Mark Strizic, Centreway Arcade, 259 Collins Street, Melbourne, 1960
Here’s a curiosity: Mark Strizic was not long in professional photography when he made this image in Collins St – when there was still a Collins St to photograph.
He had taught himself photography with 35mm cameras, but with architectural commisions, he needed a more adjustable camera with a larger negative. Was he still learning when he produced an under-exposed 5×4 negative with the camera’s flat bed showing at the bottom? He was using an extreme wide angle lens which is racked right back into the body, so I guess the bed could show up in the frame. Did he realize that and intend to crop it out?
I don’t know the answers but I love the picture.
Mark Strizic, Flinders St Station, c1962
The great Melbourne photographer Mark Strizic has died at age 84.
Strizic was born in Berlin in 1928 and migrated to Australia in 1950, part of that immigrant wave to the new world from an exhausted Europe. He became a photographer of Melbourne, recording its modernist architecture for clients like Robin Boyd, but also its Victorian streets and buildings. This trove of poetic imagery, shot with his favoured graphic compositions in contre-jour light, is a visual memorial to a once beautiful city, carelessly sacrificed to developers in the 1960s and 70s.
According to my parents Strizic used to visit our neighbour, the architectural historian David Saunders, in Bentleigh in the 1950s and as a child I would play with him there. I don’t remember, which is a pity since his photographs identify for me a particular Melbourne of nostalgic memory and longing, a dream city from childhood. As a body of work they represent a distinct vision of a place, made by an outsider, using distinct formal means.
In later years, Strizic switched to a highly experimental project in colour photography, perhaps inspired by Moholy-Nagy’s modernism. I once referred to it in an Age newspaper review as “psychedelic” and received an angry letter from him. Perhaps I should have done more homework before, but his earlier work on Melbourne, and his excellent portraits of leading Australians, remain his legacy, both as a body of photographic work, and as history.
Mark Strizic, Collins St at MacPhersons Building, 1963
Wolfgang Sievers, Old Frankfurt before its destruction in World War II, 1937
Luminous Cities looks at the photography of cities since the early days of the medium. Each picture acts as a signpost along a timeline, punctuating a period’s significant approach to the representation of cities. There are some very fine, unfamiliar pictures, for example Mark Strizic’s perfectly composed architectural composition of 1960s Collins Street in Melbourne.
Wolfgang Sievers’ high angle photograph of old Frankfurt is troubling. Only seven years later it was completely destroyed, including its world famous medieval centre. The destruction of Germany’s cities in WWII, like that of London, was futile and evil, but it’s the winners who write the propaganda.
Luminous Cities is at the NGV until 13 March.