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BIFB (Ballarat International Foto Bienale)

After nearly 2 days at BIFB I have seen the work of maybe 40 photographers; some well known, many emerging, and most interesting. Compared to what I saw at Arles in France, I think the images seem more grounded; that is, I found a lot of the work at Arles to be so out there that I didn’t have a clue what it was on about. Certainly there are some like that here, but the lack of understanding is probably my inadequacy in Ballarat.

Most of the work was on display in 10 or so public buildings around Ballarat and the rest in cafes or shops.  Very difficult on a saturday morning to look at photos on the wall of a busy cafe when you are looking over people having their coffee!

Artists that I found especially interesting were:

  • Osama James Nakagawa with his study of the sea cliffs (Banta) of Okinawa, he describes as “between fear and beauty”. Many of his 2m high, narrow images remind me of the views looking out to sea from Redhead bluff: swirling waves and rocks leading out to the horizon. I felt giddy looking at them!
  • Christian Pearson “Conversations with the Land”. Evocative landscape images composed of around 100 smaller images of the same subject in different lighting, or about 20 vertical strips of alternating similar images.  Hard to describe, but very effective and may be useful in my current project.
  • Alfred Gregory – known for his documentary photography but much of his personal work he describes as “finding things when I haven’t been looking for them”, a good definition for the wandering photographic style.
  • Laurence Winder “Continuum” – fine art french travel photography! If only I had seen his work BEFORE the French holiday.
  • Bill Heath. Creates art entirely in his computer based on the mathematics of fractals. We had a discussion as to whether it was photography.
  • Margaret Squires “Interior topographies”. An amazing image from on an insulation batt  and some subtle lighting. Add this to my to try list.
  • Brian Duffy – the 60s British fashion and advertising photographer who burnt all his negatives at the height of his career and gave it all away.  Quote: “Never listen to what an artist tells you, it is absolute drivel.  Their work is their statement”.  I’d always thought this when reading those little placards that tell you what an obscure photo is supposed to be about.
  • Michael Carly “Air”. atmospheric long exposures including the earth shadow!
  • Colin Page “Gossamer”. A series of large B/W portraits where he has used light and pose to create images that are like statues of greek gods and goddesses.
Looking back, I obviously could had gained more from the exhibition by analysing the images more closely; applying Des Crawley’s Visual Expressive Language list to understand better how the artist has communicated their ideas.
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