‘Birds’ by Marian Drew, at Dianne Tanzer Gallery, is a small series of large-format, colour, still life photographs. Drew has become well known for her beautiful, hauntingly lite, still life images featuring dead animals. In this series it is dead birds. There is a fairy penguin with an enamel jug, a kingfisher’s blue plumage contrasts with strawberries, a beautiful multi-coloured bird lies on embroided cloth, and an emu lies next to a tiny finch smaller than a single toe of the emu. These photographs refer to the tradition of still life with objects on a table with tablecloth against a dark background. Marian Drew’s images of dead birds are not celebrations of hunting or eating in the way that traditional still life used dead animals. Drew uses animals that have died and in her photographs the dead birds symbolize our own mortality, another older tradition in still life.
The huge, empty landscape of Lake Eyre’s salt flats is the subject of “Salt” at Arc One Gallery by photographer Murry Fredericks. Fredericks’s photographs are large pigment prints on cotton rag. They could be mistaken for abstract paintings because of their abstract formal qualities. The photographs taken at sunrise or sunset show the white salt flat reflects the colour of cloudless sky, earth and sky separated by the thin line of the horizon. To document this strange inhospitable landscape and the heroic effort to take these photographs Fredericks has included a photograph of his campsite and bicycle in the exhibition.
At Shifted Terence Hogan is exhibiting a series of photographs, “(out the back)”. Hogan’s photographs are macro images of nature; images of the repetition and variation in nature are best shown in photographs. I presume that Hogan took the photograph out the back of his house but they could be out the back of beyond. I preferred Hogan’s double photograph images with subtle combination of two images to his single photograph images because they seemed more artful.
Fiona Dalwood’s “Cell” is a large series of photographs documenting of defunct prisons, from Alcatraz to Ararat. These are photographs of the architecture of despair and institutional brutality. Along with the photographs are several didactic panels about prisons, unfortunately the photographs didn’t really illustrate the didactic panels and the information on the etymology of the word ‘panopticon’ is wrong. Dalwood wants to show Michel Foucault’s argument on how the architecture of correction shapes the lives of its inmates. Dalwood’s photographs are on exhibition at 69 Smith St.
I don’t know how to conclude this short review of four photography exhibitions, so vastly different are the techniques and subjects in them, except that the photographers who understood the history of painting produced more beautiful photographs.