On talking to dead people

by Les Walkling on June 5, 2016

The_Site_of_his_last_embrace_1986_550pxLes Walkling, The site of his last embrace 1986, silver gelatin print, 953mm x 762mm

Speaking with a dear friend the other day regarding our pictures, I recalled how often I have described the ‘two sides of the lens’, and the transparency and democracy with which the lens draws the world for us. And how ‘which side of the lens’ we spend the most time on, tends to define us as a photographer. Those friends obsessed with photographing things in front of the lens tend to be witness or documentary photographers, where as those friends who spend most of their time on ‘their’ side of the lens, tend to work in the world of contemporary art. So when someone asks me what I take photographs of, I simply say ‘I photograph things that can’t be seen’; which for me are my thoughts, feelings and emotions.

In this way photography is foremost an intellectual engagement, and a repository rich in ‘subjects that matter’ to us. But our pictures are also filled with insights and truths about ourselves that we barely know or can name. They make claims on our behalf, while also revealing what lies within. They manifest our thoughts as much as they bring into focus our demons and dreams.

I have also often characterised photographs as either portraits (of things) or maps (of territories). Both are representations or translations, but they differ according to our investment in them. Just as understanding itself is made up of both what is conscious to us, and what is unknown, feared or misunderstood. Our pictures, like ourselves, are equally aware and filled with wondering. The instantaneous privilege of a photograph channels both what is seen and what is unseen; who we are and what we are becoming.

The problem though of making pictures that matter beyond our self interest, never goes away. So much of my youthful exploration of this problem was consumed by ‘conversations with dead people’; that is, conversations with great artists who died long before I was born. Artists who may have never written down what and how they did what they did, but nevertheless explained themselves, their principles and methods so perfectly in their works.

Great pictures touch us and engage us in the most compelling and mysterious ways, and it is these mysteries that have kept me artistically alive all these years. This is also the greatest gift of friendship; what it elicits from us. For a good life is all about the company we keep; in our relationships, both in person, but also through deeds, words, writings, music, and pictures. I still talk to dead people on a daily basis, and count them amongst my closest allies. But whether our work amounts to anything worth anyone else knowing, that is indeed an enduring mystery.


Photography, Cinema and the Drama of Representation

by Les Walkling on February 1, 2016


Andrey Walkling, Fictional Encounters 2015, Pigment Print 280cm x 152cm

As both cinema and photography fragment and disperse across visual culture through the proliferation of small screens, social media and connectivity, photography is both socially eclipsed and socially rooted at the same time. The digital archive has also made available the histories of photography and cinema like never before.

Fine art photography has consequently undergone a shift from predominately documentary photography to constructed photography. That is, no longer is contemporary fine art photography documenting ‘reality’ as much as it is now actively engaged in the construction of fictions or alternate realities. This is a shift from the ‘decisive moment’ to the constructed moment; from the ’representation of drama’ to the ‘drama of representation’.

The research involved working with the conventions of cinema, specifically scale, aspect ratio, projection technologies, exhibition spaces, lighting styles and colour palettes, and how they could be appropriated and adapted for still narrative photography. Studio based experiments investigated the appropriation and application of cinematic tropes such as psychological spaces, constructed realities, fictional encounters, aspect and scale, temporal shifts and screen motion in narrative photography. The ‘art gallery’ was also a significant research site incorporating the display, testing and evaluation of works-in-progress.

The project’s development and outcomes, and artistic, historical, and philosophical contexts were also thoroughly documented through writings, recordings and installation photographs. The methodology encompassed the making, performing, analysing, reviewing, reflecting, questioning and critiquing of the construction, installation and exhibition of new narrative based photographic works in the photo-cinema genre.

As a result, the images no longer document my friends and their circumstances, but instead are dramatic fictions made for the camera combining elements of both cinema and photography to highlight the ‘drama of representation’ in the stories of our lives.

The work was publicly exhibited in the first week of February 2016 at the RMIT University School of Art Gallery, Melbourne, in fulfilment of the RMIT Master of Art by Research program.

Andrey Walkling




Battle of the Centaurs

September 4, 2015

The Battle of the Centaurs, Silver Gelatin Print, 198mm x 248mm, 1981 Wonderful surprises are not always when you need them, but recently while working at the National Gallery of Victoria I was asked had I seen my work in The Horse exhibition (14 August – 08 November 2015). I knew the show was on [...]

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April 1, 2015

Les Walkling, NORTH  2014, Pigment Inkjet Print 1512 x 1499mm As a collective, we share a fascination with these far-away places, though not in the way that scientists are fascinated by things collected and identified, but rather, we are fascinated by the things we can’t see; our speculation and interaction, our wanderings and pondering. And [...]

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2016 Shark Bay – Inscription

December 23, 2013

Les Walkling, Downcast Eyes 2013, Pigment Print, 1498mm x 1512mm 2016 Shark Bay – Inscription is the latest body of work by Ninety Degrees Five (ND5), a unique collaboration between four photographers, Les Walkling, Tony Hewitt, Christian Fletcher, Peter Eastway and filmmaker Michael Fletcher. Prior to this, ND5 worked on The Pilbara Project and South West [...]

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In This Life – Virgil Donati

July 11, 2013

My dear friend Virgil Donati is about to release his new album, ‘In This Life’. It has been more than a year in the making and I contributed the album’s liner and track notes: IN THIS LIFE: In analyzing the relationship between music and narrative it is often supposed that meaning resembles a ghoul or [...]

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Shark Bay 2016

July 5, 2013

2016 – T Landt van d’Eendracht from Michael Fletcher on Vimeo. Shark Bay is a world heritage listed area, but the incredible biodiversity behind its world heritage status is not immediately visible, and therefore not immediately known nor understood by ‘outsiders’, at least not when viewed from the ground. Although our first trip to Shark [...]

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Q&A Evening with Dr Les Walkling

April 26, 2013

  Digital imaging should be simple and straightforward, but unfortunately this is rarely the case. Often the many resources on digital imaging can be confusing and a frustrating waste of time. This evening is an opportunity to have Dr Les Walkling answer your digital imaging questions. Les will begin the evening by discussing the three [...]

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South West Light – Sydney Presentation

March 14, 2013

ND5 – A photographers Perspective – ‘Come on…..really! are you serious?’ from Michael Fletcher on Vimeo.   Ninety Degrees Five (ND5) is a unique artistic collaboration between photographers Les Walkling, Christian Fletcher, Peter Eastway, Tony Hewitt, and film maker Michael Fletcher. On Sunday 7th April all the members of ND5 will be presenting together for [...]

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South West Light – Melbourne Presentation

January 31, 2013

Stillness and Silence 2012,  Pigment Print,  1518mm x 1518mm Ninety Degrees Five (ND5) is a unique artistic collaboration between photographers Les Walkling, Christian Fletcher, Peter Eastway, Tony Hewitt, and film maker Michael Fletcher. On Sunday 17th February all the members of ND5 will be presenting together for the very first time on the East Coast [...]

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