1971 – portrait of Lindy

 G.N.-Lyndy-Farrell-1971-1                                                    Greg Neville. portrait of Lindy Farrell, 1971

As I recall after 45 years, Lindy was a friend of a friend and she lived near the beach. I knew her only briefly but long enough to take some photos of her. She was a good model and I think this is a good image. I love the mystery of the white hand and that screen of leaves. It was one of my successes as a student at Prahran Tech in 1971.

1971 – Sydney rail tunnel

G.N.-Railways-1971Greg Neville, Sydney rail tunnel, 1971

As a twenty year old photography student at Prahran Tech, I would occasionally take something that satisfied me, and I remember being surprised when this photo came off. I thought it bore a passing resemblance to a good photograph. The large scale of the industrial architecture dwarfs the worker, a technical man who strides confidently into the light. My father had once been a man just like that, a plumber for the railways during the Depression and his stories lit up my childhood.

For a photographer, subjects are all around you, as long as you can perceive them as subjects. Looking back, I can see that in those years I didn’t have a subject that directed me. Others at Prahran like Robert Ashton and Carol Jerrems were making terrific photos, and strong reputations, of subjects that moved them. They were immersed in their own times and thought it important enough to document. They knew their subject was all around them.

1971 – portrait of Brian

G.N.-Brian-MacNamara-St-Kilda-1971-3500pxGreg Neville, portrait of Brian MacNamara, 1971

Brian MacNamara was a photography student at Prahran Tech in 1971, a year or two ahead of me. He was an eccentric character with a distinctive humour and wide literary interests. He taught me a lot about cinema which I am grateful for. We shared a flat in St Kilda in a mansion that was once the French ambassador’s residence. It’s gone now, replaced by an ugly block of flats, like so much of Marvellous Melbourne.

The Prahran photography course was confusing, it was not well designed as a curriculum and many students never finished … me, Bill Henson. Brian did finish, getting a Diploma after three year full-time study. How well he did I don’t know. He once advised me to just make sure that I get 51% for all the assignments, that way I’d guarantee to pass. He made it sound like a game. He may have been right but I wasn’t sure that was a path to excellence.

1971 – portrait of Lin

G.N.-Lin-1971-1Greg Neville, portrait of Lin, 1971

When I was a 21 year old Prahran photography student I was proud of this photo, I thought I’d got it right. I liked Lin’s frontal gaze, the symmetry of the architecture, and the soft focus background. What really impressed me, though, was that I’d shot it handheld at a 1/15 of a second and it’s sharp. In film cameras lacking the image stabilising motors of digital cameras, this is very risky. Small victories count.

The picture was taken at LaBassa, the Victorian mansion where I lived for a few years in the early seventies – in the servant’s quarters. The building’s detailing made a great background for photos, and it still does. It’s often used for weddings, fashion shoots and episodes of Phryne Fisher, the TV  detective.

And Lin, the young woman in the photo? I have no idea. She was there for a while, then not. At the time I thought she had a romantic aura, and she does seem to belong to those faraway psychedelic times.

Obscure Camera exhibition

Obscure-Camera-1Obscure Camera, the new show at Tacit gallery, features artists working at the border of photographic practice. Each work tests the normal definition of photography with sculptures, digital renderings and found images.

My images (above) were  made from students’ discarded mistakes recovered from darkroom rubbish bins. The artist was the chemical action of developer, silver and oxygen except that I found them and transformed the raw images into art prints.


Paul Garrick has created two handsome sculptures that reference landscape photographs of the Ansel Adams tradition. The cloud suspended in a steel frame resembles an Adams red-filtered sky trapped in a three-dimensional Magritte painting.

Bunder-1    Rikki-Paul Bunder works in abstracted landscapes but his beautiful Tacit prints go all the way, with a fine mist of granulated pigment forming mysterious shapes from water and light.

The other artists are TJ Bateson and Garry Moore. Obscures Camera continues at Tacit Contemporary Art until Sunday June 19.


Obscure Camera

Obscure-Camera-invite        My new exhibition is a group show on the outer limits of photographic practice. Each artist explores some non-traditional zone of the medium: non-capture, non-representation and other arcane fields. It opens at Tacit Contemporary Art on June 8.

My works are abstract images from my Chemistry of Chance series. During  decades of cleaning up darkrooms I’ve recovered many discarded prints from the rubbish bins. Students see a print going wrong in the developer and throw it in the bin without washing it. The print sits there with the developer, silver and oxygen making chemical reactions in the dark.

By the end of the day they’ve dried out and the chemical stains are preserved and light-stable. After scanning and Photoshopping to a small degree, I’ve printed them as much larger pigment prints. They fit into my interest in entropy and automatic processes found in the border regions of photography. I see them as Concrete photography, the Swiss and German abstract movement.

It not a sign of something, but is itself something. It is not what is represented but what is present. It engenders objects of itself and thus fulfills the central criterion of every concrete art: self-reference. – Gottfried Jaeger.

Chance5                            Greg Neville, Chemistry of Chance 5


Persona exhibition

Persona_InvitationPersona is a group exhibition opening next week at the St John Street gallery in Prahran. Four Visual Arts colleagues at Melbourne Polytechnic are showing self-portrait projects framed by the word persona. My Dust and Scratches project is part of it, along with work by Karenne Ann, Sean Payne and Kirsten Perry. 

The word Persona describes the public aspects of character rather than the psychological, a social role or a character played by an actor. The long history of the self-portrait genre has not only involved portrayal of the “self” as in Van Gogh’s disturbing self-portraits or those of the German Expressionists.

A more expanded or system-based approach to the self-portrait runs alongside this tradition, for example Francesca Woodman‘s playful, performative nudes or Chuck Close‘s giant forensic paintings of his photographed face.

In our Persona exhibition we’ve adopted either the impersonal, anonymously institutional image or essays the process of vision itself rather than its ostensible subject.”

To quote further from Sean Payne’s catalogue essay …

Karenne Ann’s sculpted and scanned heads are little death masks in plaster, commentaries on misguided illusions as they apply to women and to herself.

Greg Neville’s self-portraits are derived from his collection of identity cards dating back to 1974.

Sean Payne’s works are extrapolations from an anonymously taken school photograph. This found photo, printed from its original negative, is broken down into pixels

Kirsten Perry’s uses the technology of eye-tracking, giving the record an empirical basis and intentionally removing the the artist’s hand, the better to isolate and examine vision as a process.

The Persona opening is at 5-7pm on Tuesday April 12 and runs until Friday April 22. St John Street gallery is on street-level in building B of Melbourne Polytechnic’s Prahran campus, just off Chapel St and High St.


My average face

Greg-Neville-face-average                                            Greg Neville, My Average Face, 2016

I was looking at my collection of 20 ID photos of my face, passports and staff IDs that record the changes to my adult face going back to 1974. The question was: what is the average of that face?

I scanned the photos and stacked them in 20 Photoshop layers. The eyes were used to align each photo and the layers were set to the same transparency of 5%. When it was completed, I was looking down through the ghostly images to see the essential form of my face, the visual average that says – me. The resulting face you see above is both 24 and 64 years old, and everything in between. It is a further degree of the ID photo genre – it identifies me in all times of my adulthood.

This image is part of my new exhibition project called Dust and Scratches. This was named for the Photoshop filter used to blur the face into a more generalised visage, but also, with irony, to describe the visible effects of ageing during the 40 year span of the photos.

Dust and Scratches will be displayed in the new exhibition Persona, at the St John Street gallery in Prahran, opening on Tuesday April 12.


An Equitable centenary

Equitable-building-2                                  Greg Neville, The Equitable Building, 2014

This photograph was taken in Manhattan, looking up at the once famous Equitable Building near Wall Street, opened in 1915. At 40 storeys it was a gigantic building for its day and it darkened the surrounding area.

A wave of protest followed and the next year zoning laws were introduced requiring new tower blocks to get narrower as they went higher, letting light reach the street below. They eventually gave us the typical stepped shape of Art Deco skyscrapers, such as The Empire State Building.

The photograph was taken from under the Trinity and US Realty buildings opposite in the part of Lower Broadway where ticker-tape parades were held.

The camera was a Holga, the medium-format plastic toy that has reportedly been discontinued. It’s simple lens distorts at the edges, as you can see in the lower right corner, but overall it’s a serious camera – the signature wide-angle square image has a particular softness that’s very appealing.

The photograph of the Equitable is an extension of my Vertigo project, a chronological series showing the rise and rise of New York buildings.

You can see my other work with the Holga in The Modern Idea, also on my website.

Equitable                                                                Postcard, Geo P Hall & Son 1909


Euclid in Tel Aviv


Greg Neville, Azrieli Center, Tel Aviv, 2007

The Azrieli Center in Tel Aviv was designed by Israeli-American architect architect Eli Attia, It’s geometric order and precision rises serenely over the chaos of highways beneath it.

This 2007 photograph shows the circle and triangle towers, but since then, the square tower has gone up.


Pictorialism with digital noise


Greg Neville, Central Victoria Road, 2015


cropped section

This image was taken on a Canon G10, a high-end compact camera that has a tiny 5x7mm sensor. At full zoom, the camera is interpolating the information and the result is this soft, noisy result. The digital noise, in this case at least, creates a pointillist effect, like an Impressionist painting or a Pictorialist photograph made on the Autochrome colour process.


Autochrome photograph by unknown photographer, ‘Claude Monet outside his house at Giverny’, 1921.

Autochrome was the first commercial colour photography process, invented by the Lumiere brothers who also just happen to invent cinema. It was first marketed in 1907 and was taken up by some of the leading Pictorial photographers, Edward Steichen, Arnold Genthe and others.

The medium consists of a glass plate coated on one side with a random mosaic of microscopic grains of potato starch dyed red-orange, green, and blue-violet which act as color filters. Lampblack fills the spaces between grains, and a black-and-white panchromatic silver halide emulsion is coated on top of the filter layer. (Wikipedia)

Victorian bricks




Photographs taken in St Arnaud, in the Wimmera region of Victoria.

The town of St Arnaud was born in the gold rush of the 1850s. Like so many other gold-rich towns, the architecture they built was very fine and is most of it is still standing. The main street is impressive in this respect and should rightly be famous in architectural circles.


Full Moon at Lake Boga


Greg Neville, Full Moon at Lake Boga, 2015

The small town of Lake Boga in the Mallee is, not surprisingly, next to a lake called Boga. There are Pelicans and Ibis to see and fish to catch. This photograph was made with a Fujifilm X100 camera set to motion panorama. You need to click on it.


Black Hill after the fire


Greg Neville, Black Hill, 2015

Black Hill is a beautiful, heavily forested reserve near Kyneton, an hour from Melbourne. It was ravaged by bushfire in January in a holocaust that I witnessed. This was a genuine firestorm that worked its way across the entire hill.

It has been closed off since then but is about to re-open. Last weekend I walked through and took these pictures.





After Words is coming

Greg Neville After Words DL copy

This is the invitation card for my new exhibition, opening next Wednesday, August 12. After Words is a group exhibition, the fourth annual show with five of my former students. Each year during meetings we pitch titles to the group until we all agree, then that becomes the theme for the next show.

After Words is a good title as it’s broad enough and narrow enough to allow for individual interpretation. My work is a series of close ups of a decayed prayer book found decades ago in a tip. The words in the text are broken up making a sort of landscape of paper and word fragments.

I’ve used a 10×8 camera, the largest film format, and made scans of the details within the negatives. Greg Wayn has given me technical assistance, notably in capturing the colour toning used by photographer Olivia Parker in her Signs of Life project.

After Words is opening at Tacit Contemporary Art on August 12 at 6.30pm, 312 Johnston St, Abbotsford.


After Words


Greg Neville, After Words 3, 2015

After Words is my next exhibition, a group show at Tacit gallery in Abbotsford. It’s the fourth annual exhibition with a group of my former students, Margot Sharman, Bernadette Boundy, Sue Lock, Sally D’Orsogna and Cathy Hayward.

This image is the first in a series of five, taken of a decayed prayer book I first photographed thirty years ago! It has been shot on an 8×10 camera owned by the late Bernie O’Reagen. The negatives have been scanned and cropped, I’m not skilled enough yet to compose accurately for full frame contact-printing.

Greg Wayn has graciously given me his Photoshop actions for selenium toner on Azo chloride paper. It’s a print colour developed by Olivia Parker for her 1970s work Signs of Life. The project is in part a hommage to Parker and Rosamund Purcell whose still life work I’ve long admired.

After Words runs August 12-30 at Tacit Contemporary Art, 312 Johnston St Abbotsford.