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Light Research @ MMU

Dreams and Imagination: Light in the Modern City , Monash Gallery of Art

Melissa Miles from Monash University, Melbourne has curated an exhibition, running at  Monash Gallery of Art until 1 March 2015: http://www.mga.org.au/exhibition/view/exhibition/164.

Dreams and Imagination: Light in the Modern City focuses on the special role of light in stimulating imagination in Australian photography, and for envisioning modern cities as places of dreams and wonder. As a technology of light and of modernity, photography proved an ideal medium for imaging Australian cities. Photographers including Harold Cazneaux, Max Dupain, David Moore, Olive Cotton and Mark Strizic, used their cameras to revel in the magic of sunlight and artificial illumination in cities, and drew upon different metaphors of light to represent their ambitions for Australian modernity or express disenchantment with its failings.

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Mark Strizic, Flinders Lane, 1967, 1967 gelatin silver print; 37.0 x 37.0 cm,  Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection (donated by the Bowness Family through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2008, MGA 2008.110; courtesy of the Estate of Mark Strizic)

The early to mid twentieth century was a period of gradual change in Australian cities and photography alike. Australians did not experience modernisation as a dramatic revolution or a sudden wave of change, as it was experienced in parts of Europe. Mass-production manufacturing industries were not a significant part of the Australian economy until after the Second World War, and skyscrapers did not reshape the city skyline until the early 1960s. Such European and American conceptions of modernity as a dramatic sense of the new displacing the old, were experienced in Australia as a kind of expectation or immanence rather than a sudden shift.

 

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Max Dupain, Mosman Bay at dusk, 1937, gelatin silver print, 49.6 x 32.6 cm, Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection (donated by James Mollison AO through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2008, MGA 2008.006)

This sense of immanence and gradual change is reflected in the diversity of photographic styles used to represent cities, from the hazy light and fuzzy effects associated with Pictorialist photography to the crisp sharp lines of modernism. During the 1930s and 40s, members of an older generation of Australian photographers, including the Pictorialists Cazneaux and George Morris, were responding to their urban experiences alongside younger generations linked to modernist and new documentary practices, such as Dupain and Cotton. The exhibition reveals how photographers utilized light, shadow and artificial illumination to enrich and enliven their imagery in ways that often transcended neat stylistic categories.

Melissa has a related book coming out next year, The Language of Light and Dark: Light and Place in Australian Photography: http://www.mqup.ca/language-of-light-and-dark–the-products-9780773545502.php

December 11th, 2014 - 13:24pm

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