May 23, 2014

Friday Round Up - 23 May, 2014

This week on Friday Round Up Max Dupain's Paris photos on show for first time, Alison Stieven-Taylor's Diary from the opening weekend of the Head On Photo Festival in Sydney, Australian Claire Martin part of the team to retrace the journey of iconic photographer Inge Morath along the Danube River and a sneak peak at the Auckland Festival of Photography opening next week.

Max Dupain - Paris

In a love affair that has lasted almost two centuries, Paris has stolen the hearts of countless photographers. Known as the City of Light, the French capital is arguably the most photographed city in the world, but despite its exposure Paris provides a unique canvas that even the most seasoned photographer finds hard to ignore.

It is here in 1978 that renowned Australian photographer Max Dupain, then 67, fell under Paris’ spell, the ancient echoes of the city beckoning him to discover its secrets hidden in the labyrinthine streets and the intrinsic detail of its superlative architecture and ornate decoration.

In Paris on assignment to photograph the new Australian embassy, designed by his longtime friend and celebrated architect Harry Seidler, Dupain spent his free time wandering with camera in hand. Inspired by documentary photographers such as Brassaï, Eugene Atgat and Henri Cartier-Bresson, he captured everyday moments, as well as the architectural majesty of the city, engaging with life on the streets with an obvious joie de vivre.

This was the first time Dupain had ventured so far afield. He was not a world traveller and before this three-week trip to Paris his only excursions outside of Australia had been with the RAAF service in World War II when he visited New Guinea and Admiralty Island. Dupain was one of those rare creative spirits who found endless inspiration in his own backyard; Sydney and its surrounds provided ample subject matter for Dupain who continued to take photographs until his death in 1992 at the age of 81. 

Dupain’s photographs from his Paris sojourn, for it felt more a holiday than work, show an almost ingenuous curiosity, carrying within them a lightness of step and the joy of discovery. There is a sense that in Paris Dupain photographed with renewed vigour as streams of light and swathes of shadow played with the city, painting its historical archways, sweeping stairways, gilded sculptures, and soaring columns in alluring hues. Such contrasts were irresistible for Dupain whose commitment to black and white photography was resolute as was his skill in using natural light to dramatic effect. It is no wonder the City of Light spoke to Dupain’s heart; he had been captivated by light since he’d first picked up a camera at the age of 13.

Random people also feature in these photographs educing an aesthetic that points to the joy found in an everyday moment - the photograph of the woman with the pram in Jardin des Tuilleries sitting on the bench reading; the solitary man walking down the long portico and; the couple entering Les Invalides under the gaze of the oversized statue of Napoleon. In the photograph of the tourists near the Eifel Tower Dupain has stepped into the scene almost as a participant rather than observer. In this photograph and others including that of the crowd moving through the hallway in the Louvre, there is a sense that Dupain is flirting with being a tourist and enjoying the experience. 

Throughout his lauded career Dupain experimented with various genres – portraiture, still life, nudes, landscapes, and architectural photography, the latter his focus for much of his commercial career. David Moore, another luminary of Australian photography who worked with Dupain, said despite the difficulty of trying to slot his friend into a particular genre, one could tell a Dupain image because of its strong visual signature - tight frames, clear lines and dramatic contrasts of light that create a minimalist aesthetic where nothing in the image is redundant. These Paris photographs undoubtedly carry that visual stamp, yet many also suggest poignancy within the austerity of the composition harking back to Dupain’s edict that photography was about “distilling visual and emotional experiences”.

“A photograph needs to mean something,” he commented in 1978. “Sensitivity, piercing awareness, emotional and intellectual involvement, self-discipline, are some of the elements which create that rapport with the subject be it a rock, or a woman, or a woman on a rock.”

Moore said that Dupain’s maturity as a photographer had “permitted him to photograph with more of the child’s joy of vision”. In this collection of 21 prints, which were given to Seidler as a personal gift, are the indelible markings that made Dupain one of Australia’s most intuitive photographers whose work remains pertinent even in today’s image-saturated world.

This is the first time these images have been on public display and now form part of the permanent collection of the Art Gallery of NSW. 

(C) All photos Max Dupain courtesy of Art Gallery of NSW

Max Dupain
Paris 'private' series and other pictures
24 May – 14 September
Art Gallery of NSW  

Head On Photo Festival
Alison Stieven-Taylor's Diary
Opening Weekend

Erika Diettes’ Sudarios exhibition at St. Canice Church
(C) Alison Stieven-Taylor shot on Olympus OM-D E-M1

From the rafters of a church in the backstreets of inner Sydney hang swathes of silk. They gently sway in the breeze as it floats through the lead light doors that sit ajar inviting passersby to enter this house of worship. Lit by the sun that streams through the stained glass windows, the fabric twinkles as if infused with shards of crystal.

These pieces of fabric are not flags or religious motifs. They are black and white photographs of women who have experienced unimaginable horrors, having been forced to watch their loved ones murdered by guerrillas and paramilitaries. This moving exhibition “Sudarios (Shrouds)” is by Colombian photographic artist, and social anthropologist, Erika Diettes and is one of the centrepieces of this year’s Head On Photo Festival in Sydney. 

Erika Diettes at St. Canice Church
(C) Alison Stieven-Taylor shot on OM-D E-M1

Around the corner from St. Canice’s church at the Stanley Street Gallery is an exhibition by Swedish photographer Johan Willner - “Boys Stories”. These photographs explore the concept of memory and how it changes over time. 

(C) Johan Willner

At Stills Gallery in Paddington American photographer Mary Ellen Mark’s iconic black and white photographs hang alongside of Australian photographer Lisa Garland’s portraits, both photographers bringing unique insights into those who live on the margins of society. 

 (C) Mary Ellen Mark

(C) Lisa Garland

In a large outdoor space known as the Paddington Reservoir American photojournalist Ben Lowy’s work is on show along with National Geographic’s Chris Rainier. Here also are the works of the finalists in the Head On Portrait Prize. 

(C) Alison Stieven-Taylor shot on OM-D E-M1

(C) Alison Stieven-Taylor shot on OM-D E-M1

At the Danks Street Gallery complex multiple spaces feature a diverse range of work from exhibitions shot on plastic cameras and mobile phones. There are also multimedia works. At the famous Bondi Beach Pavilion a group of artists show what can be done with mobile phone applications in another exhibition that plays with memory. 

The diversity of the photographic medium is what Head On Photo Festival is all about. It is a festival of photography in all its forms, designed to celebrate the egalitarian nature of photography, free of the pretensions of labels, a true feast for the eyes and soul.

Over the Festival’s opening weekend I saw an amazing variety of works from a diverse group of artists and you can read about a number of the shows I saw in today’s bulletin. The weekend began with the opening night festivities and the announcement of the Head On Award winners. More than 4000 photographers from around the world entered the competitions this year for the Landscape, Mobile and Multimedia awards, with only the Head On Portrait Prize confined to Australian entrants.

As one of the judges for the Head On Landscape Prize along with award-winning photographers Chris Rainier and Murray Fredericks, I had viewed hundreds of images in the preceding weeks. Not knowing who the photographers were, as is the premise with all the Head On Awards, I responded firstly to the emotional impact of each image. To see the landscape interpreted in so many styles and through so many eyes was a wonderful learning experience for me, and speaks to the heart of my interest in photography as a conduit for understanding. While there were many synergies each of the judges brought something new to the discussion. As a critical thinker, being a judge was one of the most enjoyable aspects of my involvement in this year’s Festival.

Festivals such as Head On also bring together the photographic community and over the three days I spent in Sydney I reconnected with many photographers I’ve met from around the globe as well as making new friends. I had the good fortune to engage in extended conversations with James Dooley the photojournalism council administrator for the Alexia Foundation in New York, to speak in depth with both international and local artists about their work and to spend time with the Head On team led by Festival Director Moshe Rosenzveig and General Manager Anita Schwartz.

On the Sunday I was part of a panel discussion on the topic “Do we still photograph with passion?” My fellow panel members were James Dooley, Erika Diettes, Johan Willner, Australian photographer Jonny Lewis, Chinese-Australian photographer Tami Xiang, consultant Sally Brownbill, American photojournalist Ben Lowy, Moshe Rosenzveig and Kristie Galea of Olympus, the Festival’s major sponsors this year. 

The Head On Panel (C) Alec Dawson

This interactive session drew on all of the panellists’ experience, ignited debate and infused everyone with energy and enthusiasm for the future. It was agreed at the end of the two-hour session that despite the shifts in the photographic landscape, and the continuing demise of the traditional publishing platforms, professionals still harbour enormous passion for the medium; embracing change is part of the practice of every artist.

Olympus kindly lent me an OM-D E-M1 for the weekend to trial. I’ve shot on Olympus cameras all my life, and still have my OM-1 film camera and its lenses that I used when I was studying photography. The E-M1 is fantastic, particularly shooting in low light. Fast, incredibly light, and unobtrusive, the E-M1 allowed me to capture the weekend’s festivities and immediately upload them so I could share them with my blog readers and colleagues. To say I like this camera is an understatement and its connectivity and ease of use has quickly made it an essential part of my kit. Its new home is my handbag so it can be with me everywhere, everyday.

Overall Head On Photo Festival was an immersive experience that has given me so much food for thought that I will not be ‘hungry’ for months to come.

Alison Stieven-Taylor

Head On runs until 8 June across multiple venues. 

Danube Revisited - The Inge Morath Truck Project

(C) Inge Morath

The nine recipients of the Inge Morath Award* will travel along the Danube River this July and August in a 7.5T truck which is being converted into a mobile photography gallery. The truck will house a selection of images from renowned Magnum photographer Inge Morath, photographs she made in communities along the Danube. The tour will travel through ten countries along the Danube River from the Black Forest to the Black Sea. A documentary film will also be made of this unique project.

(C) Inge Morath

(C) Inge Morath

Along the tour route the award-winning photographers - Olivia Arthur (UK), Emily Schiffer (USA), Lurdes R. Basoli (Spain), Claudia Guadarrama (Mexico), Ami Vitale (US), Jessica Dimmock (US), Mimi Chakarova (Bulgaria), Kathryn Cook (US) and Australian Claire Martin - will hold artist talks, photo forums and cultural exchanges with local institutions and organisations. Following the tour they will embark on the creation of new works to be exhibited in 2015.

Currently the Danube Revisited team is calling for submissions from women photographers working in the regions the Tour will encompass. Submissions close 20th June. They are also raising funds through Kickstarter. Click on the links to find out more and support this unique project if you are able. *The Inge Morath Award is given annually by Magnum Photos' members to a female photographer under 30 years.

Rob Gilhooly - Suicide Forest

One of the most profound exhibitions in this year’s Auckland Festival of Photography is British photographer Rob Gilhooly’s “Suicide Forest”. This is a beautifully composed photo essay of what may be one of the loneliest places on earth, for this forest is where an inordinate number of Japanese people have chosen to end their lives. In the densely populated bush amidst the solitude of nature, men and women who have lost hope make their final communion. This is one of the most powerful and moving exhibitions I’ve seen and points to an unspoken plague of modern life. The suicide rate in Japan is the highest in the world, more than double other developed nations including the US and UK. The numbers are incomprehensible; for 14 years to 2011 more than 30,000 people have taken their own lives every year in Japan. 

All images (C) Rob Gilhooly

Gilhooly says, “For over half a century, thousands of life-weary Japanese have made one-way trips to this sprawling, 30-sq.-km tract of woodland on the northwest flank of Mount Fuji, at 3,776-meters the nation’s highest peak. It’s a dark place of stark beauty, long associated with demons in Japanese mythology — and one that has earned itself the unfortunate appellation of ‘Suicide Forest.’ Evidence of such pilgrimages is strewn amid the dense undergrowth. Four pairs of moss-covered shoes are lined up on the gnarled roots of a tree — two adult-size pairs and two children’s pairs. Many, who take their lives here…first remove their shoes before making their last bed – a macabre take on a life-long custom that prevents the dirtiness of the outside world from spoiling the cleanliness inside the home”.

Suicide Forest
Rob Gilhooly
4-17 June
Hum Salon
123 Grafton Road
Part of 2014 Auckland Festival of Photography

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