December 19, 2014

Last Friday Round Up for 2014 - 19th December

This is the last Friday Round Up for the year, but we'll be back in 2015, returning on 16th January. This week sad news with the closure of Edmund Pearce in Melbourne, two new book reviews - Out of the Phone and Daybreak in Myanmar, and the exhibition Dreams and Imagination is on at MGA.

Over the past year more than 160 photographers have appeared on this blog along with comprehensive coverage of festivals including Paris Photo, Head On, Visa pour l'Image, Photoville, Angkor, Guernsey, Filter Photo, Noorderlicht, Unseen Amsterdam, Auckland Festival of Photography and more. On reviewing this year's posts there is so much talent out there, so many amazing photographers creating important works that allow others to discover the new, unusual, inspirational, bizarre and tragic. I never cease to be amazed at the level of activity happening around the globe in photography. It's a dynamic, exciting field to work in and one of my great joys is to discover new work and new photographers and in 2014 there was abundance of both.

To all the fantastic photographers who shared their stories, and to my readers, have a joyful and safe holiday season. See you in 2015.

Alison Stieven-Taylor

Edmund Pearce Gallery to Close

After three years the directors of Edmund Pearce Gallery in Melbourne have made the difficult decision to close the doors of their Flinders Lane space. This was one of the few galleries dedicated to photography in this country and it is a great loss for those who are invested in the medium. The problem is not enough art investors are buying photography in Australia and you can't run a gallery on love alone. Sincere thanks to the co-directors, Jason McQuoid and Tim Bruce for giving it their best shot and showing no less than 100 exhibitions. Where these and other artists will show now is uncertain and the closure will leave a noticeable gap in the Melbourne photography scene. 

Dreams and Imagination: Light in the Modern City

Max Dupain Tram abstraction 1930

David Moore Martin Place 5.10pm Sydney 1949

David Moore Sydney Harbour from 16000 feet 1966

Mark Strizic Flinders Lane 1967

Mark Strizic Hopscotch under crennelations 1971 
Mark Strizic Queensberry Street at Errol Street
North Melbourne 1963

Mark Strizic Swan Street Richmond 1963

David Moore Sun patterns with Opera House podium 1962

Max Dupain Mosman Bay at dusk 1937

The images in this exhibition, in part, map the shift from pictorialism in Australian photography to modernism and show how photographers of both approaches responded to the changes in our cities from the 1920s through to the early 1970s. Artists include Max Dupain, Mark Strizic, Olive Cotton, Arthur Dickinson, David Moore and Harold Cazneaux. Many of these images are important documents in the visual history of Australia and it is rare to have the opportunity to inspect these treasures at leisure. Monash Gallery is open during January.

Until 1st March, 2015
Dreams and Imagination: Light in the Modern City
Curated by Melissa Miles
Monash Gallery of Art
860 Ferntree Gully Road
Wheelers Hill

Book Reviews:
Daybreak in Myanmar
Geoffrey Hiller

From the opening pictures in ‘Daybreak in Myanmar’ it is clear that documentary photographer Geoffrey Hiller is a master at finding the vantage points from which to tap into the rhythm of a new city, a foreign culture, and let the story unfold through an intuitive eye.

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is a curiosity for many westerners, and it is one of the few places left on earth that we know little of beyond its fraught political history. For nearly 60 years Burma was hidden behind a cloak of darkness, its people persecuted and repressed by the military junta that ruled without mercy from 1962 to 2011.

Hiller first visited Burma in 1987 on a seven-day visa, the maximum time a foreigner was allowed to stay in a single visit. Restricted to three towns – Mandalay, Yangon and Bangan – Hiller says he immediately sensed the “very, very heavy” undercurrent that permeated the country, evidenced in the crushing poverty and isolation of its people.

Yet despite being cut off from the world, and seeing few foreigners, most locals accepted Hiller’s presence and allowed him to take photographs. With language a barrier to verbal engagement, a casual nod, the locking of eyes, or a shy smile gave Hiller the permission he sought to tell their stories.

Intrigued by the men and women whose faces were painted with traditional white thanaka, and inspired by the stoicism and dignity of the Burmese people in general, he vowed to return. But 13 years would pass before he was able to do so. 

It was the year 2000 and Hiller says, “Things hadn’t changed that much. While the rest of the world was thinking about Y2K, Burma had a 19th century feel. Universities were closed and young students and professors were working along the docks carrying sacks on their backs. They told me their stories and I felt I really had to transmit what they were living”.

On this trip Hiller had to work surreptitiously as government agents were watching him and on more than one occasion he was interrogated on the street and in tea shops. He concealed his camera gear and managed to get 90 rolls of film out of the country. “I was very, very lucky,” he admits. The footage from this trip resulted in the web documentary “Burma: Grace Under Pressure”.

In 2011 the US Embassy sent Hiller to Burma to teach photojournalists in Yangon, although the teaching experience was quite different to his usual classes: “It was out of the question for me to take these students out to photograph in the streets”. Two years later he was back and this time restrictions had eased allowing Hiller to travel to villages that had previously been off limits. Yet there was still tension in the air.

Myanmar is now taking its first steps towards an uncertain future as democracy replaces military rule. It is this new path that gives even greater import to Hiller’s photographs that span a quarter of a century. In ‘Daybreak in Myanmar’ Hiller gives us a view to a culture that changed little as the world rushed into the digital age and a new century. And while Hiller’s images capture the chaos that is Asia, he avoids romanticizing or promoting the west’s perception of eastern exoticism. Rather ‘Daybreak in Myanmar’ is a story about the human spirit and captures an important period in history through the documentation of ordinary moments in everyday lives. It is quite a remarkable piece of work given the restrictions in place during the period covered.

The book is divided into chapters - Dawn, Early Morning, Late Morning, Early Afternoon, Late Afternoon, Dusk and Night – and features interviews with Burmese writers and political prisoners. It is a quality production that does justice to Hiller’s work in the crisp reproduction of the images.

‘Dawn’ is perhaps my favourite chapter as it hits a personal nerve: one of the first things I do in a new city is get out into the streets with my camera before day breaks and I particularly like the photographs in this chapter that depict a city coming to life. It is rare to see photographs of cities in Asia that are not teeming with people and these images evoke a sense of being behind the scenes, of having a private view to a foreign vista. 

Over a long career Hiller’s work has been published widely. He is also the editor of the blog Verve: The New Breed of Documentary Photographer and has spent time teaching in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Pakistan as well as Burma. Surprisingly this is Hiller’s first book given his vast experience as a documentary photographer. What a brilliant debut.

Daybreak in Myanmar
Photographs by Geoffrey Hiller
Published by: Verve Photo Books
170 photographs

Out of the Phone - The Mobile Photo Book 2014 Edition 

In 2013 publisher and photographer Pierre Le Govic launched Out of the Phone, a publishing house dedicated to mobile photography. This December the company released its second book ‘Out of the Phone - The Mobile Photo Book 2014 Edition’ featuring 100 Instagram photographs from both professional and amateur photographers.

The desire to create a physical book from mobile photography that is born in the transient digital space, speaks to our tactile nature - people still want to hold and feel the weight of a book as opposed to viewing images solely on a digital device. Certainly that is my preference. The printed book enables me to spend more time with each image in a medium I believe makes me to slow down, and give critical thought to what is being presented. 

Richard Koci Hernandez

José Bonny Lang-Lenton

Marina Sersale

Stéphane Arnaud

Carlein van der Beek

Mariela Angela
Aylin Argun

Orietta Gelardin Spinola

If there is one thing that frustrates me in the digital image space it is the lack of critical analysis – just because you can doesn’t mean you should and too few exert control over what images they post. Not everything is worth sharing and in this environment finding great photographs is like the proverbial needle in a haystack. Instagram is awash with images. Daily the number of photographs uploaded is staggering, millions of them, and there are only so many photographers one can follow before the entire day is sucked into cyberspace. So how do you select only 100 images from this endless flow?

Pierre created the #outofthephone hashtag and used this pool of images from which to make the selection. Included in this first edition are photographers such as American photojournalist Ben Lowy who is one of the pioneers of mobile phone photojournalism, although this is only one of his disciplines. With hundreds of thousands of followers in social media circles Lowy has set a blistering pace. Since 2009 he’s posted one image every day on social media, a commitment he says is as much to himself as to his followers. Lowy also uses mobile photography to experiment with various Apps.

“We might have entered a new age in our relationship with images,” comments Pierre. “Served both by a democratic tool and the increasing possibilities given to photographers to instantly share, connect and learn from each other, mobile photography has shaken our habits, beliefs and photographic landmarks… (but) mobile or not, photography is photography no matter the camera.”

I agree with Pierre’s statement that photography is photography. I would add that the “eye” of the photographer is what differentiates great work from mediocrity, particularly in an age where access to technology is no longer the barrier it once was. I also believe the conversation around professional versus amateur in this space has moved on. The question is now about how to curate the vast repository of images that live in cyberspace and it is this new frontier that lies at the heart of Pierre’s motivation.

“I think that there is a real need for curation,” he says. “This book brings side by side professional photographers such as Ben Lowy, Q Sakamaki, Richard Koci Hernandez and Ako Salemi and amateur photographers, even beginners who discovered photography thanks to the mobile phone and appear to have a great eye. To extract some art instants from this overwhelming digital flow and to put them on paper in a book might help keep memory of them.” 

Benjamin Lowy

Q Sakamaki

Ako Salemi

What I find most interesting about mobile photography is that because mobile phones are omnipresent photographers have even greater freedom to react with complete spontaneity, and to also fly under the radar. Of course immediacy also results in an enormous volume of banal imagery. But for those with the ‘eye,’ mobile photography is a liberating, creative space and Instagram the ideal platform to share, get feedback and collaborate.

‘Out of the Phone - The Mobile Photo Book 2014 Edition’ features both black and white and colour images. It’s an ambitious project to select only 100 photographs, but it is a start in finding a way to curate, and also preserve, work. And it is another way to communicate the value of ‘good’ photography to a broader public whose appetite for the medium seems to know no bounds. To this end ‘Out of the Phone’ is also a welcome addition to the conversation around visual literacy in the digital age.

In conclusion Pierre says, “Much attention is paid to the community on Instagram. There is both a positive and stimulating interaction on the social network. This book is a kind of physical meeting point for this group of photographers as well as a tribute to their works. It also offers to people an overview of some of the best mobile photographers.”

Out of the Phone - The Mobile Photo Book 2014 Edition
100 photographs, 5 colour offset printing
152 pages

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