Greg Neville, Urban still life 7, 2014
Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #21. 1978
This is the first Cindy Sherman photograph I ever saw. Lecturer Norbert Loeffler showed it in a 1983 class at PSC and I was probably the only student that really got it. Sherman’s idea of pop culture play-acting was a new idea to us, but I understood the reference she was making so the picture made sense.
Sherman was referencing the postwar phenomenon of the young career woman starting out in the man’s world of business in New York. This new social type attracted press attention and appeared in literature and film.
Hope Lange in The Best of Everything, 1959
The image Sherman had in mind was this, actress Hope Lange playing an aspiring secretary in the 1959 movie The Best of Everything. Note the similarity of costume. Lange arrives at a company address clutching a job ad that says “Secretaries – you deserve the best of everything”. She soon learns that working for Joan Crawford is less than the best.
Lange is looking up at the Seagram Building on Park Avenue, itself a newcomer to the city. Designed by Mies van der Rohe it opened only the year before and was already the trendiest office address in Manhattan. This modern young woman is starting in the most modern address. Behind her you can see the other great prototype of International Style architecture, Lever House, 1952.
Greg Neville, tram stop ad, November 2014
Recently, this tram stop ad appeared in Melbourne, the 1950s iconography intact. The young upwardly-mobile career woman is still surrounded by menacing but exciting skyscrapers. This time it’s in black & white, giving a photojournalistic reality to the photograph.
The origin story for this narrative of female empowerment was this edition of Life Magazine published just after World War II.
Life Magazine 1948, photograph by Leonard McCombe
Staff photographer Leonard McCombe followed a young graduate from Missouri university, Gwyned Fillig, as she made her way in the wilds of New York. She worked as copywriterin a Madison Avenue ad agency. The article is a classic Life Magazine photo essay, treating the subject as an anthropological study. Fillig is seen in her “native habitat” at work, at the diner and at home.
Gwynid Fiilig’s story caused a sensation in 1948 and briefly made her a celebrity. She became the representative example of the educated, aspiring young professional woman. Her story was typical of thousands of similar women at the time, especially in one unfortunate detail. The year after the article was published she got married and was immediately sacked from her job. Company policy was to have no married women on staff.
Very sad news that Edmund Pearce gallery is closing today. After three years, the directors Jason McQuoid and Tim Bruce have decided that Melbourne will not support a commercial gallery dedicated to fine photography. They gave it their best shot, Edmund Pearce is by a long way the best photography gallery that Melbourne has seen.
The closure will leave a big hole in the photography scene, and not just of Melbourne. Artists that have shown there have been from interstate and overseas, including the current show by the New Zealand artist Beckon, and notably by New York’s Phillip Toledano and Amy Stein.
The current exhibitions demonstrate why it’s such a pity to lose the gallery. Three exhibitions showing interesting, new and well-made photography by four artists, New Zealand’s Breckon, Katherine Griffiths and Arini Byng & Georgia Hutchison.
Breckon, Basin II, 256 Fergusson Drive, 2014
Katherine Griffiths, Erin #1, 2011
Arini Byng & Georgia Hutchison, Dunes, 2014
Con himself is a Greek Cypriot long resident in Australia, and his exhibition is a hommage to the island and its culture. “As an artist I have been drawn to my parent’s homeland of Cyprus and in particular, its unique cultural heritage and traditions.”
The exhibition is in two parts, Con’s own artistic works, and a historical section that researches old family photographs. Con has spent several years interviewing Australia’s Cypriots and uncovering their often faded and torn family photographs.
In the exhibition these are enlarged to a scale that permits close inspection and they are combined with detailed stories about their subjects. It is an opportunity to look deeply into the faces of strangers and learn their stories.
Look at these pictures of a school set up in Nicosia in the 1930s by a Turkish Cypriot trained at Oxford. He was a lone operator dedicated to spreading the appreciation of English literature and the classics. He named it the Shakespeare School. Now look at the faces in the class photo, a remarkable array of human expression. And look at the eyes. Photography has a power unequaled by the other arts, to put you in contact not just with the abstraction of humanity but with the reality of individuals.
In his book Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, the philosopher Roland Barthes muses that “the essence of the Photograph could not be separated from the “pathos”. I was like that friend who turned to photography only because it allowed him to photograph his son. I was interested in Photography only for “sentimental” reasons: I wanted to explore it not as a question (a theme) but as a wound: I see, I feel…”
Learn more on the Tales of Cyprus blog.
Greg Neville, Prahran abstract, 2014
This photograph was made in a 5×4 pinhole camera loaded with Harmann Direct Positive paper. The subject is a sunlit wall seen through a window.
Harmann Direct Positive is a fibre-based paper that gives you a positive print without the negative stage. Development is in normal print chemicals. The paper is rated at 3 ISO, so the f128 aperture needed a four minute exposure. A curious feature is that longer exposure time results in lighter images rather than darker, as habit would tell you. The extreme contrast is typical when using darkroom papers exposed in daylight. And being an image from the camera, it’s mirror-reversed.
Unfortunately the paper is currently unavailable from Ilford. Legal difficulties with the defunct Harmann Switzerland mean supplies are unlikely in “the medium term.” Let’s hope it’s resolved.
To demonstrate the potential of this paper, Serbian photographer Braca Nadezdic has made a series of portraits on Harmann paper, rated at 1.5 ISO.
Greg Neville, installation view, Momentary, Tacit Contemporary Art, 2014
Momentary is a group exhibition at Tacit Contemporary Art in Johnston St Abbotsford. It’s open until Sunday December 21. I share the gallery with colleagues (and former students) Bernadette Boundy, Sue Lock, Margot Sharman, Sally D’Orsogna and Cathy Hayward. The theme is the word Momentary, a suitable hook for a photomedia exhibition. My work is a small series of faded portraits:
John Greenleaf Whittier was a 19th century American poet and anti-slavery campaigner. Such was his fame that towns were named after him, and yet today he is largely forgotten. These images are taken from the portraits of Whittier in the six-volume complete works published in 1888, the printed engravings show him at different ages, from young to old. The dis-coloured paper and fading likenesses show the dissolving effects of age and decay, the arrow of time.
These idiots took their selfies near the Martin Place siege yesterday, as nearly twenty hostages were being terrorised by Man Haron Monis. Then they posted them proudly on social media.
Peter Lik, Phantom
Photographer Peter Lik is in the news for selling a photograph for 6.5 million dollars. This is two million more than the previous record-holder by Andreas Gursky.
Caution about this event is being urged in the press as Lik is not known to the auction houses who sell the million dollar photographs by Gursky, Cindy Sherman and Jeff Wall. The sale was private and to an anonymous buyer, in other words, not verifiable.
So who is Peter Lik? According to his website he is “world-renowned, highly awarded, and boasting a huge international following.” This modest assertion is backed up by his fourteen shops across the US, including Miami, Las Vegas and Beverly Hills, where he sells his landscapes of canyons, deserts and sunsets. Lik’s work is “commercial-picturesque”, a genre that services the tourist trade with framed prints, postcards and calendars.
He is not alone in this market, Ken Duncan follows a similar model, flogging over-saturated traditional landscapes, broadly derived from Ansel Adams’ epic style. Like Duncan, Lik is an Australian, but long a resident of Las Vegas where his simplistic visuals and boosterist marketing are a natural fit.
Peter Lik’s journey as a photographer has taken him from humble beginnings in his native Australia to the summit of international landscape photography… he decided to settle in Las Vegas, centrally located to the landscapes he loves so much. The rest is photographic history.
The mainstream art world is agog about Lik’s good fortune, so different from its own conceptual approach. But does it do any harm? Lik sells his visual pop music to an appreciative but unsophisticated public who can purchase his images at almost any price point, from $100 up to…$6.5 million. That’s pretty democratic. Try walking out of a gallery with a $100 Gursky.
Peter Lik, Ghos
from Peter Lik’s website
Greg Wayn has been photographing the Amcor demolition site, a subject made to order for his talents.
Amcor, the former paper mills next to the Yarra river, is a enormous industrial site now being demolished to create another disappointing suburban development. In the meantime, Greg has been busy recording it on its way down. It looks like a war zone.
He has used Amcor as subject matter for different photographic approaches. What you see below are single images from separate projects, each made with a different technical or visual strategy. Click on the links below to see the complete series on his Photoworks blog.
Greg Wayn, Disappearing,’The Amcor Factory is now in the final stages of ‘disappearing’ and I have been trying out some new ways of interpreting this stage… the following ‘fluid landscapes’ are an attempt to create a more dreamlike series of images…
Greg Wayn, Walls. There are very few walls left at all at the Amcor factory site and the final stage of demolition is at hand, so I felt obliged to record what was left…
Greg Wayn, B&W Images
Greg Wayn, Last Days. ‘Freeform’ panoramas taken in what remains of the Amcor Factory site. It has been hard to make these work as successfully as I has wanted, but I think it is still worth making images for something that is disappearing so quickly and it has been such a dominant part of Alphington’s history…