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 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.

Oneirophrenia

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.

Photographs of Films

Citizen+Kane+(1941)Jason Schulman, Citizen Kane (1941)

Jason Schulman captures entire movies in a single photograph. Aiming his camera at a high res computer screen he records the roughly ninety minute movie in a single still shot. The project is called Photographs of Films and he has recorded over twenty films.

The still photos that result compress each movie into a single abstracted image with the scenes from the film recorded in layers. The photographs capture something the human eye can’t ordinarily see, the totality of a movie seen into a single moment, a single frame. In an average 90 minute film there are roughly 130,000 individual frames – still photographs themselves – so Schulman’s photographs are a record of tens of thousands of other photographs.

The idea is similar to Hiroshi Sugimoto‘s interiors of ornate cinemas, lit only by the dark flickering image of the movie on the screen. His photographs show the cinema screen over-exposed to a white glow, while Schulman’s retain surprising traces of individual scenes.

“You can learn something about the director’s style from this kind of kooky translation: you can learn that Hitchcock deals with people, for example, Kubrick deals with composition. So it’s odd that in one exposure all of these things, although very subjective, kind of come through.”

There are surprising traces of individual scenes. See how those light tones in Schulman’s Citizen Kane (1941) are a trace of the windows in this scene from the movie.

kane1Scene from Citizen Kane

Now look closely at these colour images, do you recognize the movies? The top one is Hitchcock’s Rear Window which shows just how much of that film focusses on James Stewart in his wheelchair. The bottom image is Kubrick’s The Shining and it demonstrates the great director’s taste for symmetrical compositions.

Rear+Window+(1954)The+Shining+(1980)

1971 – Waiting man

G.N.-Man-&-Shadow-1971     Greg Neville, Waiting man, 1971

This man is from a now extinct species, a type of buttoned-up character who was common in the 1950s and 60s. When this picture was taken, vast numbers of men wore suits to work every day, even to the most ordinary jobs.

I like the balance of the composition, and the man’s still, watchful pose. But it didn’t take me long to realize the shadow can be interpreted in an obscene way. You can’t not see it now, can you?