Next Generation: Solomon Islands after RAMSI

Today was the official launch of NEXT GENERATION: Solomon Islands after RAMSI, an exhibition of photographs made on commission for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in June/July 2017. The exhibition was officially launched at Parliament House in Canberra by the Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop, with special guest The Hon. Manasseh Sogavare, Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, on his State Visit to Australia.

I had the pleasure to walk Prime Minister Sogavare through the temporary exhibition at Parliament House and have a chat to him about the making of the work. The exhibition will now be moved to PhotoAccess, which opens on Thursday 17th August at 6pm. The exhibition will be opened on Thursday by Shaune Lakin, Curator of Photography at the National Gallery of Australia. 

ANZAC Day in Yass, NSW.

Every ANZAC Day I try to visit a regional town to photograph the ANZAC Day March and commemorative service. This year I went to Yass, which is a little under and hour from Canberra. What I especially love about ANZAC Day is the gathering of people; the crowds who come together to pause and reflect on the sacrifice given by many thousands of soldiers who have served under the Australian flag in conflicts all over the world.

ANZAC Day is really the only day in this country's calendar when the streets of small towns like Yass become full, with people lining the footpaths to honour those marching who have served, as well as the memory of those whose medals are worn by younger generations marching in their absence.

The Good Oil - Weekend AFR

The Weekend Fin Review has published a page of photographs and a short story on the work that Kokonut Pacific is doing in the Solomon Islands. My current exhibition 'Solomon Islands' came from a commissioned trip with Kokonut Pacific last September (2016).

The Big Issue Christmas Edition

I was recently commissioned by The Big Issue Magazine to photograph magazine vendor Robbo for the special Christmas edition. A big thanks to my good friend George Fetting from Headshot Factory (http://www.headshotfactory.com.au/) in Leichhardt for donating his studio space for the shoot. In the same issue, my portrait of Canberra vendor Grant has also been published. The Big Issue is a magazine with diverse and engaging content which empowers people to help themselves financially and personally. Do yourself a favour and grab a Christmas edition and put $3.50 in the pocket of someone selling it for Xmas.

Robbo from Newtown graces the cover as Santa for the 2016 special Christmas edition of The Big Issue and Grant stars in this month's Vendor Profile.

Robbo from Newtown graces the cover as Santa for the 2016 special Christmas edition of The Big Issue and Grant stars in this month's Vendor Profile.

The Prime Minister's Christmas Party

This afternoon I was commissioned to photograph the Prime Minister's Christmas Party at The Lodge in Canberra. I arrived early, as I had never been to the Prime Minister's residence before. Apart from meeting the PM's staff and having a look around, I was able to chat to the wait staff who were also milling around, waiting for guests to arrive.

I asked the eight of them who were there if they would all like to pose for me, and they all happily agreed. When asked why I shot their portraits by a member of the PM's staff, I started talking about the August Sander exhibition that was at the AGNSW a few years back, and how he photographed everyday people and scenes in Germany, and how wonderful I think his work is.

So here are my Sander inspired portraits of the waiters.

Waiters prior to the Prime Minister's Christmas Party at The Lodge, Canberra (Nov 2016).

Contour 556

I was recently commissioned by Harris Hobbs Architects to photograph a select number of sculptures on the shore of Lake Burley Griffin, installed as part of the Contour 556 exhibition, curated by Neil Hobbs. The exhibition closes on Sunday 14 November, so if you are keen to explore what's on, get on your bike and check it out. The Contours 556 exhibition is a great show in the old NGA Contempirary gallery on the lake, with outdoor sculptures scattered around the foreshore.

Acquisition of Prints by the National Library of Australia

The National Library of Australia has acquired a selection of my photographs from the 2016 Federal Election for their permanent collection.

I'm happy to have been able to print the photographs myself with a recently purchased large format inkjet printer.

The prints are 43cm x 56cm, and are printed on Ilford Galerie Prestige Gold Fibre Gloss 310gsm.

It is always an honour to have works acquired, especially by a national institution like the NLA. 

A selection of freshly printed photographs in my studio, destined for the collection of the National Library of Australia. Photo by Michael Cammack.

A selection of freshly printed photographs in my studio, destined for the collection of the National Library of Australia. Photo by Michael Cammack.

Fireflies

Saturday night bonfire at my good friend James' farm in Gundaroo, NSW.

Seeking Refuge exhibition at Tuggeranong Arts Centre

I have six photographs in a group exhibition 'Seeking Refuge' at Tuggeranong Arts Centre, which opens tonight in Canberra. Local and interstate artists were asked to confront the realities of the refugee experience through their art practice, including photography, film, mixed media installation, paintings and clay sculpture. Today I hung my works and got to hang out with exhibition curator Narelle Phillips and fellow artist Barak Zelig, whose work 'Large Boat for a Few People' (pictured) is just incredible. It reminds me that art, no matter the size, can move the viewer, especially if the artist was moved making it. My photographs were made in 2013 in Sydney with fellow photographer Laila Kazak, and we asked people to write their feelings on the federal government's offshore detention policy and then pose for a photograph. Human Rights lawyer and advocate Julian Burnside wrote an accompanying piece to the portraits that was originally published in New Matilda in 2013. I had hoped that by now these portraits would have been out of date, and that Australia's offshore detention policy would have been eradicated from history, but no, refugees are still in detention in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, suffering deplorable conditions that promote physical and mental health issues. I hope that these portraits will be relegated to the annals of history very soon, and that the Australian Government (and opposition) will soon see the light of day that offshore detention and processing is inhumane, and that their illegal treatment of people seeking asylum will come to an end. I am not optimistic that this will happen, even with PNG ruling that the Manus Island detention centre is illegal.

The exhibition opens at 6pm. Be sure to get along if you can.

http://www.tuggeranongarts.com/7086-2/

Sean Davey's portraits at Town Hall rallies against Australia's offshore detention policy in Sydney (2013) in 'Seeking Refuge'. A selection of these portraits (made with photographer Laila Kazak) were originally published in New Matilda, with an accompanying piece by Julian Burnside QC. Read piece here.

Sean Davey's portraits at Town Hall rallies against Australia's offshore detention policy in Sydney (2013) in 'Seeking Refuge'. A selection of these portraits (made with photographer Laila Kazak) were originally published in New Matilda, with an accompanying piece by Julian Burnside QC. Read piece here.

Editing

One of my favourite things to do is to edit images. This can also be called 'sequencing', but has nothing to do with Photoshop or any other computer program. Editing for me, in the true sense of the word, is akin to editing a piece of writing. I start with a bunch of pictures and little by little, the number is reduced until a point is reached where I feel that I have the essence of the work with the least number of images possible. If there is doubt, it's out. 

Editing is a really pleasurable part of photography for me because it is here where the work starts to tell me what it is about, rather than the other way around. As photographers, we have control over what we shoot, but we don't know how an image is going to sit on a page, or in a series, until it is printed and laid out on a table and seen amongst its companions. This is where images come to life, as it is equally where they can die. 

I would take a guess that I have 10-15 unpublished series of photographs that have been shot and edited. Many of these (perhaps all) will never be published. Some are short bodies of work that have been completed in a few weeks, some in a few hours. Others are longer, one of which I have been working on for ten years on and off (and has been through many stages of editing). I used to feel a mad rush of desire to make a body of photographs and get it out as soon as possible. These days I have the same desire to make the work and edit the images into bodies of work, but the desire to publish them is less intense. For me, the real fun is in the making and the editing. 

I'll probably publish quite a few more series' of pictures in my time, but the pleasure (and the reward) comes less and less from showing the work to others, and more from the personal drive to make work and see what it looks like printed, and in a series.

An edit in process of colour photographs from 2015.

An edit in process of colour photographs from 2015.

An edit in process of photographs from Queensland, titled 'No Labour Required' (2015).

An edit in process of photographs from Queensland, titled 'No Labour Required' (2015).

Spring

I have been in my studio at ANCA in Canberra for almost three years. With the change of every season, the majestic tree in our courtyard undergoes an amazing transformation. The flowers mark the start of spring, and you can almost hear the cheers from the artists, knowing the freezing temperatures we have endured during the winter months will soon be relegated to memory (until next year). Spring and summer are the ideal seasons for studio time here at ANCA, and it's exciting that we have it all to look forward to.

I have always wanted to photograph this tree in different seasons, as its character is so distinct in each. Three years after moving here, I have finally made my first photo of it.

The third day of Spring (Canberra, 2016). (Click to enlarge).

Darkroom printing notes

Cleaning up the studio this afternoon, I came across my ten-year old darkroom printing notes for my friend Spiro Miralis' work 'Zero', which I printed for an exhibition in Sydney in 2006.

Along with the notes is the original dummy for my book 'Pidgin'. Cool to see this stuff after so many years.

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An afternoon in Wollongong

Every time I go to Wollongong, I am struck by the unique character of the place. What is it about certain places that reveal something about themselves in a visual sense? For me it has a lot to do with honesty and perhaps some naivety (in a positive sense). I like places that aren't too polished or self aware. Places that don't seem to try to hard to impress visitors, let alone the locals. Wollongong is one of the rawest and most honest cities I know if in this visual sense, and this afternoon the colour of Wollongong lept out and demanded to be photographed. The colour of the place made me stop over and over, to get out and retrace some ground that I had just seen from moving car. Photographs were made of hand-painted signs, shopfronts and a service station, amongst other things. The colour was extraordinary. Sometimes you just feel a place, and the light is a big part of that feeling, making everything glow right in front of you. These days are wonderful for a photographer.

Yann Martel

I spent a few minutes yesterday with Yann Martel, author of Life of Pi, for the Canberra Writers Festival.