What has the selfie done to photographic portraiture?
LUMINA Collective: Echoes exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ballarat displays photographic work by eight Australian women – leaders in their craft – studying the ways in which image-making is linked to questions of identity and place.
In a dark space at the rear of the Gallery’s ground floor the collection is powerful, stimulating and interestingly inviting.
Each of the women provide a narrative describing the concepts and context of their photographs within the notion of identity through investigation of family history, loss and trauma, home and self.
Chloe Bartram, currently living in Western Australia, has a penchant for the stories of women.
In her body of work for the exhibition, entitled The Encyclopaedia of Sex Practice: Ages Sixteen to Twenty-four (and some after) there is a striking portrait of a young girl in a bridal gown sitting on a bed.
“For this exhibition, photography and text is what allowed me to explore my lived experience,” she said.
“I used photography to investigate the tensions I’ve felt between what has been prescribed to me regarding the notions of being female and the reality of rebellion and feminist awakenings.
“Art for me is about self-expression and selfie culture has allowed that to become more accessible.”
Photographic art practice is about telling stories and provoking discussion, thought and conversation but it is also about capturing a memory or moment in time.
“The selfie is a form of self-portraiture, encapsulating our representation in that moment.”
Donna Bailey, a resident of central Victoria, is fascinated with the effects of nineteenth century white settlement in this area.
Her Goldfields Gothic take of a blonde girl in cape and hood echoes little red riding hood except this one is blue.
While the image was created in 2003, it was selected for this show because it perfectly represented the spirit of her topic and of the exhibition.
Bailey said, “As a professional artistic photographer I don’t give the selfie any thought at all.”
“I don’t regard selfies as having any connection to art whatsoever, they are random, casual outputs made usually on the spur of the moment.
“In my artistic practice, I make portraits of people within a known environment in an attempt to not only to explore the relationship between the subject and myself, but to delve also into the physical and psychological experience of living in a place layered with its own discrete histories.”
Sarah Rhodes travels between and works in Sydney and Tasmania.
Her photographs in A Surrounded Beauty within the exhibition challenge traditional documentary portraiture, exploring the fictionalised spaces of the subconscious, imagination and memory.
The Internet and digital image making have enabled and encouraged people to tell their own stories when photography was once only accessible to professionals.
Rhodes said, “The age of the selfie has meant artists are encouraged to make social commentary on how they see the world rather than to imagine the perspective of others.
“It is an exciting time to be an artist as there is a diverse range of visual languages developing. “
She takes pictures of young people coming of age to understand the human condition.
Generally, this age group have a lot of experience of making selfies and are very aware of the camera.
“One of the reasons I work in Tasmania is because my sitters are not saturated by the media and still have a rawness to them.
“I am interested in photographing people in their imaginations.”
The exhibition is open until Sunday, 10 March, 10am to 5pm daily and entry is free.
On Saturday, 9 February at 2pm some of the artists will attend the exhibition to discuss their themes and ideas.