Photo Book Review, Reviews

Joyce Evans (Photographer)

Book Review

Title: Joyce Evans

Author: Sasha Grishin

Publisher: National Library of Australia Publishing

It seems a little odd to review a book by a fellow reviewer, but this book is about the photographer, Joyce Evans, and her imagery – not its author, Sasha Grishin.

Reading the book I was quickly struck by Grishin’s observation “her work is neither widely known nor fully appreciated”. Why? Because I had no knowledge of Evans’ work. Curiously though, my wife knew Evans and typed a lot of her university essays when she worked for Evan’s husband.

I decided to contact a dozen folk who I expected would know of Evans because of their past art/photography studies, curatorial backgrounds, or key roles with important art museums. I asked whether they were aware of Evans’ work and whether or not they appreciated it. To my surprise, only one had any knowledge of Evans whatsoever. She had exhibited with Evans several times and been impressed with her photography.

A blogger I follow recently wrote a short personal appreciation of another photographer’s life and work. In it, he spoke of photographers who have made their major contributions early in their careers and over a relatively short period of time. He expressed enthusiasm for those who continue producing quality work throughout their lives. Evans owned and used a camera from the age of 16, albeit initially as an avid amateur. In her mid-40s she visited an international art fair in Basel and was excited by the photography scene. That led her to open a photography gallery in Melbourne, then to study photography. Evans was 50 when she began using photography as a serious art form. She had her first solo exhibition in 1986 which launched her career as a professional photographer. She remained active in photography for the remainder of her life.

The National Library of Australia holds an archive of Evans’ life work, containing around 30,000 analogue and 80,000 digital works, plus considerable associated documentation. It’s one of the largest archives of any contemporary Australian photographer in any public institution. In 2016, Evans herself invited Grishin to write this book and worked closely with him to achieve it, despite declining health. She approved the final text of all chapters but, sadly, died before publication.

So what do I think of Evans’ imagery? It is diverse. Some, not all, early amateur shots are, perhaps unsurprisingly, amateurish. One about a 1996 rally against racism is certainly about an important Australian story.


Joyce Evans, Rally against Racism, Treasury Gardens, Melbourne, 1996, nla.obj-143145840

Evans’ somewhat privileged life and good contacts (often portrait subjects) definitely assisted to get her professional career going. Federal Minister Clyde Holding’s invitation to join Aboriginal Affairs as an honorary documentary photographer was instrumental and resulted in her recognising the need to see photographs that should be taken. One book chapter is devoted to “finding the image”. Another to documentary shots of Australia, including roadkill on Australia’s “endless roads”. The latter caused me to think about Judith Nangala Crispin’s very different poetic artworks of such subject matter. Evans’ images such as Uluru, Northern Territory (featured on the book cover) are delightful renditions of our outback.

Joyce Evans, Portrait of Barbara Blackman, 1989, nla.obj-135941390
Joyce Evans, Uluru, Northern Territory, 1987, courtesy National Library of Australia
Joyce Evans, Desert Car on Gunbarrel Highway, Northern territory, 1991, nla.obj-153485555

The book includes some  photos of places Canberrans know well – a windmill at lake George, the Niagara Café at Gundagai. Images taken a little further away include one of the start of Benalla’s Anzac Day march in 1994.

Joyce Evans, Windmill on Lake George, New South Wales, 1983, nla.obj-153304178

There are some excellent art landscape images, including Eelgrass with Blades Coated in Algae, Mungo Tree, Dimboola Dreaming and two of Cotswold Farm.

Joyce Evans, Eelgrass with Blades Coated in Algae, 2000–2001, courtesy National Library of Australia
Joyce Evans, Mungo Tree, 1990, courtesy National Library of Australia

I know of many folk who have substantial photography collections telling Australian stories which would be worthy additions to the NLA collections. You might even have a great collection. If so, check out https://www.nla.gov.au/support-us/giving-your-national-library/offer-us-collection-material.

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

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Exhibition Review, Reviews

DARK MATTER: Terraform, Earth to Images, Found Perceptions

Photography Exhibitions Review

DARK MATTER: Terraform, Earth to Images, Found Perceptions | David Lindesay, Melanie Cobham, Tessa Ivison

Photo Access | 28 October – 13 November 2022

These three exhibitions are the outcome of the 2022 Dark Matter residencies at Photo Access. These residencies aim to provide supported opportunities for artists whose practice incorporates darkroom-based or other alternative processes. They aim to foster the creation of innovative image-based works that involve artistic experimentation, critically engage with contemporary darkroom-based practice, and explore social, political, environmental and aesthetic questions of contemporary relevance.

Most of us are obsessed with immediate image creation, but David Lindesay, Melanie Cobham, and Tessa Ivison are exhibiting what a slower and more contemplative approach delivers.

Humans have impacted the physical environment in many ways – populating areas with far too many people, introducing harmful substances, burning coal and gas, and clearing large areas of trees. This has led to climate change, soil erosion, poor air quality, and undrinkable water – sometimes prompting mass migrations or battles for clean water.

Terraform by Lindesay responds to the imprints left by our presence. His photographs, taken to reveal the natural world, depict places that are actually artificial – or human-made. Then, reflecting the innate tension between wild and contrived nature, they have been marked, carved, and defaced. These markings are clearly visible on the displayed prints and, also, on some film strips in a light box we can switch on.

David Lindesay – from the series ‘Terraform’, 2022, inkjet print.

In a catalogue essay, Fletcher Aldous informs us that the exhibition title Terraform means ‘transform so as to make earth-like, to support life’ and notes that Lindesay’s hand-made marks form ‘a subjective response to the world’.

Earth to Images by Melanie Cobham addresses the movement of people to a new area or country in order to find work or better living conditions – what we commonly refer to as migration and colonisation. She has explored how those people, herself included, consciously observe nature in their new homes.

As migration became an increasingly tense subject in the face of the pandemic, Cobham started considering more abstract ways to understand borders, identity and belonging. She has produced drawings, prints, installations, and weavings. Here there are three distinct, and different, sets of images displayed – frost, spiderwebs, and land reclamation. All explore the fraught translations between the analogue and the digital, between gesture and image, and between communication and misunderstanding.


Melanie Cobham – FROST (Documenting Winter in the ACT), 2022, lumen prints.

Found Perceptions by Tessa Ivison explores the infinite number of ways we can perceive and interpret the world. Traditionally, cameras have been used to record our perspective. However, Ivison has asked what if the camera has its own way of seeing? The artist has created a series of unique pinhole cameras from found objects, designed to record a single moment from many perspectives. The resulting photographs question common assumptions associated with the medium and how we interpret the world.

One group of colourful images are delightful and employ chine-collé – a technique in which paper of a different colour or texture is bonded (not just glued) to the heavier support paper of the print during the printmaking process.


Tessa Ivison – Blackbird, 2022, photogravure with chine-collie.

Also displayed are three unique and complex pinhole cameras created from found objects and used to make the images alongside them. They are each quite remarkable, and different – pieces of tin cans protrude from the various surfaces of one in the style of a Panopticon. It, and another one named the Beast, have considerable numbers of separate pinholes and it is wonderful to see the resultant images. There is also an image of a classic Canberra bus stop turned into a camera obscura and used to create another exhibited image.

Overall we are shown clear evidence of another successful round of Dark Matter residencies. Each artist has delivered the goods.

This review was first published online by The Canberra Times here on 5/11/22 then in print on page 10 of Panorama on 12/11/22. It is also available on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.

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Exhibition Review, Reviews

Into the Blue II

Photography Exhibition Review

Into the Blue II | Andrea Bryant, Kim Sinclair, Carolyn Pettigrew, Kiera Hudson, Carolyn Young, Linda Sukamta, Chris Byrnes, Mat Hughes, Ellie Young, Peter McDonald, Hilary Warren, Rebecca Murray, Jean Burke, Susan Baran, Jenny Dettrick, Virginia Walsh, Kaye Dixon & Wendy Currie

Sutton Village Gallery | 8 September – 9 October

Into the Blue II is the second annual group exhibition at Sutton Village Gallery showcasing the historic Cyanotype print and its application in contemporary art.

Eighteen artists showcase a variety of cyanotype print methods using both original and ‘new’ cyanotype formulae, including prints on fabric, wet cyanotypes, photograms, contact prints from both large format film negatives and digital negatives, toned prints, and incorporated in multi-media applications.

Cyanotypes are one of the oldest photographic printing processes in the history of photography. The distinctive original feature of the prints is their cyan blue colour, resulting from exposure to ultraviolet light. But if you go to this exhibition expecting all the prints to be purely that colour, then you are in for a surprise. P McDonald’s Rocks Mornington Peninsula is a classic example. It is not cyan blue; it is a sepia colour.


Rocks Mornington Peninsula © P McDonald

If you expect all the works to have uneven edges revealing where the chemical solution was applied, again you will be surprised. So too if you expect all the works to be on fabrics or watercolour papers and not framed.

Melbourne-based photographer Mat Hughes works primarily with large format view cameras. Wet scans from selected negatives are meticulously made to create quality digital negatives from which to contact print. He finds light in dark shadows and turns the normal into sublime in his unique, beautiful and delicate printed cyanotypes. His Woodys Lake is a glorious example, although again not cyan blue.


Woodys Lake © Mat Hughes

Another Melbourne-based artist, Keira Hudson, specialises in different photographic processes, often interweaving different mediums together. During 2022, working with an artificial intelligence (AI) program, Hudson input different text prompts then altered the resulting images physically and digitally to create her cyanotypes on fabric.

Hudson’s use of AI raises interesting questions – many photographers currently are debating whether doing so means the outcome is no longer photography. More importantly, Getty Images is now refusing to accept submissions created using AI generative models because of concerns regarding copyright and plagiarism. Of Hudson’s artworks here, I most enjoyed Chalkboard. I have no idea how it was created, but it certainly says cyanotype to me, and I like it.


Chalkboard, 2022 © Keira Hudson

In Linda Sukamta’s cyanotype prints, the use of various artistic or communicative media, design and image layering applications are less habitually used techniques characteristic of her practice. Right Where I Belong is a fine example. Primarily in the traditional cyan blue, but also including a nearly opposite orange-red colour, it features botany.


Right Where I Belong © Linda Sukamta

Carolyn Young is a visual artist based in the Canberra region. Her artworks engage in ideas around land care, relationship to place, and between culture and nature. The excellent piece included here is a portrait of Harriet Scott (a naturalist in the mid-late 1880s) and chenuala heliaspis (a type of local moth thought to feed on wattle, eucalypts & pine).


Harriet Scott and Chenuala Heliaspis © Carolyn Young

Kaye Dixon is displaying some wonderfully imaginative works, reminiscent of illustrations in children’s or fantasy books. Of them, Draco the Dragon is the standout for me.


Draco the Dragon (from the bone woman series) © Kaye Dixon

Rebecca Murray is a Victoria-based artist engaging in contemporary and historical photographic processes. Works which explore time, place, belonging and un-belonging feature in this exhibition.

I did find myself wondering about the use of matting and frames resulting in the covering up of the traditional “messy” edges which have always been part of cyanotypes. Perhaps the artists primarily do so in order to create attractive pieces for potential purchasers to display on their home walls?

Each artist in the exhibition has contributed works well worth viewing – and a drive to Sutton Village to visit this gallery (and the nearby bakery) is a pleasing outing at any time.

This review was first published by The Canberra Times online here and at page 43 of their print version of 3/10/22. It is also available on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.

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Exhibition Review, Reviews

Un/known

Photography Exhibition Review

Un/known | Susan Bell, Emily Blenkin, Fiona Bowring, Andrea Bryant, Saini Copp, Sophia Coombs, Annette Fischer, Lucy Found, Saskia Haalebos, Kristian Herman, Lia Kemmis, Eunie Kim, Kathy Leo, Louise Maurer, Kleber Osorio, Margaret Stapper, Beata Tworek, Sarah Vandermar

Photo Access | 15 SEPTEMBER – 8 OCTOBER 2022

Featuring works created during PhotoAccess’ Concept to Exhibition 2022 workshop, Un/known brings together a variety of artists examining, confronting and sharing personal stories. During nine months, mentored by 2021 National Photographic Portrait Prize finalist Marzena Wasikowska, the displaying artists went beyond their settled methods of working. Bringing varying levels of skill and past practice to the workshop, the artists have each advanced their photovoice and produced new work, expressing their one-of-a-kind approaches to image-making.

The resultant exhibition is substantial and diverse. Sixty-three works, including two video pieces and a photobook, take quite some time to explore properly. And it is impossible to properly do justice to all eighteen artists and their works here.

The catalogue speaks of two images by Kleber Osorio showing evidence of a style familiar to him, and of a new approach emerging. His four new works effectively use water and reflections in that new approach.

Louise Maurer shows two fine prints layering elements of multiple images to create new works. Both can fairly be described as compilations of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations – as encountered in dreams.

Sophia Coombs has four delightful prints exploring femininity through connection to the ocean. The woman in the sea is, of course, a female figure in an ocean. That sea is also a woman “because she is deep and wild.”


Sophia Coombs – The woman in the sea

Margaret Stapper has successfully explored whether photography can be therapeutic and enable reconnection with the past. She has made excellent composites inserting old photos of herself into new images. The facial expressions seen in the work In Conversation tell a wonderful story.


Margaret Stapper – In Conversation, 2022, composite photograph

Beata Tworek has used gold powder and thread to enhance scars such that “shameful” body imperfections have become valuable symbols.

Eunie Kim contributes some delightful works using silver-gelatin liquid emulsion and cyanotype print on acrylic paper.

Fiona Bowring’s video and photobook of women working in Fyshwick contains great imagery and warrant taking the necessary time to explore both thoroughly. Ruth at the sink is just one example of these workers.


Fiona Bowring, Ruth at the sink, 2022, digital photograph

Andrea Bryant’s three giclee prints, including Flux 2, are simply superb.


Andrea Bryant, Flux 2, 2022

Kathryn Leo is showing two posters seeking, through images and words, to reveal something of life’s journey. Smooth and Rough is the more successful of them.


Kathryn Leo, Smooth and Rough, 2022

Adam Luckhurst is showing a body of work seeking to highlight the perilous climate circumstances that we are in. I needed to read his words, including a poem Destination, in the catalogue before his message was clear to me.

Annette Fisher gives us The Pregnant Tree, a delightful installation comprising a balls of crushed photos hanging on a dead branch. The images are of the ruins and remains following a building annihilation. Her suggestion that they might be preparing for a new life is allegorical.


The Pregnant Tree (image supplied)

Lia Kemmis also has contributed a wonderful installation. Placed in a corner of the gallery, it is in effect the corner of a room in a home. There is a “wall-hanging”, a framed canvas on a wall, a table covered with a satin cloth featuring a digital print, and a chair with another satin cloth image embellished with fake fur on which are containers of numerous small prints. The only thing missing is a second chair on which visitors might sit to enjoy the corner.

Emily Blenkin has based the titles of her works on that old cliché “a picture tells a thousand words”. In fact, each work comprises three separate images, so I found myself asking how many words were actually told by the individual pictures?

The artists not mentioned here have also each made contributions which enhance  the exhibition.

This review was first published on 27.09.22 by The Canberra Times online here and on page 10 of Panorama in their print paper on 1.10.22. It is also available on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.

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Exhibition Review, Reviews

Reconstructed Landscapes 2022

Photography Exhibition Review

Reconstructed Landscapes 2022 | Emilio Cresciani

M16 Artspace, Gallery 1b | UNTIL 4 SEPTEMBER 2022

Emilio Cresciani is an artist living and working on Gadigal land (Sydney). He graduated from Sydney College of the Arts in 2012 in photo media and has been a finalist in numerous awards including the Earth Photo Award London and the Bowness Photography Prize.

In 2020 he was the recipient of a Dark Matter Residency at Canberra’s PhotoAccess. His works from that residency, exhibited with the title State of Change, explored the phenomenon of climate change by integrating the transformation of ice into water with photographic processes – photograms, recorded on photographic paper revealed what happened as blocks of ice melted. The images examined – literally, figuratively, and abstractly – human impact on Earth. My review at the time described them as spectacular.

Trees have long been an inspiration for artists, so it is not surprising to see another one responding to the fact that Australia has cleared nearly half of its forest cover in the last 200 years, resulting in habitat loss, extinction of native flora and fauna, rising salinity and 14% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. Making it worse, in 2020 Australia was ravaged by bushfires and more forests were destroyed. There were increased calls for back-burning and land-clearing.

Cresciani’s artwork continues to explore the intersection between climate change and altered landscapes. He has a keen interest in objects, structures, and landscape in transition, and in particular the increasing number of ‘non-places’ that fill our environment. He started the project presented here before those deadly fires, deforestation already being a huge public issue.

The process for this new project by Cresciani again uses a photographic process, but quite a different one. This time, he took an analogue camera into numerous national parks to document forests in the Australian landscape at times when those parks were being quite traumatized by the disasters resulting from climate changes. Using a daylight-type high-image-quality colour reversal 4” x 5” film, he captured patterns of tree branches, bark and leaves, light and shade.

The artist then sliced the pieces of positive slide film into different shapes and sizes, like woodchips. The slices were rearranged into bold abstract compositions on a scanner and digital images created. Every piece of every photo was included in the abstract results – even the edges of the emulsion identifying the film type. The resultant works are also very different to the previous show mentioned earlier – but are equally effective and quite fascinating to look at. They need to be closely explored.

Emilio Cresciani. Blue Mountains National Park, 2021

Emilio Cresciani. Bongil Bongil National Park, 2021

The total exhibition is a wonderful and poignant set of works. What is on exhibition here is the trauma imposed on eco-systems essential to our lives. The billions of trees cut down annually are represented by these ‘photochips’, symbolising what we are doing to our natural environment. Cropping of film images would rightly be considered by many as an act of vandalism. Bold cutting of the images into numerous pieces represents the experienced trauma. Sliced – even shredded – in such a way that the film cannot be put back together in its original form is a clear metaphor shouting to us that, when the damage done to the forests is massive, regeneration is impossible.

Emilio Cresciani. Marrangaroo National Park, 2021
Emilio Cresciani. Royal National Park, 2021

By bringing what he describes as “these cut fragments” into an art gallery, Cresciani hoped to highlight the gap between the myth of the Australian bush and the real cost of our lifestyles. Sliced and cut, sawn and hacked, these images upset the perception of trees as beautiful, functional, replaceable. They are out of place, not as they should be. The artist has succeeded in his aim – Reconstructed Landscapes effectively highlights the costs of humankind’s failings.

This review was first published on page 19 of The Canberra Times of 29.8.22 and online here. It is also on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.

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Exhibition Review, Photography Story, Reviews

No Name Lane

Review of Photography “Exhibition”

No Name Lane | Hilary Wardhaugh

End date not known yet, but probably until the end of 2022

Many, if not all, cities and towns have pedestrian laneways without names. Queanbeyan has one that is now being referred to as No Name Lane. It runs off the northern side of Monaro Street and is directly opposite Blacksmiths Lane on the southern side. After securing funding from the NSW Government’s Your High Street grant program in May 2021, Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council put in place a project to improve the safety, amenity and functionality of these two lanes.

Four artists are currently creating a contemporary take on an evocative old-world experience in Blacksmiths Lane. The concept is to reimagine the laneway experience reminiscent of the blacksmiths and wheelwrights who used to work in Monaro Street dating back to 1877.

In contrast, No Name Lane has a colourful and contemporary design. Canberra-based artist Yanni Pounartzis has completed a large-scale mural work in “fun colours” that encompasses both façades and pavement. The re-designed laneway also features neon light elements, greenery, new seating and a collection of lightboxes to showcase rotating exhibitions from local artists. In effect it has become an outdoor art gallery.

Looking along No Name Lane towards and across Monaro Street, we can see through Blacksmiths Lane on the opposite side to a large-scale mural on the side of The Q theatre, featuring Ricky Stuart as the face of Queanbeyan – another Council project.

The first exhibition in No Name Lane is now in place. The artworks are by well-known Queanbeyan professional photographer/artist Hilary Wardhaugh. She has said “Photography to me is more than just a business, it’s an expression.” The “candid, photo journalistic moments” and the “the dirt in between” is what lures her to capture an image.

This display brings together a number of quiet and reflective scenes from around the region.

Autumn in the Bush © Hilary Wardhaugh
Under London Bridge © Hilary Wardhaugh

Wardhaugh tells me she did not personally curate the artworks. Rather, the agency designing the laneway selected them from images she supplied. Some are from her project #welcomenotwelcome – exhibited at PhotoAccess in 2016, and in her finalist photobook in the 2017 Australian AIPP Photography Book of the Year.

Wardhaugh loves documenting urban scenes that are often not noticed by passers-by but which, with the right light, can quietly come together in a body of work. She loves creating mystery, asking the viewers to question or imagine what is behind a wall, fence or hedge – her images deliberately framed so as not to reveal the answers. A published review of #welcomenotwelcome said “It is a case of what you see is not what I want you to see.”

Grass is always greener © Hilary Wardhaugh

One image featuring a quite lovely colourful floral hedge has the intriguing title I haven’t got a welcome mat because I’m not a fucking liar. Virtually all we can see beyond the hedge is a broodingly dark cloud-filled sky.

I Haven’t Got a Welcome Mat Because I’m Not A Fucking Liar © Hilary Wardhaugh

Build a Fence also features a substantial area of sky, with a tiny glimpse of the moon, plus the tops of two streetlights – one adorned by the presence of a bird. But the new-looking fence, with absolutely no gaps in it, totally hides whatever else might be beyond.

Build A Fence © Hilary Wardhaugh

Wardhaugh considers couches sitting by the roadside to be “so Queanbeyan”; therefore something that just had to be part of this display. She views abandoned couches as a comment on our throwaway society. This artist is not the only person to photograph such couches – indeed, there is a Canberra-based Instagram account devoted to them, @kerbsidecouches.

Couches of Queanbeyan 001 © Hilary Wardhaugh

No Name Lane’s gallery space is a welcome addition to the Queanbeyan CBD and Wardhaugh a most appropriate choice for the first artist to be featured there.

This review was published on page 10 of Panorama in The Canberra Times of 20.8.22. It is also available on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.

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Exhibition Review, Reviews

Mullins Conceptual Photography Prize 2022

Photography Exhibition Review

Mullins Conceptual Photography Prize 2022 | Various artists

Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre | 9 July – 27 August 2022

For the third year in succession, a Canberran has won the MCPP. After Judy Parker won in 2020 and Ian Skinner in 2021, this year the first prize of $15,000 went to Sammy Hawker.

In his magazine Inside Imaging here, Will Shipton said “There must be something in the water around Canberra that feeds the conceptual photographic mind, as three of the four winners are from the relatively small capital city” and “The fourth MCPP is organised by the Australian Photographic Society (APS), an umbrella organisation for Australian camera clubs. The grand prize won by Hawker is an impressive $15,000 cash, making the MCPP a major Australian photo contest.”

I’ve previously reviewed two of Hawker’s recent exhibitions here and here. She works predominantly with film, often in close association with traditional custodians, and challenges the notion that a photograph constitutes the moment a camera shutter is released.

Sammy Hawker – Mount Gulaga, 2021

Hawker’s concept statement reads “This work was captured on 4×5 film looking out towards Mount Gulaga from the Wallaga Lake headland. I processed the negative with ocean water collected from site. When processing film with salt water the corrosive properties lifts the silver emulsion and the representational image is rendered vague. However an essence of the site is introduced to the frame as the vibrant matter paints its way onto the negative. A ghost of Gulaga looms behind the abstraction ~ felt rather than seen.”

Other Canberran finalists this year were Lyndall Gerlach, with two of her works, and Susan Henderson. Gerlach says, “For me, a good photographic image must always engage the viewer either emotionally or intellectually.” You can read more about Gerlach in another of my pieces here.

Lyndall Gerlach – Night City-ness #1, 2021
Lyndall Gerlach – Contemporary Lifestyle, 2021

This is Henderson’s first time as a finalist. Henderson believes photography is mostly about capturing the real and the now. She is “fascinated by the conjuncture of the two, the transient opportunity to record the light rather than the subject, to take advantage of nature and the built environment to photograph.”

Susan Henderson – Rain 2, 2021

At the opening, adjudicator Bill Bachman said “we were instinctively looking for images with a strong or original concept and superior execution, that in some way challenged our notions of normal. Happily, there were ideas, techniques and processes galore.”

Julie Williams had two works selected as finalists. Of them, Moth was given one of three Honourable Mentions. My first thought when I saw it was “bushranger”. Then I learned it is a reinterpretation of the life of the Lady Bushranger Jessie Hickman (1890-1936).

Julie Williams – Moth, 2022

The other HMs were works by Claire Conroy and Ben Blick-Hodge.

Claire Conroy – 35mm slide recovered in Lismore floods 2022
Ben Blick-Hodge – Soup’s up! 2022

At the opening I met two first time finalists Sue Gordon and Michael Shirley, both of whom were thrilled to have had their works selected. In his artist statement relating to his work, Rain, Shirley speaks of rain coming to take you, your life, your house, your possessions, your friends. The black and white artwork shows numerous people under umbrellas, almost obliterated by rain which he has deliberately exaggerated.

Michael Shirley – Rain, 2021

Gordon’s work is a self-portrait titled What’s hidden in shadows. It is a powerful bruised depiction of physical abuse once experienced, but no more hidden or excused.

Sue Gordon – What’s Hidden in Shadows, 2022

It was also great to see the work by Vicky Cooper and Doug Spowart – a concertina photo book – displayed on a shelf. This was the first year that anything other than 2 dimensional prints could be entered, so it was excellent that this work was a finalist.

Victoria Cooper & Doug Spowart – Desire Paths, 2022

All the finalists in the 2022 MCPP exhibition can be seen in a virtual gallery here.

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

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Exhibition Review, Reviews

EVIDENCE AND THE VISIBLE

Photography Exhibition Review

EVIDENCE AND THE VISIBLE | CATHERINE ROGERS

Drill Hall Gallery | 24 June – 14 August 2022

Evidence and The Visible is a large exhibition, deserving multiple visits. Extraordinary is not too strong a word for this retrospective of works by Catherine Rogers. Not only are there many images, using every available space in the gallery, but there also are five short essays about them. I recommend collecting a copy at the entrance and reading each essay before viewing the relevant works.

Rogers’ photographic practice began in the 1970s and her copious, yet relatively little-known, body of work is surveyed here for the first time. None of the visitors I spoke with at the opening had been aware of Rogers previously.

We see a set of images from 2018 investigating diverse techniques established by pioneering photographers in the 19th century, resulting in an array of extremely plausible fakes. An essay about these works invites us to enter the game. Most students and practitioners of photography know of the pioneer Fox Talbot and his Latticed Window, generally regarded as the first negative photograph. It is delightful to see this set alluding to that beginning.

There is a group of A1-sized prints titled Between Heaven and Earth, Lost in Space. These too reference Talbot, who was a skilled user of telescopes. There is a set labelled Found Negatives, another Found Glass Plate Negatives. Each set is different, each interesting and worthy of close examination.

Catherine Rogers, Blue moon as an orange from the series Lost in Space 1990-2020
Catherine Rogers, Shadows in deep space from the series Lost in Space 1990-2020

Much of Rogers’ photography relates to landscape, using conventional and unconventional methods of recording and evoking the physical terrain. There are seascapes glorying in the splendour of the silver halide medium, accentuating the dividing horizon line between ocean and sky. Another visitor expressed to me his view that works showing an area of sky immediately above an area of sea, with nothing more than the cloven horizon between was not novel. Whilst others have also created such works, those displayed here are fine examples.

Catherine Rogers – Southern Ocean

Perhaps the most intriguing works and, certainly, drawing numerous visitors in for a close look are those labelled Nature of Evidence. Dating from 1986, these are about the Azaria Chamberlain case. Rogers notes that photography played a very important part in the case, particularly the trial of Lindy Chamberlain, from the outset. All kinds of photographic material were used as evidence. At the 1987 Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Chamberlain Convictions, Rogers observed how sharp, detailed and colour accurate photographs used as evidence had to be explained and given words by forensic experts. She asked herself why and that led to development of this body of work.

Catherine Rogers, The Nature of Evidence (Looking and not looking for her), 1986

There is a group of visually stunning and large colour prints of ancient forests in the Upper Florentine area of Tasmania. These works date from 2007, when trees in the area were marked to be cut down so a logging road could be made. From 2003 Rogers recorded aspects of this valley and the Styx before they were destroyed. An essay about these works is a sad reminder, if needed, of the destruction.

Catherine Rogers, Red Road Upper Florentine #4, Tasmania, logging coup F044A, 2007

And I was most delighted to see the set of images labelled Waiting Rooms. I enjoyed considering which of these most Contemporary works would suit what types of waiting rooms.

Catherine Rogers, from Pictures for Waiting Rooms 2015-2022
Catherine Rogers, from Pictures for Waiting Rooms 2015-2022

My word limit does not allow me to address everything in the exhibition, but I must mention the fact this artist has embraced tintype, film negatives and positives, colour and black and white, digital, cameras with lenses and some without (pinholes). She has also made images without using a camera. Rogers describes her image archives as extensive, and notes that her images have been made over a period of forty years. Long may she continue creating new work.

This review was first published on page 23 of The Canberra Times of 11/7/22 and online here. It is also available on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.

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Exhibition Review, Reviews

Sky Eternal by Cat Wilson, Up in the Air by Claire Grant, Wild Blue Yonder by Photo Access members

Review of Photography Exhibitions

Sky Eternal | Cat Wilson

Up in the Air | Claire Grant

Photo Access | 30 June – 30 July

The artists in these two exhibitions have used sky space to explore our human condition. They invite us to reflect on the importance of the surface of our planet and the sky space above – and the care needed to keep everything in good condition.

Blue moon. Blue Monday. Blue blood. Is blue hardwired into our psyche? Did it contribute to our evolutionary development – as hunter-gatherers who learnt to survive among blue skies and oceans? It is the major colour of the works in these shows. Most appropriately, an accompanying Photo Access members’ exhibition has the theme “Wild Blue Yonder.”

Trevor Lund, Exploring Scoresby Sound, 2022. From the “Wild Blue Yonder” members’ exhibition.

Across the ages, blue has been used when visualising something from our imagination, out of reach or the divine. As a pigment, blue is extremely rare in nature, despite being found in the environment around us – from the tranquil light blue of a sky to the melancholy deep blue of an ocean. Unlike particular reds, browns and yellows, blue pigment cannot be created from materials within our easy grasp. Arguably, blue represents an entirely new world beyond our own.

Sky Eternal by Cat Wilson is an immersive video installation, which mirrors moving cloudscapes. The immediate reaction on entering the room regardless of the point the video has reached is that one is looking at a Rorschach inkblot. I wonder what Leonardo da Vinci and Sandro Botticelli would make of this slowly changing inkblot. Accompanied by an ambient soundscape, composed by Jamie Saxe, this is a captivating work. The catalogue suggests it “mediates on the ways in which the universal and timeless sky unites us all, a metaphor for innovation, positivity, hope and heaven.” When I joined them, I wanted to ask others viewing it what they saw in the inkblot. As they were transfixed, I couldn’t interrupt.

Cat Wilson – Eternal Sky, 2021 – video still

Up in the Air by Claire Grant includes three things. Firstly, there is a 90 x 400 cm composite of 57 A4-sized cyanotypes each printed on fragile paper ephemera that the artist collected during employment as a flight attendant. The papers originally were crew briefings providing details of routes she would be flying, so amongst the imagery she has created there is text and lines and also creases and marks – as she folded the paper to fit in her pocket during each trip.

The images are aerial vignettes framed by Grant’s ‘office’ windows, the plane’s portholes. They are, truly, landscapes. As the aircraft flew over an outback mine, we can see that open cut mine’s landscape in regional Queensland laid out below us. Some of the cyanotypes are essentially white images of the clouds below the plane. Others reveal different aspects of the atmosphere. We are looking at skies filled with navigational charts to and from different destinations around Australia.

It is also worth noting that the artist captured the initial works with a phone camera, making use of its technical limitations to obtain the pixelated and repetitive images that she wanted for her pe-visualised end product. It is quite wonderful.

Claire Grant – Nothing’s as precious as a hole in the Ground, 2021-22
Claire Grant – Nothing’s as precious as a hole in the ground, 2021-22 (Detail)

On the opposite wall of the gallery is a series of individual artworks, each being cyanotypes and encaustic on washi paper – renowned for strength not fragility. Each image is framed by a porthole. Reflecting the recent period of air travel disruptions, many show terminal boards indicating numerous cancelled flights.

Claire Grant – CANCELLED(CBROvernight), 2022
Claire Grant – Up In The Air (Installation Photo 9)

On the end wall of the “aircraft’s corridor” is one further work – a large cyanotype portrayal of Employee 152578’s pre-employment dental record adding a final piece to this clever interpretation of Grant’s previous career. The whole exhibition opens up a shutdown world.

Claire Grant, Dental Record (Employee 152578), 2022 (Installation Photo)

This review was first published on page 10 of the Panorama supplement in The Canberra Times of 9 July 2022 and online here. It is also available on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.

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Exhibition Review, Reviews

CITY COMMISSIONS – PORTRAITS

Photography Exhibition Review

CITY COMMISSIONS – PORTRAITS | SAMMY HAWKER

Tuggeranong Town Centre (on windows of Lakeview House & under the Soward Way Bridge) | Until 4 July 2022

Installation shot – Under Soward Way bridge (supplied)

Sammy Hawker is a visual artist working predominantly on Ngunawal Country. She works predominantly with analogue photography techniques and often works closely with Traditional Custodians, scientists and ecologists.

In 2021 Hawker had two highly successful solo shows as part of a PhotoAccess darkroom residency. She is currently an artist-in-residence with the CORRIDOR project and is also preparing for another solo show before year end.

Over the last six months Hawker worked closely with nine young people from Headspace Tuggeranong exploring ways they could co-create photographic portraits. This was part of a City Commissions project delivered by Contour 556, one of seven artsACT initiatives in the Creative Recovery and Resilience Program.

Headspace is a safe space that welcomes and supports young people aged 12–25, their families, friends and carers, helping them to find the right services. Learning the Headspace motto “clear is kind”, Hawker realised her project was also about finding clarity as a form of self-compassion – shining light on what for many was a particularly dark and confusing time.


Hawker challenges the notion that a photograph constitutes the moment that a shutter is released. She explores ways of making, rather than taking, images. She wanted the project to be empowering – with no right or wrong and where the final photographs celebrated identity and experience beyond just the way her subjects looked in the frame. It was an opportunity to realise we always have some choice whether we repress difficult experiences.

The portraits of the young people were captured on a large format film camera. Commonly, in photographic practice, touch and marks on negatives are to be avoided. But Hawker invited her subjects to handle, manipulate, scratch or even bury negatives in order to introduce something of themselves. The young folk wrangled puppies, dived into rivers, got dressed up, sprinkled bushfire ash on negatives and processed film in the Headspace carpark.

Each participant was invited to use the project to reflect on their experiences of difficult times. Their statements relating to the images reveal resilience and hope.

Chanelle reflected about living in the moment. The negative of her portrait, showing her immersed in the Murrumbidgee River, was processed with water from that river, ocean water and permanent marker.

Chanelle ©Sammy Hawker

Sophie spoke of learning to embrace everything in life. Her portrait’s negative was processed with bushfire ash and the word Embrace scratched into it. The ash creates a frame that embraces her.

Sanjeta really likes her photo with jellyfish manipulations as metaphors for how she now goes with the flow of her life journey. Her expression conveys a “so be it” attitude. The negative was processed with Murrumbidgee water, rainwater, seaweed and chemical stains.

Sanjeta © Sammy Hawker

Ray wanted to keep connected and bring some joy into the lives of others. The portrait’s beaming smile conveys joy. The idea of processing the negative with Whiz Pop Bang bubble mixture and wattle pollen adds to the joy.

Ray’s Statement

Jazzy is photographed with her much loved dog Milo. So, of course, the processing of the negative utilised Milo’s pawprints.

Jazzy Jazzy © Sammy Hawker
Devante © Sammy Hawker
Installation shot – Under Soward Way bridge (supplied)

When I reviewed her Acts of Co-Creation show (for which she received a Canberra Critics Circle Award) in this publication, I wrote of Hawker’s then newly formed relationship with Ngunawal custodian Tyronne Bell who helped her to learn about sites she was working with. For this project, Hawker arranged for Bell to escort her subjects walking Ngunawal Country, providing a healing experience for them.

I strongly recommended readers to visit City Commissions – Portraits – and reflect on your own difficult times.

An edited version of this review was published in The Canberra Times of 28/6/22 on the Capital Life page, and the full version online here. It is also on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.

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