Landscape dominates at Bowness


Anne Algar, Eruption, 2015

“What intrigues me is how objects, vistas and other things, only dimly visible to the human eye in darkness, can be captured in infinite detail by the camera, due to its greater light sensitivity and colour spectrum.”


Each year when I trek out to see the Bowness exhibition at the Monash Gallery of Art, I’m impressed with the high standard of the work and its technical polish. It’s where the “grown-ups” show.

The annual $25,000 non-acquisitive William and Winifred Bowness Photography Prize is an initiative of the MGA Foundation. This years judges were MGA Senior Curator, Stephen Zagala, Karen Quinlan and Bill Henson.

This year there’s a wealth of beautiful, well-presented work, so good that it sets the bar for the rest of us – I suppose that’s what the competition is for. On this occasion the emphasis is on nature and landscape. It will show you how many people here are working in that genre, understandable when you consider the size of this continent.

You could say the landscape is broadly divided into two approaches. There are more or less traditional takes on the landscape, realistic and often epic, where the photographer trusts the eye of the camera. And then there are more idea-based landscapes, some of them literary or historistist, or post-modern, if anybody still uses that term.

In the first category, Murray Frederick and Che Chorley use the camera as witness. The scenes they capture convey that sense of awe and dread in front of nature that 18th century poets and painters called the sublime.

In the second category, the work of Valerie Spark and Joseph McGlennon show nature re-formed through collages of photos joined together to make fictive scenes. They don’t pretend to be real. McGlennon’s prize-winner evokes the large scale bird paintings of Gould and others. Rebekah Stuart takes photographs at various locations and layers them subtly to resemble antique paintings.


Rebekah Stuart, Dreaming in Reverse, 2014

“Constructing fragments of nature via digital media I create landscapes that do not exist in reality. The images evolve in a similar fashion to painting, over long duration. I build and refine details for a new whole to emerge.”


Valerie Sparks, Le Vol no.1, 2015

“The birds in this work were photographed at the Vienna and La Rochelle Natural History Museums. The French term le vol translates as flight, flying, theft or burglary. For the birds in this work, life and flight have been stolen and yet reanimated by the taxidermist.”


Che Chorley, Breathe for Me, 2015

“I try to convey the romance, fear, trepidation, beauty, and power of the sea and its relationship to the human psyche.”


Murray Frederick, North Stradbroke, 2014

“North Stradbroke’ records the scene of a wildfire sparked by lightning, causing holidaymakers to flee their bush campsites under a thunderstorm as it moves up the coast.”


Joseph McGlennon, Florilegium #1  2014

“Photographed in Madagascar, Tahiti and Singapore, in ‘Florilegium #1’, I have captured each bird, flower, vine and butterfly and created a florolegium landscape straight from the Age of Enlightenment.”



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