My Photography

Dusty and Smoky

In May 2021 I reviewed an exhibition Hot/Cold here. I had two prints in the exhibition but did not show or mention them as it is not appropriate to review one’s own work.

The exhibition sought responses to the idea that we have entered a time of extremes – seasonal, climactic and perhaps emotional. So, I simply looked for images that I had created when our area was affected by major bushfires and droughts – not directly, but we saw the smoke and experienced both smoke and dust drifting across us. Those with asthma or other breathing problems were impacted by the poor air quality.

I live close to a hill that has been retained within our suburb for recreational purposes and to protect an endangered species – the Golden Sun Moth. I have previously written about Reservoir Hill and the moth here. Walkers on the hill can enjoy some great views and sunsets and see different types of weather – on the Brindabellas and moving across our city. The two images I selected for the exhibition were both seen and captured on that hill.

Here are my two works and just a few words about each of them.

Dusty © Brian Rope

Dusty is simply that – a photograph of some of the dust blotting out the normal views and revealing itself a little on the drought-dried grasses on the hill. It is not a spectacular image of the dusty conditions experienced on farmlands much further west of Canberra or, indeed, closer to our city. But it does show something of how drought causes dust to form and then be carried by winds for long distances before landing in other places.

Smoky © Brian Rope

Smoky is an image of the skies viewed from Reservoir Hill. On this occasion, the Brindabellas and other parts of the views can barely be made out. The cloud cover appears darker than usual for the time of day – 7.30 AM. The sun is partially visible through the smoke lighting some areas of the clouds. Again, the experience of smoke from bushfires was muted near my home. The far southern areas of our city were much closer to the fires and threatened by them for a time. Images taken from there were much more dramatic.

In March 2020, I used both these images in an exhibition and critique night at the Canberra Photographic Society which had the topic of Drought/Environmental Stress. All images are assessed by an invited judge who is usually an accomplished photographer or artist from outside the Society. Judges award each image a score out of 5, unless requested not to, and they will also select at least one Image of the Night. I was awarded a 4 for Smoky and a 3.5 for Dusty.

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Reviews

Hot/Cold

Photography Exhibition Review

Hot/Cold | Various Artists: Abby Ching, Alan Charlton, Amanda Pratt, Andrea Bryant, Andrew Morgan, Bailey Corazza, Brian Rope, Caroline Lemerle, David Bermingham, Eva Schroeder, Fiona Bowring-Greer, Ian Russell, Jane Duong, Jenny Dettrick, Jordan Stokes, Kathy Leo, Marie Lund, Trevor Lund, Marzena Wasikowska, Richard Glover, Susan Henderson, Tessa Ivison, Virginia Walsh, and Yvette Perine.

Photo Access | 13 May – 5 June

Disclaimer: the author of this review has two works in the exhibition but received no payment for it.

Each year PhotoAccess invites entries for a members’ exhibition. The 2021 show Hot/Cold sought responses to the idea that we have entered a time of extremes – seasonal, climactic and perhaps emotional. It complements two other solo exhibitions simultaneously in the gallery, both tackling climate transformation issues: Avalanche by Sari Sutton which looks at seasonal variations producing snow, and Black Summer 2020: the Aftermath by Ben Kopilow which explores landscape after that Black Summer. Those other shows have been reviewed separately here.

All PhotoAccess Members were welcome to submit up to two entries. All entries meeting the submission criteria were included in the gallery exhibition and an online gallery. Works were able to be in any photographic medium but could not have been previously exhibited in a solo or group exhibition. Amongst the mostly inkjet, digital and Type C prints, it was particularly good to see a sun print on silk by Virginia Walsh, Giclee prints by Andrea Bryant, liquid silver gelatin prints on plates by Jane Duong, Polaroid instant film works by Jenny Dettrick, and a resin coated darkroom print by Abby Ching. This demonstrates that PhotoAccess is supporting a wide range of contemporary photo-media practices.

It was also great to see Susan Henderson providing some poetry for the catalogue entry about an image of little girls waiting for ice-cream on a hot day whilst the air was filled with smoke and embers:

Baking heat of day

Azure sky, breathe in, breathe out

Ancient time and place

The exhibition catalogue tells us that “Each twelve months journey around the sun brings us the glorious change of the seasons, from the basking heat of January to the frozen breath of July, and all the shades between. But recently, this variation seems to have grown more intense, bringing devastating bushfires, an unusually cool, rainy summer and a shrinking snow season.”

“This disorder re-shapes our world and our lives, changing the plants and animals around us, provoking us to build new places to live and altering how we spend our days. These changes also impact how we feel about ourselves and participate in our relationships, alternately separating us from and bringing us closer to each other.”

So, the question is: what does it mean to be Hot/Cold? In my view not all works have addressed that question. On the other hand, some have looked at the question in innovative ways.

Amongst the most interesting works are those by Jane Duong, Andrea Bryant and Jenny Dettrick. Duong’s because they are on circular plates and their exploration of the ideas of home, dreams and memory makes the viewer think about their relationship to the theme. Bryant’s because they are Giclee prints of destructive cyclical algae events.

Jane Duong – Heart aches for home, 2020
Andrea Bryant – Blue-Green Dreaming 2, 2020

Dettrick’s works are, perhaps, the cleverest response to the Hot/Cold theme. One of her Polaroids was developed above a sizzling hot frypan and the other was placed under ice in a freezer for 30 minutes.

Jenny Dettrick – Of Fire, 2021

Tessa Ivison’s digital prints resulted from long exposures combined with movement as a way of interpreting her environment.

Tessa Ivison – Atmos, 2020

Eva Schroeder has created her image using, as her subject, a woman who has lived through the extremes of 2020 with serious underlying health conditions whilst using a deep love of performance art to create an adventurous life.

Eva Schroeder – The Phoenix, 2020

One of the best-known of the exhibitors is Marzena Wasikowska. Her landscape is a response to our environmental predicament.

Marzena Wasikowska – The Gap, 2020

This, and the accompanying, exhibitions are well worth visiting.

This review is also on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.

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