Thursday, October 18, 2012

In the Australian Museum

Some photographs taken by me have been used in the Indigenous Australian Permanent exhibition/installation of the Australian Museum (Sydney). Works are from Ampilatwatja and Manuwangku (aka Muckaty) communities in Central Australia. Two sections in which these works appear are Social Justice and Culture. I am glad that such an important gallery of the Museum has been refreshed after more than a decade. 

Ampilatwatja was truly an eye opener for me as for the first time I got the opportunity to meet an Aboriginal community. It took more than one year for me to do it once I settled in Australia. I can't be too proud of that. The Ampilatwatja Walk-off was remarkable by any standard. Though it could not survive the pressure the system exerted on it, the community's resistance to the Intervention was written into history. Manuwangku struggle despite the pressures and all the possible divide and rule tactics on earth is well and truly alive today. I sincerely hope their traditional land will remain safe and free of nuclear waste.

The way in which museums and some anthropologists have worked and work is posing serious ethical, moral, sometimes legal questions. In spite of that I welcomed the idea of incluidng these images in the permamant exhibition, mainly as a record which would help some who seek information and knowledge. I tend to visit museums to get overall feel about the environment around me though it may possibly be superficial and sometimes blatantly biased. Reading between line is left to me. Museums and their publications, to me, were windows to Aboriginal culture. I must reiterate that many institutions even today love to "fossilise", "freeze" animals and humans or "putting" them through the process of taxidermy including their cultural activities ... even struggles perhaps. It may be the easiest way for those institutions to handle stubborn animals and humans. I believe, process in which images are collected and the manner in which it are used do determine the ethical value of an image. Even today third world, disadvantageous or vulnerable communities are the hunting grounds. Histories of many museums including those of Australia raise more questions than providing answers in this regard. I sincerely hope this will change in the future for better.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Magnum photographer - Martine Franck, who has died aged 74, was a photographer of great contrasts

Text and image courtesy of
Martine Franck
Martine Franck in 1972, photographed by her husband, Henri-Cartier Bresson. Photograph: © Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos
Martine Franck, who has died aged 74, was a photographer of great contrasts. She started out by taking pictures in Asia, a continent she revisited for weeks at a time, but she also devoted herself to documenting daily life close to her homes in Paris and the Luberon, Provence. Her work is characterised by a fascination with the little intimacies and interactions in the lives of anonymous poor, marginalised and elderly people, yet she also assembled a matchless portfolio of portraits of famous authors and artists, including Seamus HeaneyMarc Chagall and Diego Giacometti.
Franck never adhered to the opinion professed by her fellow Magnumagency photographer Eve Arnold that all photographers are obliged to be intrusive. Ever modest, she said: "I think I was shy as a young woman and realised that photography was an ideal way of expressing myself, of telling people what was going on without having to talk." In 1970, she married the celebrated French photographer and co-founder of the Magnum agency, Henri Cartier-Bresson. The couple collaborated on a series of portraits of the artist Balthus, as retiring by temperament as Franck herself.
She was born to a Belgian banker, Louis Franck, and his British wife, Evelyn, in Antwerp. With the outbreak of hostilities in 1939, her father, who made his career in London, joined the British army. The rest of the family was evacuated to the US and spent the war on Long Island and in Arizona. She was educated in Europe, and studied history of art at Madrid University and the Ecole du Louvre in Paris.
Writing her thesis (on Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and the influence of cubism on sculpture) convinced Franck that she did not wish to be an academic or a curator, but a photographer. Her father had moved in artistic circles and one of her first portraits was of the sculptor Etienne Martin emerging from a cave smeared with clay. In 1963, she went to China, taking her cousin's Leica camera with her, and discovered the joys of documenting other cultures. Returning home via Hong Kong, Cambodia, India, Afghanistan and Turkey, she paused to visit the theatre director Ariane Mnouchkine and bought her first camera in Japan. She kept to a Leica, and predominantly used black-and-white film, throughout her career.
Returning to France, she worked as a photographic assistant at Time-Life while developing her own technique. Her early mentors were Eliot Elisofon and Gjon Mili, yet she also cited dramatically different female photographers as influences: Julia Margaret Cameron, for her portraits, and Dorothea Lange and Margaret Bourke-White. Lange's social conscience was reflected in Franck's project on old people's homes for the Petits Frères des Pauvres association. Bourke-White's love for play of light and geometric shapes is embedded in arguably Franck's single most perfect image, that of the bathers at the poolside at Le Brusc, Provence, taken in 1976. She described her experience of capturing it: "I remember running to get the image while changing the film, quickly closing down the lens as the sunlight was so intense. That's what makes photography so exciting." A moment later the positions of all five figures and their shadows on the white tiles would have irrevocably altered. The image has stood the test of time and was used as the cover shot for her book in the series I Grandi Fotografi in 2003.
Franck's work was used in Life, Fortune and Vogue, for which she shot portraits of women in public life, including her fellow photographer Sarah Moon and Mnouchkine, who made Franck the official photographer to her Théâtre du Soleil. Franck's fascination with masks and disguises found an outlet in Mnouchkine's ambitious deployment of kathakali, kabuki and commedia dell'arte. Their collaboration led to Franck experimenting with colour photography, which she used to capture theatrical productions such as Robert Wilson's ethereal version of Fables de la Fontaine at the Comédie Française in 2004. Franck's love of the theatrical could transform her quiet unobtrusiveness.
Tulku Khentrul Lodro Rabsel, 12Tulku Khentrul Lodro Rabsel, 12, with his tutor in a Nepalese monastery taken by Franck in 1996. Photograph: © Martine Franck/Magnum Photos
In 1966, Franck met Cartier-Bresson, who epitomised Magnum's tradition of humanitarian photography. Franck was adamant that she would neither bask in his reflection nor disappear in his shadow and she joined the Vu agency in 1970. Her first solo exhibition was planned for the ICA in London that year; when she saw that the invitations were embossed with the information that her husband would be present at the launch, she cancelled the show.
With Vu's demise, Franck co-founded the Viva agency in 1972. It also collapsed and it was not until 1980 that Franck joined Magnum, becoming a full member in 1983. She was one of the few women to be accepted into the agency and served as vice-president from 1998 to 2000. Eschewing the war/human tragedy reportage that characterised Magnum's reputation, Franck continued her projects on marginal or isolated lives. When I first met her, in the 1990s, she had just completed her book on Tory Island, a "small rock" off the northern Irish coast with a population of around 130 Gaelic-speakers, where she lived in order to document their way of life.
Always a feminist, Franck was not above picking a grandiose book title – such as Des Femmes et la Création. It is typical that one of her final projects involved three weeks spent visiting small villages in Gujerat, western India, documenting young girls embroidering their own dowries.
As well as their homage to Balthus, Franck and Cartier-Bresson undertook a joint project in the Soviet Union. Franck also created a small book of portraits of her husband. Among the most memorable of this similarly shy and elusive character is that taken from behind, showing the back of his head. His reflection in the square mirror before him is repeated in the self-portrait he is sketching: a reflection on a reflection. Franck never used him as mentor or protector but warmly concluded: "Henri was both critical and inspirational as well as warmly supportive of me as a photographer." They had a daughter, Melanie, another reason for Franck to operate close to home when possible.
Franck's brother, the photographic curator and collector Eric Franck, affirms: "Henri was always very generous in encouraging her work, something she respected greatly." Franck's sister-in-law, Louise Baring, adds: "What was so extraordinary about Martine was that with subtlety and grace she could both be a great photographer herself and at the same time honour her husband's tradition."
She worked hard to launch the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson in 2002; Henri died two years later. In 2005, she was made a chevalier of the Légion d'Honneur. After her diagnosis with bone marrow cancer in 2010, she continued showing her work, and had exhibitions earlier this year at the Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York and at the Claude Bernard Gallery in Paris.
She is survived by Melanie, three grandchildren and her brother, Eric.
• Martine Franck, photographer, born 3 April 1938; died 16 August 2012

Monday, August 20, 2012

William and Winifred Bowness Photography Prize for 2012 - Finalists announced !

Text courtesy : Monash Gallery of Art web site
 / Official communiqué 

Forty two images by some of Australia’s best photographers are in the running for the $25 000 William and Winifred Bowness Photography Prize for 2012. Established in 2006 to promote excellence in photography, the prize and exhibition will showcase some of the most outstanding contemporary work produced in Australia over the past 12 months.

The finalist’s works were selected from approximately 2 500 photographs submitted by 495 entrants - the largest ever received in the history of the Bowness Photography Prize. One of these finalists will win the $25 000 first prize. Three finalists will be awarded an Adobe Honourable Mention prize.

This year’s eminent judging panel, Magnum photographer TRENT PARKE, NGV’s Senior Curator Photography ISOBEL CROMBIE, and MGA Gallery Director SHAUNE LAKIN have selected 42 photographs from approximately 2 500 entries – the largest number received in the history of Australia’s most coveted photography prize.
Shaune Lakin, MGA Gallery Director, said on behalf of the judging panel: “With a record number of entries and an extraordinarily high caliber of work, the judging process was very difficult. So we selected more finalists than usual – to reflect the strength of the field. The finalists represent the best in contemporary Australian photography and their photographs will make an amazing exhibition; I am sure choosing a winner in early October will be incredibly difficult.”

The winner of the $25 000 prize will be announced at MGA on Thursday 4 OCTOBER 2012.  One of Australia’s most eminent cultural figures, Penelope Seidler AM, will join the judging panel to choose the winner of the 2012 Bowness Photography Prize.



Kirsten BOWERS






Stephen DUPONT

Cherine FAHD

Jacqueline FELSTEAD


Christopher HOLT


Francis KEOGH

Bronek KOZKA




Michael MILLER

Phuong NGO


Gerard O’CONNOR and Marc WASIAK


Izabela PLUTA

Clare RAE




Julie RRAP



Martin SMITH

Valerie SPARKS




Christian THOMPSON

Stephanie VALENTIN

Justine VARGA


William YANG

Saturday, July 28, 2012

'I was gutted that I'd been such a coward': photographers who didn't step in to help - the Guardian reports

What's it like to witness a mob attack, a starving child or the aftermath of a bomb, and take a photograph instead of stopping to help? As two journalists are under fire for recording rather than intervening in a sex attack in India, we ask people who know ...

To read the full article

In pictures: the photographers who stood by (contains some graphic images)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Maori friends | Te Kete Kahurangi Dance Troupe

Te Kete Kahurangi Dance Troupe is one of the most active Maori cultural groups in NSW. I met them while working on another assignment. I felt truly privileged to be welcomed to photograph their rehearsals, performances (along with the recent one at the NSW Parliament) and their private spaces. I am ever so grateful to the Maori friends including Awhina and Hohepa for the 'Haka' performance they did for my friend Peter and me in formally welcoming us.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

When Worlds Collide #14: Freezing Moments and Defying Time’s Tyranny by Nalaka Gunawardene

Nalaka sent me the link to his column yesterday. It is truly inspiring and amazing to anyone who loves photographs and appreciates human relationships.


Following text and images in this blogpost are from

and copyrighted to Nalaka Gunawardene

When Worlds Collide #14: Freezing Moments and Defying Time’s Tyranny by Nalaka Gunawardene

Growing up in a very different Sri Lanka during the 1970s, I was image starved.
We had no television, no Internet, and going to the cinema was a rare treat. And cameras were uncommon – those who owned them had to carefully plan every photograph to make the best use of film rolls with a finite number of shots (12, 24 or 36).
My school teacher parents had a Kodak box camera, using which they took some home photos of my early years. Two dozen black-and-whites (some in sepia prints) survive to this day in remarkably good shape. That is all I have to show for the first decade and half of my life. 
I also have a few (now fading) colour photos from my mid to late teens, taken fleetingly with cameras borrowed from friends. By then, in the 1980s, our home camera was no longer useable. And I didn’t own a basic (analog) camera until I was 25; it took me another dozen years to go digital. Yes, I know: that makes me a dinosaur of sorts…
Some of my friends have been much luckier. Buddhini Ekanayake, a Child of ’77, had a photographer father who captured all key moments of her life, and then some.
As she recalls: “My father had a passion for photography since he was a teenager. Later, with his part-time job as a local news reporter, the camera became a part of his life. So I have a whole lot of photographs from my childhood…My father took the photos and my mother preserved them in photo albums. Thanks to them, I have a huge collection of memories, emotions and untold stories bound with those thousands of photographs.”
It was partly the happy byproduct of journalism. Her father, Wijayananda Ekanayake, always had a film-loaded camera standing by to rush out at short notice. He would often develop them in his small darkroom at home.
Says Buddhini: “Those days, unlike today, one had to develop the entire film roll even for a single photo. I can remember he was using film rolls cut into short lengths of 10 to 12 frames, so he could finish them soon and send out urgent news photos. In such situations, I was the most readily available subject for him to finish the untaken frames!”

Buddhini’s Progress from Year 1 to 30 – A Father’s unusual Birthday Present
Birthday Photos
Every birthday was marked with a dedicated photo shoot, so Buddhini has an evenly spaced visual record of her life, all in black and white. When she turned 30 a few years ago, she selected one from each birthday to make a scrapbook layout. “I really enjoyed working on that layout because those pictures carried so many memories in my life,” she says.
Buddhini, who works as a freelance designer and TV producer, shares this and other visual memories on her personal website. She now continues the family tradition by photographing milestones in her own daughter’s life.
Another friend, Chulie de Silva, uses family photographs – taken over generations and decades — for chronicling tales of her colourful and far-flung family, hailing from the coastal town of Hikkaduwa. Her memories, often personalising the local history, areshared on a popular blog, evoking comments from many readers.
Especially poignant are her bittersweet memories of younger brother Prasanna, who was killed when the Indian Ocean tsunami came crashing in without warning on 26 December 2004. Suddenly, only photos and memories were left.
Within 72 hours a mutual friend, Bangladeshi photojournalist Shahidul Alam, was bearing witness to the massive devastation. He saw something extraordinary when walking amidst the ruins of Telwatte — close to where the world’s worst train accident happened, when an overcrowded train headed straight into the ferocious waves.
“I came across a family that had gathered in the wreckage of their home. I wanted to ask them their stories, find out what they had seen, but stopped when I saw them pick up the family album. They sat amidst the rubble and laughed as they turned page after page,” he recalled in the 2007 book I co-edited titled Communicating Disasters: An Asia Pacific Resource Book.
As disaster survivors sift through what is left of their homes, family photo albums are among the most cherished possessions they try to recover. This impulse cuts across cultures and other human divisions.
Helping Hands
And in this networked age, anyone can join such a quest from anywhere. In the aftermath of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami of 11 March 2011, dozens of volunteers helped hand-clean over 70,000 family photographs recovered from the debris.
All Hands Volunteers, a Massachusetts-based non-profit group, enlisted more than 200 remote volunteers to augment efforts of those on site. Some among them, who earn their living by ‘retouching’ fashion photos for glamour magazines, found it the ‘most satisfying work’ in their lives. (For details, see:
Future disasters would probably imperil fewer family photos, as more people store and share their digitally taken photos on Facebook, Flickr, Picasa and other online platforms. ‘Digital Natives’ like my teenaged daughter rarely print their many photos.
The cyber ‘cloud’ is increasingly the giant repository of our memories. While no tsunami can wipe them out, we might one day discover the web’s own inherent hazards.
Analog or digital, physical or virtual, why are snapshots of frozen moments so powerfully evocative to all of us?
Ultimately, photos are about defying the tyranny of time and the elements. When memory fails, chemicals or digits linger a bit longer…
As Sir Arthur C Clarke once remarked, “A cheap box camera can provide for anyone of us what the greatest sculptor of the ancient world laboured for years to give Emperor Hadrian – the exact image of a lost love. With the invention of photography, some aspects of the past became for the first time directly accessible, with the minimum of selective intervention by a human mind.”
The mystique of photography – which existed even a generation ago — has all but vanished as more people carry cameras (or mobile phones with camera facility). Yet the first world’s photos were taken less than 200 years ago. Do today’s shutter-happy children realize what a small wonder they hold in their hands? I doubt it.
As Sir Arthur wrote in Profiles of the Future (1962): “Photography is such a commonplace device that we have long forgotten how marvelous it really is; if it were as difficult and expensive to take a photograph as, say, to launch a satellite, we would then give the camera the credit that is due to it.”
Nalaka can be followed :, and on Twitter: NalakaG
About Nalaka Gunawardene - as he describes ...
"A science writer by training, I've worked as a journalist and communication specialist across Asia for 25 years. During this time, I have variously been a news reporter, feature writer, radio presenter, TV quizmaster, documentary film producer, foreign correspondent and journalist trainer. I continue to juggle some of these roles, while also blogging and tweeting and column writing. There's NOTHING OFFICIAL about this blog. In fact, there's NOTHING OFFICIAL about me! I've always stayed well clear of ALL centres of power and authority."

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Two men band

Two men band and its audience at the St James Station

David Alan Harvey - Wall / floor talk - Australian Centre for Photography

Photos : Magnum and National Geographic photographer David Alan Harvey's wall / floor talk at the Australian Centre for Photography in relation to his "based on true story".

Following text is courtesy of the Australian Centre for Photography website
5 May–17 June 2012

Head On Photo Festival and the Australian Centre for Photography are partnering to present (based on a true story).
David Alan Harvey, an internationally renowned Magnum photographer, presents a new collection of work capturing the vibrancy and cultural energy of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Shot over a two-year period, Harvey’s intimate photographs are raw, real and passionate and make you feel like a fly on the wall. (based on a true story) is a representation of one night out that Harvey admits ‘changed [me] forever’. Photographs from this series have been published in Harvey’s new book also titled (based on a true story). This is Harvey’s very personal journey into the novela, a mystery tale that is not about Rio, but set in Rio.
Harvey has extensive experience documenting cultural stories around the world including projects on French teenagers, the Berlin Wall, Maya culture, Native Americans, Vietnam, Mexico, Naples and Nairobi. Harvey has published several major books including Cuba (2000) and Divided Soul (2002) based on his extensive exploration of the Spanish/Portuguese diaspora into the Americas, Living Proof (2009) an investigation of hip hop culture in the South Bronx, New York and Tell It Like It Is (1966) based on Harvey's experience living with a black family in Norfolk, Virginia. Harvey has also shot over forty essays for National Geographic magazine.
David Alan Harvey was born in 1944 in San Francisco, USA and lives and works in New York.
David Alan Harvey is travelling to Sydney as part of the Head On Photo Festival and will present seminars and workshops. He will also speak at Semi-Permanent Sydney 2012.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Manuwangku, Under the Nuclear Cloud | Photographs by Jagath Dheerasekara | Curated by Sandy Edwards | Customs House | Head On Photo Festival | Sydney | 4 May - 8 July

Manuwangku, Under the Nuclear Cloud is featured in the Head On Photo Festival . Head On is Australia's largest photo festival and world's second largest. The exhibition is curated by Sandy Edwards and hosted by Customs House. (Level 2, 31 Alfred Street, Circular Quay, NSW 2000). Customs House will continue to host the exhibition even after the Head On Photo Festival until 9 July during the VIVID Festival and the NAIDOC Week. For this project, photographer Jagath Dheerasekara, won the Amnesty International Human Rights Innovation Grant Award in 2010 and the exhibition is currently on tour.

Extracts from the comments in the media and other sources on the Manuwangku, Under the Nuclear Cloud series:

"The photographs are excellent. They are a moving portrayal of Aboriginal Australia that all Australians aught to know about on an issue that wont go away."

- John Pilger, Writer and Filmmaker, January 2012


"They (photographs) are just beautiful. They show how we live. We don't want the nuclear waste dump coming to our land. That place is very important for water. This exhibition will be a real eye opener for people in the cities. It shows the realities of our lives in the outback, out under the stars. People need to see what is really happening."

- Penny Phillips Napangardi, Traditional Owner of Mukaty (Manuwangku), April 2012
‎”These photographs are an enormous achievement on Jagath’s account. There are many examples of photographers coming to Australia full of desire to photograph Aboriginal people. There have been many mismatches and misinterpretations. Jagath has combined his humanism and his personal experiences and has achieved a delightfully accurate portrayal of the Muckaty community in all its subtlety. He has created a lasting positive document that will remain invaluable as we hopefully continue to develop more photographic archives of Aboriginal Australia that combine realism with a keenly felt positive empathy. "

Sandy Edwards, Photographer and Curator, Jan 2012
They are wonderful. Just wonderful. He's taken the time to be with the people. Otherwise he wont have gained so much of their trust.

- Mervyn Bishop, Photographer, January 2012
"They are composed with a purpose. They show there is nowhere in Australia that Aboriginal people don't live and care about the land.

- Djon Mundine OAM, Art Curator, January 2012
Exhibition has so far travelled to ...
Sydney | The Pine Street Gallery, Chippendale | January 2012
Melbourne | Sustainability Living Festival 2012 | February 2012
Perth | FotoFreo Photo Festival 2012. Divergence : Photographs from Elsewhere | March ~ April 2012
Sydney | Head On Foto Festival + VIVID Festival + NAIDOC Week | Customs House, Circular Quay | May 4 ~ July 9 2012
Exhibition will be travelling to ...

Melbourne | La Trobe University, Library, Bundoora Campus | Curated by Dr Vincent Alessi, Artistic Director, La Trobe University Art Museum | May ~ July 2012 (Including NAIDOC Week)

Darwin | Darwin Festival | Thursday 9 ~ Sunday 26 August 2012
Alice Springs | Alice Springs Festival | Friday 7 ~ Sunday 16 September 2012


Tennant Creek | Desert Harmony Festival | August 24 ~ September 2 2012

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Photographer Adam Ferguson - The shot that nearly killed me: War photographers – a special report - Attacked by a Haitian mob, kidnapped by Gaddafi's troops, shot in Afghanistan … Who'd be a war photographer?

I was one of the first on the scene. The Afghan security forces normally shut down a suicide bombing like this pretty quickly. I was able to get to the epicentre of the explosion. It was carnage, there were bodies, flames were coming out of the buildings. I remember feeling very scared because there was still popping and hissing and small explosions, and the building was collapsing. It was still very fresh and there was a risk of another bomb. It was one of those situations where you have to put fear aside and focus on the job at hand: to watch the situation and document it. .... > > > read more > > >

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Errol Morris: 'We've forgotten that photographs are connected to the physical world'

VideoWriter and Oscar-winning documentary maker Errol Morris talks about the nature of truth, art and propaganda in photography. Drawing examples from the photographs of Abu Ghraib and the Crimean war, cited in his book Believing is Seeing, he argues we've often underplayed the link between photgraphs and the physical world