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

by Les Walkling on 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 and had been looking forward to visiting it later that day, But what I didn’t know was that I had a work in it. To my surprise a little 8×10 contact print, The Battle of the Centaurs, that I had almost forgotten was in the NGV collection, was hanging in the middle of the exhibition’s mythological section. I hadn’t seen this work for nearly thirty years, and it gave me pause to reflect on all that time, and all the work made since, but most especially on my surprise that I had forgotten. When works leave our possession they take a little piece of us with them, or if you like, when we leave places where we once lived and worked, a little piece of us remains behind, and we often have to return to those places to reclaim that part of ourselves. Such was my relationship with this new found image of mine. Before long I noticed the wall plaque listed ‘Les Walkling 1953 -’ while the authors of the surrounding works had long departed. I don’t know if it was my general tiredness, but the fact that I was not dead, that I was still making pictures. caused me to pause, as if observing a minutes silence. I couldn’t help but wonder at this little print of mine, long lost to me but still a part of me that I had brought into this world. I then recalled overhearing Frederick Sommer, also nearly thirty years ago, on the phone to a curator telling her to ‘write about him as though he were dead’. Finally that request made sense, for I now understood the importance of being ‘a ghost in your own time’.

My image is actually a gorgeous thing; a simple collage of tacky wall paper that I can’t remember finding, though it must have been somewhere in St Kilda during my pop culture years, that became a transformed and transforming little print. I can remember cutting up and assembling the wall paper, and sure enough the print itself reminded me of everything else, but the ‘not remembering it until I saw it’ was a surprising revelation for me. I often speak of borrowing from others, and about spending my youth talking to ‘dead  people’. That is, conversing with past artists who while they didn’t write down their deeds, nevertheless managed to transcribe and project their thoughts, findings, fears and trepidations into pictures, spaces and places. These overflowing conversations that sustained my early life, and still do, have been some of the most perfectly engaging and engrossing conversations I have ever had. But this moment at the NGV was different, because I was now conversing with myself as if dead, but not entirely forgotten. It was a wonderfully sweet mortal moment. Reacquainted and reclaimed. Not lost, just misplaced in a misplaced world.

Though we have no power over the future, and though our hopes may be deluded and the fruits of our labour rejected or forgotten, we should like to believe that the past and the present will always contribute to the future, and be encompassed in it, and that what is past has a life of its own.

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