This week on Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up – the opening of the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art’s summer blockbuster Water in Brisbane. Plus Martine Perret‘s new book Ngala Wongga Cultural Significance of Language in the Goldfields. And if you missed my review of Lauren Walsh’s Conversations on Conflict Photography in L’Oeil de la Photographie you can read it here.
Also the winner of our first book giveaway is…Will Shipton who shared this photo (above) at Esperance in Western Australia. Will receives a copy of Markéta Luskačová’s By the Sea. Thanks to everyone who entered it was great seeing your beach images!
Water – Queensland Gallery of Modern Art
It seems apt that the exhibition Water, which asks us to consider our relationship to this essential life element from various perspectives including the climate crisis, opens at a time where there is such flux in the “summer” temperatures in Australia. Melbourne is freezing, large swathes of the country are on fire and Brisbane is sizzling with temperatures in the high 30sC!
Water features more than 100 works of art including photography, sculpture, moving image and installations. This collection provides an expansive and diverse commentary on the Anthropocene, inviting the audience to engage physically through the installation pieces, and cerebrally through works that challenge perception asking us to think critically.
From a photographic viewpoint, the show includes works of protest, celebration and abstraction. In the series The Blue Fossil Entropic Stories (above) French-Swiss visual artist Julian Charièrre climbed onto several icebergs floating in the Arctic Ocean off Iceland in an act he describes as “artistic intervention.” Over eight hours Charièrre applied the flame from a gas torch to the surfaces of the icebergs, each attempt photographed from a distance. In these large-scale images, Charièrre is seen as a small, destructive figure, his presence unnatural, and symbolic of the damage that humans can visit on natural structures that have formed over aeons.
Water also features the work of the late Peter Dombrovskis (above) including his majestic Giant Kelp (1984) taken on Macquarie Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site situated between New Zealand and Antarctica. Also featured is Dombrovskis iconic image Morning Mist, Rock Island Bend, Franklin River, Tasmania (1979) which was part of the successful movement to stop the damming of the Franklin River.
In the 1970s and again in the latter part of the first decade of this century, Australian Bonita Ely used photography to document the ongoing degradation of the Murray River her images drawing attention to the longterm abuse of this major water system (above).
Moving from protest to celebration is a selection of images from Sydney photographer Paul Blackmore’s series and new book HEAT. These pictures express the deeply sensual experience of being submerged in the ocean, the teal blue water enveloping bodies as they rise to the surface.
New Zealander Laurence Aberhart’s Last Light melds sea and sky in diffused abstraction. Aberhart has spent more than 30 years photographing the twilight hour as the sun sets over the ocean. He uses a 19th century wooden camera which necessitates long exposures that result in these soft, ethereal images.
Water 7 December 2019 to 26 April, 2020. Queensland Gallery of Modern Art Stanley Place South Brisbane
Martine Perret – Ngala Wongga Cultural Significance of Language in the Goldfields
In September 2016 French-born photojournalist Martine Perret, who is now based in Western Australia, launched her exhibition Ngala Wongga Cultural Significance of Languages in the Goldfields.
Now she has published a book of the same name, which was released this week, and features portraits and aerial photographs from two bodies of work shot over the past five years. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that this story may contain images and voices of people who have passed away.
Ngala Wongga means “Come Talk” in Wangkatha language and the book is a culmination of a collaborative multimedia project between Perret and the Elders of the Aboriginal communities in the Goldfields-Esperance region in Western Australia.
The book draws focus on Australia’s indigenous languages, of which there are about 120. Only 13 are spoken by enough people as to not be endangered. The rest are in peril of disappearing and the Indigenous languages of the Goldfields are among those at greatest risk.
Perret, who has worked for many years as a United Nations peacekeeping mission photographer, says, “If you lose your language, you risk losing your culture, your oral history, your identity”. She tells that she first began thinking about this project back in 2003, but life had other plans for her. Now she has come full circle to complete a project that makes an invaluable contribution to our understanding of indigenous languages and culture.
Gary Dhoonbun Cooper, Wongutha Elder and cultural advisor to the project writes in the book: “Ngala Wongga comes at a crucial time, when as a race of people we are experiencing the importance of preserving our languages and stories so future generations can understand, respect and continue to keep their great grandparents’ histories alive.”
Ngala Wongga features portraits and stories told by those pictured. Perret’s skill as a portrait photographer shines through in pictures that capture the luminous spirits of her subjects. These images radiate with emotion.
There is also a selection from Perret’s Gungurrunga Ngawa (Look Above) series of aerial photographs that evoke the otherworldly visage of the Goldfield’s salt lakes and give a mystical quality to the narrative.
The book is beautifully designed with lots of white space that allows room for contemplation. The use of colour and black and white images at various sizes gives the book a natural rhythm. Worth noting are the multiple exposure images that Perret uses to convey the eternal connection these individuals have with the land. They also show that Perret is willing to experiment and push the boundaries of visual storytelling, which makes the work exciting. This is one of my favourite books of the year.
Ngala Wongga Cultural Significance of Languages in the Goldfields by Martine Perret
80 pages, embossed hard cover, colour and black and white images