Colour photography has been adopted by serious photographers in Australia with an ease and assurance not apparent before the photography boom of the 1970s and the development of the New Colour movement in the United States.
This small exhibition shows some of the directions taken in recent years, without aiming to be in any way comprehensive: the use of hand colouring, for example, is not represented and could be the subject of a separate exhibition. Two of the photographers, Wes Stacey and Christine Godden, worked extensively in black and white before using colour and Stacey still interchanges between colour and black and white according to his perception of his subject matter. The other two photographers, Tim Handfield and Mark Kimber, have been known publicly for their work in colour alone.
Wes Stacey's first major works in colour were two series, The Edge, 1973-74 and The Road, 1975, conceived in the road-epic tradition and shot spontaneously with a cheap, small format automatic camera. His panoramas of the bush, beach and even a shopping centre are conceived with the similar freedom and intuitive spontaneity. The colour makes them more authentic, anchoring attention firmly to what is being portrayed, rather than encouraging one to look for overt symbolism.
Christine Godden's work is equally sophisticated but derives as much from art traditions as from a concern with the everyday world of the senses. The grain in her photographs of Sydney at sunset echoes that of impressionist painting, while drawing attention to the fact that one is looking at a photograph. Similarly her photographs draw on conventional notions of beauty, while subverting them with a horizon line more reminiscent of a casual snapshot than a picturesque conception.
Tim Handfield's work owes more clearly than that of any other Australian to American colour formalist photography. He has successfully translated that idiom to the streets and environs of Melbourne, the warm brown cast of his prints suggesting an affectionate familiarity with the banality of their overt subject matter.
Mark Kimber seemingly combines the approach of Diane Arbus and Richard Misrach, photographing not plants but people by flash at night, seen close up, without sentiment, and from slightly below head height. The result is Australian Gothic, a series of human icons, their (apparent) ordinariness contradicted by the extraordinary nature of their rendition and the mysteries of the coloured night behind them.