Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Cloud Made Whole

Connie Zhou Reveals The Cloud's Intricate Beauty
Copyright Photographs by Connie Zhou for Google
I used to think of "Cloud Computing" as a fragile, abstract idea that was claimed to be the next big thing in IT. Now, in an era when the word Google has evolved from noun to verb, Shanghai-born U.S. photographer Connie Zhou's elegant, formal views of the massive computer installations of the search giant literally give metallic flesh to this idea. With her simple, formal images, Zhou www.conniezhou.com/ embraces the future of public computing, as present in massive installations as far apart as the U.S. and Skandinavia. In each photograph Zhou captures the acres of necessary hardware that bounds to our attention at the click of a mouse - anywhere in the world. Interestingly, Zhou did not resort to the orthodoxy of a Perspective Control lens in order to keep her verticals perfectly aligned. Instead she elected to control these essential architectural requirements in the post-production of each image, taken, incidentally, using a conventional wide angle lens. So much for the optical magic developed by PC lensmakers. There is also the sense in these magical colour images that her observations mimic, for example, the paths of electronic particles, as rendered by electron micro photography. For a revealing interview with Connie Zhou please open this link to U.S. Popular Photography http://www.popphoto.com/gallery/connie-zhous-images-inside-googles-massive-data-centers
Last Week for Ralph Gibson's Silver Sorcery

Photo by Andrea Blanche
Photograph's greatest gift can often be its simplest. A photographer's vision can craft compositions which can create illusions, either in tone and colour, that defy literal interpretation. Ralph Gibson www.ralphgibson.com/ is one of a select group of photographers - Henri Cartier-Bresson, Diane Arbus, Robert Frank, to name three others, who have changed, sometimes subtly, sometimes blatantly, the way we see. Once, when asked what her photography meant to her, Arbus gave a seemingly opaque reply, " Why, my photography is a process of recognizing with I have never seen." So it is with Gibson. In compositions sliced by ridges of savage highlights and deep shadows, the American has created works sculptural, sensual and mysterious. Point Light Gallery www.pointlight.com.au are to be commended for bringing Gibson (pictured, above left) to Australia - both for this exhibition which finishes this weekend and a series of workshops given by this remarkable photographer.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Jeff Carter on ABC TV tonight

Jeff Carter's "Inland Heart" On View Tonight
Photo: Robert McFarlane
In a revealing documentary "Inland Heart: The Photography of Jeff Carter", directed by Catherine Hunter, the enduring photographic vision of the late Jeff Carter 1928-2010 (pictured, above and right) will be examined on ABC TV1's Artscape program www.abc.net.au/arts at 10pm tonight, Tuesday, August 14th. Hunter, who also directed a critically acclaimed recent documentary on painter Margaret Olley, examines the extraordinary legacy left by Jeff Carter after more than half a century roaming the "Inland Heart" (and occasionally the cities) of Australia. Carter's brutally honest, compassionate, unsentimental vision reflected Australian life from a unique point of view - his own travels. There is little in Carter's simple, strongly composed photographs that he had not experienced first hand himself - either as a young man "humping his bluey" around Australia - or working the land himself, on his country property, "Foxground" in Southern New South Wales, Australia.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Redefining The Australian Landscape

Burnt by Sun and Flame
John Gollings www.gollings.com.au/ has an enviable reputation as a fine architectural photographer and also an acute observer of the Australian landscape - both urban and rural. Recently Gollings re-photographed Gold Coast vistas he had previously documented dedades before - with telling results. Now Gollings, in a new exhibition at Edmund Pearce Gallery www.edmundpearce.com.au in Melbourne, has observed the elapsed effects following bushfires - creating highly graphic black and white  and colour images that suggest both the terror that must occur when fire sweeps through the country - but also, ironically, fire's other role in effecting the land's renewal. In a perceptive essay in the exhibition catalogue Monash Gallery of Art Director Shaune Larkin comments "These pictures address a number of Gollings’ primary concerns as a photographer ... they demonstrate the regenerative power of nature, evident in the traces of life beginning to emerge in the face of a bushfire’s terrible blackness. They also reiterate Gollings’ long-standing interest in documenting the power of nature, again registered in the indications of regeneration and the fact that such tremendous beauty can be found in places of chaos and destruction."
Gollings' pictures, taken from the air only a week after the Black Saturday bushfires, reveal the burnt landscape in its most graphic, injured mood. (pictured, top) Through Gollings' eyes, scorched earth resembles a giant's stubbled cheek, bisected by a road that simultaneously resembles a curved scar - or the classic serpent from Aboriginal mythology.(pictured, above) There are also other surprises hidden within the photographer's tightly textured observations: trees whose crossed, broken branches resemble crucifixes. In Gollings' colour images there is the irresistable feeling that the photographer playfully references Australian painting's most astringent poet - Fred Williams.

Edmund Pearce are also showing "Australian Gothic" a series of wry observations  by Jane Brown who celebrates  Australia's obsession with elevating creatures from nature to larger than life, iconic status. (pictured, above)
Brown's distinct gift for photographing sensed human presences in unpeopled landscapes and interiors can clearly be seen in this sombre image. (pictured, right) Further evidence of this unique vision can be found on her website www.janebrownphotography.com When interviewed in the Weekend Australian Review on August 6-7, 2011, Brown commented "I find it interesting how monochrome is used to differentiate the living and the dead, the past and the present. It has an ability to transcend the constraints of time, memory and death. I examine this a lot in my work – landscapes seem to have vestiges or traces of past life and memorials become otherworldly.” Until May 12
Richard Millott 1946-2012
Reading Rob Imhoff's detailed tribute to Richard Millott (pictured, right)) it was obvious that Australian photographers, and perhaps especially those in Melbourne, are part of a community - an extended family that mentors, nurtures and indeed constructively criticises. I did not know Richard Millott, but it is clear the positive influence he had and the many lives he affected. Ed.
Prominent Australian photographer Richard Millott died in Melbourne of cancer on 14th March following a four-month battle with advanced melanoma, which he fought with courage, dignity and good humour until the end.
Richard was a giant among his peers, not only did he physically tower over them but his innate ability as a photographer was second to none. A master of his craft, Richard could match the best when it came to fashion and beauty photography in the 1970’s. Inspired by global giants such as Richard Avedon and Barry Lategan, Richard could emulate the highest global standards and yet leave his own unique indelible mark of perfection.
I first met Richard when he wandered into the Chapel Street South Yarra studios of Brian Brandt & Associates, now Bridie O’Reilly’s Irish Tavern, in late 1972. At the time Richard had just completed 2nd year of the 3 year BA photography course at RMIT under the guidance of noted photographer Michael Wennrich. Richard was a mature age student who after completing year 12 at Carey Grammar, had spent four years working as a wharf labourer, dishwasher, taxi driver and, in his own words, general tramp, searching for his place in society. His flat-mate at the time, photographer Graham Nicholson who worked with Henry Talbot at Newton (Helmut) & Talbot, sparked Richard’s initial interest in photography. This occurred at a time when he had a desire to work in the film industry and was persevering with the idea of getting a job at the ABC. In a cover-story that I wrote for the Institute of Australian Photography (IAP) Magazine in 1973 Richard commented that “Because of our bureaucratic society and its vicious ‘Who you know’ outlook, I became extremely frustrated and decided to seek full time enrolment at RMIT”
In his first two years as a student at RMIT Richard found a direction in a profession that he believed would give satisfaction to himself and others. He learnt to balance both the technical and the practical demands, and became a great believer that technique should be used only as a vehicle for one’s imagination. 
In late 1973, after completing third year at RMIT, Richard joined the Brian Brandt & Associates stable of photographers that included Brian Brandt, Peter Bailey, Klaus Wimhoff, Douglas Coates and myself. Richard quickly bypassed the usual assistant training period and built his own impressive list of clients that included leading fashion and beauty companies. 
Angie Heinl teamed with Richard during this period in what became one of the professions great mentor/assistant relationships and in turn Angie, with Richard’s blessing and encouragement, went on to become an outstanding photographer in her own right.
Stylist, Carol Silk, then wife of photographer Rennie Ellis, was another important member of the personal team and further support came from the in-house colour lab (CPL Services) headed at the time by Herman Bauer and B&W lab operated by Di Lancashire and Ross Dufty. Diana Gribble, later a founding partner in publishing company McPhee-Gribble,administered the bookkeeping, Karen Lewis managed the office and Paul Stedman tried his hardest to manage the photographers during this halcyon period in Richard’s life. 
Late in 1973 I shared a house in Evansdale Road Hawthorn with Richard and his partner, Tina Blomfield (now Millott). I have fond memories of our time at Evansdale Road where an eclectic group of Richard, Tina and my friends would visit. Tina’s dog, an Afghan named Veruschka, added another dimension to our domestic life and her endearing playful behaviour was always a delight, particularly when we walked in the nearby park. Richard and I would regularly drive into the CBD for lunch at Pellegrini’s Italian/New York style Bistro in Bourke Street or their back-restaurant in Crossley Street where we often observed the then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam enjoying the exquisite Italian cuisine. A visit to Pellegrini’s was often followed by a pleasant stroll through the The Paperback and The Hill of Content bookshops at the top end of Bourke Street where we both managed to acquire intellectual fodder and material for our respective photography libraries. Following frequent long nights working in the darkrooms at 462 Chapel Street, Richard and I would race each other home, he in his Mini-Moke and me in my Fiat. Arriving with amused expressions on our faces, we would have breakfast and retire for some sleep, often as Tina was making her way off to work. Both Richard and Tina were regulars at various social functions including the monthly MADC (Melbourne Art Directors Club) luncheon and Mogg’s Creek Moving Clickers film weekends at Lorne. Later in 1974, following Richard and Tina’s purchase of a house in North Melbourne we retreated from the Evansdale Road premises. At their new home Richard and Tina became avid supporters of the local North Melbourne Football Club and were regular visitors to games.
On the 26th October 1974 Richard & Tina were married and held a reception in the front Studio at 462 Chapel Street, I had the pleasure of taking the official group 8x10 B&W portrait. It could be said that Richard and Tina’s greatest achievement was to combine their busy professional lives with the raising of four wonderful children, Ashley, Amber, Celeste and Jenna. In 1983 the family moved to Kew where they were closer to the childrens’ school.
On leaving Brian Brandt & Associates in the mid 70s, Richard joined Bob Bourne & Peter Gough at Still Picture Company (later Paradise Pictures). Later he moved into a partnership with fellow ex-RMIT student Derek Hughes at 264 Park Street South Melbourne. At this time another ex-RMIT student and close friend Wanda Tucker joined Richard as studio manager, and shortly after he and Derek leased the historic former Wesleyan Methodist Church at 167 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda. Fellow RMIT Student, photographer Nick Bernardo joined the studio during this time and Richard became a pillar of support as Nick fought his own battle with cancer. In 1987 the partnership dissolved and Richard took over the magnificent premises. Subsequently Richard succumbed to the landlord’s desire to develop the site as residential apartments and he relocated his business to Lord Street Richmond. In 2007 the studio was closed and Richard based himself from home in Kew. 
During his career Richard inspired and nurtured the careers of many, he gave generously of his time to enhance the professional status of Australian photography and had strong association with both the AIPP (Australian Institute of Professional Photography and ACMP (Australian Commercial & Media Photographers) of which he was a founding member and later a director.
Our sympathies go to Tina, the children, Ashley, Amber, Celeste, Jenna and their extended families. Richard, the gentle giant who was seen and admired by many as an honourable, well-principled, down-to-earth human being leaves us with cherished memories that will stay forever.                                                 

This obituary was written by AIPP ‘Honorary Life Member’ & ACMP Patron Rob Imhoff at the request of close friend Ian McKenzie.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Days of Miracle and Wonder

"Boys With Guns" are everywhere, it seems
Prudence Murphy's timely, droll observations of boys role-playing with guns seem to have found an appropriately national stage. These quiet, but slightly ominous views into the combative games played by boys can be seen as part of Fotofreo's "Divergence: Photographs from Elsewhere" component in the renowned, month long, expansive photography festival  in Fremantle http://fotofreo.com/ her photographs are also to be seen on the other side of the continent, at the Queensland Centre for Photography. www.qcp.org.au/ "Backyard #1" from this series has, incidentally, been shortlisted for the 2012 Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Photography Award http://www.theartscentregc.com.au/whats-on/whats-on-items/2012-josephine-ulrick-photography-award Works from the series have also been published in the Summer 2012 issue of Ampersand Magazinehttp://ampersandmagazine.com.au/buy/ It seems Murphy may have touched a nerve with her gentle, questioning imagery. At the Midlands Railway Workshops, Perth, until April 15. 
Eleanor, Muse to Harry Callahan, dies at 95
Some photographers' lives have been defined by their partners. One thinks of the exquisite journey into modernist imagery forged by Alfred Steiglitz with legendary painter Georgia O'Keeffe, as well as the sensual resonances to be found in Edward Weston's photographs, both clad and nude, of Charis Wilson and Tina Modotti. Now Eleanor Callahan, partner and lifelong muse of American photographer Harry Callahan (1912-1999) has died, at 95. Richard B. Woodward of the NY Times provide this moving tribute to her life with a visibly devoted photographer husband. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/29/arts/design/eleanor-callahan-photographic-muse-for-harry-callahan-dies-at-95.html Callahan's photographs of his wife are a vivid tribute to the idea of pursuing the universal that lies within the prosaic. While his wife was by no means a classical beauty, Callahan nevertheless saw in her, as writer Vladimir Nabokov once said, "the divinity within the detail." Photographs of his life-long companion find extraordinary sculptural beauty within Eleanor Callahan's somewhat opulent flesh. Her face, undistinguished by stereotypical beauty, neverthless revealed, through their intimate visual dialogue, a timeless, moving serenity. Harry Callahan proved that beauty, indeed, was in the eye of this beholder. Callahan then showed he had the heart, and talent, to bring her beauty to our eyes.
Two Lewis Morleys Shine at Gallery 88
Gifted concept model-maker and distinguished film-worker Lewis P. Morley (pictured, top) shares the stage with his celebrated photographer father Lewis Morley (pictured, above) in an entertaining, unpredictable exhibition http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eUVAvRozpc at Peter McMahon's Gallery 88 in George Street, Redfern. Both father and son possess differing imaginations that roam freely - from Morley Senior's precisely observed street graffiti, as exquisitely rendered as any of Australian painter Sydney Ball's totemic colour images http://www.sydneyballart.com.au/paper/drawings.htm - to Lewis P. Morley's beautifully constructed models and graphic works, some of which have appeared in Hollywood films. That their imaginative visions blend so well is a tribute to the space Peter McMahon has fashioned from the gallery's former incarnation - a classic Redfern street corner pub. From March 15
Gary Heery Reinvents Himself, Yet Again
"Undergrowth No 1", Photograph by Gary Heery

A visit to Gary Heery's website www.garyheery.com/ suggests that this accomplished editorial, advertising and corporate photographer and celebrity portraitist simply refuses to be categorised. After last year's successful, poetic exploration of high speed flash imagery of exotic native birds, coupled with archetypal images of Equus, our ancient friend, Heery is back at Shapiro's welcoming gallery space www.shapiro.com.au/ in Woollahra, Sydney with "Undergrowth", a strange, sometimes bleak, but always interesting exploration of the female nude. "I have been surrounded by beauty and beautiful women all my life. This series of highly detailed photographs is a reflection on the fragility of beauty in the natural world." declared Heery. Working in collaboration with celebrated international artist/stylist Michelle Jank  http://www.michellejank.com/ and Grandiflora http://grandiflora.net  run by his wife, arguably Sydney's premier floral artist, Saskia Havekes, Heery has fashioned a series of nudes that suspend female figures within transparent cocoons filled with flowers - simultaneously evoking Pre-Raphaelite painting and the necrogenic fantasies of Belgian Surrealist Paul Delvaux. Until March 18
LOUPE Winners To Tour Sofitel Hotels
'Darter Bird, Dora Creek, Morrisset' by Jacqui Dean Open 2011
Photo by Vi Wilson Amateur winner 2011
'Stillness of Motion' Photograph by Chris Herzfeld LOUPE
The innovative Loupe photography competition www.loupeawards.com are honouring the winners to their Open and The Medium Format Art Prize of their contest with a touring exhibition beginning at the Sofitel Melbourne on Collins in Melbourne and then touring Sydney, Brisbane and Gold Coast Sofitel hotels. Sydney architectural photographer Jacqui Dean http://www.deanphotographics.com.au/ has already carried off the prestigious (and lucrative at $20,000) 2011 Open Prize with her precise, monochrome capturing of the exquisitely feathered form of  a female, predatory Darter Bird (pictured) observed performing its apres-submarine hunting ritual of unfurling soaked feathers to be dried by the sun. There were many other outstanding entries including finely observed and detailed high speed dance images made using the LEAF camera’s massive 80 megapixel sensor and a series of sensitive landscape photographs.
In Japan, Kaizen Still Rules

As stated in a previous blog, there is a Japanese word “Kaizen” which means the capacity for constant improvement. Commonly thought to have been introduced after the end of World War 2, “Kaizen” has been at the forefront of Japan’s postwar march toward economic primacy. I prefer to think that it has long been embedded in Japanese culture - in the way, for example, that Ukiyo-e masters such as Hokusai (pictured, right,"The Great Wave of Kanegawa)) Hiroshige and Utamaro regularly printed their wood-block images using hand-carved wooden plates that had to be accurately in register for more than ten colours. Precision and excellence were long ago ingrained in pre-20th century art and craft in Japan. We are seeing examples of
this commitment to excellence constantly in the cameras being introduced by the major Japanese manufacturers – with perhaps no more vivid example than Sony’s recently offered A77 DSLR.(pictured, above left) This is a camera designed and built to challenge the expectations of established digital SLR users. Using a translucent, stationary mirror and the same 24 megapixel CMOS APS-C sensor as their very compact NEX-7, the Sony A77 is very much a camera for the demanding advanced amateur or professional. Featuring a standard zoom lens from 16-50mm, (24-75mm in traditional terms) the A77 invites the user to be more ambitious in their low light picture-taking by incorporating a fast, constant f2.8 aperture. The lens also performs impeccably, from its maximum aperture down. There are, however, some additional controls on the A77 dial on the camera’s top deck that suggest other remarkable imagery of which this DSLR is capable. Along with the usual settings for Program, Aperture priority and Shutter priority, there is a Sweep Panorama symbol as well as a nod toward to the future of photography with a 3D setting. This is surely “Kaizen” at its best. Picking up the Sony A77 DSLR for the first time reminds you that this is a substantial camera, especially when equipped with a constant f2.8 zoom lens. The camera feels like it means business at around 1.4kg (with lens) and responds sweetly to the first press of the shutter release. Shutter noise is appropriately subtle for a camera with a stationary translucent mirror. That the camera also can effortlessly shoot at 12fps is a further bonus for those photographing either sport and family. I took the A77 to a family Christmas gathering and photographed my great grand-nephew and niece Finn and Maddy, (pictured, above) who seem more like brother and sister than cousins. I also made several simple portraits – of accomplished
Adelaide film-maker Mira Soulio

Adelaide film director Mira Soulio (pictured, left) when she visited me to deliver the DVD of her latest film, a documentary on street photography entitled “The City – The Street” which explores the urban observations of such Australian masters as David Moore, Rennie Ellis, Carol Jerrems, Mark Kimber and Roger Scott. I can only say Sony's camera performed precisely as it should. One warning however: I accidentally left the display setting on where all functions for which the A77 is set were visible on the fully articulated LCD screen on the back of the camera. So comprehensive are these notations that the screen becomes crowded with typography (pictured, left) and quite distracting if you are simply attempting to monitor the screen’s image of a recently made picture. I also have one small gripe regarding the camera’s on/off switch, positioned around the shutter release. It requires a conscious effort to turn the camera on and off, whereas the detent should be more simple and positive to use. Sweep Panorama, as Sony has coined their in-camera stitched panoramas, is now de-rigeur for most of their cameras – from those costing around a hundred, or over a thousand dollars. I took the Sony A77 to lunch at one of Adelaide premier beachside restaurants – Hortas at Nourlunga Beach www.hortas.com.au/ and applied the Sweep Panorama to the simple, careless beach vista enfolding just in front of the restaurant.When U.S. songwriter Paul Simon once sang, of our time, that “these are days of miracle and wonder …” he could have been writing of an era when today’s cameras, for example, conceal such an abundance of features that we are challenged to use them intelligently – whether either making simple, accurate observations, or recording such spectacles that invite the use of Sweep Panorama. The camera also has, of course the capacity to record Full HD video (with three choices of frame speeds) And the Sony A77 continues to surprise us, with the promise of 3D imaging and also inbuilt GPS - just in case we forget where we once stood.Ted’s Cameras www.teds.com.au/  are currently selling the Sony A77( body only) for $1899.95

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Redefining The Momentary

An exhibition which is perennially one of Sydney's best opens at the Art Gallery of NSW http://www.artgallerynsw.gov.au/ on February 22. ARTEXPRESS will display works submitted for the 2011 NSW HSC Visual Arts Certificate examination and provides ample proof that Oscar Wilde was, for once, wrong when he wrote "Youth is wasted on the young." Past years have shown that the students have approached their various art genres (including photography and photo-media) with energy, invention and burgeoning talent. Not to be missed. Until April 22.
Melbourne's Queen of Darkness

Katrin Koenning http://www.katrinkoenning.com/ has established a unique form of street photography - observing human figures suspended within urban canyons - capturing her strolling subjects as random rays of light illuminate their paths through pools of darkness. "Once, while venturing through the city in search for faces and light," recalled Koenning, "I came across this place in the Melbourne CBD. Light reaches it directly for only 20 minutes a day, around lunchtime, when people rush away from work to get sandwiches and coffees. During these few minutes, a transformation happens ... faces are illuminated, dust twirls through rays of sun, cigarette smoke becomes an almost glistening silver- blue against dark buildings."  There is timelessness in Koenning's interpretation of these moments - with her subjects appearing preoccupied as they make their way across Melbourne's streets. Katrin Koenning is one of a number of Australian fine-art photographers finding inspiration in depicting city life (Trent Parke, Gary Cockburn and Narelle Autio are three others with similarly passionate concerns for "the street") Koenning also chooses moments in which her subjects often seem passionately internalised, as if slightly bruised by light's sudden intrusion on their journey. Koenning is currently exhibiting "Thirteen:Twenty Lacuna 2009-2011", a suite of colour images which remind us that the street remains one of the most timeless challenges photography can offer us - capturing any city's ancient aspect freshly, while paying homage to social arenas as defining as any found in cities as disparate as New York, or Pompeii. At Edmund Pearce Gallery http://edmundpearce.com.au/ Melbourne, until February 18.
The Language of Time
Conor O'Brien's http://www.conorobrien.com.au/info.htm recent exhibition at the Australian Centre for Photography http://www.acp.org.au/ was noticeable for this artist's continued prosecution of the most interesting, and deceptively simple of ideas. O'Brien's photography re-examines the moment, the most fundamental verb in photography's visual grammar, through pictures (almost all in colour, from memory) of the most simple, resonant kind. In this photograph (pictured, above) O'Brien has portrayed a graceful young woman with her back to camera, standing before another constant within visual art (especially Surrealism) - a door. The picture explicitly renders the young woman's form without further reference to either voyeurism or visible eroticism. And yet this picture suggests a decision is being taken and that the moment this photographer has captured is pregnant with possibilities. Many years ago MOMA photography curator John Szarkowski (1925-2007) said something very simple which somehow stayed in my mind. Having observed the rise of great picture magazines such as LIFE and LOOK which showcased the best of American photojournalism Szarkowski said, and from memory I must paraphrase: 'up til now photographers have excelled in photographing what happens - now I would hope they begin to address what exists.' (my emphasis) By saying this Szarkowsky seemed to allude that photographers look beyond the narrative - to go beneath what happens and photograph the other layers available to this remarkable medium. I would suggest that part of this hidden agenda is photography's own form of Surrealism - practised, ironically, by such supreme masters of observing what happens as Josef Koudelka, Sebastiao Salgado and the pioneering master himself, Henri Cartier-Bresson. Conor O'Brien  seems not to be a documentary photographer in the style of these exalted three, but he does capture qualities in a scene that are less than visible, at first glance. If that worn cliche 'a picture is worth a thousand words' is worth anything then pictures such as the two images (pictured) here suggest the photograph as a visual novella, so resonant with imagined, incomplete paths are they.
MAGNUM's Eve Arnold Dies at 99
It is with great sadness that we mark the passing of Eve Arnold, one of the most remarkable, talented members of Magnum Photos. Arnold's career coincided with Magnum's ascendancy as the world's premier photographic cooperative and amongst many memorable assignments was her perceptive, intimate essay on Marilyn Monroe (pictured, above left) on location during the 1961 filming in Nevada of John Huston's "The Misfits". This led to further, affectionate collaborations with Monroe, seen here (pictured, above right) during a photographic session in Los Angeles. Britain's Guardian newspaper carried the following obituary. http://www.blogger.com/post-edit.g?blogID=4793272593084821996&postID=1206163668872516091
Of Serpents and Marooned Maidens, at MOSSGREEN
The photographs of Rennie Ellis (1940-2003) are making a welcome return to their public, this time at MOSSGREEN Gallery in Melbourne on February 10th, with an exhibition mischievously named T.I.T.S. "This Is The Show" which references the dark days in Melbourne when nightclubs could only legally advertise adventurist strip shows by using initials only - which collectively might then suggest something else entirely. In this spirit MOSSGREEN, with the Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive http://www.rennieellis.com.au/ are presenting a selection of Ellis's affectionate, unsentimental observations of a vibrant Australian subculture from four decades ago. It was my pleasure, as a friend and contemporary of Rennie Ellis, to contribute this short essay for the invitation to visit MOSSGREEN Gallery.
"Spring Lunch 1992" Copyright Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive
For the last four decades of the Twentieth Century, Rennie Ellis (1940-2003) was a deeply influential figure in Australian photography, sometimes impolitely but always affectionately drawing our attention to the dreams and fables revealed in his observation of everyday lives. Ellis was an unsentimental ‘eye’ watching profound changes flowing through Australian society – and nothing drew his gaze more potently than the emergence of eroticism, or sometimes simply nudity – in public. Rennie Ellis didn’t only photograph women nude – sometimes men appeared in his pictures, impressive in their musculature - but never with the mythic power he would reveal in the unclad forms of women. There is one photograph in this suite of images that suggests, beyond its considerable narrative documentary strength, what women may have meant as subjects for the elegant, genial and always acutely observant presence that was Rennie Ellis. In “Spring Luncheon 1992” thirteen men stand around a circular restaurant dinner table. (pictured, above) Dressed conservatively in business suits and ties, all gaze, except one, toward an almost totally nude blonde woman sitting on a white table cloth in the middle of their beer bottle-strewn table. They seem bemused by the good luck that has propelled this beautiful young woman out of the kind of mythology that once created Botticelli’s “Venus” - onto their table – leaving her smiling at Ellis like a mischievous mermaid found trapped in a fishing net. Ellis instinctively contrasts the perfection of the young woman’s form with the mundanity – even impotence – of the men’s’ stances as they seem helpless to do little more than marvel at her beauty – and its close proximity with the province of dreams.
The mythic alliance between women and serpents is also strongly implied in “Snake Woman, Kings Cross 1970-71”, (pictured, left) the only photograph in which Ellis’s focus is capable of being deflected from sharply rendering female nudity, as his camera instead focuses on the flat, malevolent head of a python as the serpent tries to pull away from the dancer. Rennie Ellis also finds a casual counterpoint to women’s roles as erotic dancers in observations such as “Backstage Dressing Room, The Ritz, St Kilda 1977” where nudity, and by inference eroticism, are only incidental to this beautifully observed moment expressing the close fellowship women find when working together. Ellis’s pictures are present in this exhibition almost exclusively in black and white, a documentary medium that suits his direct, sometimes pungent observations well. There is, however, one impressive exception.  By observing “My Bare Lady, The Ritz, St Kilda 1977” in colour, Ellis achieves an almost Degas-like delicacy, momentarily dismantling any preference I might have felt for his black and white images. In showing  T.I.T.S.“This is the show … by Rennie Ellis”, Mossgreen Gallery offer a vivid, revealing segment of the extraordinary archive created by Rennie Ellis, of which the National Gallery of Australia’s Senior Curator of Photography Gael Newton once said, “the record will speak for itself over time … as it (the archive) ages it will surprise us with its depth and significance.” ©Robert McFarlane 2012 www.ozphotoreview.com Until March 3
One Door Opens ... Another Closes
"Native", an exhibition featuring four different artists, each with complementary visions, is coming to the end of its run and will sadly close at Syndicate, 2 Danks Street, Waterloo this Saturday. "Native" is curated by Sandy Edwards of ARTHEREhttp://www.arthere.com.au/ and features works by Tim Hixson, Sally McInerney, Anthony Amos and Peter Solness. All are presenting colour landscapes which seem linked by both strength and delicacy of colour, an affection, indeed, love of landscape and four noticeably individual visual signatures. Seeing work with this degree of evolved vision underlines how varied and unpredictable Australian landscape photographers are. Far from merely transferring the seductive U.S. West Coast visions of photographic legends such as Edward Weston and Ansel Adams, Australian landscape photographers are establishing their own dialogue with the very different vistas they face on this continent. Until February 11
There is a word in Japanese for constant improvement and it seems that despite suffering three major catastrophes that would have crippled less diligent nations, Japan's commitment to constantly bettering their renowned cameras and lenses continues unabated. As U.S. songwriter Paul Simon once wrote - of the astounding era in which we now live - "These are days of miracle and wonder ..." A small press release filtered into my inbox announcing that Nikon www.nikon.com.au/ were bringing out their D800E DSLR (pictured, left) featuring a sensor of 36 Megapixels. Another release, this time from Canon, http://www.canon.com.au/ heralded a new Powershot 12.1 megapixel pocket camera, their SX260 with a 20x zoom (giving effectively a remarkable 25-500mm range) and the now obligatory ability to shoot 1080p Full HD video. Canon have coupled the new high sensitivity CMOS sensor with DIGIC 5 image processing within the camera. There is now no plausible excuse for not adequately recording the lives of our families - with built in GPS-tagging allowing for no excuses as to where the picture was taken. As events deteriorate in what distinguished Bangladeshi photojournalist Shahidul Alam http://www.shahidulnews.com/ correctly calls "The Majority World", such small, capable, unobtrusive cameras are less conspicuous, as indeed are the now ubiquitous smart cameraphones used to document appalling events unfolding daily in the latest chapter of the Arab Spring - Syria.
Canon also announced that the fine workhorse of a lens for their full frame EOS DSLR's, the 24-70f2.8L lens, has been redesigned and areas of its already high performance improved. Canon have added the suffix II to the lens to indicate the latest generation of will now be known as 24-70mmf2.8LII.
Text Copyright Robert McFarlane 2012 http://www.robertmcfarlanephotos.com/

Friday, October 21, 2011

Video Transcending Difficulties of Its Making

A Tyrant's Departure - Democratically Observed

Happier Times - Qaddafi with France's President Sarkozy
Muammar el-Qaddafi’s death in Sirte on October 20th brought an instant glimpse into the world’s medieval past – with a death seen as initially sudden, then as grotesquely paraded as any execution centuries ago in Elizabethan Tudor England might have been. Being hung, drawn and quartered could have been a more formal way of dying than that finally experienced by Muammar el-Qaddafi, as witnessed in intricate, ghastly detail on the internet (and seen briefly on the New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/21/world/africa/qaddafi-is-killed-as-libyan-forces-take-surt.html before being withdrawn). Terrible images, jaggedly observed by phone video, somehow suggested, in one contradictory sequence, that Qaddafi was being cradled as any casualty of war, but with his death imminent, so serious were his visible head wounds.http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2052178/GADDAFI-DEATH-VIDEO-Moment-Libyan-dictator-killed-bullet-head.html The former Libyan leader’s shining, profusely shed blood, lit by sunlight falling on the careening vehicle in which the Colonel was being transported, suggested the final assault on his life had occurred only minutes before. But as the chaotic, shuddering camerawork deteriorated to something below sub-competence, did the Libyan leader’s head then seem to move slightly to indicate he still lived? The camera then panned away to a meaningless, blurry traveling shot of rapidly receding sand accompanied by a sound track of crackling gunfire, heard against frequent Arabic cries proclaiming the greatness of Allah, apparently from an ecstatic young man with a pronounced gap between http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sb82x9nvug8&feature=player_embedded#t=45s his front teeth, whom we later glimpse several more times. As the camera's angle swerved further away from  the vehicle, the youth’s cries were drowned out by more gunfire from automatic weapons. (Has anyone else noticed that insurgents, especially during the Arab Spring, seem to have inexhaustible supplies of bullets, so fond are they of firing triumphant volleys into thin air.) This phone video, shot with as much discrimination as the random aerial gunfire, now slowly panned back and addressed the stricken leader who raises and inspects his bloodstained hand. Attempting to pause this chaotic footage did not help in my understanding of the ex-President’s dire predicament, but the video did succeed, with its crude visual style, in making me realize I had witnessed a shift in history - a tyrant’s departure, rendered with none of the skill we have come to expect from renowned conflict photographers such as David Dare Parker http://www.daviddareparker.com/ , Don McCullin http://www.contactpressimages.com/photographers/mccullin/mccullin_bio.html and Steve Dupont http://www.stephendupont.com/ for example. There was, however, an impressionistic veracity that was difficult to question. Here was death, democratically rendered by phone video (as indeed it had been throughout the Arab Spring) with no concern for sentimentality, cinematic skill or even rudimentary composition. For more coverage of the video and the public's response see http://christwire.org/2011/10/youtube-gaddafi-death-video-is-causing-some-controversy/ Even so, the sequence was still profoundly shocking, transcending any ‘compassion fatigue’ we may feel for arenas of global suffering in general - and this once seemingly intransigent conflict, in particular. This unvarnished footage conveyed the death of a leader, one of several Middle East rulers who have made a habit of publicly shooting their own dissident citizens - but this time killed by his own subjects. “Those who live by the sword …shall die by the sword … ”  wandered into my thoughts, for a moment. But in the rawness of its video witness, this unforgettable sequence amplified the reality of his passing and made an ongoing human tragedy more real. The savagery of  revenge meted out to Qaddafi also suggested that perhaps a dispassionate, painstakingly legal trial would have been more beneficial in the long run for Libya - instead of an impatient, brutal death delivered with such obvious relish by his opponents.
Text Copyright Robert McFarlane 2011 www.robertmcfarlanephotos.com