June 13, 2014

Friday Round Up - 13 June, 2014

This week Friday Round Up features an historical theme. There are stories on two iconic American photographers who began their careers in the 1960s - Mary Ellen Mark and Danny Lyon, plus The Sievers Project (Melbourne), and a look at two massive photography archives that are now available online - the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and The Open Society Foundations. A visual feast.

Mary Ellen Mark

(C) Mary Ellen Mark

American photographer Mary Ellen Mark has been taking pictures for more than 50 years. In May the Stills Gallery in Sydney hosted her first solo exhibition in Australia featuring a number of images from the eighties and nineties including some shot for National Geographic in 1987 for a story on Australian Immigrants. 

More recently she’s worked in Australia as a stills photographer on three of Baz Luhrmann’s films – ‘The Great Gatsby’ and ‘Moulin Rouge’ in Sydney, and ‘Australia’ in the remote town of Kununurra in Western Australia, 3,040 kilometres (1,889 miles) from Perth. I can tell by the way Mark pronounces” Kun-un-urra” that she is still savouring that quintessential Australian outback experience. Of her time with Baz and his multi-Oscar winning wife Catherine ‘CM’ Martin she says, “Great people, brilliant”.

Internationally Mark is equally renowned for her film stills as well her documentary photography and she’s managed to successfully live in both worlds without losing her visual signature. She is credited with shooting more than 50 films including ‘Tootsie,’ ‘One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’ ‘Apocalypse Now’ and Fellini’s ‘Satyricon’. Mark tells me these commissions, and her magazine work, have funded her personal projects, which lie at the heart of her photographic practice...(to read the full interview and see more photographs please click on the Feature Articles tab at the top of the blog). 

Danny Lyon - The Seventh Dog

“The Seventh Dog” is the first retrospective monograph from American documentary photographer Danny Lyon. This book is as much a visual diary as it is a personal recollection, with images and anecdotes interwoven throughout in an intimate portrayal of what Lyon has seen over the last fifty years.

And it’s also a rollicking good read that is moved along by Lyon’s humour and his frankness. Unafraid of controversy, and throwing caution to the wind, Lyon plunged headlong into life using his camera to try and make sense of what was around him. Photography may be a lonely pursuit, as Robert Frank said, but the gems that live within the pages of The Seventh Dog could not have been taken without a single-minded focus...(to read full review and see more photographs please click on the Book Reviews tab at the top of the blog).

Exhibition: Melbourne
The Sievers Project - Group Show

Gerard Hearbst (C) Wolfgang Sievers

Considered one of the world's great industrial and architectural photographers, Wolfgang Sievers (1913-2007), a student of Bauhaus, fled Nazi Germany for Australia at the outbreak of WWII. In 1939 he opened his photographic studio in Melbourne and became one of Australia’s most renowned photographers with many of his images icons of the industrial age in this country.

Since his death in 2007, Naomi Cass the director of Melbourne’s Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP) has pondered how to combine contemporary practice with Sievers own work,the outcome of which is "The Sievers Project" in which six “early career” photo-media artists have responded to Sievers’ photographs in both direct and more esoteric styles.

The Sievers Project artists - Jane Brown, Cameron Clarke, Zoe Croggon, Therese Keogh, Phuong Ngo, and Meredith Turnbull – were given an open brief says Kyla McFarlane, Assistant Curator at CCP, who was also heavily involved in the Project. “The only remit was to respond to his work or his life or his philosophy…All responded quite respectfully, and have taken quite an interesting lateral and sometimes more direct responsive approaches”.

McFarlane says Clarke and Brown focused on some of Sievers more commercial images. Both visited various sites that Sievers had photographed including the Ford Factory and AMCOR’s Australian Paper Mills in Melbourne. Brown also visited “an old mining site in Broken Hill, which is a graveyard for machinery. There’s a certain poetic melancholy to these images. Jane prints her own work and uses interesting tones including gold. The prints are arranged in grids so you can see this mass of machinery and the abandoned nature of the place. We’ve hung Jane’s work opposite Sievers’ images and there is a real conversation between the pair”.

(C) Jane Brown

(C) Jane Brown

(C) Cameron Clarke

(C) Cameron Clarke

At a textiles plant in the Victorian country town of Wangaratta Clarke took a different approach with his response. With his idea being to capture the “theatrical drama of Sievers work, Cameron has taken portraits of the machines and the individuals,” offers McFarlane. “The workers in these photographs look so human and almost sweaty against these machines that are still in operation”.

Photo-media artist Zoe Croggon has taken Sievers’ photographs and used them underneath her collage works that are printed on aluminium. Suspended from the ceiling on wires, these two images overlap and juxtapose the athleticism of the human form against cold steel. 

(C) Zoe Groggon

Phuong Ngo drew on his migrant heritage to tell a personal story about his mother and other Vietnamese women who worked as seamstresses in backyard workshops. Using the sewing machine as the lynchpin, his portraits explore the relationship between the machines and the women. McFarlane says this work is a personal homage to Ngo’s childhood. “Phuong said that when he was growing up the sewing machine’s sound was like a Vietnamese lullaby…so here he’s taken a nub of Sievers’ work and placed it within his own history”.

(C) Phuong Ngo

In addition to the more traditional photographic representations are works that feature fabric, sculpture, collage and photolithographs. Using photography and original sculpture, artist Therese Keogh chose a photograph Sievers took in Rome of The Forum on which to frame her response. McFarlane says Keogh’s approach is centred on what she’s defined as “anomalies in Sievers’ practice”. Another installation artist and designer Meredith Turnbull, has used Sievers’ portrait of designer Gerard Hearbst as inspiration. Hearbst was an immigrant like Sievers. In this portrait Hearbst is pictured waving a bolt of fabric like a flag. It is this image that Turnbull has collaged and printed onto fabric as her response to a master’s work.

(C) Therese Keogh

(C) Meredith Turnbull

The Sievers Project
Until 24 August
404 George Street
Fitzroy (Melbourne)

Open Archives:
Metropolitan Museum of Art 

(C) Edward Steichen 1904

(C) Alfred Steiglitz 1905

(C) Martin Munkacsi 1929

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has opened its archive of around 30,000 photographs for free for non-commercial use. Images date back to the early years of photography with an eclectic collection of works that provide a brilliant walk through photography's history in the US in particular. This is a goldmine for anyone interested in the photograph's journey from Daguerre to now.

(C) Leon Levinstein 1960

(C) Robert Howlett 1857

(C) Rudolph Eichemeyer 1901

Open Society Foundations Archive
The Open Society Foundations has also opened its archive of documentary photographs to the public. Spanning 15 years, this collection features works by more than 170 photographers. There are both renowned and lesser known photographers in the Collection with the emphasis on the work - bodies of work that address human rights abuses and investigate the human condition in times of conflict.

This is a fantastic research archive with images from many including "Antonin Kratochvil’s documentation of the nascent years of Eastern Europe’s transition from Communism; Andrew Lichtenstein’s examination of the criminal justice system in the United States; Saiful Huq Omi’s representation of the Muslim ethnic minority Rohingya living in western Burma; and Andrea Diefenbach’s photographs of Moldovan parents who have migrated to Italy to find better-paying work, and the children they’ve left behind".

(C) Andrew Lichtenstein

(C) Antonin Kratochvil

(C) Saiful Huq Omi

(C) Andrea Diefenbach

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