Determination or Selfishness?


“Depth of Field”; © Ian Poole, Vancouver 2016

At a time of the year when considered wisdom would be to produce an opinion piece about planning, goal setting and collation of ideas, it was a chance encounter at a great photographic exhibition that generated alternate thought processes.

The Vancouver Art Gallery presented Walker Evans – Depth of Field.   Co-organised by the Josef Albers Museum Quaddrat in Germany and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta; in collaboration with the Vancouver Art Gallery, the exhibition featured more than 200 black and white and colour prints.  The photographs had been curated from many worldwide sources and was a comprehensive survey of Evans’ output.  Exhilarating to view on every level, including the contemporary digital prints hanging happily side by side with vintage gelatin photographs.

But it was whilst digging deeper into Evans’ background that his determination was clearly on show.  His troubled relationship with Roy Stryker, head of the Information Division of the Farm Security Administration, (FSA)  was a case of two determined men butting heads.  In a sense, the FSA gave Evans the opportunity to create some of his best images and Evans gave the FSA some of their best images.  His ex-wife Isabelle Storey describes him as shallow, selfish and heartless.  Evans described Edward Steichen’s major work The Family of Man as overrated sentimental rubbish.

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Robert Frank’s Stove; © Walker Evans, 1971

Yet one of the gentle lyrical photographs from the Vancouver exhibition was titled Robert Frank’s Stove, which would indicate that Evans and Frank were close friends late in Evan’s life.

Pablo Picasso’s seven female muses were but the tip of the iceberg of a self-indulgent lifestyle that he required to maintain his artistic output.  Picasso is famous for telling one of his mistresses, Françoise Gilot in 1943, that ‘…for me there are only two kinds of women, goddesses and doormats’.

This politically incorrect behaviour is not uncommon in the art world.

The photographer Tina Modotti managed to, eventually, reverse the male sexist treatment of female partners.  But it was only after a six year relationship with Edward Weston that Modotti was able to pursue a similar life style.  Although she made no attempt to describe her male partners as her muses.

Edward Weston managed to come close to the Picasso style with his string of models and muses whilst married to Flora May Chandler.  His four sons with Flora, included Brett, who would go on to become both his father’s assistant and eventually the protector of the Edward Weston legacy.  Brett went on to marry and divorce four times.

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Charis Wilson; © Edward Weston

Other than Modotti, Edward Weston’s most famous mistress/muse/model was Charis Wilson, eventually marrying her in 1939 and then divorcing in 1946.  The relationship produced some of Weston’s most recognised photographs.  Creatively the process worked for Weston but there is little documentation to say whether the relationship was as productive or rewarding for Wilson.

Garry Winogrand, despite being married twice, was not so much a womaniser as a driven photographer.  His photographic legacy on death was 2,500 rolls of undeveloped film, 6,500 rolls of developed but not proofed exposures, and about 3,000 rolls only realised as far as contact sheets being made.  His feeling was that photography was all about creating (exposing) the image and the post-production was of little interest to him.  Winogrand taught briefly at the Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology in the early 1970s, but this period in academia was driven more by financial necessity than a desire to mentor students.  His clear aim was to continue to create photographs.

It is this mission that drives many artists, in every art form and therefore including photography, and delineates the character mores of these people.  For some of them it is a dogged determination to succeed, but it is at all times tinged with more than a touch of selfishness.

Dare we call that apparent selfishness the mark of a great artist?

Or is that too long a bow to draw?

Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 3.09.22 PMThis essay first appeared in
February 2017 edition of
f11::for photographers and aficionados,
page 160.

Walker Evans – “Depth of Field”


Vancouver Art Gallery #1; © Ian Poole, Canada, 2017.

In my thought processes, the photographic output of Walker Evans (1903-75) was over-shadowed by the mid twentieth century photographers Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand and Lee Friedlander;  the Farm Security Administration (FSA) members like Dorothea Lange, Marion Post Wolcott, and Gordon Parks.  Whilst Australian heroes in Dr Michael Coyne and Tim Page piqued my visual interest.  The paucity of names on this list is a clear indication of my lack of knowledge of the genre.

Today I expanded that knowledge by a quantum of 100%!  Whilst others in my travel group were heading to Whistler for skiing – I was aiming to catch the final days of this block buster exhibition Walker Evans – Depth of Field at the Vancouver Art Gallery.  I was not disappointed.  Gathered with the skill that only a good curator possesses, from a multitude of sources, this exhibition documented some of Evans earliest work right through to his late output using Polaroid materials.  Colour even!


Road Side Stand near Birmingham Alabama, 1936; © Walker Evans

I got to see personal favourites (the old reliable house mover) and discovered many new and ironic photographs (damaged).


Truck and Sign; © Walker Evans, 1929-30.

These further fed my interest.  Of the monochrome photographs, there was a delightful mix of gelatin silver prints (both vintage and later printed) and ink jet.  The difference of printing techniques was never a consideration, such was the quality of both old and new.  The viewer concentrated on content not on technique.  I suspect even Evans would have approved.


Robert Frank’s Stove, Cape Breton Island; © Walker Evans, 1971

Another intriguing find was a photograph of Robert Frank’s stove.  Such a personal insight into Frank’s personal space seems to indicate that the two great photographers had a knowledge of each other (albeit late in Evan’s life).

Evans trip to Cuba produced some delightful photographs including another of my personal favourites.  It was a joy to see three variants, including a large inkjet print, all side by side for the viewer’s pleasure.

Such curatorship is wonderful when it is carefully crafted to seduce and educate the viewer.




Citizen of Downtown Havana; © Walker Evans, 1933

A pleasant gallery interlude and totally worth a trip around the world to view.  Thank you Vancouver Art Gallery.


Vancouver Art Gallery #2; © Ian Poole, Canada, 2017.


Vancouver Art Gallery #3; © Ian Poole, Canada 2017.





In Defence of the Cliché


Louvre Sunrise; © Ian Poole, Paris, 2016

Avoid imitating a cliché – is the oft loudly exclaimed cry from art teachers, creativity lecturers and judges at photographic competitions.  So why should I buck the combined wisdom of teachers and mentors with far greater stature than me?

It was a reluctant first-time visit to the Musée Rodin in Paris that did it for me.  I certainly have no difficulty in recognising that Auguste Rodin was an artist held in the highest regard, but my reluctance to visit it was based on the anticipation of feelings of intense déjà vu.

How could I not be impressed with the image of sculptures as well known as The Thinker or The Kiss?


Rodin’s Thinker; © Ian Poole, Paris, 2016

When I realised I was comparing the shape of my hand with that of Rodin’s sculptured artwork, I knew that I was hooked and engaged with the artist’s masterpiece.  No catalogue, no wikipedia entry, no poster, was ever going to illustrate the power and emotion that he had crafted into each piece.  And whilst I had never sculpted in my life, I realised that I had photographically mimicked the poses and hand gestures from both pieces without much regard from whence these concepts had come.

After looking first hand at examples of photographs by Ansel Adams and Richard Avedon I started to understand the power contained within the images.  I had always thought that the landscapes of Adams were a case of hard hiking and early mornings, but to my horror I found a conscious thought process underlying his many images.

In the case of Avedon, my cavalier response had been that anyone with a few lucky breaks and access to ‘big’ names as subjects could produce great shots.  How wrong was I?  Avedon had a wonderful knack of reproducing and inserting the soul of his sitter into a photograph. Neither photographer had lucked onto a quick fix.  They had learnt their craft, worked hard within their genre, and consequently produced images that appeared to be effortless when viewed.

Clichéd – almost!

In case there is a misconception out there in reader-land that a rush trip to Paris or New York is required to look at cliché driven images to promote one’s own creativity, examples are happening all around.


The Wanaka Tree; © Tony Bridge, New Zealand, 2016.

My respected fellow f11 correspondent Tony Bridge has been leading a workshop at the prestigious 27th Wanaka Autumn Art School in New Zealand and he was goaded by some of his friends to lead his group of students to that well-known location, The Wanaka Tree.  Tony’s response was to give his students a master class in landscape creation with a totally new interpretation.  I trust they were impressed, because I certainly was.

A further opportunity exists for some Australian readers to visit the National Gallery of Victoria and view James McNeill Whistler’s Portrait of the Artist’s Mother, 1871  (more commonly referred to as Whistler’s Mother).  This work is currently on loan from the Musée d’Orsay, in Paris.  The portrait painted in a stoic palette of grey and black, portrays a character vastly different to that of the artist – who was noted for his flamboyant dress and outgoing social personality.  The painting, having been mocked and parodied for decades, is still a powerful depiction of personality and emotional representation.

Having viewed photographic interpretations of these (and many other art works) frequently in my career, I am now of the opinion that a greater knowledge of so-called clichéd images is valuable in the extension of one’s creative development.  Studying why such pieces have become so hackneyed, even banal, is a step further in creating a personal style.

Maybe the clichéd road is the road to creativity.


No Time Like the Present?


2016 Hair of the Dog; Photo courtesy of Queensland AIPP.

As a well known and committed procrastinator, it was only a few weeks ago that I realised that a couple of 2016 projects and goals were going to need quite a number of new, exciting and creative photographs taken.  Creativity is one of those skills that has never come easily to me – and probably never will.  So delaying making plans to fulfil the requirements of my own needs was another stuttering step embedded in my procrastination.

I was brought back to reality when a week out from a long-planned speaking engagement I realised that the details loosely floating around in my head needed to be set in audio-visual concrete and speaking notes were required to keep me within the tight time constraints nominated by conference management.


Portfolio Review, Hair of the Dog; Photo courtesy of Q’land AIPP.

This flurry of activity then generated the realisation that other projects needed just as much urgent attention.

Coinciding with my small commitments to the photography convention was the visit of a couple of international friends who were key-note speakers on the same bill.  My hosting them during their Brisbane stay was one of those privileged benefits gained from having access to peer review from long time friends.  I have banged on often enough in this column about the value of mentors, and peer review to enhance your understanding of your own work, and so here was my opportunity.


Mike and Jackie; Photo courtesy of Queensland AIPP.

It soon became obvious that it wasn’t the chilled Chardonnay being taken to ward off Brisbane’s humid summer that was doing the talking – but that I had some mental blocks that required re-adjustment.  A lot of the current images that were being compiled to complete these projects were taken on overseas jaunts.  Certainly an obvious way to seek out new visual interpretations, but not necessarily the only way of completing assignments.

NIMBY – not in my back yard – had become part of my raison d’être.  I had become the very person I have spent most of my teaching and mentoring career warning students against.

With some firm and pointed observations my friends noted loudly that I wasn’t spending much time documenting my beloved home town.  ‘Where are the photos of locals and familiar scenes?’ they asked.  Another good friend is working on a personal project titled 500 metres from my desk and I have been giving him strong encouragement on seeing his powerful and creative images.

I was obviously having difficulty in seeing 5 metres from my desk, much less 500!

With these thoughts pulsing through my brain I attended the opening of an exhibition that had had its genesis during Australia’s bi-centennial back in 1988.   The re-hanging of this show would give me a chance to revisit the prints that I had processed for one of the six artists being shown.  A chance to review my processing skills after almost 30 years. They were still in good condition!


Glen O’Malley + Subject; © Ian Poole, Brisbane 2016.

More importantly I took a camera with me to the gallery.  Now there is a radical thought.  Well for me it was – I know I tell every one else to carry a camera, yet often I am not one to do so.  To my absolute surprise a couple of shots jumped out in front of me.  One or two are tolerable and may well end up residing in a presentation portfolio.

Several conclusions were reached in the past few weeks.  Good photographic friends are valuable beyond words, even if their comments are sharp and cutting and a little too close to the bone; interesting photographs are sitting, waiting for all of us very close to where we are at this very moment; and having a challenge and being challenged is the quickest way to lift the quality of one’s visual output.

I’m on to it now! Stay tuned…

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This essay first appeared in f11 Magazine :: for PHOTOGRAPHERS and AFICIONADOSp152, issue 52 :: March, 2016.

The Making of an Exhibition

The O’Malleys were invited to have lunch at the Pooles; © Glen O’Malley, 14 March 1987, Red Hill, Brisbane (from the Journeys North Portfolio)

With the re-hanging of Journeys North – Revisited by the Queensland Art Gallery, I was able to reflect on the work done in getting Glen O’Malley‘s portion of that iconic Queensland Photography Exhibition on to the gallery walls.  Sponsored by the Australian Bicentennial Authority, Journeys North was a comprehensive black and white documentary exhibition with an interesting grouping of participants.  The Exhibition opens on 20 February and runs until 3 July 2016 at the Queensland Art Gallery.

Lin Martin was the only woman, and she was joined by College of Art Lecturers Charles Page and Robert Mercer, fine art photographer Max Pam, and long time camera club member Graham Burstow.  Whilst the prevailing genre was documentary, the diversity of images produced was a piercing insight into the Queensland (and by default Australian) psyche.


Yowah Opal Fields – John Perham fossicks for opals and runs a museum ; © Glen O’Malley, 1987, (from the Journeys North Portfolio)

Probably not necessarily mainstream Queensland society, but an in-depth assessment from a photographic standpoint.

At this time I had known O’Malley for well over a decade, having assisted in helping him find a job with well known Brisbane architectural photographer Richard Stringer.

see   My claim to fame in the Journeys North saga was that I had a fully fledged commercial black and white darkroom and almost enough trays to process a series of large exhibition prints.  O’Malley  was demanding four 60x50cm (24″x20″) – two for himself and two for the Gallery.  All archivally processed!


Gerard and his girlfriend hung out his washing; © Glen O’Malley, 1987, Brisbane (from the Journeys North Portfolio)

The process of making archival gelatin silver photographs is both time consuming and tedious.  Making four prints from the same negative is not as easy as pressing “Command ⌘ P” four times!  For a start, large quantities of chemicals are required as these big sheets of sensitised paper absorb vast quantities of liquid and exhaust the chemicals quickly.  Then, after an agitated soak in fresh and strong fixer, that very same fixer needs to be washed from the print.  A slow process taking (wasting) a large quantity of water.  Then the density of each photograph must be consistent.  Many tests were made and debated.


Camooweal – Mrs Steele; © Glen O’Malley, February 1987 (from the Journeys North Portfolio)

With the passing of time it can be now said that O’Malley’s great skill was his instinctive and observant eye.  Not necessarily his dedication to “correct” exposure!

I have deliberately not spoken of the other artists.  With the exception of Max Pam they are all friends and past photographic colleagues and the photographs will speak loudly and proudly on their behalf at the Queensland Art Gallery.  But I will show a couple of their pieces.

The great sadness of this Exhibition is that it has never been repeated.  Almost thirty years and no similar exploration of photography sponsored on such a major scale.

Pam, Max_The Big Pineapple

The Big Pineapple, near Nambour; © Max Pam, 1986, from the Journeys North Portfolio


Lynn and Jenny Cook, twins, Weipa; © Charles Page, 1987, from Journeys North Portfolio


Young Dancers, Kuranda, Laura Dance Festival, Cape York ; © Robert Mercer, 1987, from the Journeys North Portfolio


Eyes right, Coolangatta; Graham Burstow, 1986-87, from Journeys North Portfolio









Herbie Harold Adams, retired boxer, gold miner, Clump Point; © Lin Martin, 1986-87, from Journeys North Portfolio)

All photographs in Journeys North are gelatin silver photographs on paper.  Purchased 1987 with the financial assistance of the Australian Bicentennial Authority to commemorate Australia’s Bicentenary in 1988 Collection: Queensland Art Gallery.   

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Further essays –


The Photograph and Australia


Ian Poole vs The Photograph and Australia; © Gary Cranitch, Brisbane, 2015.

At the Official Opening of The Photograph and Australia, I should have been concerned when the speakers spent more time defending the curatorial policy rather than lauding the (mostly) fabulous collection of photographs gathered from around the country.

Major photographic exhibitions at the Queensland Art Gallery are few and far between, so this survey production prepared by the Art Gallery of New South Wales is a not to be missed opportunity.  The exhibition’s curator (Judy Annear, Senior Curator Photographs at The Art Gallery of NSW) has an enviable CV from the Australian photographic world.  With the imprimatur of the AGNSW behind her it was a given that collecting this body of work was so successful.

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Tracey Moffatt’s work sits high above historic images of aboriginal Australia. Photo ArtsHub

No, my problem with the show is the layout.

In her catalogue introduction Annear describes the show as taking a conceptual rather than strictly chronological approach to the medium.   This leads to the placement of three photographs, (Beauties, variously 1994/97) by Tracy Moffatt above a case of albums and c1860/80s photographs.  Moffatt’s found photographs have been reprinted in slight colour variations, after the style of Andy Warhol.  Despite a half column of supporting description in the exhibition catalogue it is still difficult to correlate their importance within the show.

The small room full of cartes de visite probably will display more examples of the genre than most viewers will ever see in a lifetime.  Certainly interesting, but obviously AGNSW has a huge enviable collection from which to select.


Only to Taste the Warmth, the Light, the Wind; Olive Cotton, c1939.  (Major promotional image)

In the absence of Australia possessing a domiciled Julia Margaret Cameron, it was always going to be an historical fact that white Anglo-saxon men would feature in early Australian photographic history.  The placement of 40+ variable quality self portraits by Sue Ford along a single wall is an amazing piece of revisionist feminist photographic history.  Ford has clearly earned her place in Australian photographic history with critically acclaimed output going back to the 1970s, but this token filler in a room containing some solitary iconic images by Max Dupain, Olive Cotton, David Moore, Axel Poignant and Mervyn Bishop beggars belief.

The 1883 astronomy photographs of Joseph Turner illustrated an historical moment for Australia, but the inclusion of the additional later images did nothing for the survey.  Similarly the amazing Charles Bayliss illustrations of the world famous Australian inventor Lawrence Hargrave‘s plane models was of a first time interest to me; but their relevance in Australia’s photographic history is drawing a long bow.

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Out in the blizzard at Cape Denison; © Frank Hurley, 1912 (National Gallery of Australia).

On a positive note!  Following three visits to the exhibition, the purchase of the catalogue, research of many online reviews (positive and negative), and the purchase of Photofile, vol 96, I did manage to maneuver my way through the display space and find many old and new favourites to delight, educate and excite me.  Frank Hurley’s depiction of an Antarctic blizzard has probably never been bettered.  Ignoring the degree of difficulty factor, the composition and emotion contained in this relatively small photo was enhanced on discovering through research, that it was one of Hurley’s personal favorites.

As opposed to the image used for the catalogue cover (Beauties, Moffatt), the use of Olive Cotton’s Only to Taste the Warmth, the Light, the Wind was a master stroke.  It brought to light a photo which was sadly unfamiliar to me.  It has a strong aesthetic, but my long distant commercial background noted that the grain structure held up well in the large format illustrations featured in and around the Gallery.

I was very familiar with the JW Lindt image of the body of Joe Byrne hung on a wall to be photographed, but had never seen an original print.  In what is arguably Australia’s first news photograph it neatly illustrates the then preferred newspaper technique of an artist drawing being superseded by photography.  We see in the left hand bottom corner the bowler hatted artist (drawing pad under arm) walking away from his nemesis JW Lindt.  Lindt also features in a personal favourite – Coontajandra and Sanginguble, 1893.  The tall narrow crop of this carbon print (61×30.5cm) indicates that Lindt recognised an aesthetic contained within the photograph, as well as the strong detail shown in the body scarification.  I compliment Annear for including the most subversive images on show – a series of small postcards making a political statement in 1900 regarding the policy of Federation.  The photos of Thomas Hinton may or may not illustrate someone of an unsound mind, but they probably come close to being the first known Australian “selfies”.

Viewing a good version of Max Dupain’s Sunbaker, 1937; dark, rich, moody and all about the body not the face, was a joy.  Not the pale copies we often see in printed versions.  But where o where are the sporting photographs.  One would assume that the 1956 Olympics recognised a growth spurt and turning point in Australia.  With small exceptions press photographers don’t exist in Annear’s world.  The inclusion of Mervyn Bishop smacks of tokenism in this survey.  Which is sad as Bishop deserves and owns his place in Australian photography, but there are so many other great documentary photographers from Frank Hurley onwards.  Where is a “surf culture” illustrated? (with the exception of Dupain).

I think this leads me to my main criticism.  The Photograph and Australia was too grand a project and of course had a difficulty from its inception.  As someone who has spent a lifetime trying to demystify photography and make it accessible to an everyday viewer, this exhibition is the antithesis of approachable, accessible photography.  It relies heavily on academia and a convoluted rationale so loved by post-graduate students.

Much of the exhibition is wonderful, much of it is valuable beyond words.

It is a must view moment, but in an attempt to display photography as high art it missed a great opportunity.

A Day’s Portfolio Reviewing at Ballarat Biennale

As well as looking at Australia’s premier photography exhibition, my other reason for attending the 2015 Ballarat International Foto Biennale was to participate as a reviewer at the 2015 Portfolio Reviews.  I was in very good company, with a talented group of reviewers carrying many skills connected to photography.  This gave the applicants a great choice to match their strengths and weaknesses to solid critical opinion.


Kerry Pryor; © Ian Poole, Ballarat, 2015.

As well as seeking a review of their photographic portfolio, the Guy Vinciguerra Fellowship was to be given to the strongest portfolio.  This Fellowship awarded a return airfare, accommodation and meals allowance, and registration for a four day review session at the world’s oldest and biggest Portfolio Review, ‘The Meeting Place’, at FotoFest Houston in March 2016.

The 2015 Guy Vinciguerra Fellowship winner is Kerry Pryor from Melbourne.

I had the pleasure to review Kerry’s portfolio of documentary images taken in the aftermath of the Nepal earthquake.  Since graduating from RMIT in 2008, Kerry has worked as a commercial photographer whilst steadily building a CV of exhibitions and awards.

The portfolio review process does not have a strong history in Australia (although Ballarat is working hard to change that!), but the concept has a strong place in Europe and America.   The famous Rencontres d’Arles photography festival has facilitated portfolio reviews since 2006.

The Houston FotoFest will provide over 160 reviewers – a big jump from the 14 on offer at Ballarat.

Whilst I did not get to meet the almost 40 applicants, it was a delight to meet and chat to quite a number.  It is a privilege to be given the opportunity not only to view photographers’ work but to chat to them about their dreams, plans and aspirations.


Morganna Magee; © Ian Poole, Ballarat, 2015.


Ben Liew; © Ian Poole, Ballarat, 2015


Neil Cash; © Ian Poole, Ballarat, 2015.


Sandra Chen Weinstein; © Ian Poole, Ballarat, 2015


Nigel Kenny; © Ian Poole, Ballarat, 2015.


Doc Ross Haka; © Ian Poole, Ballarat, 2015.

…..and of course amongst the talented group of reviewers, it was a joy to meet up with my old friend Doc Ross from Christchurch, New Zealand; seen here giving his own personal rendition of the Kiwi haka.

Beauty from Poverty, photography by Alejandro Chaskielberg

Scan144Challenging the boundaries of documentary photography, Argentinean photographer Alejandro Chaskielberg’s exhibition La Creciente brings a new dimension to the 2015 Ballarat International Foto Biennale.

With a lengthy curriculum vitæ as a photojournalist and TV director, this graduate of Argentina’s National Film and Audiovisual Art Institute has an extensive exhibition record since 2006.  Previous shows in Buenos Aires, Brighton UK, Paraguay, New York, London, Tokyo, Boston, Barcelona, Washington DC, Beijing and California this first time exhibit in Australia is long overdue.

Chaskelberg has been criticized as having taken photographs that are too beautiful when documenting marginalized people. His series on the peoples of the Turkana region in Kenya commissioned by the British aid organization Oxfam, received this criticism.  Having been asked to produce documentation representing the effects that the East Africa drought was having and to raise awareness on behalf of Oxfam, Chaskielberg used his now familiar technique of shooting by moonlight, using whatever light was to hand.

When interviewed by the BBC about this series, Chaskielberg responded thus – “I would like to break with the idea that a beautiful picture of a hurtful situation detracts from its message or documentary value.  My intention is to highlight a hopeful vision of the present, showing people’s strength and to inspire the viewer that a change is possible”.

The crux of this argument is whether there can be beauty in poverty.  If you equate pride, whilst suffering from a crushing poverty, then Chaskielberg has given the viewer a powerful image from which to construct an opinion.

In the image that the Biennale has been using for promotional purposes with a boat containing young people is shown moving rapidly towards the camera, the participants showing a disinterest in the camera and looking beyond into the distance.  This image becomes a contemporary tableau more akin to the Victorian morality images of the style of Oscar Gustav Rejlander’s 1857 Two Ways of Life or Henry Peach Robinson’s 1858 Fading Away.  Created without the aid of Photoshop, these mawkish and heavily constructed photographs were easily read by the Victorian era viewers. In contrast Chaskielberg’s images today require a more intense reading by the viewing public.

La Creciente means High Tide and refers to the people living on and around the Paraná River Delta in Argentina. Traveling over 2500 km through subtropical Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina the river becomes a huge delta near Buenos Aires city.  The river tides control the lives of the inhabitants whose livelihoods are mostly tree felling, fishing or fruit growing. The only connection with the outside world is via the river. Hence water based activity is strongly evident in this exhibition.

As opposed to the more traditional documentary photographic approaches of previous Biennale exhibitors of the ilk of New Zealand’s Doc Ross and Melbourne based Michael Coyne, Chaskielberg’s reportage works with constructed tableau as much as recorded photographic fact.  He lived amongst his estuary-based subjects for three years and is quoted as saying “I think of my pictures as slides of unfinished stories, having a script in my head”.  The images are only created after days of observation and interaction with his subjects.

Using a large format camera (5×4” Sinar Norma) with long exposures running into minutes and lit by whatever light is available. Moonlight, flash, torch, lamps and fire are often all utilized in the one exposure.  Noted British photographic artist Martin Parr has noted Chaskielberg’s ability to “combine subject and methodology so convincingly that you hardly notice the thin line between subject and style. It is a brilliant resolution”.


Mr Ramon; © Alejandra Chaskielberg, Argentina.

The intensity of the gaze of the timber gatherer bringing a raft load of bamboo to a market is a stand out image.  The dynamic tension created by the tilted horizon line and the directness of the flash on his face mimics the moon (sun?) rise in the background.  The vignette brings the viewer’s eyes clearly to the centre of interest where we find a subject who is world weary but handsomely proud and almost regal in demeanor. Chaskielberg has the documentary photographer’s skill of hunting down his targets but then befriending them in a way that enables him to almost take fly on the wall photographs.  The technique behind his photography is anything but that, but the final result seems to exclude the photographer from the equation.  A rare skill.


Otter Hunter; © Alejandra Chaskielberg, Argentina.

The closest Chaskielberg comes to conventional documentary photography is with his portrait of the otter hunter sitting in his poplar log hut.  Every element of his lifestyle is laid out for the viewer to observe, not in a voyeuristic manner, but more in a simple telling of a story that is endorsed by the subject and makes no statement about good nor evil, poverty nor riches, haves versus have-nots.  The viewer must come to their own conclusions.

With an introduction by Martin Parr, La Creciente has been published by the noted photographic Nazraeli Press and was selected as one of the Best Books of 2011.

The portfolio is colour rich, seething with movement and energy, documenting a proud and hard working group of people; and all done with a sympathetic and gentle touch that only a skilled and expert photographer can bring through his craft.

Ballarat International Foto Biennale Print Collection


Port Fairy Music Festival 2015; © Paul Griggs.

I have written previously about the pleasure I take in supporting an organisation as important as the Ballarat International Foto Biennale and the concept of print swaps where one’s personal collection can be extended, including more formal print swaps like this.


Arts et Metiers, Paris; © Ian Poole, 2015.

In the recent Red Dot Ballarat Collection I was lucky enough to receive the Paul Griggs‘ photograph shown above.  The nature of the Ballarat fundraising event is that the photographs are sought as a donation from photographers and exhibited anonymously on the walls of Eleven40 Gallery in Melbourne.  A BIG shout out to Eleven40 for their ongoing support over a number of years.  See their web site for a full set of illustrations and authors’ names.

Because I am an interstate supporter and unable to attend, I had sent my list of preferred (anonymous) photographs to Jeff Moorfoot, Creative Director of the Management Team.  I recognised a couple of the images, thought I recognised a couple of others (mostly incorrectly) and lusted after a couple of other shots.     …..and then waited to be told what my Red Dot investment had achieved.


Sydney Charles Bromley 1969; © Robert Imhoff.

Firstly, it was lovely to be advised that my contribution, Arts et Metiers, Paris, had been red dotted by that doyen of Australian photography, Judy Foreman.  I hope she enjoys the photograph as much as I did taking it on a recent trip to Paris.  Secondly I gained the Port Fairy Music Festival 2015, which was on my list, but not known as a Paul Griggs’ photograph.  I have been a long time admirer of Paul’s work in the wedding arena where he was one of the first practitioners of reportage using black and white, documentary coverage with a Leica camera.  I can recall judging some of his early work in the AIPP’s Award system with great clarity today.  This is a contemporary example of that skill and will hang with pride in my personal gallery.


Burj Khalfa 2010; © Tim Griffith

Then come the photographs that I DIDN’T get.  I recognised the Imhoff photograph from the cover of Imhoff: a life of grain & pixels lying on my sideboard.  I should have recognised the Tim Griffith’ Burj Khalifa 2010 as being a great example of his architectural oeuvre – but I didn’t!  The Poole Collection is still missing one of his masterpieces.


Fiordland Diva; © Jackie Ranken

I am very familiar with the work of Jackie Ranken, but she fooled me this time – I missed this one.  I didn’t miss her partner, Mike Langford’s offering, as I had attempted to photograph the same tree with a much, much lessor result.  Maybe I should go back in winter?


Mataouri Tree; © Mike Langford


Goroka; © Stephen Dupont

I should have recognised Stephen Dupont’s homage to Irving Penn with his Goroka, and if I had I would have put him closer to the top of my red dot list.

I was taken by the construction of Jack Picone’s Dhows 1 long before I was aware of his name connected with the photograph.  A Master of the documentary craft, it would also have hung with great pride in the Poole Collection.


Dhows 1; Jack Picone

I did recognise and enjoy my Queensland mate, Gary Cranitch’s Cane, but Roger Garwood’s Fred And Me…Spectators, Coolgardie, 1975 caught me totally by surprise.  Maybe it was because it was an early work a long ways from what I have come to expect from Roger.  I did bid for it, by the way, as I enjoyed the whimsy of the image.

Works by Doc Ross, from earthquake stricken Christchurch (In The Earthquake Gardens) and Charles McKean (The Family Drawers) were noted as possible contenders for the collection.

Oh the wild dreams of building a fantasy photographic collection from the digital world wide web.


In The Earthquake Gardens; © Doc Ross, Christchurch


The Family Drawers; © Charles McKean

Print Swap at Hair of the Dog


Hilary and Prints; © Ian Poole, Brisbane, 2015.

One of the interesting side events at the recently completed Hair of the Dog Convention held by the Australian Institute of Professional Photography in Brisbane was a print swap between participants.

I have known Hilary Wardhaugh for many years through our shared membership of the AIPP and being fellow Judges at the Institute’s award system.

In between dancing the Tango, photographing Federal Members of Parliament and documenting weddings, Hilary runs a successful Canberra based business.

It was nice to add this delightful seascape to my gallery of photographs by photographers – Australian and international.


Beach Game; © Hilary Wardhaugh, 2015

Hilary tells me that it was taken over the Christmas break with an out of date roll of Kodak film.  Ignoring the technical details I am taken by the iconic nature of recording what is essentially a summer activity in this part of the world.  The placement of small figures at the bottom of frame and the unrelenting harshness of the Australian summer sun is recorded with great accuracy.

In return, Hilary received my Central Otago Hut photograph taken in 2013.  This is a genuine favourite of mine and credit must be given to those generous New Zealand photographers, Gilbert van Reenen, Mike Langford and Jackie Ranken who orchestrated the journey to this ancient gold mining region in the South Island of NZ.

The concept of swapping prints amongst fellow photographers is one that I support and have practicised for over twenty-five years.  Not only does it foster a sense of camaraderie, but it also enhances my display wall!


Central Otago Hut; © Ian Poole, 2013


Details about previous Print Swaps include – and