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7The Photograph and Australia

THE PHOTOGRAPH AND AUSTRALIA

Introduction

This paper explores the Photograph and Australia as an iconic exhibition event. Its origin can be traced back to 1840 till today. A recent show was held in July 4th 2015 to 11th October 2015. The scope of the analysis will be grounded on examining its theme, strategy and organization. In addition, its merits and shortcomings will also be discussed.

Theme, Strategy and organization

The “Photograph and Australia” exhibition examines the theme of using the photographs to question and build the identity of a nation. Judy Annear is the curator of the show. The exhibition comprises of several thematic sections such as people, transmission, place, time and nations. Overlapping and calling back are common features exhibited by the thematic sections of the exhibition. The result of the interaction between the themes is an extensive overview of the place of photographs in the history of Australia. The show puts emphasises on historical cases ever since the advent of the medium. It commences with the early Sydney’s daguerreotypes and the indigenous individuals in Australia. The photographs also encompass harbour and landscape images including the images of the Blue Mountains (The Conversation 2016).

The show also portrays a gradual progression across Australia. There are different forms of photographs that encompass artistic landscapes, ethnographic photographs, massed collages of the early settler women and soldiers, hand-coloured portraits, astronomical images, postcards and postmodern bushranger portraits. The photographs also include curiosities of the colonial era such as Chang the Chinese Giant. The show also includes the 20th century photography giants in Australia such as Olive Cotton, David Moore, Frank Hurley and Max Dupain. The exhibition also includes portraits of the contemporary photographers in Australia (Frost 2015). The ability of the curator to connect the subject and themes of the contemporary photographers to their historical roots is a vivid merit exhibited by show. Apparently, it would be inappropriate to arrange the photographs in a chronological order starting from the olden pieces to the most recent pieces. As a result, Judy found it appropriate to link the subject and themes of the contemporary photographs with their historical roots.

Short coming and Merits

As evidence to the placement of contemporary photographs among historical works, Judy has included the photographs of artists such as Robyn Stacey, Rosemary Laing, Tracey Moffatt and Anne Ferran among historical works. The mixing of styles and periods by the curator has yielded a beautiful show. The opening room contains self-portraits of artists from the colonial era to the post-modern era. The portraits gaze across the space of the room to the opposite wall. The curator has hung two panoramas on the opposite wall. The first panorama represents the Leura cliffs situated in the Blue Mountains whereas the second panorama represents one of the streets in Melbourne (Frost 2015). There exists another room in the exhibition that reveals a similar contrast of the personal and nature. The room comprises of beautiful astronomical images captured by Joseph Turner, Henry Chamberlain Russell and James Short. The photographs face a wall that contains a collection of self-portraits taken several decades ago by Sue Ford, a traditional photographer.

However, it is evident that there are some problems associated with other combinations. The problems are indeed demerits to the curated show. For instance, there exists a dark room in the exhibition. The darkened room contains sensitive archived and very old materials. The first disadvantage is the fact that the room is so dark to the extent of impairing normal vision. As a result, getting a clear vision of the artistic works requires the use of a secondary source of light. Moreover, even though there is a proper thematic connection between the Beauties of Tracey Moffatt placed high on the wall in the darkened room, the positioning of the Beauties is out of proportion with regard to the existing space on the wall.

The final room comprises of post cards, carte de visites, and other evidence of the reproducibility of the artistic works. The room also includes the Compound Lens Project that displays images obtained from the web. The project is as a result of the collaborative efforts of Rowan McNaught and Patrick Pound (Frost 2015). It is evident that the exhibition presents a tight combination of the old and new ideas. The dark rooms contain faded photographs that present a low-key atmosphere. The sudden view of a projection changes the mind of the viewer from the past to the present. The sudden jump to the projection is not what the viewer should see immediately after seeing the nostalgia of the other artistic works.

Despite the drawbacks, it is proper to state that the exhibition is superb. Annear’s curator skills in the exhibition present a beautiful and professional show of both old times and recent Australian photographs. The curator communicates the ability of ideologies, aesthetic conservatism and wishful thinking to distort the reality represented by the photographic image. Whether we are looking at a recent post on Facebook or a tiny portrait developed in the 1850s, the interesting nature of the human face is evident. The exhibition has also invested in older images that have greater significance and abandoned the less significant images as a way of presenting the past to the viewers. In a nutshell, the Photograph and Australia exhibition is a representation of the photography in Australia over the past 175 years. It reveals the power of the photograph in capturing both real world and imagined events or things. It also reveals the contribution of photography towards the shaping of Australia. Finally, the exhibition has revealed the role that photography plays in shaping individuals and the world at large.

Also it can be stated that the Photograph and Australia creates a new way or manner of thinking concerning the connection between identity, place and photography. The collection of photographs brings together the photographic history of Australia by deeply highlighting the concept of identity and place at the same time. A new approach of thinking is therefore created in the manner in which people perceive photographs (Frost, 2015). For instance; one can state that photographs are not just aimed at reminding people of past memories but rather they can also be used to provide a sense of identity and also remind them of the significant places that their identity is derived. For instance photograph 1.0 1867-74 by Charles Nettleton provides a reflection of how Australian cities looked like back then.

Charles Nettleton1867-74

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Conclusion

The above discussion has examined the Photograph and Australia. The key theme involves the use of photographs to question and build the identity of a nation. The exhibitions is geared towards providing an insight concerning how the Australian society has been shaped by photography. Some of the merits highlighted include; creation of a new way of thinking, providing a reflection of Australia’s past and also provides a beautiful show that people can enjoy. In conclusion, it can be stated that Photograph and Australia is a fundamental platform of building Australian national identity and preserving the history through photography.

Reference List

Frost, A 2015, ‘The Photograph and Australia Review-a superb study of national identity’, Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney.

The Conversation Africa 2016, ‘The Photograph and Australia-the curator and the exhibition’. Available from: http://theconversation.com/the-photograph-and-australia-the-curator-and-the-exhibition-38162