Posts Tagged ‘Tiwi Islands


Review: ‘Trace’ by Murray Fredericks at Arc One Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 24th May – 18th June 2011


Murray Fredericks. 'Salt 271' 2011


Murray Fredericks (Australian, b. 1970)
Salt 271
150 x 120 cm
Pigment print on cotton rag



“Photographers tell me what I already know. The recognition of the beautiful, bizarre, or boring (the three photographic B’s) is not the problem. You would have to be a refrigerator not to be moved by the beauty of Yosemite. The problem is to deal with one’s total experience, emotionally as well as visually. Photographers should tell me what I don’t know.”

Duane Michals Real Dreams1


“While we cannot describe its appearance (the equivalent), we can define its function. When a photograph functions as an Equivalent we can say that at that moment, and for that person the photograph acts as a symbol or plays the role of a metaphor for something that is beyond the subject photographed.”

Minor White



Fredericks new infrared panoramic works show the strength of nature at it’s finest (9 out of 10 to nature especially when see through this type of filtration), excellent technical skills and good printing somehow any revelation of spirit in the sublime has been lost in these photographs. The photographer does not take me anywhere, there is no new space to step into, another view of the world that I want to spend time with. The relationship between the two series is also nebulous, the critical ice/fire space between the works adding little frisson to the exhibition.

I ask: Is it sufficient to use a digital scientific infrared back, if for no other reason that it is there? Is it sufficient to know that these climatic conditions take place in the same area each day, at the same time, place the camera down and just capture the scene? Is there really a decisive moment in these photographs, a poetic insight, or is this just what was, literally, hanging around so to speak?

The answer to all three questions I leave up to the reader.

Personally, I need photography to push the boundaries of elusiveness through an understanding in revelation, not just through an understanding of space and form, light and colour. I believe that conventional patterns of perception are there to be broken in ways that disrupt the technologies of the self – the self-regulating of our senses, the conventions of cultural capital – but too what do we open ourselves up to? As Minor White says: ‘The sound of one hand clapping’.

While the photographs have the weight of serious equipment and professional acumen behind them after the initial awe on viewing they fall to earth, like the rainstorms they portray, a little flat. As with my earlier review of Salt they seem to be more about the photographer than any revelation of the thing being photographed. Duane Michals observes that, “The best artists give themselves in their work” but this giving is ego-less, the dropping away of the bells and whistles to let an’other’ emerge: in this sense I do not feel the total experience, emotionally as well as visually. Paul Strand said that it took him 10 years to start to become an artist, to let go of ego in his work; paradoxically after this the work became more his own.

For me, these photographs never become a metaphor for something that is beyond the subject being photographed.

Dr Marcus Bunyan


  1. Michals, Duane. Real Dreams 1976 [Online] Cited 08/06/2011, on longer available online.

Many thankx to Angela Connor for her help and to Arc One Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.


Murray Fredericks. 'Salt 273' 2011


Murray Fredericks (Australian, b. 1970)
Salt 273
150 x 120 cm
Pigment print on cotton rag


Murray Fredericks. 'Hector 10' 2011


Murray Fredericks (Australian, b. 1970)
Hector 10
220 x 120 cm
Pigment print on cotton rag


Murray Fredericks. 'Hector 11' 2011


Murray Fredericks (Australian, b. 1970)
Hector 11
204 x 120 cm
Pigment print on cotton rag



Salt began in 2003 and is a series of photographs of vast empty landscapes. Each image in the series is connected by the placement of the horizon running across the lower third of the frame. The horizon is the only referential form, breaking the void and providing the viewer with an element that paradoxically ‘defines’ the space. These new works add another dimension to Salt, with the water from last year’s rains now creating scenes diametrically opposed to the work occupying the adjacent walls as Hector.

Hector draws its title from an affectionately name atmospheric phenomenon that produces some of the world’s biggest thunderstorms. These new black and white works employ Murray’s methodical consistency of composition with distinctly different outcomes to the Zen-like vistas of Salt. In these works the expanse of the storm is consciously contained and forced into a barometric battle with the invisible air at its limits for the place of subject within the photograph…

By juxtaposing these series, each viewer is at once placed outside the containers which harbour these landscapes of remote territories – one calm and one facing the eye of the storm – and at the same time place in the centre of Murray’s minimal, ethereal representations of these places. In this way we can trace his exploration into these subjects – capturing the moment is our witness to a reverence to land and country.

Text from Arc One Gallery


Joseph Mallord William Turner (English, 1775-1851) 'Valley of Aosta: Snowstorm, Avalanche, and Thunderstorm' 1836/37


Joseph Mallord William Turner (English, 1775-1851)
Valley of Aosta: Snowstorm, Avalanche, and Thunderstorm
Oil on canvas
36 1/4 x 48 in. (92.2 x 123 cm)
The Art Institute of Chicago: Frederick T. Haskell Collection



Arc One Gallery
45 Flinders Lane
Melbourne, 3000
Phone: (03) 9650 0589

Opening hours:
Tues – Sat 11 am – 5 pm

Arc One Gallery website


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Review: ‘Sistagirls’ by Bindi Cole at Nellie Castan Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 8th – 31st July 2010


Bindi Cole. 'Bimbo' 2009


Bindi Cole


Bindi Cole. 'Buffy' 2009


Bindi Cole



The exhibition Sistagirls by Bind Cole at Nellie Castan Gallery contains some beautiful photographs and others that are less successful. The successful portraits the ones that depict the Sistagirls in a more natural, less stylised way – they are the more interesting photographs. The subjects seem to speak for themselves without restriction, to be not so beholden to the pose that photographer wishes them to assume and/or the pose they wish to impose on themselves.

For example, the photograph of Jemima (see below) is just stunning in it’s naturalness and beauty. The two photographs of Crystal and Patricia, where the transgendered person asked to be photographed in traditional body paint with traditional objects, are highly successful in their form, composition and in the ability of the photographs to challenge stereotypical notions of Aboriginal culture.

Other portraits are anachronistic and a little try hard, with the misplacing of persons and objects in regard to each other. The portrait of Bimbo (very top photograph) did not need the two objects placed on the beach next to the person to make it a successful photograph; the portrait of Frederina (below) had enough going on in the photograph without the seemingly gratuitous placement of traditional objects in the background. We get the point and there was really no need to labour it.

One of the problems, of course, of a ‘stylised’ portrait (Bind Cole’s word in her artist statement) is that the portrait can become a double forgery, that of the pose of the person and that of the photographer imposing the style …

” … in a sense, the posed photograph is a kind of forgery, an imposition of an artificial composition before the recording instrument. On the other hand, the photo of a posing subject captures the authenticity of the practice of posing. A version of a person’s image is still an image of that person …

We are confronted with the pose, the conscious composition of the image to be photographed, the inherent constructedness of the posed photograph. Our heretofore implicit faith in the photograph as an evidentiary document is shaken. This is not to imply an outright rejection of photography … the effect is more properly an inducement to engage the document directly, personally, and on its own terms.”1


As noted at the end of the quotation, we, the viewer, must cut through this com-pose-ition to address the document directly. We must cut away the appendages of style and view the person and the photograph on its own terms. This is why the simpler portraits in the exhibition have so much more power than the overly constructed ones – they reach for an intangible essence that Cole is seeking by dropping away style and surrendering to the ineffable, a recognition of the lightness and joy in just being.

Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog


  1. Feiereisen, Florence and Pope, Daniel. “True Fiction and Fictional Truths: The Enigmatic in Sebald’s Use of Images in ‘The Emigrants’,” in Patt, Lise (ed.,). Searching for Sebald: Photography after W.G. Sebald. Los Angeles: The Institute of Cultural Inquiry, 2007, p. 175.

Many thankx to Olivia Poloni and Nellie Castan Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. The permission is most appreciated. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All photographs © Bind Cole, courtesy of the artist and Nellie Castan Gallery.


Bindi Cole. 'Crystal' 2009


Bindi Cole


Bindi Cole. 'Frederina' 2009


Bindi Cole



“The term ‘Sistagirl’ is used to describe a transgender person in Tiwi Island culture. Traditionally, the term was ‘Yimpininni’. The very existence of the word provides some indication of the inclusive attitudes historically extended towards Aboriginal sexual minorities. Colonisation not only wiped out many indigenous people, it also had an impact on Aboriginal culture and understanding of sexual and gender expression. As Catholicism took hold and many traditions were lost, this term became a thing of the past. Yimpininni were once held in high regard as the nurturers within the family unit and tribe much like the Faafafine from Samoa. As the usage of the term vanished, tribes’ attitudes toward queer indigenous people began to resemble that of the western world and religious right. Even today many Sistergirls are excluded from their own tribes and suffer at the hands of others.

Within a population of around 2500, there are approximately 50 ‘Sistagirls’ living on the Tiwi Islands. This community contains a complex range of dynamics including a hierarchy (a queen Sistergirl), politics, and a significant history of pride and shame. The Sistagirls are isolated yet thriving, unexplored territory with a beauty, strength and diversity to inspire and challenge.

During August and September of 2009, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to spend a month living with the ‘Sistagirls’ on the Tiwi Islands creating a series of highly stylised portraits of them. I loaded a barge with a four wheel drive, lights, a generator, cameras and enough film to fill a suitcase. Each day brought an emotional roller coaster from moments of elation around what was being achieved with the images to complete anxiety from the many dramas that occurred. This time has affected me in a profound way. The ‘Sistagirls’ have touched my heart. I only hope that in some way I have captured the essence of who they are and the spirit of their community. I know that they will always be a part of me and that I will be a regular visitor to Tiwi to visit the ‘Sistagirl’ community for the rest of my life.”

Artist statement from the Nellie Castan website [Online] Cited 22/07/2010 no longer available online


Bindi Cole. 'Jemima' 2009


Bindi Cole


Bindi Cole. 'Patricia' 2009


Bindi Cole



Nellie Castan Gallery

This gallery is no longer open.


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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: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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