Vienna, Virginia, circa 1920. “H.A. Money.” The undertaker Howard A. Money (1859-1931). National Photo Company Collection glass negative.
This strange photograph appeared on the vintage photo website Shorpy.com, always an entertaining way to waste some time. It records a Virginian undertaker in the early 20th century.
The frontal and symmetric composition has all the grace of a passport photo and it’s something you instinctively avoid in portraits as it looks gauche. The subject is dumped in the centre of the frame and stares back dumbly with no protective cover. It’s a style without rhetoric – there’s no posing from the sitter and no artistic flourish from the photographer.
Still, it has the advantage of a certain honesty. The subject is unguarded and more open, and the transaction with the photographer is more straightforward – just capture the likeness.
August Sander, the most august of all portrait photographers, occasionally employed this frontal pose, notably in the two examples below.
August Sander, The painter Anton Räderscheidt, Cologne, 1927
August Sander, Soldier, 1940
Greg Neville, John Gollings exhibition, 2017
Monash Gallery of Art, “the Australian home of photography,” has a retrospective exhibition of the work of John Gollings, our premier architectural photographer.
“The History of the Built World is the first major survey of Golling’s photographic practice, and offers a much anticipated opportunity to appreciate the full breadth of his unique photographic vision.”
It may seem a stretch to call it the history of the built world, but his subjects go back to aboriginal interventions in the environment of 28000 years ago – see photo above – and include ancient Indian structures and other antiquities along the way to contemporary architecture by Frank Gehry and others.
Golling’s approach has been consistent throughout his half-century career, to interpret a building’s structure and explain it in its own place and context. As a trained architect he understands design and form. The exhibition presents his photography as an illustrative craft, always in service to the client and the subject.
Gollings is also a spectacular entertainer. His vital images radiate energy and he employs every trick to achieve it: ultra-wide lenses to stretch space, natural and artificial light for colour gloss, and shameless vignetting to focus the eye on the glowing subject at the centre. In a sense, he combines the instincts of a Pictorialist – to make the picture and its subject an aesthetic object, and a modernist – to express the building’s deep structure. He is one of our indispensible photographic artists.
John Gollings: The history of the built world runs until March 4, 2018 at Monash Gallery of Art.
Greg Neville, Sky over Taradale, 2017
Greg Neville, redhead at the NGV, 2017
Greg Neville, On Ben Yehuda St, 2016
Caesarea, on the Mediterranean coast of Israel, is the ruin of a Roman-era port city built by the Jewish king Herod just before the time of Christ.
It became an administrative center of the Roman Empire, then the capital of a Byzantine province, then an Arab city, a Crusader port, a Bosnian Moslem fishing town and finally an Israeli kibbutz. No wonder it’s a ruin.
Photographs by Greg Neville, 2016
Harry Nankin, The Rain/Quadrat 1, 2005
The esteemed Melbourne photo media artist Harry Nankin will be running photography workshops from his studio and darkroom in Montmorency next year. They will cover introductory analogue (traditional) photography through to advanced sessions on the philosophy of environmental art. They will range from one to four day sessions.
Harry has long experience as a photographer and environmental artist. He started in the 1980s as a realist photographer of the natural environment, inspired in part by Peter Dombrovskis
who’s wilderness photography played such a part in saving Tasmania’s Franklin River. Harry’s pristine large format photography can be seen here on his website
Harry once told me that he moved on to his giant immersive photograms of forests and waves because he wanted to have pictures made by nature not of nature. These ambitious projects require planning and special funding plus teams of assistants but they result in artworks of great beauty and strangeness. They have have been exhibited extensively both here and overseas.
The workshops, which are explained here,
will run from April to May 2016 on the following topics:
The Camera and the Darkroom, introducing traditional gelatin silver camera and darkroom craft.
The Plasticity of Silver, on the traditional art of development controls, toning, reduction and intensification of silver materials.
The Remarkable View Camera, on large format ‘view camera’ craft.
Art and Ecology, on thinking and making environmental art.
Harry teaching at Kinglake
Romain Jacquet-Lagrèze, The Blue Moment #17, Hong Kong, 2015
It’s not surprising that Romain Jacquet-Lagreze is also a graphic artist – the flattened perspective of his Hong Kong photographs look two-dimensional, like graphic design.
In his project The Blue Moment he uses carefully chosen vantage points and apparently a long lens to compress the city of towers and give it a cut-out look, as though photographs have been sliced up and joined together. Some look like René Magritte’s visual puns, especially his 1965 painting The Blank Cheque.
To get the particular mood, Jacquet-Lagreze photographed his adopted city at dusk when the fading sky light washes the city in blue.
The Blue Moment is a photographic journey in the city of Hong Kong. Each day at the very last moment of dusk, the sky takes on a deep blue tinge which is then reflected onto everything that exists below. During this very brief moment that only last a minute or two a blue veil envelops Hong Kong and releases a mystical atmosphere. With the coming of the night, the city’s lights bring the touches of warm color illuminating the cityscape. (www.rjl-art.com)
Romain Jacquet-Lagrèze, The Blue Moment #20, Hong Kong, 2015
Romain Jacquet-Lagrèze, The Blue Moment #19, Hong Kong, 2015
Greg Neville, Haunted house, 2015
Greg Neville, Weeping Women, 2015
The great 19th century photographer Eadweard Muybridge is the subject of a new movie, a biopic called Eadweard. It covers his famous professional life and controversial private life and is due for release this year.The movie was directed by Kyle Rideout and stars the Canadian actor Michael Eklund.
Muybridge has had a career comeback in recent years with new a new biography, a comprehensive new website, and recently a major exhibition at London’s Tate Gallery. There is even a chamber opera by Philip Glass called The Photographer.
Muybridge deserves this public attention for the breadth and drama of his life, as well as his great influence on photography and cinema. He was a highly successful landscape photographer before millionaire Leland Stanford hired him to capture the galloping horse. He soon became an international celebrity on the basis of his Animal Locomotion photographs. He presented these in book form and in public lectures where his projector, the zoopraxiscope, displayed them in living movement.
These lectures were an immediate predecessor to cinema which he helped give birth to following discussions with Thomas Edison in 1888. The Kinetoscope craze soon followed, then the Nickelodeon phase and modern cinema around 1904.
Muybridge’s private life was equally compelling. Discovering that he was not the father of his seventh month old baby, he sought out his wife’s lover and, after introducing himself with the words “Good evening, Major, my name is Muybridge and here’s the answer to the letter you sent my wife” shot him dead.
He was later acquitted due to “justifiable homicide” despite the plea of insanity due to a serious head injury after a stagecoach accident. With dramas like these, you might wonder why it took so long to have a movie about him.
See the trailer here: https://vimeo.com/133479780
Kate Ballis, Aerial Pink 17
Kate Ballis is a young Melbourne photographer who likes to shoot from a plane. These stylish abstracts were taken over Docklands and make it look better than it really is on the ground. Like a lot of photographers today, she shoots both commercial and personal projects, always in a clean, crisp style. This project could be for exhibition, publication or commercial illustration, the border is not always clearly defined in photography.
Ballis is the partner of Tom Blachford, creator of the Midnight Modern project. They travel and shoot projects together, then collaborate on weekends to shoot weddings as Rasberry Robot.
Kate Ballis, Aerial Pink 13
Kate Ballis, Aerial Pink 14
Backwater, NSW. Google Earth 2015
Greg Neville, from the library window, 2015
Greg Neville, Stair Music, 2015
Greg Neville, Urban still life 7, 2014
A personalised invitation card to my group exhibition, Momentary. It opens this Wednesday, December 3 at 6.30pm.
Greg Neville, Prahran window, 2014