Lee Grant – Photography Blog

f-stop and focus

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Today I visited the Australian War Memorial (AWM) to see an exhibition called Focus – Photographs from the AWM Collection. I’d been meaning to see it for a while now but finally got around to it. It was interesting enough with the usual bevvy of macho Aussie photographers from WW2 through Korea, Vietnam (think Tim Page) and of course the new generation of adrenalin junkies such as David Dare Parker and Stephen Dupont (actually a phenomenally good photographer). Naturally they had the one token woman, oddly enough in the form of Heide Smith (for a boring stint she did in Cambodia. Why people laud her work is beyond me?? OK maybe the Tiwi series was interesting enough but still!). Despite my initial cynicism – when are they going to get over the whole romantic notion of what it means to be a photojournalist, and why weren’t there more women shown given that Australia has it’s own albeit obscure history of female photojournalists?! – I did walk away with a strong sense that today’s photographers are setting a new pace in the genre. Stephen Dupont’s work was sensational, beautifully shot with a strong sense of both the colour and space of the environments he works in. Whilst B&W featured in his selection of images, he also borrowed (my guess) from Luc Delahaye using the panoramic format to great effect as well as mixing B&W with colour images. The work was at once art and documentary and provided a great insight into the machinations of conflict for both civilians and soldiers. Dare Parker and Ben Bohane on the other hand seem to work more from the traditions of the genre and though there were some striking images, overall I felt that Dupont’s work was stronger. Certainly it spoke to me more in that it felt less action oriented than reflective about the meaning of conflict and the impact of war for all sides.

Interestingly I pondered why there weren’t more women photographers shown? Was it because of the rather masculine nature of the War memorial itself (and that they tend to select as their appointed artists/photographers mostly men) and further that war is in and of itself a rather male preoccupation? My hunch is that this is indeed the case. I know for myself that my points of interest would gravitate more to the domestic sphere and the impact of war on family, culture and the workings of daily life were I to work in such an environment.

Having admitted this, I asked myself then, would I have the proverbial ‘balls’ to go into a conflict zone to photograph? I know that I would love to, but I wonder if this isn’t my own inner romantic notion of what it means to be an intrepid photographer shooting the exotic breeze!
Thinking about going to Afghanistan with an Afghani friend later in the year has had me thinking about my own capacity for such work. There is no question that I would go (pending finances), but the question that does remain is how I would travel, under what guise and as a woman what my approach would inevitably be given the cultural discrepancies between men and women in Afghanistan. Certainly it would be an opportunity and window into a hidden female world, and one that I have always held a long interest in. But as a mother, I am also apprehensive that I make wise choices as to the above. Perhaps though being a mother will allow me as an artist a more profound insight, one that is slower to move (less action oriented) and more formal and emotional. I certainly hope so……

On another more immediate note, I shall also be photographing Nelson and asking Denise if I can photograph her daughter Meg. Friday I shall meet with Marianne (Kim’s friend) who hails originally from Tonga (I think). I hope they fit in with the portraits project that I have in mind. If not I may still shoot her ‘after Gauguin’ or as part of the ‘Migrants in Suburbia’ series. Everything is going along nicely. However I know that I do need to make up my mind about the oldies and the war vets. What to do??? I really need to rethink my angle on these series, as I’m really not satisfied with them and until I figure this out I’m loathe to go back. Ironically I’ll have to get my backside into gear as I can’t alienate them either by disappearing from view! Mmmm……

Oh and I picked up films from the weekend. Trannies were somewhat underexposed (bummer!) but did manage to retrieve one shot of Molly that I’m happy with and works well in the portrait series that I have in mind.

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 Molly wearing her Mother’s dress

Also there was one from Tamara’s girls that I like. Again, from a technical standpoint I really have to get it together with using the Metz. It’s so bloody bulky and awkward. I think I shall look to set-up a portable flash on a tripod, not unlike Rineke Djikstra’s perhaps? Anyway here are the shots in MF. God I love this format. It’s definitely more formal and ‘still-life’. Not sure which way to pursue???

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Sisters

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Written by Lee Grant

March 7, 2007 at 9:42 pm

Posted in Picture Ponderings

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