Lee Grant – Photography Blog

Archive for May 2007

Don’t cry because it’s over…. Smile because it happened. (Dr Seuss)

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Long day today and I’m actually exhausted. Have been incompletely immersed in photography – man I love it! Photographed Sam again in Queanbeyan and will return next weekend to photograph her with her boyfriend. She’s a dream to photograph and I think genuinely enjoys working with me. Afterwards visited the Canberra Contemporary Art Space at Gorman House for a joint show of Adad Hannah’s Museum Stills and Rozalind Drummond’s Weather Everything. I was a little disappointed to be honest, mostly because I didn’t think the work went well together and I’m still trying to appreciate what Rozalind has to offer. Which isn’t to say that she doesn’t, but for me, the editing needs improvement as does her technical workings of the camera and some consistency in format and framing. Her strongest images were the ones from what looked like Iceland – houses and some interiors. It was a shame these weren’t more prominent. In a funny way I am realising how fussy I am in this regard. Presentation really is everything!! Crappy presentation can really kill a good image. Despite this, it was worth it, if not to realise that the space is actually pretty good. Mmmm, maybe time for a show???

Had good company for lunch (thanks Carolyn!) before attending postgrad meeting…. We then decided to catch Helen Ennis’ new show at the National Portrait Gallery called Reveries: Photography and Mortality.

It was a consummate Helen show. Beautifully hung, coherent, emotive and really pulls you in on a theme (ie. death and dying) that we seem loathe to acknowledge in our culture. I also found the title of Reveries an interesting one, as it implies that death itself is an abstraction. The dictionary defines a reverie as a ‘state of pleasantly being lost in one’s thoughts; a daydream’ though inevitably, as we see in throughout the exhibition, death is less impermanent – at least in secular terms.


Naturally I found some work more appealing than others, and for reasons more than just the imagery. William Yang‘s series of Allen (part of his Sadness Monologues), Anne Ferran, Olive Cotton, Michael Riley and Anne Noble were all stand-outs.

Untitled, 2000

Untitled, from Cloud, 2000 by Michael Riley
Courtesy Stills Gallery, Sydney

The latter for me was the most moving and incredibly sequenced. It was easy to linger on these very loving and tender images. Ironically however, it seemed to me that of all the work there, these same bodies of work were in some way also the most calculating in their approach. The sheer act of photographing such sensitive subject matter, despite for example the ‘collaborative’ role of Allen in Yang’s work, just seemed intrusive and self-centred. And whilst I thought the work was not only beautiful but also insightful (as with the ‘reportage’ bodies of work by Jack Picone and Frances Mocnik), I felt a sense of cathartic voyeurism looming over the whole show. Whilst a few of the artists came to photograph death and mortality for varying personal reasons, it seemed to me that others maintained a cool sense of what they might achieve out of their work as photographers. I couldn’t help but feel that I had somehow stolen glimpses into a stranger’s experience of acute pain and loss for the purpose of great material. Cynical? Yes, perhaps. I suppose though my own acculturated ideas of death as a private ritual have influenced me in this regard. I struggled somewhat with their brazenly public exposure in an art gallery and yet, I found myself unable to look away. And I lingered for as long as I could…………..

Dad Passing Over Wheeny Creek by Anne Ferran

Dad Passing Over Wheeny Creek by Anne Ferran
Courtesy Stills Gallery, Sydney
and Sutton Gallery, Melbourne

Written by Lee Grant

May 10, 2007 at 11:43 pm

Photo-Heavies and Photographing Time

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It’s been a busy weekend but overall I think a fruitful one. Submitted a tryptich from the ‘Little Ned’ series to the CCP Kodak Salon where all submissions get shown so this is rather positive. Finally got paid for the ANU Art School job (managed to promptly allocate the lot! Bills…. what can I say??); put together a job application; had a friend over for lunch and visited another in Bungendore with kids in tow. Destination was the Bungendore – or should I say the Bates – Motel. It was awesome, old and dingy and completely run down. Terrifically atmospheric…. Like stepping back in time… These photos really don’t do it justice. We’ll just have to wait for Frank’s series on the Motel!!




I really didn’t photograph much though (strangely I wasn’t much in the mood – not like me!) but did go to meet some South American cement contractors living at the motel. A bit of a recon I suppose. Not too sure though if the opportunity to photograph them will materialise as their contracts apparently are finishing in the next week or so. We shall see…..

Had a good reading group session too with Martyn and some of the other postgrads on Friday. I think these are really worthwhile (well at least I like them) since we are exposed to new material and can hash through some of the issues, themes and other ideas running through photo-theory. And all over a good cuppa!

Next on the list is something from Martyn by Rosalind Krauss…. I believe she’s a bit of an art world/critic/academic heavy!

And speaking of photo-heavyweights, here is a short presentation by James Nachtwey , recent recipient of the TED Prize. It’s an interesting and emotive piece and his style of photography is one of the reasons I wanted to become a photographer in the first place (I dare say for a bzillion of us out there!). And whilst it seems that he is on some level out of kilter – or dare I say fashion? – in some parts of the photo world, the images steadily continue to speak to me in a human, emotional way. And I understand it. No deconstruction required! Watch it HERE (sorry can’t figure out the bloody Google video thing???)

I rue the steady decline of good and simple journalism. It seems from another time and place. BUT despite this I see positives in where we are at with global mass communications. Like these blogs, e-zines and other cyber-forums where people can converge with their craft, and their stories and ideas. Sometimes though it’s hard to see the wood for the trees….Where indeed to begin??

Written by Lee Grant

May 7, 2007 at 9:56 pm