Lee Grant – Photography Blog

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

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