Toledano at Edmund Pearce

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Philip Toledano, Pool Float, from The Absent Portrait series, 2013

Edmund Pearce Gallery has an exhibition by New York photographer Phillip Toledano, a series called The Absent Portrait. They are large pigment prints derived from a very unusual source, supermarket packages from Iran. The censors in that repressive Islamic country deface packaging imports to rub out the illustrations of women. Each and every individual package – swimming toys, puzzles, underwear – everything with an image of a woman, is censored. This means blocking out the photograph with a texta or paintbrush. It’s appalling and funny at the same time.

Toledano, a nimble and enterprising conceptual artist, has got hold of some of these packages and converted the censors’ handiwork into artworks.

I remove the blacked-out figure from the surrounding image, and a transformation occurs. The censor becomes an artist. And the censored figure becomes a portrait. A portrait not of a person, but of absence. Of suppression. A portrait of a point of view. The censor, whose job it is to erase, becomes the person who makes us look.

The Absent Portrait continues at Edmund Pearce Gallery, in Melbourne’s Nicholas Building, until November 2

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Oh the humanity

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Pelle Cass, Lawn, Boston Public Garden I

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Manuel Vazquez, Traces

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Ulf Lundin, Still Films #12, 2006-08

The similarity between these photographs is striking. Three photographs taken by three photographers from three countries. Not only is the subject matter similar – people moving briskly in a public environment, but they also broadly share the same composition, that ribbon of humanity across the centre. And these intriguing images also share the same technique.

Have you noticed something strange about them? The gathering of people seems contrived, a little unlikely, but it’s hard to say why. They’re not directed, as some of my students thought, but ordinary photos of the real world. What makes them unusual is what happens afterward in Photoshop.

The first image is by Pelle Cass, a Boston photographer who calls the technique Still Time-Lapse. I take hundreds of pictures, then using Photoshop, I leave in selected figures. I never change their location or anything else, so these are actually documentary records. But I do choose what stays in, just the way your brain does in real life!

In other words, he takes hundreds of photographs from the same position, stacks them in Photoshop, then erases what he doesn’t want. For a better explanation, see Cass in a short video on this post on Petapixel.

On his blog, Cass links to other photographers working in a similar way, Manuel Vasquez in England and Ulf Lundin in Sweden. Check them out for their alternative visions using the same technique.

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The Advertiser’s Art

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Greg Neville, The Advertiser’s Art, wall installation, 2013

This is my piece in Random, the exhibition at Trocadero Artspace in Footscray. It’s a series of ads torn out of magazines, then put in cheap frames. The ads feature references to fine art, mostly in the trite and clichéd way you might expect; it’s a parody of popular ideas about art. You can click on the image for a larger view.

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