Australian modernism: a note

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In the canon of Australian art photography Australian modernism  is usually associated with Max Dupain. The work was in black and white, concerned with form, architectural in focus, done with a view camera and concerned with the fine chemically-based print made in a darkroom. 

However, there have been a number of others who worked in  this style, such as Tom Balfour, who roots lie in architectural photography in Adelaide, in the 19790s and as associate in  Max Dupain's Sydney studio, photographing architecture in the 1980s. He has had a minimal presence in the  modernist art gallery since, and exemplifies how  the  Australian modernist tradition slowly withered.

Establish the photographic canon was done in the context of Australia's post-colonial condition, geographical isolation and troubled relationship with the idea of "home". This post-colonial condition, accompanied by a chronic inferiority complex, consists of the endemic tall poppy syndrome, the vast cultural cringe and endless tiresome discussions about the quality of Australian art  photography versus work produced overseas in the US.

Classic photographic modernism  continues to live on in the first decade of the 21st century as a nich practice, and we find its practitioners saying that  digital imaging is not really synonymous with photography. Even those modernists who have switched from black and white  to colour  decry digital photography as an inferior verison of film-based photography.

the local versus overseas debate  is a tired one that has run dry. What is of interest now after post modernism  is what locally focused Australian artists are achieving and how these local movements in the arts, either directly or accidentally, dovetail with broader issues in our culture.

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This page contains a single entry by Gary Sauer-Thompson published on January 12, 2010 4:28 PM.

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