This aticle was published on page 20 of The Canberra Times of 5 January 2021 and on their website here.
When I wrote a similar piece to this a year ago, I expressed a hope that we could look forward to a lot of great photography to enjoy with our 20/20 vision.
Despite everything, there has been a significant number of good public photography exhibitions throughout our city. I have reviewed 24 of them for this newspaper, plus one that was held in Goulburn. There are a number of others that I have seen but not reviewed here, as well as a few more that I missed.
How were so many exhibitions possible with the restrictions imposed on galleries? Seven of the reviewed exhibitions commenced before any restrictions. Only one was totally online. Others took place during periods of restrictions, but galleries were innovative in their approaches. And now the remaining restrictions create no real barriers for galleries.
Having commenced an excellent online gallery, Photo Access continued to use it in conjunction with physical exhibitions whilst visitor numbers were greatly restricted. The use of recorded conversations with exhibitors, audio and video pieces contributed by other exhibitors, and posting links to ArtSound FM interviews was an innovative and clever response. Some other galleries also went online with virtual exhibitions.
Their substantial outdoor space also allowed Photo Access to conduct openings outside letting small numbers go int the gallery at a time during those openings. One exhibition was actually “hung” in the outside space for its duration.
Another outdoors gallery came into being during the year, with the establishment of Exhibition Avenue on the ANU campus. The first, and still continuing, exhibition there is photography that can be viewed 24 hours per day. The passing foot traffic is substantial so I expect many people have looked at the works on display, whereas they may not have visited an indoors gallery space.
I continue to be disappointed when some galleries provide inadequate background material regarding exhibitions. I appreciate that there is a cost involved in commissioning an essay about an exhibition – but it is a modest price to pay for something that can make a significant difference to visitors (even if only published online rather than in a printed catalogue).
It was disappointing that restrictions prevented the Canberra Photographic Society from properly celebrating its 75th anniversary during 2020. We were denied the opportunity of seeing something special.
A year ago, I mentioned that two locals had been finalists in the 2019 Mullins Conceptual Photography Prize (MCPP). I expressed my hope that we might go one better in 2020 and see a local winning that or another of the major photography Prizes. Well, it happened. Canberra photographer Judy Parker took out the $10,000 Prize. And several other locals were also finalists. Two other Canberra photographers took out prizes in a national 2020 Photobook of the Year competition.
And, even better, two photographers received 2020 ACT Arts Awards. Sophie Dumaresq received an award for her exhibition ‘The Hairy Panic’ at Nishi Gallery during Art, Not Apart, comprising photographs of a land art installation on grasslands surrounding Lake George, plus tumbleweed sculptures. Two images from that exhibition were finalists in the 2020 MCPP, and one a finalist in the Goulburn Art Prize.
Grace Costa received an award for being the driving force behind the exhibition ‘The Journey Through’ by eleven Canberra region artists at Photo Access, showing the results of exploring, confronting and sharing their personal stories during an eight months’ long workshop.
Now let’s hope that 2021 brings us more great photography exhibitions, events and achievements, including the successful emergence of new local talents.