The Christmas Tree
Dates + times
20 December – 23 February 2014
Open 10.00 am – 5.00 pm every day
- Borobudur to Bali: past and present photographic art in Indonesia (opens 14 June 2014)
- General information +61 2 6240 6411
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- Upstairs downstairs:
Photographs of Britain 1874-1990
- Penguins and Ice:
Photographs of Antarctica 1910–2010
photographs of mining and miners 1850 to the present
- American street:
seventy years of a photographic tradition
- Present History:
a selection of photographs of New Zealand 960s to the present
- Trent Parke:
The Christmas Tree Bucket
Image detail above: Trent Parke,Tree farm, 2007 (from the series The Christmas tree bucket: Trent Parke's family album), National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 2013, Courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery, Sydney © Trent Parke
Made over a number of years, this series is a candid portrayal of Trent Parke's immediate family – his wife Narelle Autio and sons, Jem and Dash – and his relatives, tied together with a recurring leitmotif of the Christmas get-together. Parke began making images that would be included in The Christmas Tree Bucket: Trent Parke's Family Albumin 2006 but the idea for how the images would form a series came to him when he relocated with his family from Sydney to Adelaide in March 2007.
Autio grew up in Adelaide and Parke suddenly found himself surrounded by extended family. It is an open-ended investigation into how the Australian suburban dream plays out; an ambivalent and thoughtful – certainly at times very funny – examination of contemporary life. From real life moments, Parke weaves a fictional narrative inspired by the mythic world of fairy tales. One image shows Parke, ill with food poisoning, lying next to the bucket which has previously held the Christmas tree; the very bucket which inspires the title of the series.
He explains: "It was there – while staring into that bright red bucket, vomiting every hour on the hour for fifteen hours straight – that I started to think how strange families, suburbia, life, vomit and in particular, Christmas really was…"
Displaying a glorious use of light and colour, Parke's images are sophisticated and rich. They show an influence on Parke of the work of the great recorders of the loss of innocence in post-war America, photographers such as William Eggleston, Robert Frank and Garry Winogrand – though Parke's vocabulary and vision is always very much his own.
Parke took up photography in his early teenage years after the sudden death of his mother from an asthma attack, his way of trying to make sense of an unpredictable world.
After a short career as a professional cricketer in his twenties, he has gone on to establish a successful and much awarded career as a visual artist.
He is the only Australian ever to have become a member of Magnum, one of the most prestigious photo agencies in the world. For him photography "is a discovery of life which makes you look at things you've never looked at before. It's about discovering yourself and your place in the world".