Lee Grant – Photography Blog

Archive for the ‘Life is Fiction’ Category

Inheritance… ask and ye shall receive

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Well the craziness has begun to subside and the whirlwind of the last week is calming down… back to the grind now….

It’s all good though, and really exciting to be part of such a great show with other really good and lovely photographers. Malcolm has done a really nice job of curating the exhibition and it’s still a little surreal to realise that I’m a part of it. Anyway here are some installation pics:


_MG_9520My installation… pretty cool innit?

Not bad for a suburban pleb huh?

And a couple more below… didn’t get a chance to photograph the whole show but hopefully may get some images from Malcolm. The show’s up till June 7 th so check it out if you haven’t already. Now I have to get back to Beverley Hills Chihuahua before my daughter gets miffed at me for escaping… sheer torture! The things you do for kids! 😉

_MG_9518Tamara Dean‘s installation

_MG_9524Bindi Cole‘s installation

Written by Lee Grant

May 8, 2009 at 9:02 pm

Big Ambitions

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So, I’ve bit the bullet and invested in a new camera…. And boy do I love it… I think almost more than my Hassleblad! So what the hell is it you ask? Well, here is a picture:

Shen-Hao 4×5 Field Camera

A Shen-Hao field camera. To be honest I’d never heard of it until I saw it for sale on Ebay. I researched (god I love the net!) and found that there wasn’t a single bad review for this camera and the fact that it was pretty much a knock-off of the camera I really wanted (Ebony 45S) which I cannot afford due to it’s cool pricetag of AUD$5000, well…. this one seemed like a good alternative. And after running a few Fuijoroids through it to test everything out (RIP Polaroid, I had to use Fuji’s Instant 100 F), I’m completely excited and rearing to go large format. Everyone thinks I’m mad, but those of you who get it, know that I’m not at all…..

Anyway, here are my first shots taken with this contraption of genius!



And whilst I’m yet to work out how to work the camera like a genius (OK, so I forgot to close the shutter here, but it’s kind cool still, no?), I’m cooking up all manner of new ideas…. Part of the reason to use this camera, was to really slow down. Everything else in my life is harried and rushed and crazy… (modern life can really suck sometimes). Photography is one of the things in my life – other than my kids – that makes me feel right, so I figured, why not slow this down… at least then something in my life will be slow and quiet and more contemplative… cos the kids sure as hell aren’t! 😉 And in a world that’s filled with instant everything, maybe going backwards and reclaiming the analogue is a worthy excercise in itself? So stay tuned folks for Lee’s large format adventures….

The Road to Nowhere….

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One of the things about familial responsibility is that you don’t tend to travel as much – not sure why this has been in my case but I’d venture to say it’s mostly a lack of the proverbial dough that helps make travel and adventure possible. Before kids, my life was pretty footloose and fancy free… in fact it was quite nomadic until bubba #2 came along (an adventure of a different kind!). So since then, though I’ve managed to squeeze in a few overseas trips – sans enfants I might add – I’ve lived vicariously through friends and now it seems through other photographers’ blogs.

A recent unearthing came via Pause To Begin‘s blog of a New Yorker (sheesh, who isn’t these days!?) called Timothy Briner. His series called Boonville is amazing – at least what I’ve actually seen of it so far, and I love that he has shot the series in B&W, kinda refreshing in this colour saturated world. Reading about his travels criss-crossing the continent over 10 months, both solo and with his girlfriend made me green with envy (and yeah I know travelling ain’t easy! But try living in the one town for more than 8 years when you’ve got gypsy blood! It’s almost the stuff of curses!).

I’m particularly interested in comparing the American experience of being on the road to the Australian one and how such experiences have been expressed through the use of photography. Two incredibly vast and diverse countries but with quite different histories…

A couple of Australian examples of photographic road trips that come immediately to mind are Trent Parke‘s Minutes to Midnight and Wes Stacey’s The Road series.

Caravan Park, Queensland, 2003 (Courtesy Stills Gallery)

Wes Stacey, The Road (Courtesy of Photo-Web)

They are quintessentially Australian images, almost mythical in quality. I often wonder whether or not this Australian-ness is only observable and perhaps understood by Australians? I figure probably not because when I see American ‘road’ photographs, I feel very much like that is how America feels and would be like (wonderlust as opposed to wanderlust!). But perhaps this is simply someone else’s mythology?

Anyway, whatever it is, it’s been fuel for me throughout my dry spell of no travel. Perhaps I should simply get that bubble caravan that my kids want, hook it up to Elvis our (not-so) trusty Holden and drive off into the sunset? On the other hand, in this age of highly inflated petrol prices and now seeming financial uncertainties, perhaps armchair travelling is the way to go? Besides, the idea of two kids bickering and fighting their way across Oz in a confined space doesn’t bear contemplating…. at least not right this minute!

Fancy being this bloke!?

Reality Gnaws

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So, my little lass Pia is sick at home for the fourth day running. I thought to photograph her in this surreal state because when she’s like this, she really isn’t the girl we know (not even her brother’s fart and bum jokes are helping, which is something because our family has a known history of the giggles when it comes to poo humour) 😦 Suffice to say that I couldn’t quite bring myself to take photos. It didn’t seem the right thing. Which then led me to thinking that some photographer I am! Wussing out on my own reality! (Somehow I don’t think I’d manage that well in shitholes like Iraq. Man, I hate confrontation!) Which then led me – in a strange off-kilter way – to further think about how we associate images of hardcore realities with the kind of people who make them. Does this mean then, that only tough photographers can shoot tough stories? That their stories are somehow edgier than others?

Obviously there continues to be photographers who trade in the Jesus complex by saving the world, one photograph at a time. Take James Nachtwey for instance, as a classic example. Not to diminish his work in any way, but there is little doubt that his style sits squarely in the tradition of early photojournalism as espoused by such agencies as Magnum or Blackstar (when they actually did shoot war) et al:

Chechnya, 1996 – Ruins of Central Grozny

Afghanistan, 1996 – Mourning a brother killed by a Taliban rocket

Now compare Natchwey’s work to that of British photography duo Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin:

Suicide bomb disguised as a watermelon (from “Chicago”)

These images are a selection from their book about the Israeli military’s training camp dubbed ‘Chicago’:

“With the obliteration of the centre of the Jenin refugee camp, the Israeli military realized that it had to push its engineering corps to improve its ‘art of destruction’. As a part of these efforts the military began to upgrade a small mock-up town it called Chicago (in homage to that other bullet-ridden city). Located in the Tze’elim base in the Negev desert, it was to become the world’s largest mock-up oriental city erected since the filming of Ben-Hur.” (from the article Ghost town by Eyal Weizman)

So, really, here are two ways of telling similar narratives of war. Personally, I’m drawn to the Broomberg-Chanarin images. Whilst they aren’t taken in the ‘thick of battle’ or at the ‘frontlines’, they speak more to me of the futility and weirdness of war. Sometimes when I’m faced with images like Natchwey’s, I feel powerless, even guilt and shame for not understanding the horror of another’s tragic experience, and I look away. But with the Chicago pictures (as an example), I feel angry and outraged but my focus is completely drawn in. Maybe it’s the daggy cut-out Muslim city? I don’t know. Then again, perhaps it’s simply the very human traces of misunderstanding and self-deceit that project themselves in these quite [quiet] extraordinary photographs?

So, I’m back facing my earlier musings about the edginess of reality (whatever this might prove to be). I’m not sure that the Broomberg-Chanarin pictures are edgy in the sense of heroic-edgy. Sinister and chilling perhaps. But is this edge? I’ve been trying to unravel this idea of an ‘edge’ in my own documentary practice, though I do not photograph war, violence or post-conflict. Whatever it’s called I can’t quite put my finger on it. Martyn – my supervisor – is pushing me for more than what I currently have (“I need more of an….. edge”), but he is only seeing the images I’ve laid out in front of him. What he hasn’t seen yet is the rest (I do tend to work in series) which is sitting in wait in my mind’s eye, and for the right moment…. in you guessed it, real-life.

I suppose I am wondering whether a work can be deemed irrelevant if it doesn’t have this so called ‘edge’? And if I can’t capture it in photographs, does this then mean that my gaze is edgeless?

Mmmm, reality doesn’t so much bite as gnaw……. at least in my world.

Written by Lee Grant

August 5, 2008 at 9:29 pm

To see is to believe…and to believe is to see.

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Sometimes things happen for a reason…. or so we’re told. I like to think that this is true and that the reason is usually a good one. But what if it isn’t? It seems to me (in my present state of mind) that life can throw some fabulously awful googlies. Please note that I’m NOT a glass-half-empty type of gal. In fact, those who know me well would argue quite the opposite. However the scraps of news that I’ve been catching (no mean feat since we are that strange breed of TV-less families) and things that are unfurling in my peripheral view, seem mostly….. sad.

Maybe I’m really seeing this finally and I don’t mean the sadness that’s related to anger or loss or chaos (I’ll leave that to those heroic photojournalists with the Jesus complexes). Rather, it’s that sadness we all carry in our guts, I think perhaps the one we’re born with but haven’t quite figured what to do with. It’s actually quite beautiful when you start to really see it. And oddly, it’s everywhere I look. I’ve been trying to photograph it, to find it in places that are so bleedingly everyday and dull, that at first glance it isn’t sadness as such, but a boring and ambivalent stillness. For me, the ambivalence is the heart of it. Some (enlightened?) ones might think it pathetic…. how humans simply endeavour through life surrounded by their crap with only the odd epiphany if we’re lucky or thoughtful enough. But the loveliness of the effort is still there, and for me it’s this effort that’s sad, because in the end, we’re all going to die.

It’s hard to explain in words. Maybe these make more sense?

Written by Lee Grant

May 20, 2008 at 9:23 pm

Life just goes on, don’t it?

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Well, it really does. After chucking a few tantrums, getting back into the world and shooting lots of film and indulging a momentary lapse of reason (buying a new desktop with extra external HD) I’m actually feeling better. There’s nothing like the soothing sounds of a shutter speed to calm one down…..

Still waiting to see if ‘forensic’ data retrieval experts can get me back my work but at this point, I’m not sweating it any more. Life’s bigger than a damn machine, wouldn’t you say?

And so here are a few things that have been keeping me occupied:

Yes, still chasing those who dress-up (seriously) for fun. These images are from a weekend away at Beorg-Wic with the Ancient Arts Fellowship. Also spent this weekend gone with another re-enactment group, the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). Quite a different group with a different approach but at heart is the same idea – lots of fun. Will post some of these in the next week or so as a work-in-progress.

Oh and when you get a minute, do check out the work of Melbourne residing photographer, Louis Porter. The series Mound Bayou is, methinks, his best.

Written by Lee Grant

May 5, 2008 at 4:49 pm

Blog-Monsta in a Blog-Ocracy

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One of the things that I enjoy about blogging are the very democratic virtual encounters one has with people from – quite literally – all over the world. Our common point of interest is quite obviously, photography and the small email exchanges are a Nice biscuit moment at the end of a weary day.

Throughout my cyber-walkabouts I am still finding little gems which I often simply add to the Links section but sometimes, they deserve a better mention. Here are two fab finds from my latest expedition:

Aaron Ruell

Aaron Ruell, aka Kip in Napoleon Dynamite, is about to release a book called Some Photographs through Nazraeli Press. The interiors are beautifully nostalgic and despite the cinematic (as opposed to documentary) underpinnings, his portraits are like visual lollies. Kitsch rocks!

And ………… Henrik Duncker, a Finnish photographer who sums up his latest offering Relating Latvia here:

I love the forlorn suggestion of these images – there is a sweet melancholy in what Duncker has chosen to picture. His earnest exploration of a new culture brims with a longing to understand new familial relationships against the broader context of both history and place….. and what a poetic love letter it makes.

Written by Lee Grant

April 8, 2008 at 8:41 pm