Photography since the 1980's
The Whitlam years
will hopefully always be remembered (amongst other reasons) as a time when an
Australian Government actually (and willingly) supported Higher education and
This support paid off in a myriad of ways. Among the very visible benefits are
a group of new subjects and media in arts schools. Photography is amongst them.
This initiative would naturally take a few years to solidify which is why, the
second half of the 1970's turned out to be, in my oppinion, the most influential
period in terms of Australian Photography.
The medium began to claim its stake as a valid art-form and integrating itself
into the formal art systems and structures of this country.
an excellent article by Tony Perry on this subject
The 80's saw the
second wave of art-school graduates with diplomas and degrees in photography.Looking
back onto this time from the perspective of the late 90's we can see how much
influence a few lecturers and a few Gallery staff had on the evolution of the
photographic medium in Australia.
There are some
other factors to consider too: Australians, especially young Australians travelled
a great deal and that meant quite often a return to Australia with a secret
A secret of an idea, glimpsed, perhaps partly understood , forreign and most
probably not known or likely to be recognized here. A concept not excactly unusual
when we consider local innovation against imported cultural frameworks.
Before you start to collect the timber so that I might be burned at the stake
for my heresy I'd like you to note that this importing of external cultural
memes can have many positive aspects.
Three major themes
emerge since the 80's :
which focusses on minority politics:
- queer issues
and inigenous issues
and migrant issues
- Feminist issues
- Workers issues
Art for arts
sake - informed by (often complex and often "French") theory and completely"unreadable"
by the general public.
- Personal, often
very obscure references and signifyers
and true" school
on just about anything (by the time it's a series it has social ad poltical
- The "fine
print" (when it's a fine print content doesn't matter)
- Technique is
everything ( classic incarnation of photographers envying painters) this area
covers everything from "hand colouring" to "digital imaging".