Paul Costigan has compiled a review of current photography exhibitions in Canberra, including a positive take on our three shows by Rohan Thomson, Scot Newman and Gary Ramage.
Gary Ramage's exhibition 'Afghanistan' has been purchased in its entirety by the Australian War Memorial for the institution's permanent collection. Upon news of the purchase, Gary decided to donate his Hasselblad 500CM camera, which he used to make the photographs in 2011, to the War Memorial to accompany the prints. Gary also donated one print from the series as a sign of gratitude for the large acquisition and to Brendan Nelson (Director of the AWM) for his contribution to the opening of the show and for writing the exhibition foreword.
TPR photographer Emilio Cresciani is currently showing his series Face2Face at Huw Davies Gallery, PhotoAccess in Canberra. Emilio recently spoke with Canberra Times journalist Karen Hardy about his show, which continues until 23 April.
Shane Breynard, Director of Canberra Museum and Galleries, knows a thing or two about Canberra artists, and the art scene in the nation's capital. Shane was kind enough to contribute the exhibition essay to Rohan Thomson's catalogue for his current exhibition The Makers, which has been published today on the Visual Arts Hub website.
Rohan's exhibition continues until 7 May (extended from the original 30 April end date).
Click here (or the image below) to read Shane's essay.
Rohan Thomson's exhibition 'The Makers' was featured in a story in The Canberra Times on Friday 24 March by Jil Hogan.
Rohan Thomson talks to Henry Zwartz from The Sydney Morning Herald about his upcoming exhibition The Makers, opening Friday 24 March.
Click image to read article (on smh site).
The Weekend Australian Financial Review (4-5 February 2017) has published a page of photographs and a story by Andrew Burke about Sean Davey's exhibition 'Solomon Islands'.
Paul Costigan has written a glowing review of the current exhibitions at The Photography Room. Paul must have accidently missed the downstairs gallery on his visit, as we're sure he would have been equally impressed by Dimitri Mellos's colour photographs from New York. The current exhibitions by Sean Davey, Spiro Miralis and Dimitri Mellos continue until 12 March.
2XX fm presenter Tania Paschen recently interviewed Sean Davey about his current exhibition on the Solomon Islands, for the program Lives Less Ordinary. The interview aired on Thursday 23 February and is available on Soundcloud here. One of the most comprehensive interview's Sean has done, this conversation runs for an hour and touches on photography, Sean's ongoing relationship with PNG and his varying musical influences (from Warumpi Band, Mob Deep to Sigur Rós).
List to the interview here.
We are honoured to have some incredible partners who sponsor The Photography Room; without their support the gallery, exhibitions and openings would not be what they are today.
At the end of 2016 The Photography Room partnered with Canberra's leading design and advertising agency CRE8IVE to develop a branding and design strategy to promote the gallery and our photographers' exhibitions.
We are extremely proud to launch the first installment of this wonderful partnership with CRE8IVE in the form of our 32 page exhibition catalogues, which accompany each of the three current exhibitions.
The exhibition catalogues are stand alone booklets that have artist bios & statements, as well as exhibition essays for Spiro Miralis's and Dimitri Mellos's works. The catalogues are printed in an edition of 100 and are available in the gallery for $10 each. They will soon be available in our shop.
Based in New York and working in a Bronx hospital, Dimitri Mellos sat down at his computer to answer some questions from TPR Director Sean Davey on his exhibition I Speak of the City, which is on show at The Photography Room until 12 March.
Your photographs have a certain sense of urgency, can you elaborate for us on your choice of taking the camera into such busy, public places like the streets of New York? Why street photography rather than portraiture, or more personal, intimate work?
Walking around the city appropriating it through the act of looking carefully and photographing is in fact very much an act of intimacy, and I consider my work very personal. Somehow the fact that in street photography so much is up to chance and randomness, and so little under the photographer’s control, is something that I find not just intriguing but truly magical when things work out and everything falls into place in a picture. It feels like a truly collaborative effort between the photographer and the world. So on both ethical and aesthetic grounds, street photography appeals much more to my temperament and values. And many of my street photos are, in fact, portraits, albeit un-posed ones. I think there is often much greater authenticity and truth in this kind of candid portraiture, although I also absolutely love the work of some of the great portrait/studio photographers (August Sander and Irving Penn's Small Trades series immediately come to mind).
You were born in Greece and recently returned to photograph there, which was published as an essay in the New York Times. Did you use the same approach to working there as on the streets of NYC?
I wanted to convey the atmosphere of stillness and solitude of those vistas in the Greek countryside, so that also influenced how I composed my frames, unlike my street photos, where often the chaos and fast pace of the depicted reality is also reflected in the photographs’ form and composition. The work from Greece in fact accrued over several years and a number of road trips around the country, and initially I did not think of those photos as much more than mementos of my trips. Only with time did I realise that the work was starting to cohere into a meaningful whole with its own internal logic and aesthetics.
New York city streets are like nowhere else in the world. Bruce Gilden once said to me ‘People think the war is over in the Middle East. The real battleground is right here on the street. This is a war zone. You gotta be tough to survive here.” That always stayed with me. How do you relate to the streets of NYC on a personal level?
I would be cautious about overly romanticising or exaggerating New York’s toughness. I think street photography is extremely tough to do anywhere, not just in New York, and in fact probably more so in other places. It is interesting that even someone as apparently brazen in his approach as Bruce Gilden would say that it’s tough; that definitely resonates with my own experience. It’s never easy. It has gotten a little easier with time, but basically every day I photograph I almost have to start from scratch – I am much better technically than when I first started, but emotionally it is always extremely hard. The real challenge of street photography is overcoming my own emotional inhibitions. It is not easy to cross that boundary into the lives of strangers. But the other side of this coin is that, just by engaging in the very process of overcoming one’s fears and inhibitions, and of looking and observing and photographing, one develops a much deeper connection to one’s surroundings. I mentioned before how street photography is an act of emotional appropriation. I think that was part of my motivation when I took up photography again after moving to New York – I used this fascinating city to rekindle my interest in photography, but at the same time I used photography to start feeling more at home in the city.
Your photographs embrace colour and contrast. Is colour a motivating factor for your work in this series? Have you worked in black and white as well?
In my early 20s I got a real camera, and started shooting black and white film and developing and printing in a darkroom. That went on for 2-3 years, but for various reasons I abandoned photography again for the better part of a decade until finally getting into it for good. I am very glad I had the experience of the darkroom, there is something really enchanting about the tactility of the whole thing, and I also love black and white photography on an aesthetic level. In fact, when I took up photography yet again, after moving to New York in my mid-30s, the main reason I initially switched to color was that I no longer had access to a darkroom, and it was much easier and cheaper to just have my color film developed at the pharmacy. But soon I discovered that I really loved color, and also that I was doing much better work in color. Still, I don’t believe in color for color’s sake – it should not take over a photograph at the expense of other elements; it’s a fine balance. It also depends on the subject-matter: I’m still open to occasionally doing black and white work when I feel that b&w will better convey the emotional tone of a particular theme or situation, for example. But overall, I enjoy color much more than b&w in my own work, although I have no such preference when I am looking at the work of others.
Tell me a bit about your thoughts on your own photography and how your vision has evolved.
For one thing, when I started out I was focused more on single images. I am now thinking of my ongoing work more in terms of coherent series or projects. I still feel that every single image in a series should be able to stand on its own as well, but I have also come to realise that a whole can be more than the sum of its parts. By the same token, I am now conceptualising my work more as a “long game.” Once I realise that I have the seeds of a bigger project at hand, I work patiently, over years, accumulating images and editing and re-editing the work.
Another way in which I feel my work has evolved is in realizing that closer is not always better. Sometimes taking a more inclusive, somewhat more detached view of a scene does more justice to the photographed reality, and in fact makes for greater emotional closeness. I can do aggressive close-range street photography, but now that is just one tool in my toolbox, to be used sparingly. Similarly, I have realised that strong form is never enough without equally strong content, without emotional depth.
You have a job at a hospital to pay the bills. Do you relish that you are not a professional photographer or is that something that you would like to do, work professionally full time?
Far from relishing it, I actually agonise over the fact that I need to spend most of my time doing something else instead of being able to pursue what I consider my true life's work. Photography feels like the most meaningful thing I am doing with my life, and not just in a self-indulgent sense (I do enjoy it!), but also in terms of giving something back to the world and creating something that may outlive me. As such, what I do in my day job pales in comparison. The way things stand, I can only photograph on weekends and on vacation, and on a few weekdays I take off work once in a blue moon. It is very few photographers who actually have the luxury to be getting paid for pursuing their own personal vision, or at least for doing work they are interested in. For example, I would not want to be doing advertising photography to pay the bills and fund my personal vision - I might as well keep working at the hospital.
You have been honoured with a number of awards for your work. Do you see your work developing/evolving into something else or will the streets keep you occupied for a while yet?
Well, this ties in with the previous question. Doing street photography is something I really love, but it is also making virtue out of necessity in my current circumstances. It is something I can do on the side, in my spare time, while being tied down in a particular city due to my day job and other obligations. That said, there is nothing I would rather do than street photography, there is no genre I love more. It is easy to make impressive photos when the subject-matter itself is impressive, for instance in a war zone or an exotic locale of stunning natural beauty. But street photography is the poetry of the everyday, the poetry of small moments. In that sense, it is the most transformative photographic genre.
Rohan Thomson has been attending the annual Summernats car festival in Canberra since he was 10 years old. Rohan has also been photographing the festival every year since becoming a staff photographer for The Canberra Times. This year, Rohan's coverage of the festival has been published in a comprehensive gallery by The Sydney Morning Herald.
Click image to see gallery or click here.
Our sincere apologies but the gallery will remain closed today, due to unforeseeable events. We'll be back on deck next week. And no, we are not at Paris Photo.... wish we were though.
Sean Davey's TV Election will still be on view next week, along with a new exhibition by Belinda Pratten in the Solo Exhibition Gallery.
Mark Mohell has a beautiful set of photographs hanging in the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra, as part of 'The Popular Pet Show', a stunning exhibition that explores and celebrates the relationships between people and their pets. As the NPG's in house photographer, Mark travelled the country, photographing the represented artists in their homes and studios for this exhibition.
'Comprising exuberant recent Australian paintings, many on a large scale, it will include portraits of famous and obscure Australians and their pets by contemporary artists Nicholas Harding, Lucy Culliton, Darren McDonald, Anna Culliton, Fiona McMonagle, Ken Done, Noel McKenna, Graeme Drendel, Robyn Sweaney, Kristin Headlam, Shen Jiawei, Jude Rae, William Robinson, Janet Dawson and Davida Allen. Many works have been created especially for the exhibition.'
The exhibition continues until March 2017.
Grace Costa will be exhibiting her new body of work 'Horse' at Nishi Gallery in Canberra from 2-20 November. The exhibition reception for the artist is Friday 4 November at 6pm.
Kendall Lane, New Acton, ACT.
Visit gallery's website here.
Join Gary Ramage in the Main Gallery at The Photography Room on Sunday 30 October at 2pm for a conversation with TPR Director Sean Davey about Gary's newly released memoir 'The Shot', published by Harper Collins (2016). The conversation will be followed by a book signing.Sunday 30 October 2pm in the Main Gallery.
The adrenalin-filled - and often dangerous - life and times of Australian photographer, Gary Ramage. He goes where the troops go - but with a camera, not a gun. As one of Australia's experienced war photographers, Gary has been in and out of just about every conflict zone that Australia has been involved in for the past 24 years.
Gary has been embedded with Australian and US soldiers in Afghanistan, once assisting with CPR on a wounded US Marine on a medevac chopper in Helmand Province. Through good times and bad, Gary has taken his camera to some of the most violent places on earth, surviving rocket attacks and firefights to photographing mass graves in Kosovo.
It takes special character to be a war photographer - it's an extreme and dangerous job. Risk comes with the territory. This memoir is a moving, at times laugh-out-loud funny, and entirely gripping story of a man who lives an extraordinary life, documenting some of the most confronting and moving moments in international conflicts and our recent history. Here is the story behind the pictures. (Harper Collins)
Jon Lewis is a canon in Australian photography. He should indeed be a household name amongst those of us interested in documentary photography, but like many artists in Australia, he is still relatively unknown outside the rather small, Sydney-centric photographic community. This may be changing however, with his recent win in the Australian Life Photography Prize and a sizeable acquisition of his recent series Sydney Street Portraits by the State Library of NSW.
Take a look at Jon's website and you will see photographs that are consistently strong and engaged. This is a photographer who loves photography but also, perhaps more importantly, has a love for the people who he photographs. With work spanning almost four decades, Jon has an incredible archive of black and white photographs from around Australia, and also from Melanesia, Micronesia and Timor Leste. A documentary photographer by nature, Jon is also a renowned teacher and environmentalist (he co-founded Greenpeace Australia in 1977).
Looking at Jon's many bodies of work, one will see that a thread connecting Jon's photographs is a love of people. Often positioned directly in the centre of frame and looking at his camera, Jon's pictures aim to connect him with the people he sees and meets, forming short collaborations of such that enable the viewer to see what he sees, and hopefully feel what he feels. Jon has a big heart and it is always open to meeting new people and engaging with them via photography. You can see in many of his pictures that people are happy to be in his company, and open to being photographed (he says he doesn't get that many knock backs). What I admire most about Jon's pictures is that he does not try to hide the pleasure he gets from these often spontaneous meetings, or to catch his subjects' in a state of predetermined pensiveness. There are no stylised, melancholic faces, no longing gazes off-camera, hoping to prompt the viewer to consider the inner thoughts (read turmoil) of the subject that so many photographers apply to their compositional and conceptual techniques.
For the past few years Jon has been devoting his time to photographing people on the streets of Sydney. He calls this series Sydney Street Portraits and publishes them on a Tumblr page and an Instagram account. From the first time I saw these portraits, I felt there was something special about them, something that comes along every once in awhile that deserves a little more attention. Like many great bodies of work, the idea is simple; in this case, go out into the street and make portraits of people. But as photographers know, a simple idea can be difficult to execute. After a few personal discussions about his latest series, Jon agreed to answer a few formal questions about the work for The Photography Room.
Jon, you have been working on your most recent series of work 'Sydney Street Portraits' for a few years now. I remember when you started posting a few of them on Facebook. In all honesty, my first thought was ‘how long will he be able to keep this up?' What is it about this subject that has sustained you to keep with it?
I’ve always thought that to really make a statement one goes to the wire ... I feel you can’t do so much with photography in under six months. I also think photography needs a lifetime of work, and that each photographer will be “judged” for that time and commitment.
The people I photograph sustain me. I love the interaction. It’s nearly always positive and I rarely get a refusal, most people are more than willing to have their portraits made and I am humbled by their trust in me.
Your work is nearly always centred around people. You are indeed a people person. You are full of energy, life, enthusiasm for all it entails. What is your driving motivation for being so enamored with life and using photography to engage with those you meet?
I thought the hardest 'thing' to photograph was “somebody” and I still think this! Start at the hardest place and see where it takes you. Photography gives my life meaning and purpose and if you make a good portrait of somebody, then that person lives twice. I wish I knew what my driving “motivation” was exactly…I’d bottle it!!
This series of photographs feels like something very special to me. There is so much of you in the pictures, by the way people are so relaxed for you, but then simultaneously the pictures don’t have you in them at all, if that makes sense? It’s totally about the subject. Your Instagram profile mentions this quote by Diane Arbus “For me, the subject of the picture is always more important than the picture.” Why is this quote important to you?
People make the world go round. Our friends and families are the most important people in our lives. Maybe my street photographs remind us of one another, our shared humanity. I don’t think great photography is based on a 'good Idea' (as appears to be the trend). One lives twice with one great portrait and I think the Arbus quote reflects this. It’s all about our interconnectedness as human beings. My Instagram account now has the quote, 'If you make a good portrait of somebody, then that person lives twice.'
Tell me a bit about your working process, how do you approach people and make them feel at ease with you so quickly? Do many people decline to be photographed?
I ask (mostly) and try to get close, I work fast, and am engaged with the moment. There isn’t really one way. Every portrait is new and deserves some generosity from both sides of the lens. Most people like a little re-assurance, a shared sense of humour helps. People rarely knock me back, and if they do that’s OK.
What do you envisage doing with these portraits? Are you thinking about publishing/exhibiting them, or are you just continuing working on them for now?
I’d like to exhibit this work. I have an exhibition in my head. I can see it so clearly. I don’t talk about what I want to do, I’m a bit superstitious that way, Ha! I haven’t a plan as such but I do want the photographs do the 'talking'. If nothing else I’ll just keep going, keep rolling. Someone said photography is very generous, and so it is.
The State Library of NSW recently purchased 50 of these photographs for their collection. That is a pretty significant acquisition. Can you tell me a bit about how this came about?
No idea how this came about really. I’ve never had a grant to do specific works. All I can say is I was steaming along until I was contacted by the Library. I’m very thankful.
Diane Arbus was an intensely passionate photographer, and her work now on show at the National Gallery in Canberra is a testament to that. Tell me more about your respect for Arbus and why she has your admiration.
Have a listen to Studs Terkel. There is an interview with Arbus. Just to hear the tone of her voice and listen to her “understanding” is fabulous. Her photographs, I believe, are deeply psychological. (Interview available here).
Is photography easy for you, or is it a struggle? Does the passion to go out and make pictures always exist? Is there a constant restlessness to be out and look and engage with the world? It seems that your energy for photography just does not stop, do you ever stop, or at least rest? And if so, what do you do when you are not photographing?
I make every effort NOT to photograph, any excuse will do. My shoes are too tight for walking, I haven’t brushed my teeth, etc, etc. But there is a restlessness, and once I begin I seem to pull my confidence together and I begin to roll and absorb it all. I try to immerse myself in what is happening and not think; just respond to what I see.
Jon's Sydney Street Portraits can be viewed online here.
Follow Sydney Street Portraits Instagram account here.
Jon's website can be viewed here.
Interview by Sean Davey.