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architecture, film, topographics, urban

Fleurieuscapes: Outtake 2

January 4, 2016

This image is an outtake from the 15 images that have been selected for my  forthcoming Fleurieuscapes exhibition  at  the Magpie Springs Gallery in January 2016.  A previous outtake from the exhibition can be seen on this post on the Encounter Studio blog.

Elephants trunk, Victor Harbor

Elephants trunk, Victor Harbor

Although I was quite partial to it, my  friends who were kindly acting as  de facto curators  for the exhibition rejected it. I am sentimentally attached to the image as my architectural representations of Victor Harbor are few and far between.   There isn’t that much to work with in this coastal  township, architecturally speaking,  and I thought it was a good way to explore the people, place, space theme of the exhibition.  Continue Reading…

colour, Melbourne, urban

flying into Melbourne

December 27, 2015

This picture  of Melbourne from a Qantas plane  was made whilst we were returning to Australia from our brief trip to Wellington and the Tongariro National Park in  New Zealand. It was early morning when we flew in. We only made our connecting flight to Adelaide with minutes to spare.

Melbourne, Victoria

Melbourne, Victoria

It was only a couple of years ago that I  used to do these kind of diary snaps with a 35m film Leica (M series).  I admired the Leica ethos –that reality should be fixed on film with lenses that faithfully capture what is in front of the camera. The final print  is the work of the photographer,  and if the result was not as hoped for,  then the photographer takes the blame, not the camera.

However, for 35mm photography I’ve  made the switch to digital photography. These days I use  a Sony digital camera (an old  NEX-7) with  Leica M lenses. The reason  for the switch is that digital imagery delivers superior results when used handheld in most practical situations. The transition from film to digital technology is  still a transit stage  probably to digital imagery on and off the internet.

The drive of the  photographic industry to produce successor models for every camera  (including smart phones) with ever-shorter product cycles,  there is an  eager acceptance of consumers/photographers  to upgrade to the newest model, and the photographer is becoming more and more of a computer technician.   The search is for the perfect camera,  and often  it is the  technology  (cameras are  effectively computer devices for image capture) that drives the  photography. Newer models supposedly means  better model. However, you  cannot tell from the pictures that  the newest digital camera  is the best ever, since  the pictures   are more or less  indistinguishable from those from the  previous model.    Continue Reading…

architecture, critical writing, urban, Wellington

critical writing about photography

December 17, 2015

I have been digging around  the web looking for more contemporary Wellington-based photographers,   other than those I mentioned in an earlier post here and here  on this blog.  In doing so I came across  the work of Mark MarriottHans Weston, Tracey Kearns  —art photographers who have both an online presence and who exhibit regularly. Wellington has a number of  good active photographers and  small artist-run spaces.  The scene appears lively and the work interesting and diverse.

A good example  is Mary Macpherson’s Old New World, a  book of her photographs made over seven years  about change in New Zealand society as seen in the small regional/rural towns throughout the country.   The narrative is one of a shift from a traditional New Zealand, to places of prosperity and development that look very different to the 1960s and 70s. Presumably, the background reference  is to the way that the neo-liberal mode of capitalism has systematically  shaped New Zealand’s economy and society,  so deeply affected aspects of everyday life as the process of  commodification permeates all segments of society including art.  A book is an appropriate form of expression  for this kind of  photographic work about our historical experiences about what is passing away.

In  reworking  of the photographic approaches of  Walker Evans, Steven Shore and Joel  Steinfield Old New World  is against forgetting the past by proposing to remember the poetry of  place in the landscapes and urbanscapes  of the backroads of New Zealand. In doing so the text puts the  past and recent works of New Zealand art photography into a different light,  and opens them to different  meanings inside and outside the art institution.

 Macpherson, who is a poet as well as  a photographer,    says that this body of work is part of trying to understand her world and where she fits in it–ie., a trying to make sense of the changes.  In that sense photography, as meaningful, sensuous, particular works of art  is a form of thinking and self-discovery. What this suggests is that though artworks are indeed objects, the truth-content of art is of the world while also offering critical reflections upon it. This is a stance that is quite different from the contemporary adherents of the Romantic notion that art must establish itself as the antithesis of reason.
tree, Wellington CBD

tree, Wellington CBD

Whilst  reflecting on  Macpherson’s  Old New World  work  I  became curious about the breadth and depth  of the critical writing about photography and the visual arts in Wellington. I wondered if the situation in Wellington was the same as Adelaide. Both are provincial cities with the  mainstream newspapers getting smaller,  the resources devoted to journalism and editorship dropping, and the space for the visual art continuing to shrink.   So where to for critical writing on photography?

Mark Amery, speaking in relation to Wellington,  says that the closure of his fortnightly visual arts column with the Dominion Post newspaper in 2014  leaves Wellington without any visual arts commentary. The story is a familiar one: the mainstream media are increasingly treating the visual arts as irrelevant. The consequence is that Wellington’s visual artists are  left with the  critical writing about their work having a marginal existence in niche online publications, just like Adelaide with the  Adelaide Review.  Emery, who runs  public art programme Letting Space, mentions  the Pantograph PunchThe Lumière Reader,  Eyecontact and The Big Idea  in relation to New Zealand.  Continue Reading…

architecture, colour, digital, urban, Wellington

art photography in Wellington

December 7, 2015

My last two visits to Wellington ( New Zealand) have  enabled  me  to  see  that art photography in Wellington looks  to be centred around the PhotoSpace  gallery that is  run by James Gilberd. The gallery  opened in 1992 and it is the longest running photographic gallery in New Zealand.  It  remains the only gallery in the Wellington region dedicated to exhibiting contemporary New Zealand and international photography. It values  a high level of craft and has a stable  of established, regular exhibitors.

 Unfortunately,  147 Cuba Street was closed, when I visited it.  Though there  are no state funded photography galleries in New Zealand,  the   City Gallery Wellington,  regularly exhibits photography. The nearest photographic gallery to PhotoSpace is the McNamara Gallery  in Whanganui.  The current exhibition  is   contemporary ambrotypes and daguerreotypes by Joyce Campbell,  and the gallery has  good  links to contemporary New Zealand photographers and publications. 

This gallery  has done far more foregrounding New Zealand photography over the past decade than the largely conservative Auckland Art Gallery and Christchurch Art Gallery,   which have acted to  marginalise  photographers vis-a -is the public gallery system. They  do so  with  exhibition programmes that function as if New Zealand photography wasn’t happening, or if they acknowledged photography’s existence,  they  were noted for their absence  over the past couple of decades in dealing with the medium of photography critically.

Coop Bank, Wellington

Coop Bank, Wellington

The established Wellington-based photographers include Mary McPherson,   Andrew Ross, Peter Black  and  Julian Ward. I knew the photographic work of Lester Blair  from his Flickr days and came across  the photos of Gabrielle Mckone recently whilst  photographing in Wellington. I know next to nothing  about the critical writing on New Zealand art and photography.  I’ve only just discovered that  Geoffrey Batchen  is  currently teaching at Victoria University. That is the extent of my surface knowledge of Wellington art photography.

Continue Reading…

architecture, colour, film, history, urban

image-movement

October 7, 2015

One shift happening in how we understand photography within the image sphere of late modernity is the emerging recognition that the photographic image—and the image in general— is not an archetype and it  is no longer something immobile like a Platonic Form. The image is not outside history and independent,  or floating above its context as held by the modernist formalism of Clement Greenberg. The mythical fixity of the image has been broken.

As Giorgio Agamben notes, in sympathy with  Gilles Deleuze, the image is mobile: it  is an image-movement in the sense that the image is charged with a dynamic tension; a dynamic tension that  embodies  the movement of history. Our historical experience is obtained by photographic images and photographic images are expressions of our lived  history. The image is a still from history and it enters into a constellation with other images.

Grote St, Adelaide

Grote St, Adelaide

A corresponding shift is the rupture away from the traditional conception of expression assumed in communication in which all expression is realised by a medium—an image or a word or colour—in which the medium disappears in the fully realised expression. The medium is no longer perceived as such–we no longer notice the medium as it disappears in that which it gives us to see. The expression shines forth.

The shift away from this conception is towards a realisation that the image as medium does not disappear into what it makes visible. The image is seen as an image rather than disappearing; or being utterly dependent on the particularity of its context. The image is a kind of force field that holds together opposing forces.
Continue Reading…