Photography | Brian Rope
2022 in Review
This time last year I wrote of local photo artists continuing to make their marks. 2022 has surpassed it. I have seen and reviewed 37 exhibitions of photography-related artworks, including videography, post-digital and networked photographic art.
It began with Judith Nangala Crispin’s sell out show at Grainger Gallery, which resulted in a Canberra Critics Circle Award.
Then the first Photo Access show of the year, featuring diverse photomedia works by ten emerging, or re-emerging, contemporary photographers – including an 80 years old.
A Critics Circle Award also went to Michael Armstrong, for his stunning portraits of Veterans with PTSD. It was just one of the exhibitions this year focussing on important issues and groups in the community.
There was Tim Bauer’s portraits of people and an accompanying documentary by Liz Deep-Jones, about confronting racism and bigotry. Flavia Abdurahman and Gabor Dunajszky revealed the resilience of Afghan Muslim women in war zones. And at year’s end (continuing into February), there is Hilary Wardhaugh’s work portraying people with lived experience of being disabled or of being mental health consumers. These are all worthwhile uses of photographic art.
There was more than one exhibition looking at issues relating to climate and ecology, educating artists and art lovers about biodiversity, heritage research and more. Most recently, ecologist and photographer David Wong explored different aspects of eucalypt ecosystems within local nature reserves. A group of 17 photographers led by Wong also produced a delightful separate exhibition about Bluett’s Block which is under threat from encroaching suburbia.
A photobook of the Bluett’s Block show is just one of the books released this year from Photo Access projects. There were three more in May, and another three in July. And Margaret Kalms launched her own excellent book in February to raise awareness about the illness endometriosis.
The exhibitions seen include some shown in NSW. There was Ali Nasseri’s exploration of his local patch, the ocean at Bondi, shown in Bungendore. And there was a celebration of the cyanotype print displayed at Sutton Village.
It has also been a year of modest (or small) shows, including an exhibition of photos by someone who is not a photographer at CCAS Manuka. Jane Duong had just a few images displayed at ACT Hub, in The Causeway Hall – which is the oldest hall in Canberra and a listed item on the ACT Heritage Register. They were also cyanotypes. And even more cyanotypes featured in Claire Grant’s wonderful “Up in the Air” and a simultaneous members’ exhibition at Photo Access.
There also have been outdoor exhibitions – the Bluett’s Block one opened in a pop-up at the Block before moving into the Manuka Arts Centre Gardens. Sammy Hawker had a show in Tuggeranong, on the windows of Lakeview House & under the Soward Way Bridge. And Hilary Wardhaugh has had works on display in Queanbeyan’s No Name Lane.
Hawker was also a most deserving winner of the Mullins Conceptual Photography Prize this year with her work Mount Gulaga, 2021, making her the third Canberran in succession to take out that annual Prize and, thus, confirming the high calibre of local photo artists.
Two other female Canberra photographers, Lyndall Gerlach and Susan Henderson were amongst the finalists. Gerlach and Henderson were also amongst the exhibitors in an excellent all women show at M16 Art Gallery.
There have been great shows at major institutions, including the National Photographic Portrait Prize at the National Portrait Gallery, and Viewfinder: Photography from the 1970s to Now at the National Library of Australia.
My advice? See every local photo art exhibition in 2023.
This article was first published in The Canberra Times online here and at page 31 of the print edition on 2/1/23.