The Salon

Photography Review: THE SALON

Members’ Exhibition: PhotoAccess Online Gallery

16 April – 16 May 2020

The Salon is an opportunity for PhotoAccess to showcase recent work of its diverse membership. The aim is to celebrate the breadth and diversity of the community’s creative and technical practice. Work in, or incorporating, any photographic medium (including digital and darkroom prints, video, photo-sculpture and installation) was welcome for submission.

This year, for reasons that need no explanation, the exhibits are on the brand new online gallery space: http://www.gallery.photoaccess.org.au/. Photo Access hopes viewers enjoy the new format, and the works of their brave members willing to take a leap of faith into the unknown!

In her catalogue essay, Virginia Rigney reminds us that “The salon hang – instituted in the high-ceilinged drawing rooms and art academies of Europe to be an annual open gathering of the latest works made by their members – was traditionally the place to test response and their social attention rivalled sporting events. An exhibitor at these 19th century Salons would look anxiously to see where their work had been hung. At eye line was a sure sign of favoured status – too high or too low might consign the work to the fate of forgettability.  But for the impartial spectator, the pictures seemed to jostle next to each other in spirited companionship. To witness a crowd gathered around a work – debating its merits – would be a measure of its currency.” Sadly, we are not able to do that on this occasion. We have instead to view the salon in the intimacy of our own digital screens.

​Whilst many images in the exhibition reflect on the recent and current disasters, many others do not. There are numerous photographs taken at other places far away that might remind us of opportunities we hope to take in the future.

Helen McFadden’s Ndutu Lions, 2019 shows us two male lions still resting in the shrubbery as the sun came up over Ndutu at the southern edge of the Serengeti plains. The bleached silver vegetation makes this image different to so many other shots of lions that we have all seen. Andree Lawrey’s Hokkaido Winter is simply a delicious artwork.

Still overseas, Kleber Osorio has contributed a very strong monochrome image utilising the hard light and shadows he saw at the Tate Modern to reveal the silhouettes of visitors.

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Kleber Osorio, Shades of Tate, 2018, Inkjet Print

Eva Van Gorsel takes us away from Canberra too, beautifully showing us an iconic Australian outback scene.

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Eva Van Gorsel, Nightfall, 2020, inkjet print, 25 x 44cm

Also away from Canberra, but in a very different place, Amanda Pratt tempts viewers to consider why she might have chosen to take such a photograph. It clearly shows us that good and interesting images can be found and created anywhere.

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Amanda Pratt, Candelo Blue Pegs, 2020

In works by Leeanne Mason we see our own part of the world in a beautiful way. Her landscapes were taken during the recent bushfires but reveal the wonderful beauty to be found in this place.

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Leeanne Mason, Snowy Mountains Kangaroo, 2020

Judy Parker has let us into the private intimacy of her own world showing just one of a current body of work where she has embedded poems expressing her thoughts into the image itself. The image alone is a thing of delicate beauty. The added poetry only enhances it.

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Judy Parker, Brocaded Lace, 2020, inkjet print

​Brian MacAlister is also showing part of a larger body of work, looking at spaces and at human behaviours, both intentional and accidental. I particularly like his Untitled (1), 2020.

Andrew Babington also shows us part of a series which he says is a reflection on humanity’s selfishly driven attempt to overcome the natural world. It is a timely reminder that, after the pandemic is overcome, there will still be environmental issues to overcome.

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Andrew Babington, Dreaming of The Murrumbidgee, I, 2020, inkjet print, 30 x 40cm, 1/50

With his Mount Ainslie, Jamie Hladky provides the one exhibit that is not a straight-forward still image. Like a GIF it flickers in something of the way that we expect of a campfire. It is great to see an artwork that is one step beyond a simple capture. It should remind us all that we need to explore and experiment with our creations to further our art.

Robert Jack has also explored and successfully shows us what his own accompanying words say “There is no reality. There is only abstraction. The camera always lies.” He is right.

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Robert Jack, Echo o, 2020, Type C Print

Joe Slater’s extremely dark image is, perhaps, the most arresting one in the exhibition. It needs time absorbing it before we can adequately see what is in it. Slater notes that times are dark and that his work reflects that. As Rigney reminds us, the act of picking up a camera is reassuringly normal behaviour in these strange days and instantly a way to comprehend what is going on.

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Joe Slater, Stairs, Falling, 2020

I could go on mentioning every one of the more than fifty artworks in the exhibition, but I’ll leave it there and simply encourage you to look at every work for yourself. In addition to the actual exhibition and catalogue, there is an excellent exhibition essay by Virginia Rigney, audio and video recordings from members about their artworks, and a full list of works and their prices. If you wish to become a member of PhotoAccess yourself, head here to sign up! Some of these works are for sale, please contact hello@photoaccess.org.au for any enquiries.

Footnote: I probably should mention that there are two of my own images in this exhibition.

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