The Bowness Prize 2016

bowness-2016-1     Greg Neville, Bowness Prize 2016

The Bowness Prize exhibition is the “grownups class” for photographers. It’s a place you go to see the highest level  of technical and pictorial accomplishment in illustrative photography.

Established in 2006 the Bowness has quickly become Australia’s most coveted photography prize. It’s based at the Monash Gallery of Art at Wheelers Hill in Melbourne, a distinguished venue for photography for three decades. Go there for the pictures, the bookshop, the café, the park and for the purpose-designed architecture by the great Harry Seidler.

The judging panel for 2016 included famed Australian film director Fred Schepisi AO, esteemed architectural photographer John Gollings AM and Monash Gallery of Art Director Kallie Blauhorn. You could trust that team.

Here are some favourites from the 2016 Bowness, with excerpts from the artists statements. Click on the images for a better view.

mike-gray    Mike Gray, Backyard Bag Study, 2016

“In between the camera and the backyard is a single element lens that projects the scene into a plastic bag that acts like the focussing screen of a large format camera. Essentially the materials act as a model for the human eye with the retina replaced by a disposable consumer item.”


 darren-tanDarren Tan, Friday, 2016

“Through the composition of images I captured while documenting the morning routine of the average white-collar worker, Creatures of Habit explores the banality and pedestrianism inherent to the nine-to-five.”


brett-canet-gibson     Brett Canet-Gibson, The Drowning Noun #3, 2015

“The drowning noun is a series of still-life images constructed from found objects.


michael-williams-mothershipMichael Williams, Mothership, 2016

“My photographs are formal studies of urban and suburban environments. I am drawn to locations rich with combinations of unsettling colour motifs and disjointed spatial elements.”


Greg Wayn at Flinders Island

Greg-Wayn-Flinders-Island-1                 Greg Wayn, Flinders Island, 2016

Greg Wayn’s recent trip to Flinders Island resulted in some fine black & white photographs. They are very much in the style of his earlier analogue photography, well known for its composition and tonal beauty.

Greg has posted a series of his new photographs which were made on digital cameras in colour and then converted into black & white …

I have been thinking lately of the shifts in thought processes and associated disciplines from my B&W film days to my current digital image processes. Somehow my brain was able to ‘see’ in B&W tonality when I was using my medium and large format cameras. Film was expensive and processing very time and energy intensive; the days of film were quite exhausting and demanding.

I still find it interesting to re-process my colour digital images into B&W versions as it brings back all that hard won knowledge and for this series I have even used the 4×5 (and 8×10) crop proportions that I used when using my large format 4×5 and 8×10 cameras. This is a significant discipline in its own right and you just had to accept the process and limitations and work with them.. Getting back into these thought process is still important for me and the careful framing of this proportion is quite a different experience compared to the typical 4:3 or 3:2 proportions of the digital sensor. As for square format, that is another thing entirely …

Greg’s photographs can be seen on his Photoworks blog

greg-wayn-flinders-island-3                 Greg Wayn, Flinders Island, 2016


Bill Lane’s industrial parks

Big Ben's Boxing                      Bill Lane, Big Ben’s Boxing, 2016

In his new exhibition at 69 Smith Street, Bill Lane makes a direct connection with a classic work from the 1970s.

“The Older Industrial Parks near Newport, Victoria” is Bill’s response to a landmark exhibition of 1974 by the photographer Lewis Baltz. It was called “The New Industrial Parks near Irvine, California” and was part of the movement called New Topographics.

Photographers of the “man-altered landscape” made images that were …stripped of any artistic frills and reduced to an essentially topographic state, conveying substantial amounts of visual information but eschewing entirely the aspects of beauty, emotion and opinion.

Bill Lane continues this research with some differences in style. He works in colour, on oblique angles, and at a more detached distance than Baltz. His photographs were often taken in the evening or at the magic hour, that luminous period where the sunlight mellows and the streetlights come on. His photographs take full advantage of the subtle hues and metallic lustre in the artificial streets; the prints glow almost with inner light.

But his approach shows a wariness of falling into Pictorialism, the sin of prettiness, and he proves his topographic purpose by including on the website for the project, a map with an arrow pointing to the exact location of each photograph.

Bent                  Bill Lane, Bent, 2016

The exhibition runs until Sunday September 4 at 69 Smith Street gallery in Fitzroy.

After 50 years

Talbot-C1966             Henry Talbot, fashion illustration for Bri-Nylon and Fibremakers, 1967

I’ve just realized that my photographic career is now 50 years old.

I date the start of this saga from a workshop I attended in the Lower Melbourne Town Hall in 1966. The esteemed fashion photographer Henry Talbot was giving a demonstration with the elegant Georgia Gold, a well-known model. Lights, camera and white background were all set up and Talbot gave a run-through explaining what was involved in this then very trendy genre. It was the year of Antonioni’s movie Blow Up, a worldwide hit that made inner-urban fashion studios very very cool.

I think I spoke to Talbot, and I hope to Georgia Gold, who were both very approachable. I was 16 and I even remember waiting for the bus that day, thinking I was pretty grownup. So here’s a thought: what would that boy think if he knew he would still be in the game a half-century later?

That distant memory was stirred up by a visit to the excellent NGV show Henry Talbot : 1960s Fashion Photographer. The show is a must for photographers who a) love fashion photography or b) love analogue photography. The gallery is laid out with wall prints but the special attraction is the tables with his contact proof sheets. It’s a very original approach to curating commercial art, focussing on the working process as much as the finished product.

The show closes tomorrow, Sunday August 21 at the NGV-Australian at Federation Square. Soak it up while you can. Meanwhile, have a look at the very useful E-book the NGV has on its website.


2016-silver-1                                        Tim Silver, Oneirophrenia, 2016

Tim Silver‘s exhbition at the Centre for Contemporary Photography has the curious title Oneirophrenia. It’s a medical term for the hallucinatory state caused by sleep deprivation or drugs.

His series of photographs certainly point to a nightmare since the plaster busts, which have been cast from his own head, are bursting apart with bread. Silver’s curious method is to fill the casts with dough and bake them; as the dough rises it expands and cracks the heads apart. They’re like a surrealist depiction of madness.

The casts resemble classical busts, an index of order and harmony, while the bursting bread points to the unruly unconscious mind, what Freud named the id. In the contrast of hard plaster and soft bread there is a satisfying opposition of mineral and vegetable, or of idea and matter. The bread has a strange resemblance to the shape of the brain, but the brains in these pictures are out of order and out of control.

Silver often uses organic or entropic materials which degrade and change form over time, including wax crayon, putty, fairy floss and chocolate. Here the artist has packed his heads with bread dough, which, as it rises, ruptures through his plaster skin, fracturing the classical forms with unique and random mutations of matter.