Gary Sauer-Thompson: April 2009 Archives

One way of beginning to look at images is to start from the commonplace understanding of images in academia. Images are understood as a kind of language, but instead of providing a transparent window on the world are now regarded as the sort of sign (a pictorial sign) that presents deceptive appearances of naturalness and transparence concealing an opaque, distorting mechanism of representation. That distortion is often understood as a process of ideological mystification.

S2artHarbourtown.jpg s2art, Harbourtown, Melbourne Victoria Australia, 2009

I say academia because many would still assume that photography provides a transparent window on the world--it is a natural sign rather than a conventional one. Photography, unlike traditional aboriginal painting, does not employ a vocabulary or language of conventional pictorial representation. So it does not need to be re-translated by those with special skills and training (not everyone has these) to yield up its information.

This is the traditional view. Photographs just look like the world. We can see what a picture is of without having to learn any pictorial codes.

'Like' here is understood as resemblance: photos are like or resemble the things they depict or represent.

A problem in photography after modernism  is how to link or connect different image/texts in a way that is different from the narrative story telling convention of photo journalism. What options do we have if we want, if we desire the connections between image texts that are open and nonlinear and in no way claiming to be  'finished.'  Some suggestions to explore.

How do we think or write in images?

In the history of modern photography the photograph has been seen as a static object, a frozen moment of time and it is words that link the static objects. A photograph that has been taken in the past, or present, is a brief and short moment of time. If photography is a cut into time then film is a series of movement,  and the latter is regarded as a sequence of movement, therefore more able to achieve a higher synthesis of life as it "represents reality as it evolves in time". So argued Siegfried Kracauer in his  well known book Theory of Film.

New Zealand_-334.jpg Gary Sauer-Thompson, Kaikoura coastline, New Zealand, 2009

The image seduces the beholder to believe in its representational qualities, but when the beholder is introduced, we have a pictorial mediation between past and presence; a memory of this coast from an earlier time or experience. It is through the beholder that past becomes to be present and through the beholder the relationship between past and present began to loose their formal boundaries. As preserved duration memory stores experiences, keeps them alive and frames the present. The photographic image becomes the embodiment of memory related to the unconscious.

We can go further. Time can be seen in terms of becoming (and not as static being) and the photograph in terms of change and stasis. The photographic image then consists in a temporal movement, when the grabbed instant exceeds into duration. Past things are being received into present. So we have time as duration. Time flows through the images as the changes in the landscape.
I thought that I'd introduce an interesting New Zealand photographer --Theo Schoon. He is interesting because he set himself the task of developing a regional modernism based on the amalgam of Maori art and European modernism.

Theo Schoon, dry mud 2, circa 1968, silver gelatin print

In Picturing Space: Theo Schoon, Ross Crothall and Visual Art in the Pacific in Double Dialogue Anthea Gunn says that European modernism shaped the philosophy behind Schoon's art practice, and especially, the possibilities he saw for the use of Maori visual art.

This post is two months late. It was meant to be a guest post by _barb_ but the material got stranded in some Flickr anabranches for a couple of months. So here, belatedly, is _barb's_ post.

This photo by NNBB + Alf is called Buenos Aires.

AltofotnetnbbBuenosAires.jpg One thing that I always enjoy in photos is a sense of lightness and effortlessness, as if an image was taken casually in passing. Quite often images can carry a heavy air of self consciousness through too much staging or subsequent labouring in photoshop. Often too, I feel that not enough attention has been given to the subject matter and too much is about the photographer's personal taste in editing.

Buenos Aires does things the right way. This photo was taken with a light hand but a sure- footed sense of how to build a picture up. The visual weight is distributed just right and the lines flow with an easy elegance that lets us at first glance forget that we are looking at quite a complex and intelligent composition.

beyond flickr

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I'm curious about Australian photographers who step beyond  posting their work on Flickr in either weblogs, photoblogs, galleries or other media. I stumbled upon Vinnie Piatek's Museum of Dirt  website and  his  photoblog.

From there I came across Chris Were's Memetic Drift  photoblog and   Velco Dojcinovski's The Andante Bar ---both Melbourne -based photographers.  Were is Memetic on Flickr,  whilst  Velco is Velco  on Flickr.

How many others I wonder? heiko on Flickr has a fotoblog.

Do people know of others?
The meaning of the terms "historical understanding," "historical sense," or "historical consciousness" vary greatly, but they are generally understood as referring to both an awareness that the choices we face, our language, our meanings, and our values are contingent upon historically unique circumstances, and that the past continues to "live" in the present insofar as it shapes our thought and actions.

AberehartLMidwayBeach.jpg Lawrence Aberhart, Midway Beach, Gisborne, 1986, silver gelatin print

Historicial understanding also refers to what has been forgotten and the way that events have been expunged or repressed from an individual or collective historical memory. Remembering and forgetting are closely akin to one another. Thus acts of remembrance often become moments of wilful erasure and the desire to forget, paradoxically, produces the often unwelcome capacity to remember.
I am continuing with my recent theme of rediscovering New Zealand photographers as a result of being in New Zealand. Laurence Aberhart has been at the forefront of New Zealand photography since the late 1970s, and is recognised as a major international figure. AberhartLpiano.jpg Laurence Aberhart,"Te Waiherehere', Koroniti, Whanganui River 29 May 1986 Like the paintings of Colin McCahon -- an artist with whom Aberhart is frequently paired -- his photographs of churches, marae, cemeteries, Masonic Lodges are a sustained meditation on time, place and cultural history.
nd As a result of being in New Zealand on holiday I have began to dig into New Zealand  photography to see what has been going on in the last couple of decades. Is it any different to Australian photography? What are the differences?
Mark Adams, Cook's Sites After William Hodges' 'Cascade Cove, Dusky Bay, 1995

Mark Adams is one example of difference. In 'Cook's Sites', Mark Adams and Nicholas Thomas travel to the places where Cook landed in the South Pacific. Adams photographically commemorates the instant of encounter between European and Maori people, defining it as a moment of discovery, violence and mutual reciprocity.

For this series Mark also focuses on key historic sites illustrated by painters William Hodges and John Webber who accompanied Cook on his voyages. His portrayal allows us to look out from these paintings and reassess the history of these culturally loaded locations.


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Having recently been in New Zealand on a holiday and photographic exploration I want to draw attention to New Zealand photography and PhotoForum.

I have selected Murray Hedwig, a Christchurch-based photographer:

Murray Hedwig, Supermarket, Atawhai, Nelson, 1983

Hedwig is part of the new wave photography that emerged in the late 1970s with the emergence of the photographer based co-operative galleries. Around 2005 he published Public Spaces, Personal Views.

Photoforum emerged  out of  this photographic new wave and it  is:

a non-profit society dedicated to the promotion of photography as a means of communication and expression.[It's] website showcases New Zealand photographic work and work of overseas photographers with some connection to New Zealand or PhotoForum.

There is a lot on material online to explore.  It has online exhibitions, the most recent of which is Photoforum 33.

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This page is a archive of recent entries written by Gary Sauer-Thompson in April 2009.

Gary Sauer-Thompson: March 2009 is the previous archive.

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