Exhibition Review, Reviews

A Feminine Perspective

Photography Exhibition Review

A Feminine Perspective | Hedda Photography Group – Andrea Bryant, Andrée Lawrey, Brenda Runnegar, Eva van Gorsel, Helen McFadden, Judy Parker, Julie Garran, Lyndall Gerlach, Margaret Stapper, Marion Milliken, Pam Rooney, Susan Henderson, Ulli Brunnschweiler.

M16 Artspace | 9 – 25 SEPTEMBER 2022

This is the first exhibition from the Hedda Photography Group – named for the wonderful photographer Hedda Morrison who lived the last part of her life (1967-1991) in Canberra. Its convenor started the Group “because some photography clubs tend to be male oriented.” She feels that, stereotypically, men are more interested in equipment whilst women are more interested in what images mean, and how they relate. Most of the exhibitors know me, as photographer and reviewer. I’d be surprised if they consider me to be any less interested in the actual images than they are. I have known some men keenly interested in cameras and lenses, I also know women who fit that bill.

One of the women exhibitors revealed that the Group’s members had shared a long and vibrant discussion about feminist perspectives and that many different views were expressed. Are photographers’ life experiences the main determinant of their interests? Are they gender related? Do they reflect our cultural backgrounds? Or our economic circumstances or where we have lived?

The exhibition concept was for participants to express what they wanted, however they wished, with no constraints as to subject matters or themes. The gallery website says, “as women they are interested in subjects that may tend to be relegated from mainstream art practice, perhaps because of their perceived lack of relevance to the male gaze.”

So, against that background, I went to the exhibition wondering what I might see and how, as a mere male, I would react. I saw portraits (of women and store mannequins), architectural details, abstracts, nature (including details), family history (one even including an image of a man), wonderful contemporary creations, and many beautiful artworks. There are references to crafts that, traditionally, women have been more likely to explore than men. There is some exploration of families, but not specifically of women’s family roles. And haven’t we all seen the increased numbers of men assuming such roles? I saw nothing that exclaimed, to me, “only a woman would have seen or created this.”

However, none of this means I didn’t very much enjoy the show. There are many excellent works on display. So let me now select some for specific mention. Susan Henderson has four delightful works, showing old family photos together with other items of family significance. Each of them works very well. A collage work titled Memories: Cousins Tilly and Sunday, 2022 incorporates scans of brightly coloured vintage Suffolk puffs – from the patchwork and quilting world.

Susan Henderson – Memories-Cousins Tilly and Sunday, 2022

Brenda Runnegar’s three works showing Amber and friends at various locations are intriguing, visual allegories  – the hidden meanings of which might have moral significance. Or might not?

Brenda Runnegar – Bush Hut

Andrea Bryant’s three portrait images use the word enigma in their titles. Enigma 3, with its eyes peering through bubble wrap is the most mysterious one.

Andrea Bryant – Enigma 3

Judy Parker’s delicately coloured compilations of dead and decomposing leaves and other organic material are fine examples of this genre that she does so well.

Judy Parker – Transience

Julie Garran is showing a strong sample of her store mannequin and doll images, the latter incorporating some images of a daughter.

Julie Garran – Portrait 3

Marion Milliken is displaying a fine essay of architectural building pieces.

Marion Milliken – Buildings-An Essay, 2022

Lyndall Gerlach has four exquisite examples of her lilies.

Lyndall Gerlach Iconographic Lily #8

And Ulli Brunnschweiler’s Groundworks series are wonderful abstracts.

Ulli Brunnschweiler – Groundworks IV

I could mention every individual exhibitor, but space does not permit. Suffice to say that all of them are showing strong works.

I encourage you to visit and enjoy each artwork, including six photobooks . Consider what contemporary photography and photo art is all about, and how both women and men photographers see their worlds.

This review was first published by The Canberra Times online here and on page 12 of Panorama in the print version of the paper on 24/9/22. It is also available on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.

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Photography Story

2021 Year Ender

Photography, Photo Media, Mixed Media

2021. What a year! Despite everything, local photo artists have continued to make their marks.

There have been many exhibitions. Some openings were conducted outdoors; galleries having to let small numbers inside at a time. Even during lockdown, photo galleries and artists were active, using social media, livestreaming and virtual exhibitions most creatively.

I remain disappointed about poor supporting material available for visitors in some galleries. I urge those that fall short to improve the exhibition experience – catalogues that tell us more than titles and prices, artist/concept statements about artworks, catalogue essays, recordings about the artists and works to hear, and opportunities to look at and, perhaps, purchase books and other material as well as the actual works exhibited.

There have also been interesting new photobooks and books about photography this year, including Capital Country – an ‘exhibition in a book’ by Kate Matthews, and the substantial Installation View by Daniel Palmer & Martyn Jolly which has enriched our understanding of the diversity of Australian photography.

There have been marvellous awards for individual artists. For the third year in succession, Canberra photo artists were finalists in the Mullins Conceptual Photography Prize (MCPP). Indeed, once again a Canberran earned the $10,000 Prize. This year it was Ian Skinner for his poetic work, Ashscapes 01-04, about how the ocean delivered ash to the sandy edge of the land when the catastrophic fires in south-eastern Australia in 2019-2020 were shortly followed by torrential rain.

Skinner also took out 3rd prize in the storytelling section of the Australian Photographic Society (APS)’s annual photobook awards for his Aftermath: Cadgee 2020 – an intimate story of heartbreak and loss in the devastating bushfires which swept through the NSW South Coast hinterland in the summer of 2019-2020.

Lyndall Gerlach was again a finalist in the MCPP, was commended for several works in the Australia’s Top Emerging Photographers competition and the Mono Awards; and was featured in FRAMES Magazine’s Digital Companion.

Ribbons 10 – Milky © Lyndall Gerlach

Judy Parker, winner of the 2020 MCPP, won the portfolio section of the APS’s photobook awards, with her book Afterthoughts, described by the judges as “a stunning body of work with consistent post-production”.

The Canberra Times own Dion Georgopoulos, and Marzena Wasikowska, were both finalists in the prestigious National Photographic Portrait Prize. Georgopoulos has also done some wonderful Darling River photography, whilst Wasikowska was also selected as one of the winners in the 2021 Lens Culture Street Photography Critics’ Choice Awards.

Aaron Salway, with his nephew Harley Salway 2. Just behind them is the ridge where Aaron’s father Robert, and brother Patrick Salway died protecting their property in Wandella. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Two photographers received 2021 Canberra Critics Circle Awards. Sammy Hawker – for her exhibition Acts of Co-Creation at the Mixing Room Gallery, comprising unsettling and thrilling prints processed with water, soil, bark and flowers collected from the locations of the images. And Melita Dahl for her intriguing exhibition Portrait at Photo Access exploring connections between the traditions of fine-art portraiture, photography and facial emotion recognition software.

Murramarang NP #1 © Sammy Hawker
Melita Dahl, happy (0.96), 2019

Many professional photographers were hard hit by the pandemic, with sparse numbers of events to photograph, and physical outlets for their works closed. The recent collapse of the Australian Institute of Professional Photography after 75 years of serving photographers is, no doubt, an added blow. So, it was great to see on social media, just before writing this, photos from local professional Ben Kopilow’s coverage of a wedding in a hot air balloon.

I’ve recently reviewed some fine nature prints at the Australian National Botanic Gardens Visitor Centre – Recovery was the eighth annual photographic exhibition by the Friends of the Australian National Botanic Gardens Photographic Group. And also recently I reviewed the final show for the year at Photo Access by 11 photo artists – outcome of a Concept to Exhibition project. And there is one other show to see before the year is done – at Canberra Contemporary Art Space.

This city can, rightfully, be proud of all of the artists I have named here – and of many more making excellent photo artworks. No doubt 2022 will deliver great photomedia exhibitions, events and achievements, including the successful emergence of new local talents. Hopefully, it also will see significant progress on the Kingston Arts Precinct project!

This article was published in the Canberra Times of 23/12/21 here.

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