Posts Tagged ‘John Williams

24
Jul
22

Exhibition: ‘In Focus: Sound’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 28th June – 2nd October 2022

Curator: Karen Hellman, assistant curator in the Department of Photographs.

 

 

Maker unknown (American) 'Phonograph Demonstration' about 1900-1905

 

Maker unknown (American)
Phonograph Demonstration
about 1900-1905
Gelatin silver print
27 × 37.1cm (10 5/8 × 14 5/8 in)
Getty Museum

 

 

“Sometimes theory leads to an over determination. Something is gained but at a price. Finding images that evoke a sound can only be saved by paying the higher price of remembering how images look when their sound is removed.”

~ Ian Lobb

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From my knowledge of photography, I have added further images that I can hear … but not in the exhibition that I know of. You may like to recall other photographs that you could include in the exhibition.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

Though photographs are silent, photographers have long conjured sound in their images. Whether depicting crowded urban spaces, musicians performing, people engaged in conversations, or even more abstract depictions of sound, the pictures in this exhibition show photography’s power to communicate beyond the visual. The images date from the 19th century to the recent past, and in each, the audible plays as much of a role as the visual. As you look at these photographs, you are invited to imagine what you might “hear” as well.

Text from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

 

 

Florence Henri (American, 1893-1982) 'Columbia Records' 1931

 

Florence Henri (American, 1893-1982)
Columbia Records
1931
Gelatin silver print
24.8 × 39.1cm (9 3/4 × 15 3/8 in)
Getty Museum
© Martini & Ronchetti, courtesy Archives Florence Henri

 

Gjon Mili (American born Albania, 1904-1984) 'Tap Dancer, September 29, 1949' 1949

 

Gjon Mili (American born Albania, 1904-1984)
Tap Dancer, September 29, 1949
1949
Gelatin silver print
33.8 × 26cm (13 5/16 × 10 1/4 in)
Getty Museum
© Gjon Mili / The LIFE Picture Collection / Shutterstock

 

 

Photographs may be silent, but photographers have long conjured sound in their images.

Whether depicting crowded urban spaces, musicians performing, or people engaged in conversation, the pictures in this exhibition prove photography’s power to communicate beyond the visual.

Drawn from Getty’s permanent collection, In Focus: Sound, on view June 28 through September 2, 2022, unites two sensory perceptions – sight and sound – in photographs that record the visual while also imitating the audible.

“Photography and sound have more in common than one might expect,” says Karen Hellman, curator of the exhibition. “Photographs can evoke a sensory perception that they cannot actually depict. Looking at photographs while thinking about sound could provide a new way of viewing and appreciating photography.”

The 19th century saw a keen scientific and philosophical interest in reproducing ephemeral phenomena. This led to the development of the photograph as well as the phonograph. This interlinked history perhaps explains photography’s connection to sound and why photographers, even subconsciously, have endeavoured to picture it. In each image in this exhibition, which date from the 19th century to the recent past, the audible plays as much of a role as the visual.

This exhibition includes works by known and lesser-known makers from the 19th century to the recent past, including Julia Margaret Cameron, Walker Evans, Man Ray, Graciela Iturbide, Marco Breuer, Naoya Hatakeyama, and Christian Marclay.

In Focus: Sound will be on view June 28 through September 2, 2022, at the Getty Center.

Text from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

 

Naoya Hatakeyama (Japanese, b. 1958) 'Blast #0608' 1995

 

Naoya Hatakeyama (Japanese, b. 1958)
Blast #0608
1995
Chromogenic print
Getty Museum
Gift of James N. and Susan A. Phillips
© Naoya Hatakeyama

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Record' 1933

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Record
1933
Gelatin silver print
28.9 × 22.5cm (11 3/8 × 8 7/8 in)
Getty Museum
© Man Ray Trust ARS-ADAGP

 

Albert Harlingue (French,1879-1963) 'Abbot Rousselot's Collection of Tuning Forks' about 1924

 

Albert Harlingue (French,1879-1963)
Abbot Rousselot’s Collection of Tuning Forks
about 1924
Gelatin silver print
17.9 × 12.7cm (7 1/16 × 5 in)
Getty Museum

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British born India,1815-1879) 'The Echo' 1868

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British born India,1815-1879)
The Echo
1868
Albumen silver print
27.1 × 22.7cm (10 11/16 × 8 15/16 in)
Getty Museum

 

Milton Rogovin (American,1909-2011) 'Storefront Churches' 1958-1961

 

Milton Rogovin (American,1909-2011)
Storefront Churches
1958-1961
Gelatin silver print
12.5 × 12cm (4 15/16 × 4 3/4 in.)
Getty Museum
Gift of Dr. John V. and Laura M. Knaus
© Milton Rogovin

 

Carrie Mae Weems (American, b. 1953) 'Untitled (Musical Score of "God Bless the Child")' 1995

 

Carrie Mae Weems (American, b. 1953)
Untitled (Musical Score of “God Bless the Child”)
1995
From the series From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried
Chromogenic print with sandblasted musical notations on frame glass
45.6 × 45.6cm (17 15/16 × 17 15/16 in)
Getty Museum
Gift of Mary and Dan Solomon in honour of Weston Naef
© Carrie Mae Weems

 

Will Connell (American, 1898-1961) 'Sound' 1936

 

Will Connell (American, 1898-1961)
Sound
1936
Gelatin silver print
34.2 × 26.7cm (13 7/16 × 10 1/2 in)
Getty Museum
Gift of Trish and Jan de Bont
© Will Connell

 

Lisette Model (American born Austria, 1901-1983) '[Singer, Sammy's Bar, New York]' about 1940-1944

 

Lisette Model (American born Austria, 1901-1983)
[Singer, Sammy’s Bar, New York]
about 1940-1944
Gelatin silver print
Getty Museum
© Estate of Lisette Model, courtesy of Baudoin Lebon/Keitelman

 

 

“Bowery old-timers claim her voice has had no match for power and ferocity since Maggie Cline used to stun with “Knock ‘Em Down McCloskey”.”

The uncredited text, referring to this photograph of the bar singer known as “Tillie,” accompanied a group of Lisette Model’s photographs made at Sammy’s Bar that were reproduced in the September 1994 Harper’s Bazaar magazine. Taken from below and at a slight diagonal angle, the image captures the vitality and vibrancy of the performer belting it out on the stage at Sammy’s, a local favourite in the Bowery district of New York, also visited by photographers Weegee and Diane Arbus. The angle from which the photograph was made also emphasises the gleaming microphone, which seem to rise up to meet the challenge of projecting Tillie’s already powerful voice.

Text from the J. Paul Getty app

 

Ralph Eugene Meatyard (American, 1925-1972) 'Untitled ("Motion-Sound" Landscape)' Negative 1969

 

Ralph Eugene Meatyard (American, 1925-1972)
Untitled (“Motion-Sound” Landscape)
Negative 1969, printed 1974
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Weston J. and Mary M. Naef
©  Estate of Ralph Eugene Meatyard

 

Christian Marclay (American-Swiss, b. 1955) 'Untitled (Death)' 2020

 

Christian Marclay (American-Swiss, b. 1955)
Untitled (Death)
2020
Chromogenic print
Courtesy of the artist, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Christian Marclay

 

 

Further images that I can hear … but not in the exhibition that I know of

Tracey Moffatt (Australian, b. 1960) 'The Movie Star (David Gulpilil)' 1985

 

Tracey Moffatt (Australian, b. 1960)
The Movie Star (David Gulpilil)
1985
Type C photograph on paper
Image: 50.7 x 77.3cm
Frame: 74.5 x 99.0cm
Gift of the artist 1998. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
Courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
© Tracey Moffatt

 

Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'John Cage chez Dorothea Tanning, Paris' 1979

 

Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951)
John Cage chez Dorothea Tanning, Paris

 

Larry Fink (American, b. 1941) 'Studio 54' 1977

 

Larry Fink (American, b. 1941)
Studio 54, New York City
May 1977
Silver gelatin print

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Songs of the Sky' 1924

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Songs of the Sky
1924
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Songs of the Sky
1924
Gelatin silver print

 

Eva Besnyö (Dutch, 1910-2003) 'Boy With Cello, Balaton, Hungary' 1931

 

Eva Besnyö (Dutch, 1910-2003)
Boy With Cello, Balaton, Hungary
1931
Gelatin silver print
42.5 x 39.2cm (16.7 x 15.4 in)

 

Arnold Newman (American, 1918-2006) 'Igor Stravinsky' 1945

 

Arnold Newman (American, 1918-2006)
Igor Stravinsky
1945
Gelatin silver contact sheet

 

Santu Mofokeng (South African, b. 1956) 'Opening Song, Hand Clapping and Bells' 1986

 

Santu Mofokeng (South African, b. 1956)
Opening Song, Hand Clapping and Bells
1986
From the series Train Church
Gelatin silver print
Image: 19 x 28.5cm

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Pultneyville, New York' 1957

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Pultneyville, New York
1957
Gelatin silver print
24.4 x 25.1cm (9 5/8 x 9 7/8 in.)
Purchased in part with funds provided by Daniel Greenberg, Susan Steinhauser, and the Greenberg Foundation
Reproduced with permission of the Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum
© Trustees of Princeton University

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Street diversions (or B organ)' 1898-99

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Street diversions (or B organ)
1898-1899
Albumen print

 

Walker Evans. 'Church Organ and Pews' 1936

 

Walker Evans (Walker Evans, 1903-1975)
Church Organ and Pews
1936
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Bar, Las Vegas' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (Swiss-American, 1924-2019)
Bar, Las Vegas
1955-1956
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (Swiss-American, 1924-2019) 'Political Rally, Chicago' 1956

 

Robert Frank (Swiss-American, 1924-2019)
Political Rally, Chicago
1956
Gelatin silver print
35.1 x 23.7cm (13 13/16 x 9 5/16 in)

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Cellist' 1916

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Cellist
1916
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Violoniste ambulant, Abony' (Traveling violinist, Abony) 1921

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Violoniste ambulant, Abony
Traveling violinist, Abony
1921
Gelatin silver print

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Eiffel Tower, Summer Storm' 1927

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Eiffel Tower, Summer Storm
1927
Gelatin silver print

 

Platt D Babbitt. 'Niagara Falls from the American side' whole plate daguerreotype c.1855

 

Platt D Babbitt (American, 1822-1879)
Niagara Falls from the American side
c. 1855
Whole plate daguerreotype

 

Platt D. Babbitt. '[Scene at Niagara Falls]' c. 1855

 

Platt D Babbitt (American, 1822-1879)
[Scene at Niagara Falls]
c. 1855
Daguerreotype

 

Platt D. Babbitt. 'Niagara Falls', c. 1860

 

Platt D Babbitt (American, 1822-1879)
Niagara Falls
c. 1860
Daguerreotype

 

Henri Huet (French, 1927-1971)/AP ''Life' magazine photographer Larry Burrows (far left) struggles through elephant grass and the rotor wash of an American evacuation helicopter as he helps GIs carry a wounded soldier on a stretcher from the jungle to the chopper in Mimot, Cambodia' 4 May 1970

 

Henri Huet (French, 1927-1971)/AP
‘Life’ magazine photographer Larry Burrows (far left) struggles through elephant grass and the rotor wash of an American evacuation helicopter as he helps GIs carry a wounded soldier on a stretcher from the jungle to the chopper in Mimot, Cambodia
4 May 1970
Gelatin silver print

 

Henri Huet, French (1927-1971) 'The body of an American paratrooper killed in action in the jungle near the Cambodian border is raised up to an evacuation helicopter, Vietnam' 1966

 

Henri Huet (French, 1927-1971)
The body of an American paratrooper killed in action in the jungle near the Cambodian border is raised up to an evacuation helicopter, Vietnam
1966
Gelatin silver print

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'E. K. Nyame, the legendary Ghanaian musician, photographed for a record cover, Accra' c. 1975

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
E. K. Nyame, the legendary Ghanaian musician, photographed for a record cover, Accra
c. 1975
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Roger Scott (Australian, b. 1944)
Ghost train
1972
Gelatin silver print

 

Diane Arbus. ‘The House of Horrors’ 1961

 

Diane Arbus (American, 1923-1971)
The House of Horrors
1961
Gelatin silver print

 

Diane Arbus (American, 1923-1971) 'A child crying, N.J.' 1967

 

Diane Arbus (American, 1923-1971)
A child crying, N.J.
1967
Gelatin silver print

 

Stephen Shore (American, b. 1947) 'Lookout Hotel, Ogunquit, Maine, July 16, 1974'

 

Stephen Shore (American, b. 1947)
Lookout Hotel, Ogunquit, Maine, July 16, 1974
1974
Chromogenic colour print, printed 2013
17 × 21 3/4 in. (43.2 × 55.2cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Acquired through the generosity of an anonymous donor
© 2017 Stephen Shore

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Shooting Victim in Cook County Morgue, Chicago, Illinois' 1957

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Shooting Victim in Cook County Morgue, Chicago, Illinois
1957
Pigmented inkjet print, printed 2019
11 7/8 × 17 15/16″ (30.1 × 45.6cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
The Family of Man Fund
© 2021 Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Robert H. Jackson (American, born 1934) 'FATAL BULLET HITS OSWALD. Jack Ruby fires bullet point blank into the body of Lee Harvey Oswald at Dallas Police Station. Oswald grimaces in agony' November 24, 1963

 

Robert H. Jackson (American, born 1934)
FATAL BULLET HITS OSWALD. Jack Ruby fires bullet point blank into the body of Lee Harvey Oswald at Dallas Police Station. Oswald grimaces in agony
November 24, 1963

 

Robert H. Jackson (American, b. 1934) 'Jack Ruby (52) shoots Lee Harvey Oswald (24) 24 November 1963' 1963

 

Robert H. Jackson (American, b. 1934)
Jack Ruby (52) shoots Lee Harvey Oswald (24)
24 November 1963

 

 

Originally published in the Dallas Times Herald, November 25, 1963. Cropped from the source image to the portion that was published in 1963. Winner of the 1964 Pulitzer Prize for Photography.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Survivors of the atomic bomb attack of Nagasaki walk through the destruction as fire rages in the background Aug. 9 1945'

 

Unknown photographer
Survivors of the atomic bomb attack of Nagasaki walk through the destruction as fire rages in the background Aug. 9 1945
1945

 

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

 

John Williams (Australian, 1933-2016)
Open Air Shower, Bronte Beach
1964
Gelatin silver print

 

Dorothea Lange (American, 1895-1965) 'Man Stepping from Cable Car, San Francisco' 1956

 

Dorothea Lange (American, 1895-1965)
Man Stepping from Cable Car, San Francisco
1956
Gelatin silver print

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Upper Yosemite Fall' 1946

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Upper Yosemite Fall
1946
Gelatin silver print

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Nevada Fall Profile' 1946

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Nevada Fall Profile
1946
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Kaho Yu (Australian)
Untitled from the series Infinitesimal Residual Vibration of An Unknown Sound
2009-2011

 

 

Kaho Yu (Australian)
Untitled from the series Infinitesimal Residual Vibration of An Unknown Sound
2009-2011

 

 

The photographs in this series were taken during a period when I was feeling existentially bored. Instead of distracting myself with activities and accumulating new sensations, I decided to “look” at boredom, to study, and perhaps to understand it. The most natural strategy was to observe the immediate environments where my daily activities take place – train stations, cubicles, copy machines room, etc. I carried a medium format camera on a tripod and spent the odd hours wandering alone through those familiar spaces.

My “study” did not lead me to any revelation or answer. Instead, I found myself spending a lot of time waiting in a long silence, between the opening and the closing of the camera shutter.

Charles Babbage, a scientist in 1837, postulated that every voice and sound, once imparted on the air particles, does not dissipate but remains in the diffused movements of all the particles in the atmosphere. Thus, there might one day come a person equipped with the right mathematical knowledge of these motions who will be able to capture the infinitesimal vibrations and to trace back to their ultimate source.

Taking a long exposure, letting the light slowly accumulate an image on the celluloid surface, to me, is not unlike a sound seeker searching in the air particles, for the tiny residual movements that have been conveyed through the history of mankind, from the beginning of time.

Kaho Yu artist statement

 

… i listen to the wind that obliterates my traces

 

 

 

… i listen to the wind that obliterates my traces brings together a collection of early photographs related to music, a group of 78rpm recordings, and short excerpts from various literary sources that are contemporary with the sound and images. It is a somewhat intuitive gathering, culled from artist Steve Roden’s collection of thousands of vernacular photographs related to music, sound, and listening. The subjects range from the PT Barnum-esque Professor McRea – “Ontario’s Musical Wonder” (pictured with his complex sculptural one man band contraption) – to anonymous African-American guitar players and images of early phonographs. The images range from professional portraits to ethereal, accidental, double exposures – and include a range of photographic print processes, such as tintypes, ambrotypes, cdvs, cabinet cards, real photo postcards, albumen prints, and turn-of-the-century snapshots.

The two CDs display a variety of recordings, including one-off amateur recordings, regular commercial releases, and early sound effects records. there is no narrative structure to the book, but the collision of literary quotes (Hamsun, Lagarkvist, Wordsworth, Nabokov, etc.). Recordings and images conspire towards a consistent mood that is anchored by the book’s title, which binds such disparate things as an early recording of an American cowboy ballad, a poem by a Swedish Nobel laureate, a recording of crickets created artificially, and an image of an itinerant anonymous woman sitting in a field, playing a guitar. The book also contains an essay by Roden.

Text from the Dust to Digital website Nd [Online] Cited 23/07/2022. Published by Dust-to-Digital, 2011. The book is out of stock but available on Abe.com website.

 

'... i listen to the wind that obliterates my traces' book cover (2011)

 

… i listen to the wind that obliterates my traces book cover (2011)

 

 

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29
Jun
18

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

Exhibition dates: 14th June – 7th July 2018

Curator: Merle Hathaway

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

An Australian Classic

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

John Williams (1933- 2016) 'Paddington' 1962

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

John Williams (1933- 2016) 'Pisa' 1968

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

John Williams (1933- 2016) 'Louvre' 1975

 

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

 

John Williams (1933-2016) 'Chicago' 1975

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

John Williams (1933-2016) 'William McMahon, Australian Prime Minister' 1971-1972

 

John Williams (Australian, 1933-2016)
William McMahon, Australian Prime Minister
1971-1972
Silver gelatin collage
© John Williams

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Magnet Galleries Melbourne Inc.
SC G19, Wharf st, The District, Docklands
Melbourne, Victoria, 3008
Australia
Phone: +61 3 8589 0371

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Saturday – 10am – 4pm

Magnet Galleries website

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27
Oct
17

Vale William Heimerman (1950-2017)

October 2017

 

Jeff Busby. 'William Heimerman' c. 1975-80

 

Jeff Busby (Australian, b. 1952)
William Heimerman
c. 1975-1980
Silver gelatin print

 

 

William Heimerman: the essence of 344

Imagine a gallery in a land far far way, that for a period of 10 years or so brought the very best of West Coast/East Coast North American and European, mainly male fine art photography to that land for the edification of artists, students and the viewing public.

Imagine a land that had never seen many fine art prints by such luminaries as Edouard Boubat, Harry Callahan, Paul Caponigro, Larry Clark, William Clift, William Eggleston, Franco Fontana, Oliver Gagliani, Ralph Gibson, Emmet Gowin, Eikoh Hosoe, Eliot Porter, Duane Michals, Lisette Model, August Sander, Aaron Siskind, and Brett Weston before. Imagine the impact that this gallery (together with Brummels and Church Street Photographic Centre) had on the development of photography as an art form in this land during the period 1975-85.

No, this is not the internationally famous art gallery 291 that was located in Midtown Manhattan at 291 Fifth Avenue in New York City, created and managed by Alfred Stieglitz; but rather the Photographers’ Gallery located at 344 Punt Road, South Yarra, run from 1975 onwards by that dynamic duo, William (Bill) Heimerman and Ian Lobb, until Bill took over the sole running of the gallery in 1980. Such is the importance of this gallery to the history and development of art photography in that far away land, Australia, that the number 344 should be enshrined in the legend that this gallery has become during this time period. As Ian Lobb has observed, “The initial philosophy was simply to let people see the physical difference between the production of prints overseas and locally. After a while this moved from the Fine Print to other concerns both aesthetic and conceptual.”

Personally, I cannot speak of the early years at the gallery, for I only arrived in Australia in 1986… but I have done enough research to know of the incredible impact that the exhibitions and workshops at the gallery had on the photographic community in Australia at the time. The gallery was run on a shoe-string budget and never made any money, but both Bill and Ian were so passionate about the endeavour, about what they were trying to achieve – that there was an absolute integrity to their mission, undertaken with so much knowledge and insight into photography, art, and life, that drew people to them and to the gallery. There was so much energy and fun, that was the critical thing fun, to be had at the gallery.

I will be forever grateful to William Heimerman. Bill was the first person to give me a solo exhibition at a commercial gallery in 1992, during the second year of my Bachelor of Arts (Fine Art Photography) at what was then Phillip Institute out at Bundoora. Incidentally, Ian Lobb was one my lecturers out at Bundoora. I was only just finding my way as an artist producing classical black and white fine art photographs, a wet behind the ears 34 year old at the beginning of his path, following his dream as an artist. Two other solo exhibitions followed in 1993 (black and white) and 1995 (colour, conceptual Master of Arts exhibition). I also co-curated with Bill, John Cato’s retrospective, ‘…and his forms were without number’ at The Photographers’ Gallery in 2002. What an enlightening experience that was.

I also vividly remember getting an absolutely terrible review of one of my first two exhibitions at the Gallery by a now well known academic in one of the only two big newspapers in Melbourne, the Herald Sun, and being absolutely distraught upon reading it. It was soul destroying. Bill sat me down and, in that laid-back Wisconsin accent, comforted me and told me it was ok, that I should not give up, but I should keep on doing what I was doing, and that everything would be ok. To follow my path no matter what. I’ll never forget Bill’s kindness in that moment of despair, his compassion and honest forthrightness with advice. It bring tears to my ears even now. 25 years later I am still an artist, and I am still in love with photography.

Bill was handsome, charming, urbane, erudite, witty, and above all, fun. I remember the openings we had at the gallery, the glasses of wine out the back in the garden with Bill and friends; the long talks in the back space of the gallery about art and photography. I have a photograph, a Polaroid of me in a satin yellow shirt with Bill in the background smiling, at one of the openings… but blow if I can find it at the moment. That was Bill, enjoying the sunshine, the art, the education, the friends and the fun.

While the gallery never really made any money during the early period – and while their was a feminist reaction during the 1970s “against the technocratic and patriarchal American West Coast ‘fine print’ tradition then being promoted by the Photographers’ Gallery” – one can never underestimate or demean the achievement of Bill (and Ian) in bringing to Australia the work of such notable artists. Geoff Strong, writing the catalogue essay “The Melbourne Movement: Fashion and Faction in the Seventies” for the exhibition The Thousand Mile Stare at the Victorian Centre for Photography in 1988, likened Bill and Ian to a “pair of blinkered bulldozers” in their promotion of the gallery’s programme, proposing that Carol Jerrems was of another stream, people who wanted to change the world in the great tradition of the European avant-garde movements of the 1920s.

But here we have photographs of Jerrems by Bill and Bill by Jerrems (how strange to see them both looking through the camera lens at each other); and we have wonderful photographs of Bill and Ian taken by Jerrems, with their 35mm and Rollei SL66 cameras sitting behind them at the Dog Rocks near Geelong. This is what it was about: exploration, passion, photography, friendship, and fun. The Photographers’ Gallery did change the photographic art world in Australia as people knew it through the charisma and hard work of two men. As Ian said at the recent gathering for Bill, ‘Ralph Gibson said to us, “what am I doing here with you guys in Melbourne, Australia – they want me in Berlin and Tokyo, yet I’m here with you!”‘

To Bill I say, thank you for the memories, for your advice, for your friendship and above all, for your unblinking passion and commitment to photography and art. An exhibition at the Photographers’ Gallery was an honour. You can look back on those comments by Geoff Strong as a badge of courage, and with pride … because you had the foresight to go out there and get the job done. And for that vision Bill, you will forever be remembered in the annals of the history of photography in Australia. Respect.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All photographs © the artist

 

Carol Jerrems. 'Ayer's Dog Rock [Bill Heimerman looking through his Rolleiflex]' 1975

 

Carol Jerrems (Australian, 1949-1980)
Ayer’s Dog Rock [Bill Heimerman looking through his Rolleiflex]
1975
Silver gelatin print
(Digital clean by Marcus Bunyan)

 

William Heimerman. 'Untitled [Carol Jerrems looking through her camera, Dog Rocks near Geelong]' c. 1975-80

 

William Heimerman (Australian born America, 1950-2017)
Untitled [Carol Jerrems looking through her camera, Dog Rocks near Geelong]
c. 1975
Silver gelatin print

 

Carol Jerrems. 'Untitled [Bill Heimerman and Ian Lobb at the Dog Rocks near Geelong]' 1975

 

Carol Jerrems (Australian, 1949-1980)
Untitled [Bill Heimerman and Ian Lobb at the Dog Rocks near Geelong]
1975
Silver gelatin print
(Digital clean by Marcus Bunyan)

 

Carol Jerrems. 'Untitled [Bill Heimerman and Ian Lobb at the Dog Rocks near Geelong]' 1975

 

Carol Jerrems (Australian, 1949-1980)
Untitled [Bill Heimerman and Ian Lobb at the Dog Rocks near Geelong]
1975
Silver gelatin print
(Digital clean by Marcus Bunyan)

 

 

William Heimerman 1950-2017

William Heimerman, who has died aged 67, was the long-term director of the Photographers’ Gallery and Workshop in South Yarra where museum quality exhibitions were held from the mid 1970’s. The Photographers’ Gallery, was established in 1973 by Rod McNicol, Paul Cox, and John Williams, then sold to photographer Ian Lobb who convinced William to assist in running the gallery, from that point known as the Photographers’ Gallery & Workshop. They set out on a journey to exhibit Australian and international photographic work of the highest quality. After a few years of co-directorship, from 1977 until 2015 William was the sole director energetically seeking out the finest work from Australia, the USA, and Europe.

Many renowned photographers have had solo or group exhibitions at the Gallery over many years including Jennifer Aitken, Lynn Bender, Robert Besanko, Edouard Boubat, Warren Breninger, Wynn Bullock, Marcus Bunyan (3), Francis Busby (3), Jeff Busby, Harry Callahan, Paul Caponigro (2), Jack Cato, John Cato, Larry Clark, William Clift, Christine Cornish, John Divola, Rennie Ellis, William Eggleston, Franco Fontana, Oliver Gagliani, Ralph Gibson, Christine Godden, Michael Goldsmith, Emmet Gowin (2), Marion Hardman, Paul Hill, Paul Hopper, Eikoh Hosoe, Graham Howe, Carol Jerrems, Christopher Koller, Jean-Marc Le Péchoux, Peter Leiss (5+1, 2 person), Ian Lobb (2), Steven Lojewski, Rod McNicol, Duane Michaels, Lisette Model, Boone Morrison, Eliot Porter, August Sander, Aaron Siskind, Ingeborg Tyssen, Greg Wayn, Brett Weston, Konrad Winkler.

The gallery also offered workshops in all aspects of photography taught by Australian & international photographers including John Cato, William Clift, Ralph Gibson, Ian Lobb, Stephen Lojewski, and Les Walkling. At the invitation of The Photographers’ Gallery renowned photographer Harry Callahan visited Australia to present a public lecture. Tony Perry in 1980 wrote about the gallery, “Today the Photographers’ Gallery is run solely by Bill Heimerman… with an enviable record of exhibitions and workshops is seen as the premier gallery in Australia; a show there is a genuine honour.”

William Lee Heimerman was born 13th January 1950 in Appleton, Wisconsin, the son of the late Peter and Rose Heimerman. William grew up in Menasha, Wisconsin, attending St Patrick’s grade school then St Mary’s high school. During his high school years he enjoyed and excelled in all sporting activities, receiving a scholarship to attend the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Following his undergraduate studies he secured a Master’s Degree (Cum Laude) from the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh. After graduating from University he taught English at Winneconne High School, Wisconsin, and coached both the football and the debate teams.

In 1974 William accepted a teaching position with the Victorian Education Department and taught English at Coburg Technical School. It was here that he met Ian Lobb and the late Carol Jerrems, both avid photographers, who initiated his interest in and appreciation of photography. William subsequently moved to Brighton Technical College where he and other staff established a photography programme.

A few years later William was teaching photography at Melbourne State College and the Council of Adult Education in Melbourne, inculcating students in the techniques of fine printing and the zone system. William was himself an accomplished photographer, producing work in abstract, portrait and landscape veins. His is art of great poetry that will be exhibited in a posthumous exhibition that is in preparation.

William passed away on October 1 at Hammond Care in Caulfield after a relatively short period of declining health. Siblings, Patricia, Jane, Jeff, Kevin, Ted, brother in law Tom, sisters in law Sarah, Diane, and Paula, many nieces and nephews, extended relatives and friends, survive him. His brother Robert preceded William in death. He will be greatly missed by lifelong friend Barbara Derrick, and the many artists and art collectors that he befriended.

Barbara, Louise and Jeff (William’s brother)

 

Peter Leiss. 'Untitled [Bill Heimerman and Ian Lobb at the rear of the Photographers' Gallery]' c. 1975-80

 

Peter Leiss (Australian born England, b. 1951)
Untitled [Bill Heimerman and Ian Lobb at the rear of the Photographers’ Gallery]
c. 1975-80
Silver gelatin print

 

Jeff Busby. 'Untitled [William Heimerman and friend outside the Photographers Gallery (344)]' c. 1978

 

Jeff Busby (Australian, b. 1952)
Untitled [William Heimerman and friend outside the Photographers’ Gallery (344)]
c. 1978
Silver gelatin print

 

Louise Bradley. Untitled [William Heimerman adjusting Robert Besanko prints in the main space of the Photographers' Gallery] c. 1975-80

 

Louise Bradley
Untitled [William Heimerman adjusting Robert Besanko prints in the main space of the Photographers’ Gallery]
c. 1975-80
Silver gelatin print
(Digital clean by Marcus Bunyan)

 

Jeff Busby. 'Untitled [Bill Heimerman and friends at the Photographers' Gallery]' c. 1975-80

 

Jeff Busby (Australian, b. 1952)
Untitled [Bill Heimerman and friends at the Photographers’ Gallery]
c. 1975-80
Silver gelatin print

 

 

The Photographers’ Gallery: A very brief history

The Photographers Gallery & Workshop was founded by Paul Cox, Ingeborg Tyssen, John F. Williams and Rod McNicoll in 1973, and the Gallery was then taken over in late 1974 by Ian Lobb, his first exhibition as director being at the beginning of 1975; Bill Heimerman joined as joint director at the beginning of 1976.

Shows of American photography became relatively commonplace in Melbourne and it was the first time Australian photographers and the general public had access to such a concentration of international photography in a variety of styles. From 1975-1981 every second exhibition at The Photographers Gallery was an international exhibition. Some of the exhibitions during this period included work by August Sander (German – arranged by Bill Heimerman), Edouard Boubat (France), Emmet Gowin (USA – twice), Paul Caponigro (USA – twice), Ralph Gibson (UK – twice, once of his colour work), William Eggelston (USA), Eliot Porter (USA), Wynn Bullock (USA), William Clift (USA), Harry Callahan (USA), Aaron Siskind (USA – twice, once with a show hung at Ohnetitel) Jerry Uelsmann (USA), Brett Weston (USA). The artists often came out to Australia, presenting a series of lectures and workshops during their exhibitions.

Very few prints were ever purchased by the National Gallery of Victoria or the National Gallery of Australia during this period, for a variety of reasons (mainly personal, financial and institutional). As Ian Lobb observes,

“The initial philosophy was simply to let people see the physical difference between the production of prints overseas and locally. After a while this moved from the Fine Print to other concerns both aesthetic and conceptual. The gallery at best, just paid for itself. During international shows the attendance at the gallery was high. During Australian shows the attendance was low.”

Dr Marcus Bunyan from the research paper Beginnings: The International Photographic Collection at the National Gallery of Victoria, May 2015

 

Exhibitors at The Photographers’ Gallery (solo exhibitions)

Jennifer Aitken, Lynn Bender, Robert Besanko, Edouard Boubat, Warren Breninger, Wynn Bullock, Marcus Bunyan (3), Francis Busby (3), Jeff Busby, Harry Callahan, Paul Caponigro (2), Jack Cato, John Cato, Larry Clark, William Clift, Christine Cornish, John Divola, Rennie Ellis, William Eggleston, Franco Fontana, Oliver Gagliani, Ralph Gibson, Christine Godden, Michael Goldsmith, Emmet Gowin (2), Marion Hardman, Paul Hill, Paul Hopper, Eikoh Hosoe, Graham Howe, Carol Jerrems, Christopher Koller, Jean-Marc Le Péchoux, Peter Leiss (5+1, 2 person), Ian Lobb (2), Steven Lojewski, Rod McNicol, Duane Michaels, Lisette Model, Boone Morrison, Eliot Porter, August Sander, Aaron Siskind, Ingeborg Tyssen, Greg Wayn, Brett Weston, Konrad Winkler.

Workshops by

Harry Callahan, William Clift, John Cato, Ralph Gibson, Ian Lobb, Stephen Lojewski, Les Walkling.

 

William Heimerman. 'Carol Jerrems' c. 1975-80

 

William Heimerman (Australian born America, 1950-2017)
Carol Jerrems
c. 1975-1980
Silver gelatin print

 

Peter Leiss. 'William Heimerman' c. 1975-80

 

Peter Leiss (Australian born England, b. 1951)
William Heimerman
c. 1975-80
Silver gelatin print

 

Peter Leiss. 'Untitled [Bill Heimerman at the Photographers' Gallery]' c. 1975-80

 

Peter Leiss (Australian born England, b. 1951)
Untitled [Bill Heimerman at the Photographers’ Gallery]
c. 1975-80
Silver gelatin print

 

Peter Leiss. Untitled [Bill and Barbara]' c. 1975-80

 

Peter Leiss (Australian born England, b. 1951)
Untitled [Bill and Barbara]
c. 1975-80
Silver gelatin print

 

 

The Photographers’ Gallery

The most significant time for contemporary Australian photography was the period from mid 1975 to 1977. Three singular events occurred which provided local artist/ photographers with more hope and encouragement than some thought they had any right to expect. In the latter half of 1975 Bill Heimerman and lan Lobb took over the Photographers’ Gallery in South Yarra. With a new and dynamic policy they challenged the status quo and, in time, changed the course of the previous five years.

While actively seeking new, local work they were determined the gallery would never compromise itself, and only photographs of the highest quality would be exhibited in the hope that Australian standards would be lifted to an international level. After an initial, brief flirtation with local photography it became evident that the homegrown product was noticeably shabby, and the gallery embarked on the risky program of bringing the best contemporary, international work to Australia.

By doing this it was hoped that a better understanding of print quality would follow, that internationally acclaimed work would break down the public resistance to photography as an artistic medium and that buyers, both public and private, would respond to a venue which allowed them to view overseas work before purchasing. The gallery was to become a locus and the means whereby Australians, working at home, could gain credibility overseas. By 1977, with a series of first class exhibitions behind them, Heimerman and Lobb organised the first workshop to be conducted here by an American photographer, Ralph Gibson. In previous years we had seen lecture tours by Szarkowski and Friedlander but these were poorly publicised and attended. The gallery has also sponsored visits by William Clift and Harry Callahan who have both inspired and encouraged those lucky enough to meet them. Today the Photographers’ Gallery is run solely by Bill Heimerman, lan Lobb having left to pursue his photography, and with an enviable record of exhibitions and workshops is seen as the premier gallery in Australia; a show there is a genuine honour.

~ Tony Perry 1980

Print Letter No.25 Jan/Feb. 1980 Vol. 5 No. 1 pp. 8-9

 

Peter Leiss. 'Untitled [The note]' Melbourne, 2017

 

Peter Leiss (Australian born England, b. 1951)
Untitled [The note]
Melbourne, 2017
Digital photograph

 

Peter Leiss. 'Untitled [At the gathering for William Heimerman: Jeff Busby, Conrad Winkler and Marcus Bunyan]' Melbourne, 2017

 

Peter Leiss (Australian born England, b. 1951)
Untitled [At the gathering for William Heimerman: Jeff Busby, Conrad Winkler and Marcus Bunyan]
Melbourne, 2017
Digital photograph

 

Peter Leiss. 'Untitled [At the gathering for William Heimerman]' Melbourne, 2017

 

Peter Leiss (Australian born England, b. 1951)
Untitled [At the gathering for William Heimerman]
Melbourne, 2017
Digital photograph

 

Left to right standing: Jeff Busby, Konrad Winkler, Francis Busby, Andrew Daly, Barbara Anne Smith, Robert Besanko, Marcus Bunyan, Philip Ingamells, Mae O’Laughlin, Sandy Sonderal, Angelo Kara Karavitis
Sitting: Louise Bradley, Barbara Derrick, Ian Lobb, Kalli Pulos, Ros Winkler, Diana Haig, Jon Conte
Dogs: Yoshi, Sophie

 

 

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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

 

John F Williams. 'The Rocks, Sydney' 1973

 

John F Williams (Australian, 1933-2016)
The Rocks, Sydney
1973
Gelatin silver photograph
22.6 x 34.1cm
Purchased 1989
© John F Williams

 

 

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

.
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 conventionalised, 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, “naturalised.””

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. No longer available online

 

 

Ed Douglas (United States of America, Australia, b. 6 May 1943) 'City-spaces #28, (John Williams), Sydney' 1976 printed 2012

 

Ed Douglas (United States of America, Australia, b. 6 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

 

 

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 recognised 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 recognise 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. No longer available online

 

Ed Douglas (United States of America, Australia, b. 6 May 1943) 'City-spaces #40, Sydney' 1976 printed 2012

 

Ed Douglas (United States of America, Australia, b. 6 May 1943)
City-spaces #40, Sydney
1976 printed 2012
From the series City-spaces 1975-78
Gelatin silver photograph
23.6 x 30.7cm image
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.

 

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

 

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

 

Trent Parke. 'Backyard swing set, QLD' 2003

 

Trent Parke (Australian, b. 1971)
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 27.6cm 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, 1933-2016) 'Sydney' 1964, printed later

 

John F Williams (Australia, 1933-2016)
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, b. 1942) 'Happening Centennial Park, Sydney' c. 1968

 

Robert McFarlane (Australia, b. 1942)
Happening Centennial Park, Sydney
c. 1968
Gelatin silver photograph
25.9 x 17.6cm 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 26.3cm 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, b. 1953) 'Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia, October 1975' 1975

 

Fiona Hall (Australia, b. 1953)
Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia, October 1975
1975
Gelatin silver photograph
28.2 x 27.9cm 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 34.2cm 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, b. 1957) 'The girls #2, Cronulla beach' 2007

 

Anne Zahalka (Australia, b. 1957)
The girls #2, Cronulla beach
2007
Type C photograph
72.5 x 89.5cm 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, b. 1943) 'Ruby's kitchen Enngonia' 2000, printed 2002

 

William Yang (Australia, b. 1943)
Ruby’s kitchen Enngonia
2000, printed 2002
From the series miscellaneous obsessions
Type C photograph
35.5 x 53.5cm 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, b. 1964) 'Cheaper & deeper' 1996

 

Glenn Sloggett (Australia, b. 1964)
Cheaper & deeper
1996
From the series Cheaper & deeper
Type C photograph
80.0 x 79.9cm 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, b. 1964) 'Hope Street' 2000

 

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

 

Glenn Sloggett (Australia, b. 1964) 'Empty' 2000

 

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

 

Glenn Sloggett (Australia, b. 1964) 'Kong's 1 hour dry cleaning' 1998

 

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

 

 

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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, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor 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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