The Roots That Clutch Photo Access | Until 12 December 2020
The Roots that Clutch is a quality group exhibition curated by Saskia Scott, a curator, artist and arts writer, currently at the ANU School of Art & Design Gallery. It presents works from five photo artists and explores the role of the artist as storyteller. It highlights how our values, beliefs, and sense of identity are shaped by the stories we tell.
An exhibition catalogue tells us that, drawing on history, these artists explore their own identities and how they understand the modern world. Their works challenge grand narratives, fill in gaps and silences, and reinsert intimacy and nuance into our understanding of both the past and the present.
Lara Chamas reveals her strong memory of a saying by a mother – ‘do you know how hard it is to mash a banana with a plastic fork?’ Her digital video with sound uses narrative and experience documentation to tell the story as viewers see various people finding out just how hard it is.
Whilst that at first might seem trite, the real-life backstory reveals so much more. During an interview with a torture and trauma councillor who worked on Nauru, Chamas learned many things, including that metal utensils were not permitted to refugees there seeking asylum. Basic human rights were taken away from them, even when feeding young children.
James Tylor exhibits a selection of his works highlighting the contemporary absence of Aboriginal culture within the Australian landscape. There was a much larger display of these works in his excellent solo exhibition From an untouched landscape at the East Space Gallery (until 29 November). In earlier work that I have seen, Tylor had superimposed black geometric shapes over his landscapes. Here the geometric shapes are holes removed from the prints ‘revealing’ black velvet voids. Once again, he is drawing attention to the erasure of past Aboriginal care for our environment, along with their artifacts and identity.
As well as his fine and thought-provoking imagery, Tylor is displaying black painted timber objects, such as a Wadnawirri Battle Axe and a Midla Spearthrower. Together, the images and objects present a bold graphic display.
Derek Sargent and Jess Miley are exhibiting ten strong prints from their The Grave Project. They have researched historic individuals who have had an impact on ‘queer and non-normative culture’, and then visited their burial sites and used photography, film and text to document and create an alternative historical archive.
Each print features Sargent and Miley displaying the name and image of a researched individual at their burial site. So, for example we see Vaslav Nijinsky at Montmartre Cemetery in Paris. A brochure at the exhibition tells us a little more about each portrayed individual. Susan Sontag took refuge in books to escape absent parents. Gertrude Stein escaped the rigid ways of the medical patriarchy and penetrated the Paris art scene. This is a tantalising series of artworks.
A ‘culturally promiscuous, interdisciplinary artist’, Caroline Garcia contributes a mesmerising digital video, just over 10 minutes duration. Aficionados of Westernised mainstream cinematic musicals and portrayals of dance from other cultures will recognise various pieces of the sampled footage into which Garcia has edited herself. In doing so she has attempted to reclaim the imagery and so to rewrite history. It is most cleverly done and quite mesmerising.
All parts of this exhibition contribute successfully to its purpose of inviting us to interrogate our own beliefs and clarify what our own histories tell us. We all should use the various skills we have to document and share our personal stories with others, in ways that reveal them accurately.
This review was published in the Canberra Times here and also on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.
Photography Review John Wiseman | RESPECTFULLY INTRUDING II M16 Artspace | Until 22 November 2020
John Wiseman is an award-winning professional wildlife and nature photographer. The images in RESPECTFULLY INTRUDING II have been selected from many captured in various countries, including Ecuador, Kenya, Botswana, India, and Namibia, during over fifteen years of travel.
Wiseman says “I love photography. I can’t think of any other art form that provides such wonderful satisfaction. Searching for that special moment in time that gives us such a rich and enduring memory is a wonderful reward. A respectful intrusion.”
Despite running a successful financial planning business, Wiseman’s constant quest to be creative led him into photography. His interest grew from watching friends who worked as photographers. He started taking photos of family and friends fifteen years ago. As his eye and skill improved, he became serious about photographing landscapes, then wildlife.
An initial exhibition, RESPECTFULLY INTRUDING, was held at Brisbane’s Maud Gallery in 2014. Describing it in his wotwedid blog at that time, Doug Spowart wrote that it “presents an invitation to go on safari and peek over his shoulder while he observes and photographs …. Luckily for us his invitation is to the gallery and the trials and complexities of journeys to exotic places are made easy for us”. That remains the same here.
There is one delicious landscape – the Cloud Forest of El-Oro in the Ecuadorian Andes. This area is very important for the presence of various famous birds, such as the El Oro Parakeet. But mostly, the images are of elephants, big cats, rhinos, and zebra. Plus, hummingbirds, toucan, parakeets, flowers, and frogs.
Most of us have seen numerous images of wild animals – in TV documentaries, and in specialist magazines – but good ones in an exhibition are something else for we can take our time to explore the details.
This photographer clearly takes time exploring his subjects and seeking to capture something special. He told me he does not take lots of shots using a rapid-fire shutter approach, with a view to search through the results for good images. Rather, Wiseman thinks about what he wants to reveal in his images, seeks to use the available light and other elements, and endeavours to compose in a way that is appropriate for each subject.
The first image to attract my attention was Mother & Son, a portrait of a cow elephant with her calf. This large print would look stunning filling a small wall at the end of a walkway. Those walking towards it would never tire of seeing it.
To look at Zebras by Moonlight is to immediately feel calm and composed. It simply is an image of serenity.
Arrow Head & Cubs will surely make you smile. It features a mother and the heads of her cubs, almost looking like a three-headed animal.
Difficult to photograph, and beautifully coloured, hummingbirds are captured hovering near to equally colourful plants.
A print, Toucan in Rain, is displayed alongside one of another toucan that is dry. There is a clear sense of design in these photographs of birds and other smallish creatures.
Exhibited prints of larger animals are appropriately large. When we move into the parts of the gallery displaying images of smaller creatures, the prints also become smaller.
A copy of Wiseman’s award-winning, limited-edition Ecuador book is also on display. Handle it carefully using the cotton glove provided.
Finally, before you leave, stand quietly before an image of TIM, one of the elephants with the biggest tusks in the world and probably the most famous, who died just a few days after Wiseman’s shots were taken.
This review is also available on the Canberra Critics circle blog here.
Canberra Contemporary Art Space – East Space Gallery
and Belconnen Arts Centre – Window Gallery
Until 29 November 2020
Davey Barber has set out to explore the place that raised him, the Canberra suburbs, for his debut exhibition This Is Suburbia. Commissioned by Craft ACT for the 2020 DESIGN Canberra festival, these photos document something of Canberra’s suburban streets.
It is unusual to have one exhibition shown across two locations, as is the case here. At Belconnen there are six images of Belconnen suburbs. At the East Space Gallery, on the shore of Lake Burley Griffin, there are a further ten prints from other suburbs.
Barber’s intention was to document characteristics that he believes make suburbs instantly recognisable, both to residents and to their visitors. He shows dwellings, shops, laneways, parks, and a couple of residents. To emphasise our ‘Bush Capital’, the photographs also cover our four very distinct seasons. They are candid and storytelling, but nobody has been asked to smile for his camera.
In an exhibition catalogue essay, a National Gallery of Australia Curator of Photography, Annie O’Hehir, says “It’s something special to have your city reflected back at you through the lens of a camera…..what the camera is capable of doing….shows us….what our usual distracted, glancing, preoccupied way of seeing does not…” This is spot on. It is why good photographers speak of seeing, rather than simply looking. Until we truly see, we do not get the best images.
I have lived in seven suburbs since arriving in Canberra: Reid (in a hostel), Ainslie (in a house, with my parents and siblings), Braddon (briefly in a backyard caravan), Hackett (my newly built first house), Bruce (briefly, in a townhouse), Melba (a second-hand house for a new relationship), and now Lawson (brand new townhouse in a complex). Viewing this exhibition, and thinking back over the years, I recalled various characteristics of each suburb. The long-established gardens of Reid. Things that became our landmarks as my brother and I regularly walked between Ainslie and Civic via Braddon. Laneways and shopping centres.
Two of Barber’s images are of specific businesses that I know – a suburban take-away a short walk from one of my homes, and a restaurant that I visited in the past. So, I was reminded of specific things and memories associated with them.
In addition to the shops already mentioned, we see street views of houses – hidden by closed shutters or large trees, small ghostly figures gathering for community sport on fog-shrouded parkland, a boat “parked” in a laneway, a resident mowing his grass, a backyard, the floodlit exterior of a supermarket alongside an empty carpark, a skateboarder passing through one of our ubiquitous tunnels, and a carwash with no clients on a foggy night.
If we look carefully, we not only see these things but also hear sounds and smell odours. Unfortunately, viewing the prints in the new Window Gallery at Belconnen was spoiled by reflections each different time of day that I visited. Barber himself is disappointed that it is not possible to get close and see the details in his imagery. I hope these problems can be overcome as the concept is good, providing a space where passing pedestrians can both see exhibits and be enticed to go inside and see more there.
Puzzlingly, two of the prints displayed at Belconnen are not in the catalogue, whilst two that are in the catalogue are not in the Window.
Also, in the East Gallery, there are the semi-finalists and finalists in the Sweet Suburbia: 2020 Photography Competition which sought responses to the ‘This is Suburbia’ theme. That is appropriate as Barber was one of the judges.
This review was first published in the Canberra Times on 16.11.20 and on its Website here. It is also on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.
These exhibitions present the outcome of work undertaken by 2019 and 2020 PhotoAccess Dark Matter Residents, David Flanagan and Emilio Cresciani. These residencies provide a supported opportunity for artists to produce new photo-media work that incorporates darkroom-based or other alternative photographic processes.
Opening the exhibition, Virginia Rigney, Senior Visual Arts Curator at the Canberra Museum and Gallery, noted that the residents have access to one of a shrinking number of open access darkrooms left in Australia, drawing attention to the fact that what is made in those darkrooms allows us to see the materiality of bodies of work.
Flanagan was the 2019 Resident, but his work – Found – was delayed by restrictions on his movements during the pandemic. He is interested in the role of the object in contemporary photographic practice, where the majority of images are not seen as anything beyond pixels on a screen.
Various found – natural, recycled, and discarded – objects were carefully coated in Liquid Light. Images were then exposed onto those surfaces underneath an enlarger, giving new life to each item. This intricate technique liberates images from their usual 2D environment.
The surfaces Flanagan used include a trowel, an iron, a nautilus shell, and souvenir spoons. Rigney made the guests smile when she referred to an alternative Canberra museum called The Green Shed that yields up things allowing us to connect with the past in ways not possible at other museums. Now with images on them, the intriguing objects selected by Flanagan speak to us in new ways. Transformed into mementos, they assuredly will become keepsakes – especially the spoons now featuring the eyes of his wife and daughters.
Flanagan comments, “There is an absurdity about the process which takes up to a week to prepare an object for printing, only to then to see it fail in the darkroom, which is both alluring and frustrating in equal parts. Repetition and experimentation have been the key to resolving issues with each of the materials I have chosen for this project. The element of unpredictability adds something magic to the process and a uniqueness to every object.”
In State of Change, the 2020 Resident, Cresciani, explored the phenomenon of climate change through integrating the transformation of ice into water with photographic processes. Drawing links between these states of change, his show examines, literally, figuratively, and abstractly, human impact on Earth.
Cresciani explains, “Our ice caps are melting. As the ice melts new landscapes, new landforms are created. And scientists say that more light is absorbed onto the earth’s surface as part of this process, further accelerating global warming.”
His work documents a dialogue between massive chunks of ice and light sensitive papers in the darkroom, a reflection on climate change and all its implications. He has made photograms, recording on photographic paper what happened as his blocks of ice melted. As the viewers we can each interpret the results. In her essay for the exhibition catalogue, Anne Ferran speaks of maps, islets in a dark sea, and clusters of rocky outcrops fringed by beaches. You might see something completely different.
Regardless of what we each see, the images are spectacular, particularly those presented on Duraclear. The Duratrans in light boxes are also dramatic.
PhotoAccess Director Kirsten Wehner rightly says, “Emilio and David have produced two cutting edge exhibitions showcasing what the program aims to foster; a challenged perception of what contemporary darkroom photography can offer.”
This review was first published in the Canberra Times on 2.11.20 and on its Website here. It is also on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.
Eva van Gorsel and Manuel Pfeiffer | FACETS… M16 Artspace Gallery 1 | Until 1 November 2020
Undertaking a lengthy Australian journey, Eva van Gorsel and Manuel Pfeiffer aimed to experience and bring home their impressions of the diverse landscapes they saw. The exhibition is a celebration of that journey.
Van Gorsel is a photographer who uses an extensive range of techniques and approaches to create diverse and interesting imagery. She has a background in environmental sciences and scientific photography, and she loves the outdoors, traveling and hiking. Describing her approach, she says “photography makes me focus on all the beautiful things that exist – in the tiny detail or the grand landscapes. I’d like to capture some of this beauty and share it and maybe it can even help us as a society to better understand and appreciate the environment we live in.”
So, her works are not documentary but are interpretations of, and connection to, nature. They are shaped by her vision. One technique used is to combine her own images, satellite imagery and textures. The major end product is archival inkjet pigment prints. There is also a book of 100 postcards.
Walking around the gallery, we view the results of van Gorsel’s investigation into how colour palette and geometric features defined the landscapes for her; revealing how life, climate and earth movements have shaped those forms and colours. We also see how she has played with the colours, the shapes, and the perspectives.
The works are arranged in groups revealing elements; most particularly, the facets, colours and textures seen in various places. In the Woomera area the colours are muted. Around Coober Pedy and the Breakaways, they are stronger. At the Devils Marbles they have become bold. Kakadu National Park reveals softer tones, including beautiful gentle greens. Each location has its own colours. Sometimes the colours of particular elements have been modified, emphasising those seen as consistently being part of the particular landscape.
Amongst the most interesting works are those where van Gorsel has introduced other elements to a landscape. For example, floating in the skies over a Coober Pedy landscape we see an opal. At Fowlers Bay, the shape of a whale seen at the Nullarbor Roadhouse has been added.
Use of Google Earth imagery of the area being explored, adjusting the colours to create new images, use of the contour lines feature in Photoshop – all are techniques employed to create excellent works.
I visited this exhibition knowing I would see good images by van Gorsel, whose work I have always admired, but knowing nothing of Pfeiffer’s work. The gallery’s Website promotion of the exhibition features just one of van Gorsel’s works and nothing of his. It only refers to them as artists and I confess to being surprised to learn that he is a visual artist of another kind.
Pfeiffer is a painter who uses an extensive range of materials, including acrylics, pencils, charcoals and much more. His works here are acrylics and mixed media on canvas. He takes inspiration from what he describes as “the ubiquitous beauty of the world surrounding us – from the coast, over the hills to the outback – and from the ‘music’ which is inherent in every place, in everything like a rock or a tree, a waterfall or a dune.”
His works complement van Gorsel’s perfectly, revealing the same range of facets. His colours, shapes and perspectives again explore and reveal.
Together van Gorsel and Pfeiffer have produced a fine exhibition showing, as intended, many facets of Australia.
This review was first published in the Canberra Times on 31.10.20 here. It has also been published on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.
Marissa McDowell and Lisa Fuller Kamberra: Many Nations One Country Belconnen Arts Centre – Until 25 October 2020
There is a Ngunnawal word which means meeting place: Kamberra. It is a perfect representation for what Canberra has become, particularly regarding the many First Nations Australians living here today. Stories from those communities is what this exhibition is about.
Kamberra: Many Nations One Country explores the diverse perspectives of First Nations Australian mob living in Canberra on Ngunnawal and Ngambri Country. It explores local Traditional Owners and their connections which go back millennia, as well as diverse communities who’ve lived here for years, decades and in some cases, generations. It explores the idea of how these many groups relate to this Country, through numerous lenses.
This new media exhibition celebrates the beauty of Ngunnawal and Ngambri Country, and the diversity of the peoples from all walks of life living there today – playing sport, attending schools, caring for the environment, writing poetry, telling stories, painting murals, dancing, sharing their culture, making glass artworks, playing with pets, and much more.
The collaboration, to gather and capture their stories, was commissioned by Belconnen Arts Centre. It was led by contributors – Wiradjuri filmmaker Marissa McDowell, and Murri writer Lisa Fuller. Through various connections and art forms, they sought to explore the idea of how the diverse groups from all walks of life relate to Ngunnawal and Ngambri Country. As they intended, they have respected how people always choose to identify.
McDowell is from the Wiradjuri Nation, Cowra, and has been living on Ngunnawal Country since 1984. She is a Wiradjuri woman with Irish and English heritage. She is also an independent producer atBlack & White Films and has worked with Indigenous communities telling their stories through documentary film making, photography and writing. She also facilitates filmmaking workshops for youth and community.
Documentaries by McDowell have been screened on SBS/NITV; her poetry published through USMOB Writers and photographs displayed at PhotoAccess and the Sydney Living Museum. She has recently received her Master of Arts Screen Business and Leadership at the Australian Film and Television Radio School and is currently undertaking her Graduate Certificate in Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage at Charles Sturt University.
In the photomedia parts of this exhibition we are shown video recordings of many people who agreed to be interviewed. They are displayed on a four-sided central plinth representing the ‘fire’ around which people yarn and share stories. The people are diverse – in ages, gender, and the country they are originally from. They also talk about diverse things, each revealing something of themselves. Around the walls of the new Pivot Gallery, other large screens share more about the lives and activities of members of the mob living here.
In an adjoining space, the exhibition also includes McDowell’s fine photographic portraits of eight Elders who took part. And there are various other visual artworks contributing to the overall exhibition.
Fuller is a Murri from Eidsvold QLD, who has been living on Ngunnawal Country since 2006. She is currently doing her PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Canberra. Her first novel, Ghost Bird, is due out in October 2019.
A book, also titled Kamberra: Many Nations One Country, is being sold at the gallery in conjunction with the exhibition. Designed by Fuller, it contains images from the exhibition and a great deal more, including some excellent poetry by Fuller, McDowell and various other people. The diversity of the First Nations people and what they do in Kamberra is clear in this publication.
For those of us who come from other cultural backgrounds, this exhibition adds to our knowledge of First Nations Australians.
This review was published by the Canberra times on 24.10.20 here. It is also on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.
The current group of exhibitions at M16 Artspace include photography shows by well-known and successful Canberra locals, Chris Holly and Brenton McGeachie.
In their art practices, Holly is particularly known for his landscapes and nature depicting the living world around us. McGeachie is primarily about space and people’s interaction with it.
Holly looks at the Seen or, if you prefer, explores the overlooked and unseen. McGeachie explores built and personal landscapes and other environments.
Whilst they are separate exhibitions with no intended links between them, I found myself exploring them both in similar ways. Mention the word Scan and many people might initially think of a photocopier or a medical examination. We also speak of scanning the horizon, perhaps assessing incoming weather. And, of course, when rushed we scan newspaper pages of most interest to us rather than reading them thoroughly.
Then, considering the word Explore we might initially think of travel we have undertaken in unfamiliar places. We might also think of making enquiries about something, or examining something using our senses – touch, smell, sight.
Scan explore elements of the Australian biota that appear through transient seasonality and disappear through an individual transformation and decay. The quality of these images is so good that I was surprised to learn they are the outcome of using a flatbed scanner without its lid in a darkened room.
A question is posed for us by Holly, inviting us to make our personal enquiries. “What do we reveal when we scan nature around us?” Eighteen beautiful scans displayed here as framed type C prints provide a response to his own question. He says that scanning across select elements of flora in a different light invites us, the viewers, to observe in different ways.
This work is part of his lifelong biome series, exploring and documenting our biological surrounds – a biome being a community of plants and animals that have common characteristics for the environment they exist in.
Reading the catalogue, we are invited to slow our breathing and stare at an image for at least twenty seconds, then close their eyes to see “into the great void”, when the “vestige will appear”. It suggests the retinal and memory vestige will encourage us all to see again what is overlooked. Visit and try it.
In Case of Emergency Underpass explores ‘ignored’ spaces of cities and suburbia, mostly in Japan with some in Indonesia. The somewhat lengthy exhibition title comes directly from one of the images. In a sense these images too are scans – the result of McGeachie scanning those spaces and finding elements of particular interest that relate together, such as underpasses lacking people. The lack of interaction by people is the antithesis of what we think of in bustling Japan.
Each of fourteen framed prints (pigment ink on Hahnemuhle paper) is worthy of close inspection. Viewers should scan and explore them closely, looking for details within the images – hopefully seeing for themselves the things McGeachie saw that caused him to take these excellent photographs. For me they are contemporary landscapes revealing things that might not be seen when the locations are filled with people.
All good photographers scan – or explore – the material in front of their eyes seeking to identify the key elements, to see how the light is working its magic to reveal or hide certain things, and to then frame what they have seen and push the button to record the image. Both Holly and McGeachie have done that.
This review was first published on page 10 of Panorama in the Canberra Times of 10/10/20. It is also at the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.
The Journey Through is a group exhibition featuring works created during Concept to Exhibition, an eight-month long PhotoAccess workshop led by Canberra photographer and artist Grace Costa. It features brand new work from Astrid Breuer, Alan Charlton, Michelle Crosbie, Shan Crosbie, Leanne Harrison, Tracy Hebden, Tessa Ivison, Ina Jalil, Thea McGrath, Linda Roche, and Michael Taylor.
Photo Access Director, Dr. Kirsten Wehner, says “Each artist is simultaneously exploring, confronting and also sharing their voice through photographic expression.”
Alan Charlton, much of whose photography I am familiar with, has produced an outstanding new set of work going beyond what I have previously seen. Traveling the familiar highway between Canberra and Goulburn, he has explored scenes that we may or may not have noticed. Fourteen inkjet prints surround a substantial long concertina book, filling one of the longest walls of the gallery.
By contrast, another participant with whose imagery I am familiar is exhibiting just one work. It is substantial – a 76cm by 76cm print. This powerful portrait of Michael Taylor is on the small end wall of the gallery confronting visitors as they explore the space.
Ina Jalil also has contributed a self-portrait, but she is displaying three versions of herself exploring the different identities to which she feels expected to conform – cultural expectations, corporate persona, and photographer. This is another strong work.
Thea McGrath’s contribution is a wonderful series of cyanotypes with hand stitching using silk thread, sharing some intimate detail of her broken maternal lines as she seeks to heal old wounds. Each work is displayed in delightful hung frames and the overall display of her eight works is another gem in this fine exhibition.
Astrid Breuer offers an “immersive audio-visual experience”, wanting visitors to feel the rejuvenating powers of the Jerrabomberra Wetlands and leave feeling calm. She has achieved her aim with a short video comprising still and moving images of beautiful Jerrabomberra Wetlands.
Shan Crosbie offers a contribution that is at once whimsical, delightful, and educational. Images of 55 eggs laid by six hens in July have been transferred onto handmade paper – from egg cartons. They are displayed in one group, alongside seven separate chicken images with titles such as Allosaurus and Bambiraptor.
Leanne Harrison contributes six large inkjet prints featuring juxtaposed blurred images with more recognisable forms; unified they draw us in through a strong sense of movement.
Tracey Hebden focusses on her personal embracing of what she describes as the connection between the Sacred Feminine and Self. These works are a response to the current movement of women leading by reclaiming feminine traits for their strength and power.
Tessa Ivison explores the unspoken side of grief, having taken shots that she felt reflected how she was feeling as she walked along familiar paths whilst dealing with the death of her partner.
Linda Roche is displaying four dazzling coloured images – astrophotography and light painting. They immediately command attention and then keep you looking at their boldness.
Michelle Crosbie’s prints explore textured surfaces highlighted within shadows. Along with all the other works in this excellent exhibition, they demand your exploration of them.
Grace Costa has done a fine job of mentoring these eleven photographers of varying skill levels on their journeys through eight long months. They have each produced a new body of work building on a creative concept outside their usual photographic comfort zone. Each body of work tells an excellent personal story, as they have used their photographic voices to confront and share.
This review (with fewer images) was first published on 3 October 2020 in The Canbera Times here. It has also been published on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.
National Portrait Gallery | Until 14 February 2021
A backstage pass to 70s and 80s pub rock sounds and scenes, this exhibition features works from the National Portrait Gallery collection alongside images by leading Australian music photographers. We are invited to celebrate pub rock and its enduring impact on our identity.
I suspect many of those who visit will be more interested in the subjects than in the quality of the images. They may also be more interested in the performance shots and the atmosphere portrayed, than in the staged portraits and publicity shots. Be that as it may.
The photographers include Peter Brew-Bevan, Wendy McDougall, and Rennie Ellis, whose work I have long admired. Brew-Bevan’s portraits of famous Australians, such as Julia Gillard, Jane Campion, and Gough Whitlam, are fine works in the NPG collection. One on display here is an equally good study of Paul Kelly.
Ellis is also represented in the NPG collection with diverse images, some of which are on show here. They include his instantly recognised shot of Angus Young of AC/DC on stage in Los Angeles. For me, his monochrome portrait of Young with Bon Scott in an Atlanta, Georgia dressing room is a more interesting image.
McDougall’s image of The Church is simply great. So too her image of Doc Neeson of the Angels. He is posing dramatically for her camera – or was he performing for her – in a corner.
Another exhibitor whose work I did not know so well is Bleddyn Butcher. This artist brings us an excellent image of Nick Cave and Rowland S. Howard (of The Birthday Party).
And there is a fine portrait of Archie Roach, by Bill McAuley.
Perhaps the best-known shot is Lewis Morley’s of the nude Sherbet, from 1974.
Or maybe it is Jimmy Barnes at The Coogee Bay Hotel, by Grant Matthews.
Or possibly the already mentioned Renee Ellis shot of Angus Young. Or Chrissy Amphlett in Sydney in 1988, by Stuart Spence? Many will recognise lots of the images.
There are also portraits of rockers who were big outside of the 70s and 80s. For example, Johnny O’Keefe who amazed me in a capacity crowd at the Odeon Theatre in Goulburn in the late 50s. Sadly, that architectural and cultural treasure was demolished 40 years ago. But all present that night would have memories of the dust clouds raised when The Wild One scared us by intentionally “collapsing” and then laying prone on the floor for some minutes during his frantic performance.
Then there is an image of Col Joye taken in 1957 by Ern McQuillan – of interest to me as I recall seeing Joye perform in Queanbeyan around that time.
But, perhaps, the most interesting part of the exhibition for locals is Capital Cool – featuring a group of works by ‘pling, the late Canberra performance photographer, Kevin Prideaux. These include excellent portraits of Annalisse Morrow of The Numbers at the ANU Refectory, and Sharon O’Neill at the Hellenic Club.
We can enjoy and reminisce about acts seen in other venues – the Captain Cook Uni Bar, The Jam Factory, the ANU Union, Kingston’s Boot and Flogger, the Ainslie Rex, CCAE, and the Kingo. From the punk energy of The Young Docteurs to the indie sound of The Lighthouse Keepers, and many others in between – The Saints, Ramones, Men at Work, INXS – ’pling was there capturing the performances, and the community that rapturously supported them.
As well as photographs, some prints and paintings, there are eighteen video clips on show, and you can listen to all the artists on Spotify whilst browsing the exhibition. Entry is free, but timed bookings are essential via https://www.portrait.gov.au/calendar/timed-ticketing.
This review originally published in the Canberra Times of 26/9/20 here.
It has also been published on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.
The following day the Canberra Times reported that it was “well-attended by photographic enthusiasts, and that it decided to form a club to be known as the Canberra Photographic Society. It was to hold regular meetings, show screenings of different films and discuss photographic matters generally. The chair was taken by Mr. Ewen McKinnon, who explained the advantages of the club and gave details of his experiences in photography over the previous 30 years.
Meetings will be held on the first Tuesday and at the initial meeting a colour film of Canberra, as well as talkies, would be shown. Subscription rates were fixed at £1/1/- for men, 10/6 for ladies and juniors under 21, and 5/ for school students.
The following officers were elected:
President, Mr. B. W McKinnon
Vice-presidents, Mr. D. Downing and Miss Steed
Secretary, Mr.K. Carnall
Treasurer, Miss Joy Nott
Committee, Messrs. Norsa, Stevenson, Dinnerville and Miss D. Cox.”
The October 1945 issue of Kodak’s Australasian Photo-Review also publicised the formation of CPS, saying “We welcome the latest of camera clubs to “arrive”, which is at Canberra, with scheduled meetings for the first Tuesday in each month. Both still and movie adepts will be catered for and the Society will be glad to welcome photographic visitors to the Capitol City.”
A recently published new book “How local art made Australia’s national capital”by Anni Doyle Wawrzynczak states that “from 1927 art was considered integral to establishing a national perception of Canberra as culturally literate. In these early days this was imagined as community-based: As a centre of culture Canberra will be dependent in the early stage on the establishment of its University, but meanwhile art societies and the like may accomplish useful endeavour. The earliest of these societies was the Artists’ Society of Canberra (ASOC), active from 28 June 1927.In recess from July 1934, it re-emerged in August 1945. Also founded in 1945 was the Canberra Photographic Society, followed in 1948 by the Canberra Art Club.”
A footnote in that book records: “Established 11 September 1945, the Canberra Photographic Society met from 1945–51 at 2CA Theatrette, Mort Street, Civic; 1951–52, Institute of Anatomy, Acton; 1952–66, Riverside Centre; 1966–2005, Griffin Centre, Bunda Street, Civic; 2005–, PhotoAccess, Manuka. In the mid-1980s, the society was incorporated as Monaro Camera Club. Data collated from ACT Heritage Library visual arts ephemera collection.”
That footnote is wrong in listing Photo Access as a meeting place from 2005 onwards. When the original Griffin Centre closed, CPS moved into the new Griffin Centre and remains there to this day (except that all meetings have been held via Zoom during the COVID-19 period).
The footnote is also wrong in saying the CPS became known as Monaro Camera Club. In fact, the Monaro Camera Club decided to cease operating and amalgamated with CPS, bringing with it some valuable assets and its remaining 3 or 4 members. The Monaro club had evolved from the Queanbeyan Colour Photography Society, which became the Queanbeyan Leagues Club Camera Club. The Leagues Club paid for some excellent equipment for the club and provided a meeting room until the disastrous fire there. With no home, it became the Monaro Camera Club and met in a variety of venues including a pre-school and members’ homes, but membership quickly fell away leading to the decision to amalgamate with CPS. All but one of the few members who transferred over soon pulled out.
The Australian Photographic Society (APS) was established fourteen years later than CPS. On 15 and 16 August 1959, a meeting was held in Sydney, attended by representatives of various State bodies. The CPS representative (on behalf of the ACT) was Chris Christian, who was later made a Life Member of CPS and who contributed three prints to the exhibition celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the CPS (one of which dated back to 1958). Chris also judged a monthly CPS competition on at least one occasion – in October 1987.
The aim of the meeting in Sydney was to form the Australian Photographic Federation (APF). An interim Council of State delegates was created, and Chris Christian became Chairman of that Council. A principal purpose of the APF was to co-ordinate the activities of camera clubs and societies through existing bodies in the States and “to form an Australian photographic society as an additional and more far-reaching body within five years”.
At its first annual meeting in 1961, Chris Christian became the first President of APF. The Federation moved swiftly and resolved to call for 100 individuals to become Foundation Members of the APS. Quotas were allotted to each State, with the ACT being given five spots. The membership drive finished with 101 (nobody knows why). The ACT’s five Foundation Members of the APS included Chris Christian, Alf Redpath, and Len Leslie, both of whom also later became Life Members of CPS. The other two were Mr K G Houlahan and Mr M A Adhearne.
The Foundation Members brought the APS into being on 12 May 1962. Chris Christian was appointed as one of the first Vice-Presidents. He and all the others appointed to the first Executive Committee of the APS were eminent in the field of amateur photography. Ted Richards of Canberra, who judged for CPS quite a few times, was appointed as the first Public Officer (a position later held for many years by another CPS member Bob Legge, and currently held by a further CPS member Brian Rope).
So, the CPS, particularly through Chris Christian, played a significant role in the early history of the APS. Other CPS members, including Jim Mason, Ian McInnes, Graeme Watson, and Brian Rope have had significant roles with APS in more recent years, continuing the connection between the two Societies.
The Canberra Times continued to report on CPS activities during its early years. In March 1955, it reported “Members of the Canberra Photographic Society met with signal success at exhibitions held at Muswellbrook and Quirindi last week. At Muswellbrook Mr C.L. Leslie gained the silver plaque, the highest award, for his mist scene titled The Magic of the Morning taken between Braidwood and Narooma. Merit certificates were awarded Mr C.S. Christian for his prints Jindabyne Church and Australian Pattern, to Mr A.C. Redpath for Kings Cross and Mr Leslie for his portrait of a young girl. At Quirindi, the Canberra trio won eight out of ten awards made by the judges, Messrs. Henri Mallard and J. Metcalfe, both notable photographers. Mr Leslie was awarded the silver plaque for a print Summit and Sky, a bronze plaque for Harvest Hill and two merit certificates. Two merit certificates each were also won by Messrs, Christian and Redpath.”
In the mid-1970s CPS conducted several National Exhibitions of Photography, receiving hundreds of entries from all over Australia.
On 25 May 1979, The Canberra Times reported “Next Monday the YMCA Corroboree Park Camera Club, Canberra Photographic Society and Monaro Camera Club will meet in a three way competition. The groups have each submitted 10 monochrome prints and 20 color slides for judging by Mr. Col Roach, a photographer with the Photographic Section of the Institute of Aboriginal Studies. Mr. Roach will discuss the entries and announce his decisions at the host club’s meeting rooms. Since the host club this year is the Monaro Camera Club, which is based in Queanbeyan, the venue is the Lambrigg Room of the Tourist Information Centre in Queanbeyan. Any interested people are welcome to attend this evening which begins at 8pm. This is the first time that these three clubs have competed in three-way competition. After many years of two-way competition between the Canberra Photographic Society and Monaro Camera Club in slides only, last year saw the addition of a two-way print competition between Canberra Photographic Society and YMCA Clubs. This year’s event is a natural development from the success of last year.”
In November 1983, the famous British photographer Joan Wakelin presented a lecture jointly for the Monaro Camera Club and CPS in the old Griffin Centre rooms, entitled “The Human Condition”.
Joan Wakelin is one of several notable women photographers to have given presentations to CPS over the years. Others are another British photographer Helene Rogers (famed for her gardens photography) and Hedda Morrison (after whom CPS named one of its competitions and for whom it mounted a retrospective of her work).
In 1987 CPS accepted responsibility for selecting (within the Canberra region) amateurs’ photographs for use in the Australian Bicentennial Exhibition. Judging for that took place in the Studio Room of the old Griffin Centre. Canberra photographers Garry Raffaele and David Reid, plus Andrew Gibson from Goulburn, were the judges. Some CPS members had images selected, copies of which toured Australia throughout 1988 as the Personal Views element of the Exhibition.
1988 was Australia’s Bicentennial and Canberra’s 75th birthday. CPS was funded to photographically document how Canberrans celebrate the year. About a dozen CPS members covered almost every Bicentennial event that occurred in Canberra and took 6,000 images. The events covered included the opening of the new Parliament House, which was covered by about five or six members, and a visit by the Queen, right through to very modest events. From the 6,000 images, 100 were selected and printed at 20″ by 24″ size for an exhibition. The colour prints, both from transparencies and negatives, were made by Bica, a company which many Canberra photographers would remember. Most of the monochrome prints, however, were made by the authors. March 1989 saw the exhibition titled “Bicentennial celebrations in Canberra” mounted at the Link Gallery, officially opened by John Langmore, MP. This is the exhibition catalogue:
The prints from the exhibition were later handed over for the permanent collection of the Arts area of the ACT government which, subsequently, managed to completely lose them.
Many notable Australian photographers have judged for, or given presentations to, CPS. They include Henri Mallard, Alf Redpath, Attila Kiraly, Heide Smith, Geoff Comfort, Bob Cooper, Helen Ennis, Garry Raffaele, Matt Kelso, Bob Miller, Hillary Wardhaugh, and John Swainston.
One of the regular CPS judges was very fond of saying that any adjustment made to the captured image must add value. There have been other judges who have disapproved of image manipulation for other reasons. Those from a photo journalistic background had been taught that images for publication must never be altered so that they only spoke the truth and showed the reality of what had been photographed.
One such person refused to judge three entries in one of the CPS portfolio competitions on the grounds that the extent of manipulation applied took the end results to a point where they no longer could be considered photographs. Unfortunately, the images in one of the portfolios he declined to judge had not been manipulated in any way by its entrant. Members generally were not impressed. The judge could, of course, have taken the easy way out and simply said he didn’t much like the images and, so, scored them low, but he had the courage to say what he thought. He also decided never to judge for CPS again, a sad loss.
Apart from those already mentioned, others to be awarded Life Membership of CPS include Joan Clark, Alan Clark, Hedda Morrison, Ian McInnes in 2009, and Jim Mason in 2015.
In 1995, to mark the 50th anniversary of CPS, a major retrospective exhibition titled “100 by 50” was organised and displayed in the foyer of the high Court. It presented 100 works produced during the 50 years. Over the years CPS has had a variety of sub-groups. These include a Studio group which used the facilities of a professional studio in Fyshwick, and a Theatre Group which produced front-of-house images for many theatre groups’ opening nights.
In 2001, CPS published an “Achievers Book, 1989 – 2000” containing much more information than presented here. The Website https://www.siep.org.au/General/Canberra.html has an amazing amount of additional detail about CPS covering the period from 1945 to 1992. It has numerous images by early members and links to other webpages, including one with a selection of Chris Christian’s images, and another about a special international salon CPS conducted in conjunction with the Australian Commonwealth Jubilee in 1951.
Twice during its 75 years CPS has gone through turbulent times, with its continued existence threatened by divisions amongst members. However, on each occasion, it survived and became stronger. I am confident that CPS will continue into the distant future. There are other photography clubs in Canberra, including Southside Camera Club, U3A Camera Club, ANBG Friends Photographic Group, and Canberra PhotoConnect. There also are several Canberra-based photography groups on social media. But CPS is the only one with the rich heritage of 75 years.