Joyce Evans works as a documentary photography. Major areas of investigation include the edge of the road, road kills and fatalities, the land, and many other bodies of focused photo essays and photographic work.
In her landscape photography, Evans strives to capture the essence of the place, relating to the viewer not only its purely mimetic qualities, but also the spiritual and psychological sensation of the place. Among the most outstanding bodies of work are series of photographic essays taken by Evans in the Dandenongs and Mt Martha regions in the outer Melbourne; along the Hume Highway; in the Central Desert and outback Australia, most notably Oodnadatta, Oodlawirra, Menindee, and Lake Mungo; vineyards and rural villages in the South of France; the old Jewish cemetery in the centre of Prague; and numerous others.
Evans’s portrait photographs are insightful character studies, taken mainly in black and white, at close range, and more often than not constructed within the subject’s own creative environment, whether studio or office, home or out of doors; with the underlying emphasis on the psychological connection between the sitter and his or her own space. She created a number of important portraits of a diverse cross-section of Australian intelligentsia and personalities, including Marianne Baillieu; Barbara Blackman; Baron Avid von Blumenthal; Tim Burstall; Dur-e Dara; Robert Dessaix; Germaine Greer; Elena Kats-Chernin; Joan Kerr; Ellen Koshland; David Malouf; Dame Elisabeth Murdoch; Lin Onus; Jill Reichstein; Chris Wallace-Crabbe; and innumerable others.
Joyce Evans also plays an important educational role in Australian photography. She taught history of photography at Melbourne’s RMIT University; appointed inaugural assistant director of Waverley City Gallery (now Monash Gallery of Art), 1990-91, the first municipal public collection in Melbourne to specialise in photography; established and inaugurated a course on the History of Photography and appointed Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne, 1997-2010. Evans continues conducting lectures and photographic workshops, predominantly in Melbourne and regional Victoria.
Evans worked as an honorary photographer for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Central Australia and for over ten years documented Australian country towns and events for the National Library of Australia.
Important publications on Joyce Evans include a monograph Only One Kilometre(Melbourne: Lothian Press, 2003), and exhibition catalogues with essays by Alison Inglis, Eugene Barilo von Reisberg, Tim Page, Victoria Hammond, and many others.
Photographs by Joyce Evans were published in major art compendiums and publications in Australia and internationally, including Studio International (199: 1015, 1986-87);Silvershotz (2010), The Interior(1:1, May 1991); Focus on New Zealand (William Collins, 1986); Colour and Transparency (Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 1986).
Joyce Evans is included in McCulloch’s Encyclopaedia of Australian Art (Alan and Susan McCulloch, eds, 2006); Dictionary of Australian Women Artists (Max Germaine, 1991); Who’s Who of Australian Women (1982, 2007); and The World’s Who’s Who of Women (1986).
She is an approved valuer for Australian and International Photography from the 19th century to present day for the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program.
Joyce’s work is held in the following collections:
Castlemaine Regional Art Gallery
Hasselblad Collection Sweden
Horsham Art Gallery (Regional)
Jewish Museum of Australia
Michaels Camera and Video Collection
Mitchell Library, Sydney
Monash Gallery of Art
Musee de la Photography, Mougins, France.
Migration Museum, Victoria
Museum of Victoria
National Gallery of Victoria
National Library of Australia
State Library of Victoria
Victorian Tapestry Workshop
Waverley City Collection
Hi, I’m Peter Michael, I’m managing director of Michael’s Camera, video and digital.
It’s my great pleasure today to introduce Joyce Evans, who has been a longtime friend of ours; mine and ours and is a practising photographer, to talk to us today.
Thank you so much for that introduction, Peter.
Again, for all those who maybe know me, or don’t know me, it is John Warkentin here, from michaels Camera; and it’s a great pleasure to have Joyce Evans here.
Now, it’s my first time meeting Joyce, but I’ve had a chance to do a little preliminary research with her background; and Peter’s told me a little bit about Joyce’s history; and of course, she’s a long-standing friend of the Michael’s family; and of course customer of the store.
But Joyce brings a wealth of knowledge about the photographic market in the fine art space in Australia.
So I’ll just give a very quick rundown of what I understand.
About Joyce Evans
Joyce told me just a little bit before we started; that she’s basically got the photographic urge at about age 19, with the gift of a Leica camera. So that’s always very interesting; and of course, Michael’s is a Leica dealer, and we’ve got the Leica boutique here on level one; so we’re big fans of the Leica rangefinder cameras; and of course, all their entries into the modern digital market.
So that’s a very exciting story as well; and we’ll probably dive into Joyce’s background, in her younger days; but, what we feel is of most interest to our customers today, is that later in life joy started a gallery that was also a bookstore.
Now, if I’m not mistaken, that was on Chapel Street, or sorry, no, Church Street, in Richmond.
Yep, Church Street, Richmond; the corner of Church and Gibb Streets, in Richmond.
And that was in about the mid-1970s, I understand?
Is Photography Art?
So, a lot of photographers here at Michael’s are keen amateurs, they’re enthusiasts; we often get ourselves hung up into the area of equipment and then we get, you know, we start talking about technique; and then, of course, we’re always interested in print here, because of course, print is a big part of Michael’s experience; but of course, we certainly understand that print has to compete with the online format.
So many people today present their work in an online fashion, but after the print becomes, maybe that final stage for a photographer; and that’s the exhibition.
And of course, there’s been this long-running argument since the beginning of photography, way in the, you know, back in the 1800s. I guess, what, the beginnings of modern daguerreotype where about 1845 or something around there; and it was… is art photography, or is photography art? And of course, that’s where you found yourself sitting in the mid-1970s, with the creation of your gallery, and then as you told me your rediscovery of photography from a personal point of view, towards the end of 1970.
So, what I wanted to just start our conversation off with this a little bit is this classic question: Is photography art?
What’s your opinion on it?
Obviously, you’re a photographer and you were in that space, but how do we still you know, deal with this overriding question of is photography art?
What’s your opinion?
I think it’s, um, it’s a question that’s past its use-by date.
To be quite frank. I mean, what is art? Nobody knows what art is.
I mean, Duchamp says, if you put a toilet in a gallery and you call it art; it’s art.
And since then, to define anything as art is purely and simply a matter of saying; I have created this; I’m putting it in an art gallery; I say it is art; I live and work as an artist; and therefore, it is art.
Now, we then join the actual creation and the artist to the market, and that is the function that I tried to fulfil.
In other words, to create an environment in Melbourne, where the best photography in the world could be seen both in original form and also in books, postcards, posters, film; and the key thing is that I hadn’t had a career of collecting art since, I mean I bought my first artwork when I was 17 - a Rembrandt, in New York; a second-generation Rembrandt; the Germans had helped the Dutch be relieved of some Rembrandt plates, and they got a very fine engraver to print them up for them, and then the Americans continued with this and said any student could buy one for $5; which I did - so I still have (“Christ on the way to Emmaus.”)
But the key thing is that this question of what is art? Really has been blown open.
It’s not anymore the relevant point; what the point is, is it A) good, and on the basis of that, is it acceptable?
Is it what belongs in an art gallery; is it something that you will want to buy; and that what will limit you in the buying once you decide you like it; is when you can afford it or not you.
You know, I would love to have a collection of Sebastian Salgado's work, for instance; I came into the market a bit late on that one.
But, um, so we all have things that we have seen that have been done by others; who are our peers, or they’re producing in our same time, and of course, the cost is one of the determinants of whether you will buy something or not.
But, um, for me, I wanted to show the best photography that I could find, of people, live; dead; young; old; established; non-established.
So I would have in the gallery, Max Dupain, who at that stage I felt was established; but we were still establishing him internationally, and I presume the audience knows who Max is? The Sun Baker is such a famous image that I think, um, it sort of… it exists and it is known as a Great Australian icon.
So we have someone like Max, and then we had a young, cheeky, overeducated 23-year- old I think it was, who was working in a bookshop and who was producing work whilst at (PanTech); and (Ethel Smith) rang me up and said - he was the head of the school of (PanTech) at the time - and said, have a look at this young man’s work and see what you think about it.
We hung it within a week, two weeks maybe; we had to get it framed, and of course, knowing Bill Henson, it had to be framed exactly the way he wanted them; and what we did in those days is we actually framed all of our photographers work - no charge, no wonder we went broke - and we charged a huge 40%, to the photographer; we framed their work; we mounted the work; we paid for all the advertising; we did everything, because we felt that photography and photographers needed that sort of assistance.
It was not very good business; so we didn’t last long.
My father had died, and he had very sweetly left me a fair stack of bread; which I got through quite quickly.
So it pays to have a wealthy parent; particularly if you want to do things that are not necessarily viable.
In the meantime, (Clive Everet) had done fine arts at Sydney University; the same time as I did; and we’d become friends.
Now, (Clive Everet) was the nephew of Herbert – the… what was he the minister of? He was the head of the Labour Party, anyway, and could well have become a prime minister, but he didn’t - so (Doc Everet), who was, anyway, Clive’s uncle; he was the uncle, Clive was the nephew, but Clive was a barrister and he handled a lot of the criminal law in Sydney; and he had a gallery for photography… no, not the photography, for Aboriginal art; and I went up to see him and we talked about what I should do with the gallery, and so on and so forth, and he said, forget about making any money out of it; you will make money out of what you put aside and sell in ten years’ time.
So I was also advised by James (Mullison) who is the director of the National Gallery of Australia, and he also said, keep the work; you won’t make much money out of us at this stage, but you may in future.
Well, at that stage, did the National Gallery have much in its photographic assets?
Yes. Oh, yes!
They had an exceptional collection; they didn’t buy it from me because the guy who was advising them on what they should buy didn’t… I wasn’t part of his… his group.
So you have to know who was who, and sort of get it right.
So just like today - connections were very, very important.
A lot of it is based on who you know.
Oh, well, I knew them all but some of them like you and some of them don’t.
I was the rich bitch that, you know…
So if you were to do it all over again, what do you think would make the gallery space more viable? What were the critical issues to you know, getting works on the wall; getting them into the hands of people who will obviously pay an appropriate price; reward the photographer accordingly and still have enough left for you.
Obviously your one point about, you know, putting some away for future; that’s like the ageing wine principle, which is very good advice.
What are the tricks to making the gallery business viable?
I really don’t know!
That’s valid answer as well!
I Fell In Love With Photography As An Art Form & My Gallery
What I do know, however, is that when you’re in love with something, or someone, you don’t always behave logically; and when I was in Basel at the art fair; when I first became aware of photography as an art form; I literally fell in love.
I had the shaky knees; I couldn’t talk; I couldn’t breathe; I didn’t even want to drink alcohol.
It was just one of those things; it… this just blew me; I had been involved in some form of art since I was about 17, and I had never consciously seen photography as anything except a record, you know, the photographs that we all have and take; and the excitement of finding this art form and then meeting someone like (Harry Lund), who was the… he was sort of like the father of the establishment; internationally.
So there was… he was in Washington, and then we had in Los Angeles, we had… I knew it and I have to think of a lot of numbers… names… I’ll forget them, and I’ve got to get hold of him: (G. Ray Hawkins)
Now, (G. Ray Hawkins), we’d been talking a little while ago, and then I became unwell; but nobody’s ever written the beginning of photography, at that time, what was actually happening.
And when they found me and I came in and said, look I want to do something; I don’t know what I want to do, but I want to do something about photography; I’m in love with it.
And they said, well you’re in Australia; we don’t have anyone in Australia; why don’t you start a gallery?
And I said, but I’ve never done anything like that before!
And they said, oh, it doesn’t take much; we didn’t know anything a few years ago! Go for it!
We’ll help you!
And they did; they sent me exhibitions; I got an original (Atje) exhibition; I got… ah, look I got so many contacts and everything else from them; they were amazing.
There was, in, I should have a list of them here, but in Texas, there was (Cronin) Gallery; in New York, there was… oh, there were three galleries there, and I’m never quite sure which was the main one.
But, there were various galleries in different parts of the States; and I went and met all of them.
In the meantime, we had the Australian Centre for Photography in Sydney, with, um, who started that now?
Anyway, he ended up by becoming a curator and wrote a couple of books about photography in Australia; and did all the right things, but he got burnt out like so many other people did.
His name will come to me in a minute.
But he was also helpful.
When I came to Melbourne I went and spoke to (Rennie Ellis); I’d met (Ian Turner) in London; and he said, look Rennie’s started a gallery and he’ll help you; he’s a good bloke, and I said, well if he’s got a gallery why should I start one?
She said, because the more we have going, the better it will be.
And the rule of starting something like this is you should find where he is and move in right beside him so that the clients have got a choice.
So, you should have two camera shops next to each other and then everybody will come to that area.
So, I was in Richmond and he was in (South Yarra), so it was pretty close.
But, it was all… it was so exciting because there was (PanTech) and that mob of people who were working creatively, and there was there was a great ignorance that needed to be satisfied, and I reckon just because of that, that’s why we had to have a bookshop.
I mean my knowledge had come from books and most people’s the same, I mean, we’re not… we weren’t in the digital age.
So that was, that was what really counted.
And it was so, so, so, so special.
The work that I was looking at, and the things that I was allowed to bring in; I mean, name a name and I was able to see it; bring it in; meet the people; I remember meeting (Linda Connor) and gosh, who else was there?
There were so many!
You think, who are some of your favourite photographers of that 1970s and 80s period?
Do you have one?
[Looks out at audience]
[Someone out of frame mentions someone, but can’t really hear]
Yeah, and he’s still running, of course, Ken possibly one of the modern era; one of the biggest names in photography, because of course, he’s transcended it from, you know, selling photography gallery space, but he’s done album covers; so he’s managed to get into pop culture, you know, some of the most famous….
Well, that was a major form for so many of the other photographers; like, what’s her name, who did all the covers; did that amazing photograph of Demi Moore pregnant?
Oh, oh, Annie Leibowitz!
Yeah, Annie Leibowitz started in the album cover.
And some of her most famous works have been magazine covers, you know.
She managed to elevate the magazine cover to fine art.
And, of course, that’s where photography’s been so powerful, in that it transcended, you know, some of the conventional boundaries; where it’s not just something that is, you know, to be framed and to be on an individual’s wall; it can be a mass-market appeal item, and, of course, you know, so many these famous photographers have had poster editions, I mean, later in life, of course, Ansel Adams had great success as posters and calendars.
So, and, of course, that’s one of the beauties of photography; which again…
Moonlight over Hernandez.
You could get it in about 50 different forms.
Is Photography Art?
Exactly! And I think maybe that is one of the reasons why, in the historical age, it was… there was always this question about: is photography art? Where we started our discussion because photography had the one thing which of course, paintings didn’t have: the ability to rapidly duplicate.
And I think maybe that’s why there was a pressure to say, oh, that isn’t because it can be mass duplicated.
Well, I don’t know. The print medium…
And, of course, there were lithographs as well.
Yes, that’s what I’m saying; the print printing medium has been going for a long, long time.
And, so, that reproducing the artwork is not at all uncommon; and it’s not all that new.
And of course, as we know in the world of painting…
But it’s quicker and easier with photography.
Yes! And, of course, painting; one of the classic ways for hundreds and hundreds of years, people have studied, is they’ve duplicated; and, of course, this is why we sometimes have these questions about authenticity with respect to paintings because so many people copied the masters.
And some of the masters didn’t really, you know, some of their early works weren’t easily attributed to them.
So it’s an interesting thing.
And of course, photography is still a very young art form.
I mean, it wasn’t until the Box Brownie, you know, at the in the beginnings of the 1900s, that an individual could afford a small camera.
And, so, that’s only 100 and… um… what are we? 2017… so 117 years ago!
I mean oil painting has been around for a heck of a lot longer than that!
When Is A Print An Original Print?
And of course, cave art; that goes back, what are the oldest cave paintings? Millions upon millions of years!
So, art has been with us for a long time.
Talking about cave paintings; this is what I absolutely love.
Now, with Aboriginal art, and these cave paintings; somebody is always delegated to be the person who keeps the paintings in good order.
So the reason that a cave painting has lasted for a thousand years is because they had been maintained; and added to, and what was his name?
Bobby (Namera), from (Owen Pelle); his job was to do one set of caves; and he used to sort of paint them up, and see that they were kept in good order; and so, because he has done that, you assume, now, that it’s not a sacred cow that never gets touched; and so, you ask yourself, what is an original work?
And there you sort of move into such interesting phases, you know, if you look at it: What is original? Is it original if it comes off the negative? Is original if it’s made at the time of the shooting of the negative?
What is the actual original?
Now, if I talk to any photographer; I go into a dark room, or I even work in a... using digital form; the cost of materials, inks, etc., etc.; and time, and storage; all come into the picture.
Now, you’re all photographers; when you get an absolutely top of the tree negative, or file, how many do you make at the time?
How many prints do you make?
One? Five? Twenty? A hundred?
[An audience member says one if you want a duplicate, then one or two]
One or two. Right, it’s still the same.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s easy to produce 100; where the heck are you going to store it?
I’ve still got stuff that I’ve done, I haven’t got around to signing because I haven’t sort of, taken the time to sit down and sign 50 prints that I’ve got, that I haven’t signed yet; and I haven’t properly titled.
And I take bets that each one of you photographers here has exactly the same thing.
So when you talk about value and originality, I think that what is original is; what I say is original; if I sign it, and if I remember that there were four made at the time, I put one of four, and the date.
So in this particular edition, they’re one of four.
So if you want, as the seller, and I’ve had to be the seller for other people’s work; you want, as a seller, to turn around and say, well those photos were made 10 years ago, and now I’ve got this lot, okay, what am I going to price them at?
And this is where it becomes dicey.
How do you price the photos, the four photos you made 10 years ago, as compared to the four photos you made today?
In fact, the one that you made today; knowing the quality of digital reproduction is often a much better interpretation than the one you made 10 years ago because at that stage you were learning how to use the technology; and now, by this time, you’re pretty well a master of it. Maybe.
So, pricing: How do you go on it?
And the same thing is, what does the market accept?
If you really want it, you’ll pay for it.
If you don’t really want it, you won’t; if you can’t afford it…
Look, when I had the gallery, there were two instances: one, in particular, this lass came in and said, I have always wanted a (Max Dupain) photograph, and I hear you’ve got financial problems and you’re thinking of closing, and I love this place.
I want to buy a (Max Dupain).
I’ve sold my car - she lived in (Tulong) - I’ve sold my car, and I’ve got, what was it? Two thousand dollars; it was a second-hand car.
Would you be able to give me a Max Dupain photograph for two thousand dollars?
And I said, no problem, yeah.
So we sat down and we went through the lot and I can’t remember if she got a “Sunbaker” or not, but she got a Max Dupain and she was very happy with it; and people will do anything if they fall in love.
And that’s the thing where art comes in.
Art, to my mind, is where somebody creates something that other people want; they really want them; they recognize its quality; they recognize it has a certain magic that they themselves as a photographer aren’t quite able to make.
That brings up a very interesting point.
I wanted to lead the conversation into this sort of area, but, in this example that you’ve just given us, you know, the prospective customer has come in and they’ve talked to you; and they’ve given you the name; so it’s the principle issue is: I want a work by Max Dupain.
So it’s not a photograph at that stage; it’s a work by the artist.
How Do You Become A Successful Artist or Photographer?
So now, to a younger artist who’s just starting out; who doesn’t have a name yet; there’s obviously, a process that one has to go through and sometimes there’s a bit of luck involved obviously, a little who you know, and you know, what, the chance encounters, and you know, maybe meeting a person such as yourself that maybe can get them to that stage, where they get the works on a wall; a wall where they can be viewed.
But what are the sort of, the key things that a young photographer, or certainly in the industry, don’t have to be young in age, but that a, you know, a person who is looking to get into that space; to become a name; to be able to present works in a gallery; what are the sort of the key steps along the way?
Um, you know, the issues that I’m sort of thinking about are…
So we’re now talking about the photographer, not the collector?
Well, obviously, before it ever is collected, there has to be the work.
So, but if your aim – and not everyone is ever going to become collected, just like not everybody gets to become a rock star either; there are lots of great musicians, we know this; there are lots of great photographers - but if their ambition is to move down that road, you know, the things I’m thinking about are: Is it the story that they’re telling, or is it their own story? Is it the works as part of a greater collection and that collection is part of a complete, you know, history of a certain artist – because, obviously, when you have a solo exhibition there’s a set number of works; maybe 20 or 30, or maybe even a smaller amount, maybe five or ten; and one would hope that the works have a structure to them; there’s a cohesive message; or something, I mean, and so these are the things I’m thinking about.
How does someone who might be watching us on YouTube; this video, saying, well here’s an expert who had a gallery and knew all these famous artists; who had the ability to take their works and get them into the hands of collectors. I’d like to be doing that.
What are the simple stages?
Well, they may not be simple; but what are the stages that a young artist needs to be thinking about to get to that point?
[Ponders the question]
I mean, we can safely assume that they’re at the point where they’re… I mean, they’re a photographic artist; they’re mastering their camera; they have some, an idea of what they’d like to share, you know, a story they want to tell; a type of image; be that, you know, there are so many different types.
But how do they get over that hump?
How do they get in touch with someone such as you, and bridge that gap to having someone believe in them? And, obviously, they’ve got to believe in themselves.
I think what you’ve just said is critical; you have to believe in yourself; if you don’t believe in yourself, and there’s a type of believing in yourself: It’s not just coming in and being boisterous and saying, I’m the best. It’s, like, um, as I say, Bill… Bill was a fair bit to deal with because he knew what he wanted; how he wanted it; and there was no mucking about.
In fact, I went back to London a few years ago and I saw (Sue Davis) who started the Photographers Gallery in London; and the first thing she said as I walked in the door, and she said, how is our temperamental genius?
Now, she had handled through me, Max and Bill, at the Photographer’s Gallery in London; but there was no doubt about whom we were speaking, and Max was the sort of person who would say, what do you think I should do about this?
He was very confident about himself as a photographer, but he knew that as a… someone who is selling his work outside of the commercial world, he needed help.
Whereas Bill Henson was just, this is it - it sells, it doesn’t sell, that’s it, it’s got to be like this.
No compromise; no discussion; no nothing.
You know, if it didn’t sell, he didn’t care.
I mean, he did but he didn’t, you know what I mean?
He was just so temperamental genius; arrogant, but he wasn’t arrogant, you know?
You’d think of this sort of thing as being arrogant, but there’s a sort of confidence in what you are doing, and an inability to compromise; a refusal to compromise.
And I think that this generation of youngsters is very, very confusing to my generation; because as a group, they are much, much more self-confident; in one way, but not in another; it’s a different way of being self-confident.
But, you, I find that so many of the youngsters, they know what they’re doing; they’ve worked it out, and they’ll do it regardless; they won’t compromise; I’m now talking about the people who are dedicated and so on; there’s always people that are, you know…
I remember one person came to me once and had about four different bodies of work, and said, I’ve come to you to find out which will sell; and they were all very, very different and I turned around said, I don’t think I can help you.
I mean, this isn’t the way it works; and sort of, we didn’t get anywhere.
I just didn’t want to talk to him, really, not when he had that attitude.
They had to… he had to be able to say, this is what I produced, this is what I believe in.
And that’s the first thing you’ve got to have; is a belief in yourself.
And, when you have that, you can sort of, walk in and be bombastic, or you can walk in and be quiet; but whatever it is, that belief in yourself comes through; and that’s the most convincing thing you can ever have.
And so, it’s… maybe I’ve diverted, I’m not sure.
Finding A Gallery
Oh, that’s alright.
So, let’s just assume now, we’ve got our example photographer; they’ve got belief in themselves; they’ve got a, maybe a small body of work; now it’s time to find a gallery and we’ve got to get the gallery to believe in them, because the gallery needs to make money, at the end of the day.
Ok, can I stop you there?
I don’t believe that’s where you start.
I think it starts where you have a peer group, and you talk to your mates, and you go and you show your work to people who you respect, and you find out as much as you can about who you are.
Because you’ve been producing something and now it’s produced, or you’re three-quarters of the way down the road; you’ve got to know what you’re going to do with it.
And a lot of people don’t know that!
It’s a different ballgame.
I mean, I produced X where is the market?
Do I do what my assistant Mads does; join an international group that puts large-scale images up on the wall; on the street?
And they don’t really care about whether it sells or doesn’t sell; they want the message to come out; they’ve just decided that the whole art game is too difficult and they’ll just produce work and put it out in the street.
You know, and so you’ve got so many different ways of being now, as an artist, you know, you earn a living and unfortunately, you can’t… you can’t use your expenses in producing this work, as a tax deduction, because you have to earn twenty thousand dollars a year in order to get any sort of tax deductions as artists; which is one of the big things that all artists should be fighting against. You should be able to be an artist because you say you are, you know, but… there comes a time where you turn around and you’ve been doing this sort of work and being paid for it, and that’s fine, but you might decide that you want to talk about something that’s important to you.
And that becomes what you spend the next six months doing.
And I suppose then there are the others that sort of just go somewhere because the message that is there has to be told.
I mean, I belong to a group called Degree South, and I got fired from there because, even though I said when they started what you wanted with the fat old lady has never been shot at, and they sort of thought I had some qualities but then they decided to focus on war; and they decided that dead animals and dead people on the road, and so on and so forth, were not equivalent to war, and I can see their point.
So they put (Ashley Gilbertson) into my job as the ninth photographer in the Degree South group, and he’s good; he fits their criteria; and um, that’s fine.
But, I didn’t like getting fired though!
But, you know, what the heck.
I helped get the thing off the ground; as did all the others and so I had my role and then…
What is it that makes a particular photograph important?
But in the meantime, I’d like to think about talking about what makes A) the person a photographer, but B) what makes a photographer? What makes the photograph important? What is it that makes a particular photograph important?
We’ve got one, two, three, four, five, you know, all of these here…
[Joyce points at images around the lecture hall]
What makes these important?
[Audience members say “The Story”]
Right; the story. What else?
[Audience member says something about the feeling]
[Audience member says, The Audience]
[Audience member says, but most of the time the story, though]
It’s an interesting thing, because I have a real battle with the whole photography world at the moment, because of the lack of titling associated with the image in most gallery scenes; I feel that “untitled” is my favorite horror; I feel that it’s a total cop-out; that if you take a photograph, well, there’s “(Uluru)” here, right? That’s my one of my keynote images.
Do you want to pick it up? [She speaks to John]
Yeah, it’ll be in the broadcast. Yeah. So it comes through.
Oh, I see; they can see it from… oh… oh… how clever!
Yes, they can!
So, this is the picture that’s on your homepage, and obviously, you can see the URL there.
So anybody can go and check this out.
Yup. Now, I always just call it “Uluru” and the date.
I don’t think it needs more than that, but not to say what it is, I find is a lack of respect; it’s not giving it a name; it doesn’t matter what it is.
Peter Michaels. Now Peter may not like to have his name used, and I will respect that, but I will give it a title such as; and I’ll ask him about it, “Man on Brighton Beach” or “At Brighton Beach” or, “Man eating on Topos of (Gigio’s)”
I will give it some form of identity; because I think that not to do that is the height of arrogance.
I have taken this picture, sometimes without permission - I mean hello, (Uluru) can I take your picture?
That brings a whole other issue in Australia!
There is another issue about that!
And if they put me in jail, they’ll put me in jail, I don’t care; I did it before it all became an issue.
I mean, it’s… what’s the date? That one is a …. no, it was ’86… ’87? Yeah, ‘86/87.
I think we certainly hit on a very important thing; so it was the value in titling your work!
Not just the value; but the importance, because I think it’s a type of respect; I got to it was Bill Henson; he had 16 photos in the first show that we had all of a young man. “Untitled number one, two, three, four, five, six, seven”
Somebody rang up, wanted to buy one; it was the fourth from the left.
There were two faces and they were both so similar; it was almost impossible.
So it had to be, at the least, boy 1 and boy 2.
You don’t want his name used, don’t use it, but call it something!
Not “bastard” you know?
I get so annoyed!
And I rang him up and I said, I am sick of it; someone wants to buy one of your bastards; when are you going to give it a name?
And this is the way I feel when I come into an exhibition and I find all of these photographs on the wall with no title!
Now, when they have no title it’s because we’re slack jacks; I’ve done it; I’ve forgotten to do it.
In the panic of getting everything up on the wall; framed and so on so forth; they sent the photo off and they put it into a mount; I wasn’t around; they put it into a glass frame, and then we had to unframe it for me to sign it.
We didn’t get around to doing it.
I accept the fact that I was wrong!
I just sort of feel it’s so, so, sad that we don’t have that respect, you know?
Should Printed Be Mounted Or Framed?
Now, what about mounting? What are your opinions on, you know, again, we’re talking about this fictitious artist who wants to venture down this road; obviously, there’s a cost of putting on an exhibition and either they’re going to be, you know, giving a very large slice of their sales to, you know, the gallery; or they might have to pay for placement - they might have to have everything already mounted, ready to roll. And of course, there’s a huge cost; the labour of beautiful framing is very expensive in Australia.
Of course, it is!
Is it worthwhile, in your opinion, for someone to display their work printed, but not mounted?
I think that we do what we can!
If it’s not mounted; if it’s just tacked up on the wall; if it’s got a large enough border and we can cover the… well, the ideal thing is what some places do now - and I think Monash does it - they put a magnet in the wall and then they have a magnet over the image, and there’ll be a little mark from that magnet left on the paper; too bad.
As long as it’s not on the image itself, or ideally, not too close to; these are part of the game.
But you know, mounting is… it’s like finishing something off; putting it in a safe place; enabling it to be handled without being damaged. There are 101 things that go into it.
I went mad about three or four years ago; I did these photographs of Professor Bernard Smith in the nude; and I felt they were very important because they were talking about something that’s close to me as an old lady.
His reason for wanting to be photographed in attic poses, in the nude, was, as a 92-year-old; he felt that he was still an entire male and entitled to be treated as an entire male, not a eunuch; and he had remarried after his wife had died, and his wife - who was about the same age as he, well, a little bit younger, and said, Oh, no, I’m past all that hanky-panky stuff; and left him without an appropriate partner.
So he was a bit uptight about that; he felt that he was being put on the shelf when he didn’t need to be and didn’t want to be; and so this body of work was partly his revolt against being eunichised, and as I say, I always sort of - about 10 years younger - but nevertheless, sort of, look… when one of my friends asked me if I’d stay with her husband and look after him in their country place; and stay the night and a couple of days with him, looking at just being with him; I thought, well I’ve arrived now, you know. I really have; I’m no longer dangerous.
But we all have needs as human beings; we protect small youngsters, you know, from the world of sex and we think we’re protecting old people when we sort of put them on the shelf and don’t ask them what they feel; and there’s a beautiful, beautiful film which finishes with the couple - he is in an old-age home and he sneaks back into the bedroom and sort of lies beside his wife of many years; and they’re just holding hands and being together; and both died; and there’s that sense of contentment and being where you’re supposed to be; and I thought it was very beautiful and it faced something that is important: Sexual expression is not just for the sort of vibrant youngsters; it’s also part of aging as well.
And yep, so, I think it’s one of those things that we can look at it and talk about as photographers; I don’t think there’s anything we can’t look at and talk about as photographers; it’s the way we do it that counts.
I mean, um, there’s a lot of crudity in the world which I find distasteful sometimes; but that’s just me being a bit of a, yeah, up your nose business.
But generally, I think we have a right to express the beauty and the sadness and otherwise of all sorts of ages; of all sorts of animals; of all sorts of places, with some sort of respect to the people and the place that we’re photographing.
Some Of My Photographs
And you know, anyway, I’d rather like to look at some photographs that I have made, and sort of, ask you and me, to say, what do you think?
[Joyce talks about the image on the slide of (“Uluru”) rock – a vibrant red against a bright blue sky]
See, for me, a photograph has to have a story that can be told many times, and not always the same way; and something like this particular photograph, has taught me a lot about what photography is about; there are things here that have taught me about the rock itself, you know, there’s this sweep here - it’s a sort of a type of poetry - the sky; it’s totally or almost totally negative as compared to the rock.
This here, where we are looking, there and there, at what looked like the scars; the scarification that goes onto an Aboriginal person when you go through law, and that’s how the body is scarred.
And so here is a cave; it’s a very important cave, and this thing here I’m not quite sure about.
Just to back up for a second, what is the scale of this image? This cave area that we’re looking at, how large is that?
Okay, there’s a person here.
Oh… it’s huge!
So that’s another thing, you know, we have to dive right in before we even get a sense of scale. And, of course, this is why there are so many facets.
This is only a very, very small section of the rock; a very, very small section.
And, for some reason or other, it has, for me, it has a lot of story; and I mean this line here, see that line there?
And then this intersecting here, there’s energy points; and so, it’s something that’s very, very small - in the sense of, it doesn’t seem to have many story points - but because it’s so open, you can make any story you like.
Anyway, so, to me, that’s one of the things that make an image work.
You know, like, we were looking here for instance; I still find that here, I like the busy-ness of it.
[Points to an image out of frame]
This one here I’ve seen before.
Not too sure if we can point one of the cameras around to show that – it’s a (Laneway) picture. I believe it’s (Degraves Lane in the city)…
But, I mean, I can look at my own work, and how can I look at that?
Can somebody help me to look at what’s here?
[Camera now shows a street scene – cannot see the artist name]
How do I open this so that I can look at other work?
Oh, do you want to me to bring up another website?
Yeah. I just want to look at my own work and talk about it; because you know, all the rest of its just…
So we’ve got your (___)
Other, it's just talking.
Shall we go to desert landscapes?
Whatever you like.
See if that works…
There we go; it’s coming up.
So there’s the rock – (Uluru).
Should be coming out, give it a sec.
Okay. This one here, I’ve been really, really sparse with; it's two different visits to the rock, and this is me, where I’ve sort of done a lot of work on this particular image, and sort of brought up stories, and elements; but here, can you see these?
Yeah, they’re coming get on the feed.
[Slide shows 3 images of (Uluru) taken from different angles. All bright red rock and blue sky]
On the left-hand side image; what I was searching for was a landscape with no footprints, and then I put my own foot in it; which was very naughty, but I was looking for space.
This is (Uluru) landscape and there are always tourists everywhere; so it was a bit of a hunt.
And then, oh, that was I’m actually searching for, I’m using the Hasselblad as compared to the Pentax; but here is the pair to it, and there’s the rock, and what I wanted to talk about is how, in terms of the land itself, the rock was very tiny; it’s, you know, it’s eventually going to sort of go into the land itself and become part of the soil.
And where is its importance? Its importance is in its newness.
And then again, if you look at the horizon line, you see how there are little tufts growing up there, and here, and if you notice; see here again; there’s this very, very gentle - I love the baroque - so there’s this very, very gentle movement, and the trees on the horizon; which, if you drive in the country or walk in the country, that horizon is constantly there, you know, not when you’re in a forest of course, or in the city perhaps; you’ve got a different thing, but this horizon is so incredibly beautiful.
Anyway, so I went back and shot this, oh, it’s four years later, isn’t it?
Yeah, must be, because you have ’87, ’92.
Five years later.
And so having done this sort of thing, I went back and decided to play; and that’s the beauty of photography - it enables you to play; with an idea; with a concept.
Let’s go; next.
There are words there if somebody wants to read.
This is later again.
[Slide shows a photo of a tree with the title, “Rain dreaming, Yuendumu, NT, 2005”]
This is when I went to, (Yuendumu), which is an Aboriginal community; one of the largest of the Aboriginal communities; it has a large hospital and police presence; many, many things.
But this is going to a place called the Rain Dreaming, which is just out of (Yuendumu) and I work with a member of Melbourne University staff who was doing the contacts, and I said, have we permission to go and take photos?
And she said, yes I’ve got permission.
And I said, for me to do it?
She said yes.
So the next day I went to the traditional owner and I had it all as digital files in the computer and I said, I took these photographs and I want to make sure that none of them… that all of them are able to be used and sold to the National Library; who is my major client, or to other people.
And he said, I didn’t give you permission and we had what looked like a standoff.
He was going to say, no you can’t use them; and then I thought about something that kind of works sometimes; and I looked at him and I said, well my name is such-and-such and I’m older than you, and you must show me respect.
And he said, no, I’m not you’re not, I am.
I said, how old are you? And I was two years older than him!
I got it!
So we all burst out, because they have marvellous senses of humour, and we all burst out laughing; and it all worked out fine.
It’s amazing when your backs to the wall, how you think and stuff and photographers are always stuck with their back to the wall.
I don’t know whether you’ve ever done a job where something hasn’t happened that you’ve had to think of quickly; and so on.
[Slide shows various images of the Rain Dreaming in (Yuendumu)]
So, this one here is just a small remnant of the fire, and this is the Rain Dreaming; and when you come into these things here, these rocks here have this amazing feeling of having been painted, you know?
They don’t… look at that! It looks like an amazing painting, doesn’t it?
Look at the lines that are here, and they’re like Aboriginal art; and so you can say to yourself, wait a second, with this sort of landscape how could you not be influenced and become a painter?
And then you’ve got these shapes and forms, and look at these marvellous lines that are there; and here again, the same sort of strong design features that nature has done.
It’s a strong one too.
The Transition From Digital To Film
And now, this leads us into another interesting thing, as we were talking a little bit earlier about you were saying what frustrates you with some of the younger photographers these days, and we talked about the naming of works; what has hit us, and of course, these works here you said you’ve shot on digital, but obviously you’ve been around from the early days of film.
You’ve now migrated into the transition; maybe you still use a little bit of film; you’ve got a digital camera with you right here - you were just playing with it a little bit at the beginning - but of course, digital has been this great… it’s been a huge change in the world of imaging.
(___) out of chemistry!
Yeah! It’s enabled everyone to be a photographer; and there are some great things to do with that and some of the commercial ramifications - the other problem, which everybody says everybody’s a photographer!
And of course, now, and here we are looking at some of your works on a digital tablet device, which has for all intents and purposes destroyed the book market!
And of course, you had a book store!
We’re in exciting times; we don’t really know where it’s all going to lead!
The democratization of the image; which started of course, with Kodak.
It’s really just an expansion of, you know; you take the photo; we do the rest.
Now, it’s: you take the photo and who does the best?
Yeah, and of course, we have these….
And it’s changed our relationship to each other; I mean the instant photograph, I mean I keep on saying to my granddaughter, the only photos I see of you are [pulls a funny face] like this with your friends; you all look pissed; and, you know, you’re boring!
Because it’s so predictable; there’s nothing of the quiet!
Anyway, that’s what I told my grandchildren.
You know you brought up the old Kodak line; you take the picture, we do the rest.
Of course, you know, now, the rest is all this digital and it can be disseminated nearly instantly; and if one is lucky, it could go viral; and all of a sudden you know, it could be news!
Depending on what the picture is; and we’ve certainly seen in the cases of many newspapers, they are not seeing the value of having professional photographers on staff anymore because they feel they can just go out and use citizen journalists.
So, a lot of things have changed in our industry.
The news… the real estate agents used to be a major source of income; wedding photographers; all of them.
They’re shaky now; they still exist, but they’re not as strong as they used to be; they can’t sort of, charge the same amount because you have our Uncle Joe who’s got a great camera, and of course, the camera goes out and takes the photo, doesn’t it?
Not Uncle Joe.
Well, and that’s a problem of perception, you know, the average person believes it is the camera.
You know, whatever they see a great work, you know, what camera took it?
You know, it’s not who took it; or you know, what went into it; it’s you know, oh you must have a great camera because that’s a great photograph!
And it’s good for us as a photography store – we need to sell cameras, of course - but yes, photography has been… it’s the ultimate democratization of it.
I think the classic stats are every year there are more photos taken, than in all of history up to that year; and it just keeps going on and on.
So, which means there are more and more people that are interested in taking pictures; doesn’t mean they’re taking pictures that are that are worth talking about.
Yeah, and can they write?
Well, that’s another thing; can they write? Because you need to have a little bit of written word is good to go with these.
But that also leads us…
[Joyce indicates she would like some more water – John pours her some]
But we’re lucky at Michael’s Camera here, that there are so many people that are discovering photography because of it… might have been a smartphone camera, and now they’re discovering film photography.
So, there is an interest in this, and people are rediscovering print who haven’t printed for years, because, of course, the physical print has a certain appeal to it; it’s a lot different for us to handle a print, or to even to handle a fine art book, than this electronic device; this gives us a good, maybe a taste of what the picture is, you know, but to have it in print, in big on your wall with appropriate lighting, with that beautiful frame and that nice border, maybe that title, that’ signature on it; you know, that’s now a work to behold to pass down to subsequent generations.
How do I pass down the tablet; you know, to my grandchildren?
I mean, it’s… you turn it off, it’s gone.
You know, I break it, it’s gone.
So, there are so many other areas that at some point they’re sort of being lost, or is it being disregarded.
[Joyce finds something on the tablet and John shows her]
Here, I’ll get into it… here we go, all categories.
But, um, we’re still seeing that people are excited about this.
No, don’t start here. [Joyce touches the tablet]
Oh, sorry, I’ve just lost you there. [Touches tablet] Oops. There we go.
Now, this is going up on the other thing, is it?
More Of Joyce's Images
[Slide shows various black and white photos of the May Day March, Melbourne, 1951]
Okay, now, this is a really funny story.
I found an album that I’d put together; and in the old days, getting prints made was expensive, so you had your contacts; so these are all from contacts, you know, 35 mm contact prints; and it goes to show what you can actually do if somebody knows what they’re doing when they’re scanning.
So, these photographs that I took when I was an activist, and this is a lot of student marching, and Melbourne Uni; I was member there; this is one of the trade unions, and look at them, I mean, I just love what these sorts of things tell you.
I mean, the hat; the coat, you know; the suit, now these are all workers unions; they’re not… they’re blue collar workers, and they’re all sort of dressed up to go to church.
But, of course, they have a much different meaning today than they did at the time when you took them because you know; how many other people were out there documenting this at the time?
I mean photography was expensive, and just as you said, you weren’t able to do large prints at the time; you had your contact sheets.
So these might be the only record that exists of that event!
Mm-hmm, probably. Here I don’t think anyone else was taking; this is (John Clendenin) who became a lecturer in philosophy; (Jill Warwick) who was a producer of, “It could be you!” - An early television program - these are Greeks in their costumes, and these … oh dear… I’ve got their names down somewhere, I must put them in.
Remembering people’s names is not necessarily the easiest thing.
He became a judge, (Bernie Rector); don’t know who this bloke is.
Anyway, so there we are, then… So this is basically… my interest in documenting goes way, way back.
I just felt the need to tell the story, and it was so important.
What’s this one?
Ah, this one is fun.
[Slide shows a man standing with a director’s type chair on his shoulder, titled National Union of Australian University Students (NUAUS) Conference at Largs Bay, SA, January 1951]
This is… every year we used to have a National Union of Australian University Students used to have a conference, and I don’t know if they still do - does anyone here know if there are still annual conferences for National Union of Australian University Students? They’re all University students, but you don’t know? Do you have an SRC or the equivalent?
[Audience members say they don’t know about NUAUS, and one asks what the SRC is]
Student Representative Council.
[Audience member responds that the Uni in Melbourne there is one]
Yep. Well, they used to meet and different clubs and societies would send their representatives to it and then there was… there was always stuff happening.
So every summer back, we’d go somewhere to a different state; and this is what happened.
This was, we went to South Australia to Adelaide, just out of Adelaide.
This bloke here, (Dicky Walcott) who is wearing sort of, the blue singlet of the working class, became one of Australia’s leading diplomats.
[Slide shows various black and white images of young people standing outside of tents]
This is a bunch of women; we were all living in these tents, and there’s me in the shorts.
[Slide shows young man sitting in a small box car]
And there’s (Edward) … oh, that’s badly done, I have to redo that - his name’s not done right - he was my boyfriend at the time.
He’s very cute; he’s dead now, which is a nuisance; it’s very sad.
Because he had a car! [Laughs]
Oh, that’s great; I like that!
So, this is… both of those became professors; (Lottie Nettle… what’s her married name? I’ve forgotten. (Peterglow); and then, he was a pharmacist; and this is us. So, this is really bad.
There was me, (Jill Warwick), and (Val Groves) and not only were we smoking, not only were we wearing shorts, and nothing on the top, but we were drinking!
And drinking not in the ladies bar, and see the bloke in the back - this is what I love about documentary photography - they’re all absolutely hacking it; they’re laughing themselves silly, and this is a photograph taken a newspaper photographer.
So you might have been outed, might have been published!
Oh, we were! That came out of the newspaper. It was front-page: Terrible behaviour!
[Slide shows young people standing at the side of a road – black and white]
This is again, all of us.
We hitchhiked back to Melbourne, and there were, I think fourteen of us that all hitchhiked together, and we stopped in (Mildura) for a football game.
This is a totally unrelated question for you, but I’ve driven across the country many times, and I never see hitchhikers in Australia. When did hitchhiking die off?
I don’t know! I hitchhiked not all that long ago.
I think I’ve seen one hitchhiker in all my time in Australia.
I hitchhiked in America.
I’ve certainly seen more there.
Anyway, so this is, just people playing and we slept there; and this is arriving and we were waiting for a lift there.
Oh, this is the (Murray Valley Highway)! Could you imagine being able to play cricket on the (Murray Valley Highway) today?
A bit busier.
And that’s arriving down at (PMG).
Here we are.
How come they were put in like that?
That’s late, that’s not a good order.
I should have really stood over…
I’ve been in and out of the hospital and I’ve had assistants doing things, and they do as well as they can.
But that’s us travelling.
See, it really helps having a title, doesn’t it?
Well, this is one of these sorts of things, that’s…
[Touches tablet to remove an overlay]
There we are again.
So there are some of the photos taken, then, on this little camera, and then…
Also, what were you shooting on then? Is that the Leica?
It’s the Leica.
Oh! Get you back here. [Touches the tablet to change to another category for Joyce]
Let’s get out of this.
Ok, let’s go back up to the top. Would you like to go back into images? All categories?
So this is some of my major bodies of work; I mean, we could continue here, and choose a contemporary one.
What’s something recent?
Oh, that was last year; I came out of the hospital and did this.
[Slides show various scenes from some sort of rally or march with signs saying “Close Nauru/Manus”]
So this is, again, looking… (Close Nauru and Manus).
How in the name of heaven, nice people like my neighbours, can be in favour of this sort of stuff, I do not understand.
Is this coming up in here? [Points to the display for the audience]
[Someone lets her know that it is]
Okay, (“Close Nauru and Manus”).
Yeah, but let them be alive.
I love our cops, you know?
This photo of the police, and this female cop standing there with a hand on her hip, and being very femme, you know; and they’re sort of, talking with people that are… they’re supposed to be.
I love this bloke here; I think he’s an American, what do you reckon?
[Slide shows large dark skinned man holding up a phone/camera in front of the marchers]
Oh, he might be.
This bloke was going for it; he was one of the (reffos).
There’s another one; brave enough to get up and talk.
These were from the country; they came from… and they were quite happy for their names to be used and their photos.
So I got permission for all of them; because you know, sometimes these things end up in an (AZIO) file - which I’ve got one.
I must see if they’re still collecting on me.
So, for example…
I’ve got 80 pages!
So, when you’re out shooting recently, you know, public demonstrations or whatever are you there just purely documenting for your own purposes, or you…?
My Work In The National Library
Oh no, I send them off to the National Library.
Oh, okay then.
So they are becoming part of a public record, then, that’s really exciting.
Yeah, well I’ve sold my whole life’s work to the National Library of Australia.
So they buy it; every year I get $20,000, and every year they get a batch of stuff.
So we’ve got a deal; but they’ve got all of my digital files, and they’ve got a record of all my negatives and “trannies” and, when I die, they get the “trannies” and negatives.
But, at the moment, they’ve got all the digital stuff.
Oh, well that’s really exciting!
So, how long have you had that relationship with the National Gallery?
National Library, sorry.
Well, that’s something you…
I found I couldn’t…
Look, I was already 60 when I started being a photographer; I didn’t have a peer group that I went through school with, you know?
And, um, like I was a bit of an anachronism, and who was going to buy my stuff?
So I had collectors, I mean I think you bought a couple of things once – [Points to someone in the audience – perhaps Peter Michael?] and then, what’s the name, from um, that owns… Village! They own Village.
What’s her name?
[Someone out of frame responds with a name – Peter Michael?]
Kirby, yeah; the Kirby’s.
They’ve bought about 30 of my pieces; which is very nice.
And a few other people have bought major collections; other than the Library, and so on.
But, no, I find that it’s extremely difficult to sell photographs.
I mean I, sort of, hang my stuff every year at some show or another, with (Suzanne and Michael)…
Susan and Michael Silver.
They run (Magna)
Magna Gallery Yep. They run Magna Gallery, and they’re one of the few institutions that really spend a lot of energy on the documentary photography; they’re really special, and I have a great respect for what they do.
Anyway. Oh, these were a nice young couple.
[Slide shows a young person with yellow dyed hair wearing large, wide legged pants or a skirt]
He was out there.
[Slides show various people on the street at various locations and demonstrations]
And this was a lovely family; they run a refugee action collective.
So we are… there are still organizations that work.
And they were lovely, this mother and the two kids.
I got their names as well.
So, anyone that sort of highly identified, I got names.
Well, that’s great, that it will be part of a permanent record then.
You’re in a unique position.
Mmm. No, I like it, that it’s going there.
And you must be a very unthreatening person to them, you know when you’re out shooting; there’s a… you’re not, you know…
[Laughs and Joyce Laughs]
It’s not like some young whippersnapper is shoving a camera in their face!
I’m sure everybody is happy to have you take their picture!
What’s that’s one?
Oh, this was this was fun.
I arrived in Paris.
Just give it a second and it will load.
[Slides show a great many people in the streets demonstrating]
Yeah. I arrived in Paris at the time of the Tiananmen Square incident.
And here was the crowd; I mean, I just got, I had the taxi; I got my bag in; registered; went upstairs; grabbed my camera and came down.
It was all outside the hotel, which was great.
So, um, here we are… “Solidarity with the people of China”
It was coming towards an end at the time.
So, that was great getting that; the end of the show.
So, if we back up a little bit wee bit, as you were just saying, you know, that it’s very, very difficult to sell a photograph.
As an artwork, yes.
Are Everybody Photographers?
Yes. Is it more difficult now than it used to be? What do you feel the reasons behind that are? Does it come back to this whole thing that everybody is a photographer, and thus the photographic image has maybe been devalued?
No. Artwork in general sells by popularity; by name; and by fashion.
You know, in a way I’m past my use-by date.
Oh, I think I am too. [Laughs]
But you know what I’m getting at?
So, they’re looking for that young person that’s coming along; that’s the bright thing, and they might sort of go crazy for him or her.
And it depends on who’s handling you, and how you get your work out there; what sort of books you get written about you, or, you know; there’s a whole stack of things that make you collectable.
And it’s just one of those things.
What makes something collectable?
I mean, there are… Somebody sees something, and they love it.
One amateur photographer, when I had the gallery, and he did a photograph of Dubrovnik.
Now he did some nice work; he wasn’t a bad photographer at all; but it was a spare time thing, but this particular photo of Dubrovnik, everybody loved.
So I sold about four or five copies of it, you know, and there were more to be sold if I wanted to.
And I actually had two copies of it; I think I gave one away.
My First Photograph
[Slide shows a green rolling hill with farm lines on it, with the title of “Cotswold Farm, Menzies Creek, Victoria”]
But coming back now, we’re going to (Cotswold Farm) - this is very important for me because it’s this first photograph here, which I made in ’82, after I’d started taking my classes.
So, it dates it – it was 1982 when I was learning at Photography Studies College, and it was great.
No, here was I running a prestigious gallery; handling all sorts of photographers; talking to people like it is, and so on and so forth, and I think I had a stick somewhere where it shouldn’t have been.
And within a day or two, because we used to just show what we’d shot, and then we discuss it and see where we could improve and what we should have done and so on; there was a lot of group work, which I thought was excellent, and I realized that I had nothing on anyone else.
You know, we’re all equal.
So the moment you take the camera in your hand and you start to think about what you’re doing and what you’re creating; it all starts at the beginning and you just got to learn how to be the camera.
So after a while, when you are your own camera, and you’re in harmony and you can make what you think, and you’re not worried about the technique because it’s become habitual - I mean I have trouble now because I’m blind, technically, so I don’t see a lot of stuff and a lot of the photos I’m taking now are half intuition, and I find it works better!
I mean, blind photographers are great!
We should all be blind occasionally!
Learn how to work with the laws of chance; it’s true!
But if you read someone like, um, oh dear… a number of different people have written about the laws of chance, and how they work and it’s particularly popular in the last decade or so, because with the computer and the way in which things are not logical necessarily, and they’re not controllable; the things that happen via the computer are quite strange, you know.
It sort of, the capacity for mistakes, the capacity for creating coincidentally; is just so much greater now, because it’s so much more sensitive, as an instrument; the digital camera, and the computer have so many potentials, that we scarcely have developed and exploited, and I think that this is where a lot of art is going, and has been since, as I said, Duchamp.
So, this photo here was the first photo I took, which I recognized as being the sort of photograph that a photographer should take.
But it wasn’t just an accident; it was using my understanding of design, and my understanding of the camera, and so on and so forth; and being conscious of what I was making.
So then I went back and I did a whole stack of the place; I went there about three years; this exhibition was 1986, so this is ’82.
So I bought a Hasselblad in the meantime, and using that made a lot of difference; this is later work when I went back years later.
And this again is later again.
But it’s still the same sort of thing; it’s looking at the way in which this particular set of fields creates form, and how the camera sort of, it’s like Marilyn Monroe.
This for me is my Marilyn Monroe; you can’t take a bad photo of it.
So, there’s the story about that.
What is that and also…
[Looks at tablet]
Oh, I see! Oh, I can go to that one now.
Oh, how clever!
Well, it’s your website!
I am not technically as bright as I could be.
Where are we going here?
I’m not sure. I don’t think that’s linked.
[Scrolling through her website on the tablet]
No, that’s contact.
We will go there if you like.
So, there we are, here.
New Guinea Cross.
This is where I’m starting… I started to play with things.
I went to New Guinea to (a Malagan) which is a festival in new Ireland, and I did these large photographs of, this is the (Malagan) itself, this structure; and it’s just put up there with posts at the back to hold it; there’s no back to it, and this is all covered in reeds which have been woven, and then these are different mats that have been produced.
And what I was looking at was the concept of the fact that this is a festival that goes way back - at least 500, maybe a thousand years - and this is the way in which they celebrate their time and they mourn their father, who died, and they respect the traditions that exist there.
And then I thought, that in the meantime they’ve all become Christianized.
So I got hold of a Christ, and I put it on the (Malagan) and was integrating those two religions; and I think that with nearly all of us, I mean, if you look at an Irish Catholic in Australia, and look at an Irish Catholic in Ireland, they’d be very different.
You know, the same would be for an Australian Jew as compared to an Israeli Jew.
Whatever religion it is; we all change when we come to a new country.
Well this new Ireland was New Guinea, was Christianized and so the figure of Christ becomes sort of a symbol of that “Christianisation” and in the meantime you’ve got, I’ve projected the Christ figure, no, I had the Christ figure on a black velvet background, and then projected these images onto it; and so we had the two amalgamated.
Now with Photoshop these days you can do it so easily.
So this is very crude compared to what you can do with Photoshop.
So there’s the blood of the pig all over Christ; I think I did this before we had the guy who did the “piss Christ”…
Oh, okay. I can’t remember his name, but I’ve heard of it.
“Piss Christ” - he became quite famous, because he pissed all over a Christ figure, and, um, called the “Piss Christ”…
And I guess that brings up this other thing you talk about, you know, in the marketability about this, and fame and whatever: Controversy.
Controversy plays a very big role and some people just create it, and they can do wonders for their career; whether it …
So this has been sort of quietly done and nobody’s really known about it, to talk about it.
So, when you were putting these together, so you’ve got the Christ figure on the black, so, you’ve gone off to Papua New Guinea and you’ve got the pictures, and there are you doing the camera compositing; that’s back, done at home, or were you doing that in the field, as well?
No, no, no, no, this is done when I come home. It took me a while to think about it.
And you were using a, like a natural projector.
Yep, that’s a projector.
[Slide shows an image of a Christ-like post on the cross, with bright colours projected across it]
There’s another one, that’s the warrior Christ.
There’s an interesting style that people are using now; they are using old projectors or lenses that are modified, and they’re actually flashing a slide into the scene; and they’re doing this compositing in camera, in the real world.
I haven’t had a chance to play with it. I did a couple of little…
Yeah, it would be fun to see. I’d love to see one.
Yeah, it’s really bizarre.
[Slide shows the Christ statue with various scenes with dead pigs and fire]
So here we are again, and again, I’ve put the Christ figure there, with all the pigs being laid out; it’s just me playing; there’s the pig being burnt; they burn off the hair and the skin - get that nice and crispy - and again, I’ve put Christ in fire.
So, they’re just ideas that we have.
[Joyce touches the tablet]
I don’t think any of those are active.
No, I don’t think so.
We’ll go back to the previous page. There we go.
[Slide shows images of “Sand Grass” in “Nelson’s Bay, NSW, 2007”]
This is the case of working for beauty; I took these photographs and I decided that I needed to make them very beautiful.
I went to, um, he’s a very good printer… and he does a lot of prints, and he’s out…
Anyway, so I went to – I might have his name here as the printer. I should. Where is he? Oh, I didn’t put his name there; aren’t I naughty.
Anyway, so the story about these is that when I took them, I was aware of their Japanesey feel; and what I needed to get was the sand articulated and this lovely sense of line.
And I went to this printer and said, I would like that done, and we worked on it and after a while, we got it.
And what we did is, we found this (awagami) paper, which is absolutely amazing; it’s made from mulberries, mulberry tree.
And it has so much tactile… you can put one finger here, you know, and you can just hold it and it’s almost flat; it’s so strong; it’s so beautiful, and so that’s that.
And these are different designs that are very similar.
So that’s just down to the beach.
Shall we go back to the previous page?
Here you go.
Widelux Camera And Panoramic Photography
There’s another one.
This is the show I had at MGA – Monash Gallery of Art - and the other one was also at (Monash Gallery of Art).
And these are using the Widelux camera, which I just love; I think it’s one of the best cameras you can use.
We were talking about the laws of chance, and chance; the Widelux you really can’t quite predict what you’re doing with it, because you actually can’t see in the viewfinder exactly the full width; because it goes around the corner and compresses space, so you’re getting 160 degrees on a curve; but of course, it comes out otherwise.
So with this particular image…
I’ll just explain a little bit more. For those who are not familiar: The Widelux camera is a swinging optical design, so it’s a panoramic camera and because it swings in time, it’s quite possible that what you thought is going to be at the end of the frame when you click the shutter, might very well have changed. There can be temporal distortion in these moving optical cameras and because of course, my main interest in photography has been panoramic, I’m a big fan of these things – Never owned one!
We don’t have a Widelux in the museum, but we have a Russian copy!
Have you? I’ve got one!
There’s a (Horizon) out there.
But, they’re very interesting cameras!
Oh, I’ll have to leave it to you!
I was actually about to ask whether you shot the… I thought you might have had a Hasselblad X-pan or something.
No, this is the Widelux, which I love, because of the… and particularly, I mean, it’s basically designed to use as a horizontal camera, and if you use that on tripod, horizontally, you can kind of look around corners a bit, and get it a little bit more; but I used it hand-held, and I sometimes twisted; and I sometimes, just will do that, as compared to having it squared to the image; I might just tilt it a bit, or I might do that [Gestures with her hand] and I play with it, and sometimes it gives you some very interesting elements.
And, obviously, if you’re moving it during its exposure, and if you’re in a lower light it’s a little longer exposure; you can do some very creative things with it.
Yeah, I think I’ve done that too.
But, you know, it’s all a matter of playing.
Were you using the Widelux in one of the protest pictures earlier; you showed us one that I think was from the …
Yeah, I thought I saw a panorama in there. So, yeah was it the Widelux?
No, no, that was using; I think it was using my phone!
Oh, was it your phone?! Okay.
I think so.
A lot of what the Widelux does with analogue film can be kind of simulated using the panoramic mode on your phone, but what your phone does when you’re shooting that kind of sweep panorama…
It’s producing little digital slices and putting it together. So it can kind of have a pixelated look, but it can be very artistic.
Some neat little accidents happen with these things.
Yeah. Well, everybody can use one, I mean, it works as a composite.
So it’s a bit of fun.
I used to be a skier and I lived up at (Mount Buller) for some time; so it’s a place I knew well; this is basically me talking about the road; this one here, strangely enough, I was with some Aboriginal people at the time, and see this little hole there?
[Slide shows a rocky road side – black and white]
I didn’t see that, and one of the guys pointed it out to me, and said, that’s a spider’s hole.
And so I took the photo of it, and there are some very interesting dynamics here, particularly my shoe, which of course, is bad news; shouldn’t have done that!
But, still, I don’t care.
And, so that’s very much the desert road, isn’t it?
[Slide shows three images of a semi-forested road side and some ferns – black and white]
And here, these two are (Toorak); they’re both in (Toorak), and this one here is done on the (Mornington) Peninsula.
And of course, this is age - three aspects of age: the old fruit trees; the old fence, and the old tree.
[Slide shows black and white image of sand – (Tallaringa) Springs]
And here, this is some standing up on here; and this was where, (Tallaringa) Springs; the Great Victorian Desert.
When was that? Oh, ’91, yeah.
I went there with 40 other women, and we were doing research for Museum of South Australia, and picking up stuff, but this was our camp, and yep.
So, there’s the tent, and that’s a chair and a little ladder.
So, you were standing on a ladder?
When’s the last time you use the Widelux?
A while ago now, I best get back to it.
Yeah. That’s definitely a camera I always want to shoot on, and certainly seen an awful lot of works from them.
It’s a very interesting, but the Widelux is shooting, technically speaking, is a cylindrical panorama.
Well, come over one day and we’ll play!
It’ll be fun.
We’re uniquely positioned that we can still process the film from any of these oddball cameras here at Michael’s.
There are not a lot of places you can drop the stuff off at!
Yeah! No, it’s great!
Well, I wanted to thank you so much for joining us is, and just having a wide and varied conversation!
And it’s just interesting to hear your point of view on all these things, and to see some of these works, and it’s just a fascinating story that you’ve shared with us, and it’s just been a pleasure!
And, yes, I would love to go shooting with you! I think it’d be really enjoyable!
Actually, one of my…. Where is it? All categories… I missed out on roadkill…
Yeah, this is an important body of work too, here.
Yeah, we didn’t talk about that yet, that’s right.
[Slides show various images of dead animals at the side of various roads]
Okay. So, this is roadkill.
When I… the thing about any body of work; whether it’s a portrait; whether its roadkills or whatever it is; when I first started I was photographing, you know, the animal going back into the earth.
You know ashes to ashes, dust to dust; with that whole philosophy.
And you have to, I believe, the way I work and the way I think is that you’ve got to have the story; but the story has to be something that holds.
Now with the roadkill, eventually what I decided to do was to always look for the entire animal; to show that this was a beautiful creature that was dead.
And in many cases, like this dog, the legs are too stiff and so on and so forth, but when you first see it, it almost looks as though it’s sleeping.
And for me, I wanted them to tell the story that way, but then these, and the cat and the fox; those two, I created them because I wanted them large, and my enlarger wouldn’t let me easily do something that was 20/24 for… no, it wasn’t 20/24, it was 24/36 I think I made these.
And, so what I did with these is I shot them all using a 35 mm camera, and then I put them together.
So that I was able, then, to get a large photograph.
Now, were you putting those together with your final prints?
Yeah, they’re the final prints.
Final prints, ok.
It’s (eight) final print.
So, a photo mosaic; kind of like what (David Hockney) used to do.
Yeah. But I mean, everybody’s done it at some stage, and I did it quite a few times.
You, sort of, putting more than one image together to make a larger image; it’s a way of solving that problem.
And, so, these actually were made for a major exhibition that toured New South Wales.
But these ones here, for instance, the kangaroo, and… but you can see how there’s that sense of them being entire, you know?
They’re not… okay, some…
See, that one, you could scarcely know it was dead.
There’s a poor old kangaroo paw.
Oh, there we are.
Oh, is it finished?
It’s a topic I cover as well.
Oh, do you?
Yeah, I take pictures of roadkill, whenever I find it.
Yeah. Well, it can be a bit smelly and fly-ridden can’t it?
Well, in Australia…
What do you aim for then, the entire animal, or do you get the others as well?
For me, it’s documenting what I’ve seen, and I find it so hard to find the animals alive in Australia, that I normally just find them dead at the side of the road.
So I think I’ve spotted something interesting, and I pull over, and next thing I know I’m taking pictures of roadkill, and sometimes it’s been the animals I’ve hit.
Well, that’s part of life in Australia; sometimes animals run out in front of you.
Oh yeah. Absolutely, it’s hard to miss them.
Yeah. Well, I kind of think kangaroos I could probably dodge, but they always try to hit you.
Anyway, so, when you aim at photographing a dead animal, what would make you want to then show it?
You know, put it a book or whatever it is; as compared to, what are you looking for in the dead animals?
Have you got… have you created criteria for yourself?
No, not really; it’s just been when I travel, I’m always on the lookout for animals, because I’m fascinated, and I enjoy them, and it just turns out I find more dead ones than you find live ones.
Usually, the live ones are moving pretty quick and they get away from you.
So, by force of necessity, I pull over and I take pictures of the dead ones.
I don’t really show them to anybody; it’s not really been part of it.
But it’s just one of the things I document.
Yeah. So what are the other thing to you document?
Well, I document the change in cities; I like to shoot panoramas; that’s been my main sort of technical area of photography for the last 15 or so years, and I like to go back to the same location and try to compose the exact same picture, where only the subject has changed.
And I often like to find other individuals who’ve come before me and done the same thing, so I follow the work of other panoramic photographers and I go and recreate their pictures, you know, 10, 20, maybe even 100 years later.
And, so that I can do this A-B comparison so that I can take a look at the change, because that’s what I’m fascinated by.
That sounds good!
I can’t say there are any commercial ramifications for it, but I find it enjoyable. And, because I’m getting a little older now, I can go back to some of the same places that I shot; much like you’ve revisited many of your locations.
Because it’s interesting to see how they’ve changed.
And, obviously, when you’re shooting roadkill sometimes there are lots of different if you want to see kangaroos for example, on a stretch of the (Nullarbor) you can find within walking distance, a lot of different states of decay.
[Laughs] Just in the same field of view, almost.
There’s no shortage of dead kangaroos out there.
Well, that’s an amazing body of work; very, you know, you’ve covered so many different areas, and lots of different pieces of technology; you’ve embraced digital; you’ve got a very keen understanding of what makes an image, and I love the way you analyze them, and I love the enjoyment that you get out of them!
Because of course, that’s what it’s all about!
So, you’re, when we started off our conversation and you said, you know, the use-by date corollary for, you know, is photography art?
You know, and I think you’ve clearly shown that you’ve been able to produce it; you’re able to criticize it; you’re able to know it when you see it; and of course, love it!
And of course, that love is very important, and that really comes flying out of you; so I’m really… it was wonderful to have a chance to sit down to talk with you, Joyce.
I really enjoyed it! Thank you!
And, hopefully, we will have some more! Maybe we will get out and do some shooting!
That would be good, and we’ll let you use my Widelux.
Oh, I’d LOVE to!
So, I really hope that you enjoyed our conversation!
Somewhat varied, somewhat a little bit rambling; but that’s the way we are, you know, we’re just talking about photography!
And we look forward to seeing you in some of our future interviews coming up!
So take care, and we’ll see you next time.
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