Photo Technica Award: eye-robics

Virginia Baxter

Daniel Shipp, Bike, from The Jettisoned State series, 2000

Daniel Shipp, Bike, from The Jettisoned State series, 2000

Along with the usual insights into the ideas of new Australian photo artists this year’s Photo Technica Award Exhibition, The Whole Picture offers exercise for the eyes.

The lush coloured lambda print on the wall just inside the door could be anything anywhere. In one of a series entitled Conjecture, Samuel Phelps’ eagle-eyed aerial view of “the banal spaces we inhabit” (ie domestic interiors), colour and form offer an intriguing optical puzzle.This is the sort of picture that has people doing little head bobbing dances in front of it.

Heightening the theatricality of the celebrity chef portrait, one of Paul County’s black and white series on Tasmanian restaurateurs is posed in a museum set with a giant kangaroo. All is revealed when the photographer, who used to work in the hospitality industry, tells me that the chef in the picture came from South Africa and found no demand in Hobart for his skills in cooking wild animals.

“The world looks beautiful through a Hasselblad,” says David van Royen. Something of this young photographer’s broader vision is captured in these 2 examples from his series (him self) featuring men who are “no longer boys, (but) individuals moving beyond their prolonged adolescence… struggling with what it is to be male in today’s changing community.” The photographer takes only 3 or 4 shots, his subjects posed or “paused” in doorways. Not so taken with life caught candidly, Van Royen negotiates gestures or moves in intuitive interactions with his subjects and together they subtly re-constitute thema for the camera.

For a moment Paul Knight’s panoramic type C print of one of those peekaboo sex salons makes a desultory scene look glamorous. But before your eyes the pink light and mirrored surfaces give way to the worn exercise mat, the vase of dead flowers and the line of private portals which remind you how much the truth of this vision depends on your perspective. I look forward to other sightings in this photographer’s ongoing project of “questioning escapist vistas”. Nice one.

Catherine Brease haunts more familiarly ambiguous spaces (abandoned industrial sites) imbued with that enigmatic quality—presence, in her Pendulous Series. Rebecca Ewer stages spooky little tableaux with plastic models in Thalassa Park. Eleni Daviskas restages dream places by dramatically lighting and colouring urban landscapes at night.

There’s more to Shannon Sutherland’s project than meets the eye. She’s interested in “the physical and metaphysical nature of ownership.” Her subjects are the objects that she lives with but “the sense of possession is suggested without revealing their physical form.” Certainly in these 3 prints Shannon gives little away but I was intrigued by the idea and returned to them for another look. And though I thought I had outgrown dolly photographs, Keira Cooper managed to evoke sharp childhood memory (smell and touch combining with the visual) from closeups of scratched plastic cheeks, sand inside a sealed ear and a scalp threaded with nylon hair.

Kirsten Podlich set out to explore the people and the domestic interiors of the Fassifern Lutheran Parish of South East Queensland but came back with only evidence. Along with the photographer, we stare blankly at elderly people caught in the glare inside their own homes, framed by their idiosyncrasies.

Twelve finalists were selected for this show from 180 entries by emerging photographic artists from across the country.

My pick for the prize was Rebecca Ann Hobbs for her idiosyncratic Suck Roar series—3 self-portraits with possums, squid and very large dog. Hobbs is taken with “femininity and ferocity, wetness and hunger, fear and affinity” She took me with her. Hobbs was the runner up. The judges (Judy Annear photography curator Art Gallery of NSW, photo-media artist Rosemary Laing and ACP Director, Alasdair Foster) chose Daniel Shipp for his meticulously crafted series The Jettisoned State. Here performances are created for the camera to elicit “unspecified feelings” from the viewer. Mostly these reminded me of Hal Hartley movies I haven’t seen yet. The judges describe Daniel’s work as “enigmatic but knowing without ever falling into cliche…” and having “a sophisticated understanding of the visual language employed that engages the viewer and makes them an equal participant.”

Daniel Shipp graduated this year with BRA Honours from the School of Fine Arts, University of Sydney. Rebecca Ann Hobbs is in her final year of a BFA degree at the Victorian College of the Arts.

The Nikon Award for ACP Student of the Year went to Holly Schumacher and the runner-up was Kirstie Rickwood.

Australian Centre for Photography Photo Technica Award for New Australian Photo-Artist of the Year 2001, November 16-December 23, Australian Centre for Photography, Oxford Street, Paddington.

RealTime issue #46 Dec-Jan 2001 pg.

© Virginia Baxter; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 December 2001