slide show or no show

sandy edwards: photo projection shows, sydney

Vatagin’s Irene Starzhenetskaya and Anatoly Komelin, State Tretyakov Gallery, Russia, photo Andy Freeberg, Guardians series, 2011; Otherwise Projections 2011

Vatagin’s Irene Starzhenetskaya and Anatoly Komelin, State Tretyakov Gallery, Russia, photo Andy Freeberg, Guardians series, 2011; Otherwise Projections 2011

THE BIRTH OF THE SLIDE SHOW FORMAT AS A MEANS TO SHOWCASE PHOTOGRAPHERS’ WORK ORIGINATED IN SYDNEY WITH REPORTAGE IN 1999. FOUNDED BY PHOTOGRAPHERS MICHAEL AMENDOLIA, STEPHEN DUPONT, JACK PICONE AND DAVID DARE PARKER. THIS EVENT WAS A RESPONSE TO THE PAUCITY OF OUTLETS FOR DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHY AND PHOTOJOURNALISM AT THAT TIME.

An initial screening took place at the Valhalla Cinema in Glebe. Images were set to a music track, establishing the formula. Other projection events followed, including Cross Projections and Trampoline. Reportage (now run by Jacqui Vicario) celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2010.

In September this year a significant new slide show raised the bar. Otherwise Projections screened at The Red Rattler in Marrickville. It was an exciting event set in a dark nightclub atmosphere. Despite the stated intentions of the producers to expose people unfamiliar with documentary photography and “show them what a great medium it is,” the audience was overflowing with Sydney’s top photographers.

In contrast with previous slide shows, of 12 photographers only four were Australian—Stephen Siewert, Dean Sewell, Billy Maynard and Katrin Koennig. Producers Isabelle Rouvillois (Picture Editor), Chris Gleisner (Project Manager) and Andrew Nicolson (Music Editor) worked together in tight collaboration. Rouvillois’ extensive experience as a picture editor in France and her knowledge of European and international photography made a major imprint on the event. Andrew Nicolson’s encyclopedic music knowledge contributed to a neat match of subject matter, image style and music tracks. Gleisner is a respected photographer and teacher with a history of community projects. Rouvillois and Gleisner together cut their teeth on last year’s Head On Photo Festival slide show.

The international content oriented our attention beyond Australia and emphasised the unique skills of the Australian inclusions while placing them in the context of world photography—a much needed perspective. The true achievement of Otherwise Projections however was to present a global point of view while blending different photographic genres, defying easy analysis. Rouvillois says, “Part of our aim is to showcase works on the edges of photojournalism and fine art conceptual work, the kind of thing you won’t see on a front page or in a gallery.”

Highlights from the show for me included Andy Freeberg’s (USA) Guardians, a humorous essay about the women who work as attendants in the art museums of Russia; Fluffy Clouds by Jurgen Nefzger (Germany) cataloguing nuclear power stations in the natural and social environment throughout Europe with a kitsch visual style; and my personal favourite, Trans/Tender, a series on transgender people in East Timor by Billy Maynard, an Australian newcomer.

 I am Winnie the Pooh, Otherwise Projections

I am Winnie the Pooh, Otherwise Projections

I am Winnie the Pooh, Otherwise Projections

Otherwise Projections was a one-off leaving only the post-show conversations and word of mouth to confirm its success. The producers say they will work towards another event next year. Watch out for this one!

Cross Projections is now in its ninth year. The mission statement declares, “Cross Projections grew out of a desire for experienced documentary photographers to maintain control over the presentation of their work, and to showcase their stories to their peers and the wider community.” Subtitled “A Cinematic Screening of Documentary Photography,” Cross Projections was instigated in 2003 at a time when photographers felt that they were being forced out of galleries because of a change of direction in contemporary art photography. An urgent need was expressed for new outlets to make their work visible.

In Cross Projections photographers work as a collective managing the slide nights and a strong sense of community develops. The producers select participants and curate their sequencing in the production. Over time the slide show form has moved away from the simple use of still photographic images to include moving image, spoken word and new strategies for presentation.

This year’s inclusion of Maya Newell as Editor was significant. As the youngest photographer in the collective she has also been one of the most experimental. Her film background sets her apart and her pieces are innovative and challenging. Now she has applied her skills to the show as a whole.

Cross Projections is embedded in a tradition of social documentary, which includes a commitment to photography’s ability to change and deepen our perceptions of the world. Social concern is laced with emotion and heart, driven by the directorship of Roslyn Sharp and Amanda James, both of whom presented assured series in this year’s show. James’ Out of Order is a collaboration with ‘at risk’ students from Edgeware School who find their voices by creating words and phrases beginning with individual letters from the alphabet: “P is for Perspective. Me and the police have different perspective”; “C is for Closed-Circuit TV. Watch the cameras.’’

Other standout pieces included Anthony Browell’s Wall of Death, about a family of carnival motorbike stunt riders; Australia’s strongest street photographer Marco Bok’s One Night at Mardi Gras; Jon Reid’s Predominantly Orange—an artfully playful survey of traffic cones; and Sasha Woolley’s Beneath the Bridge, about a family living in poverty under a bridge in North Jakarta. It’s hard to separate the photographers this year and I must also mention Lee Grant, Tracey Nearmy, Adam North and Adam Taylor.

A glance at the websites of each of these events reveals an informative and valuable resource. In the Sun Herald (October 16) commentator Charles Waterstreet made the cheeky suggestion that Cross Projections was a kick in the groin to events such as Tropfest. Screen envy? All power to photographers and may they remain highly visible, employing their unique storytelling gifts to chase the tail of filmmakers.

Otherwise Projections, The Red Rattler, Sept 2, www.otherwiseproductions.com.au/; Cross Projections, Tusculum House, Potts Point, Oct 6-8, www.crossprojections.com.au/cp_flash.html

RealTime issue #106 Dec-Jan 2011 pg. 45

© Sandy Edwards; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

13 December 2011