artists such as William Yang, Anne Zahalka and Trent Parke are acutely aware of the photographer and photograph’s role in pointedly constructing a narrative around Australian identity and history. The exhibition maps out this history and offers unexpected insight into the construction of a particularly Australian vernacular within photographic practice.”

Press release from the AGNSW

 

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943 - 06 Nov 2009) 'Sue Pike' 1963, printed 1988

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943 – 06 Nov 2009)
Sue Pike
1963, printed 1988
Media category
Gelatin silver photograph
34.2 x 34.2 cm image
Gift of Tim Storrier 1989
© Estate of Sue Ford

 

Sue Ford’s photograph of her friend Sue Pike blow-drying her hair in the kitchen captures the young woman preparing for a night out. Ford often photographed those close to her as well as continually making self-portraits throughout her career. The photograph is domestic and intimate, showing a common aspect of life for young women in the 1960s. It suggests the procedure of preening necessary to go out and find ‘marriage and children’, while the alcohol and cigarette indicates the emerging movement for women’s liberation.

“My earliest “studio portraits” … were of my friends from school … These photo sessions were approached with a ceremonial seriousness, My friends usually brought different clothes with them and during the sessions we would change clothes and hairstyles.” Sue Ford 1987 1

Sue Ford took the majority of her photographs at this time with the camera set on a 1/60th of a second at f/11, a ‘recipe’ she wrote which had more chance of success. Poetic, fragmentary text relating to Ford’s 1961 photo-essay in “A sixtieth of a second: portraits of women 1961–1981” identify the young women’s recipe for flirtatious endeavour – ‘gossamer hairspray’, ‘peroxide’, ‘plucked eyebrows’, ‘big hair rollers to achieve “La Bouffant”‘, ‘Saturday nite’ and ‘Jive’. Sue Pike exemplifies the era of girls preparing for a night out with the boys in their ‘FJ Holdens and Hot Rods’. Staged in the kitchen, probably on a Saturday afternoon, Sue Pike, in a padded brunch coat with hair in rollers plugged into a portable hair dryer, will be a part of the action, the gossip and camaraderie. A further portrait taken in the same year shows Sue Pike metamorphosed as a beautiful bride, carefully coifed ash blonde hair under a white net veil, eyes momentarily shut, traditionally decorated with pearls and posy. Ford suggests in her prose and portraits that there are choices to be made – ‘marriage and children’ or mini-skirts and the Pill, as her old school friends go in different directions.

1. Ford. S. “A sixtieth of a second: portraits of women 1961-1981,” Experimental Art Foundation, Adelaide, 1987, p. 4

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

 

Anne Zahalka (Australia 14 May 1957 – ) 'The girls #2, Cronulla beach' 2007

 

Anne Zahalka (Australia 14 May 1957 – )
The girls #2, Cronulla beach
2007
Type C photograph
72.5 x 89.5 cm image
Gift of the artist 2011. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
© Anne Zahalka. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

 

As part of a generation of Australian women artists who came to the fore in the early 1980s, Anne Zahalka’s practice has always been concerned with questioning dominant myths and cultural constructs. The broad sweep of Zahalka’s oeuvre has often been underpinned by a common strategy: the world in her images appears as theatre where place, gender and national identity are questioned.

Many of Zahalka’s more recent works are located outside the studio though the natural environment can be seen to be equally constructed. In The girls #2, Cronulla beach, the photographer has returned to the seaside, which was the setting for one of her most iconic series, Bondi: playground of the Pacific 1989. The girls was made as a response to the Cronulla riots and after an introduction to Aheda Zanetti, the designer of the burqini. Zahalka “also knew of a documentary film being made following the recruiting of Lebanese men and women into the lifesaving club. It seemed like there was change adrift on the beachfront.”1 The permutations and post-modern anxiety about what constitutes Australian identity seen in the Bondi… series, have spilled out into the real world. But the image of these young Muslim women lifeguards seems to celebrate the potential to transgress accepted value systems.

Anne Zahalka said in 1995: “I am primarily concerned with… representations to do with place, identity and culture. Through the appropriation and reworking of familiar icons and styles I seek to question (and understand) their influence, meaning and value.” Twelve years later, Zahalka continues this line of inquiry with the series Scenes from the Shire. In this image, three Muslim girls wearing Burqinis (swimwear made for Muslim women conceived by Lebanese-Australian designer Aheda Zanetti) are standing cross-armed on Cronulla beach, a lifesaving raft is in the background. Zahalka made this work in response to the Cronulla riots of 2005. The image juxtaposes Muslim tradition with the Australian icon of the lifesaver, suggesting cultural overlap and changing national identity.

1. A. Zahalka et al, “Hall of mirrors: Anne Zahalka portraits 1987-2007,” Australian centre of photography, Sydney 2007, p. 43

 

William Yang (Australia 1943 – ) 'Ruby's kitchen Enngonia' 2000, printed 2002

 

William Yang (Australia 1943 – )
Ruby’s kitchen Enngonia
2000, printed 2002
From the series miscellaneous obsessions
Type C photograph
35.5 x 53.5 cm image
© William Yang

 

William Yang was born in North Queensland, a third generation Chinese-Australian. He is known both as a photographer and for his monologues with slides which he has presented around the world to great acclaim. One of these, Sadness 1992, was adapted for the screen by Tony Ayres and won AWGIEs amongst other awards. A major retrospective of Yang’s work, Diaries, was held at the State Library of NSW in 1998. Through April 24 – June 1, 2003 Yang presented all his monologues at Belvoir St Theatre, Sydney.

Yang has documented various subcultures over the last 30 years and this is reflected in his photographs as well as his monologues. A remarkable storyteller with a unique style, his current work is a synthesis of his ongoing concerns. While these concerns spring very much from his experiences growing up with a Chinese background in far north Queensland, through to his exploration of the gay community in Sydney, the work transcends the personal and becomes a meditation on the subtleties of the ordinary and everyday.

This series of images reflects Yang’s current life of travel and contact with his far flung friends and extended family. Though the subject, at its most superficial, is food, where, when and who is there at the time is of equal importance. Consequently each photograph in the series presents a web of connections and is underpinned with similar intentions to Yang’s other work, regardless of the subject.

“I don’t think I have a great technical attitude but I am interested in people,” William Yang said in 1998. Yang is known for his candid photographs of friends and situations he encounters. The images are usually accompanied by a story about his life, sometimes handwritten on the print itself, sometimes spoken aloud in performative contexts. He uses narrative as a way of locating his images in a particular moment in his personal history as well as social history at large. Yang explores themes around Australian and gay identity in a way that is frank and sometimes confronting. In this work, from a series about food, a chunk of kangaroo meat sits casually atop a laminate bench; other Australian icons such as Wonder White and Weet-Bix are also visible. The work allows for a multiplicity of signs to coexist: the slaughtered Australian mascot, the drab generic kitchen, the processed ‘white’ bread, with the Chinese-Australian photographer observing it all.

 

Glenn Sloggett (Australia 1964 - ) 'Cheaper & deeper' 1996

 

Glenn Sloggett (Australia 1964 – )
Cheaper & deeper
1996
From the series Cheaper & deeper
Type C photograph
80.0 x 79.9 cm image
Gift of Amanda Love 2011. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
© Glenn Sloggett

 

Based in Melbourne, Glen Sloggett has exhibited extensively across Australia, including a touring exhibition with the Australian Centre for Photography, New Australiana 2001. Internationally, his work was included in the 11th Asian Art Biennale in Bangladesh, 2004 and the 9th Mois de la Photo ‘Image and Imagination’ in Montreal 2005.

Sloggett’s work depicts scenes from Australian suburbia with a startling mix of warmth and melancholy. Devoid of people, his photographs reflect the isolation and abandonment that afflicts the fringes of Australian urban centres. His images don’t flinch from the ugly, kitsch, and bleak. Sloggett says, “No matter where I go, I always find places and environments that are in the process of falling down. These are the images of Australia that resonate most strongly for me as an artist. I want to capture the last signs of optimism before inevitable disrepair.” (Glen Sloggett, quoted in A. Foster. Cheaper and deeper, ex. Bro. ACP 2005) His images of disrepair are infused with black humour and at the same time, affection for Australian suburbia.

From dumpy derelict flats to pavements graffitied with the words ‘mum killers’, Sloggett’s photographs capture an atmosphere of neglect. One classic image depicts a pink hearse, with the slogan Budget burials cheaper & deeper!! stencilled in vinyl on the side window. Another image shows an industrial barrel, on which is scrawled the evocative word ‘Empty’. In a third image, a dog rests on the pavement outside ‘Kong’s 1 hour dry cleaning’ – the bold red and yellow lettering on its window in stark contrast to the cracked paint of the exterior wall, and half-clean sheet that forms a makeshift curtain. These images have a profundity that is at once touching and surprising; as Alasdair Foster has commented, “In a world of rabid materialism and shallow sentiment, Sloggett’s photographs show us that life really is much cheaper and deeper.”

These five works by Glenn Sloggett serve as forms of photographic black humour. Devoid of people and always in colour, his photographs often take mundane elements from the world and make us notice their tragicomedy. This group is rooted in a play with text, where the tension between what is written and what we see is paramount. Sloggett makes comment on Australian life and culture, showing how the fringes of towns and the paraphernalia of the everyday give insight into the Australian psyche.

 

Glenn Sloggett (Australia 1964 - ) 'Hope Street' 2000

 

Glenn Sloggett (Australia 1964 – )
Hope Street
2000
From the series Cheaper & deeper
Type C photograph
80.4 x 80.6 cm image
Gift of Amanda Love 2011. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
© Glenn Sloggett

 

Glenn Sloggett (Australia 1964 - ) 'Empty' 2000

 

Glenn Sloggett (Australia 1964 – )
Empty
2000
From the series Cheaper & deeper
Type C photograph
80.4 x 80.6 cm image
Gift of Amanda Love 2011. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
© Glenn Sloggett

 

Glenn Sloggett (Australia 1964 - ) 'Kong's 1 hour dry cleaning' 1998

 

Glenn Sloggett (Australia 1964 – )
Kong’s 1 hour dry cleaning
1998
From the series Cheaper & deeper
Type C photograph
80.2 x 80.0 cm image
Gift of Amanda Love 2011. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
© Glenn Sloggett

 

 

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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.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Padlocks/People’ 1994-96

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