Dr. Les Walkling (b. 1953)

Les_Pilbara_SLes Walkling by Christian Fletcher, Pilbara, WA, 2010

Before turning to fine art photography in 1975 I had been studying science and philosophy at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. Largely self taught as a photographer, I had the privilege in 1981 and 1982 of living in the USA supported by Australia Council Arts grants, studying and working with the artists Emmet Gowin and Frederick Sommer, who were my most defining and critical intellectual influences at that time.

I have exhibited widely, including the retrospective one-person show ‘So to Live as to Dream’ at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1990. My work is also represented in many public collections including The Center for Creative Photography, Arizona, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, The Art Gallery of NSW, and The National Gallery of Victoria.

I presented my first photography workshop in 1977 and have conducted regular digital photography courses since 1993 through the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), and training seminars and professional development programs for the Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP), the Australian Commercial and Media Photographers (ACMP), and many of our cultural institutions including the National Gallery of Victoria, the National Gallery of Australia, the National Library of Australia, the National Archives of Australia, and the Australian War Memorial.

My first university appointment was in 1983 as a lecturer in drawing, and subsequently in fine art photography and media arts history and theory. I am the former Program Director of Media Arts at RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia (1993 – 2005), and a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Art (2006-2010) where I supervised over fifty MA and PhD research candidates to successful and timely completions. My final Australian Research Council Discovery Project (ARC) grant was the collaborative Genealogies of Digital Light with Dr Sean Cubitt (Melbourne University, now Goldsmiths, University of London) and Dr Daniel Palmer (Monash University). It was the first interdisciplinary account of practice in light technologies and provided a critical evaluation of the techniques and technologies used in depicting, recording and projecting light including the capacities and limitations of contemporary digital light-based media. The outcomes included print and online publications, an international  conference and collaboration between three Universities.

In 2011 I took early retirement from RMIT University in order to remove all administrative constraints from my research and practice, though I still continue in my role as an external PhD examiner, and as an external auditor and examiner of accredited Higher Education programs.

My current fine art research investigates the formation of identity, environmentality, anti-colonialism, preoccupations of beauty, and genealogies of digital light theory and practice. My post doctoral research has included the independent management of luminance and chromaticity in colour managed digital capture, editing and fine art printing workflows. My consulting services include the design, evaluation and implementation of digitisation, preservation, archiving and colour managed workflows, production standards, staff training and quantitative and qualitative digital systems analysis.

My clients are professional artists, photographers, designers, publishers, writers, printers, photo laboratories, service bureaus, and state and federal government institutions such as the National Gallery of Victoria, National Gallery of Australia, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, National Museum of Australia, National Library of Australia, Australian War Memorial, Australian Museum, Western Australian Museum, Melbourne Museum, South Australian Museum, Queensland Museum, National Archives of Australia, CSIRO Atlas of Living Australia, Department of Defence, Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Victoria Police Forensic Services Centre, and Australian Universities, Art Schools, TAFE and Independent Tertiary and Secondary Colleges.

From 2010 to 2012 I was also appointed as the digital imaging consultant on the Atlas of Living Australia. The project was an initiative to improve access to essential information on Australia’s biodiversity, and was a partnership between the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), the Australian natural history collections community and the Australian Government.

Professionally I split my time each year between ten related and overlapping activities;  researching, writing, creating, thinking, exhibiting, consulting, traveling, mentoring, lecturing and teaching. Some of this work is seasonal, in the sense that in the five months from November to March I spend much of my time researching and writing, while most of my teaching, consulting and exhibiting takes place in the seven months from March to October.

Since 2000 much of my creative output has purposefully focused on collaborative projects, including four bodies of work with Peter Kennedy, ten bodies of work with Polexini Papapetrou since 2005, and assisting Bill Henson since 2008 with his transition from analogue to digital editing and printing. In 2010 The Pilbara Project under the auspices of FORM (Western Australia) included the year long collaboration with fellow photographers Christian FletcherTony Hewitt and Peter Eastway, film maker Michael Fletcher and the curator William Fox (Director, Center for Art + Environment, Nevada Museum of Art).

This initial coming together on The Pilbara Project has continued as the artistic collective known as Ninety Degrees Five (ND5) producing five bodies of work; South West Light (2011-12), Shark Bay – Inscription (2013), East (2013-), and North (2014-), and South East Light (2015-) and resulting in sixteen exhibitions on three continents since 2011. Each exhibition is supported by public performances and events, including broadcast media, workshops, master classes, and artist talks. The most recent exhibition being the co-curation with Stephen Zagala (Senior Curator at MGA) of the exhibition Earth Matters: Contemporary Photographers in the Landscape which ran from 6 March to 3 May 2015 as part of Climarte’s ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE 2015 Festival across Melbourne.

Since 2011 my son Andrey has worked beside me as an exhibiting artist, researcher, fellow consultant, and teacher in our educational programs, and in 2013 we incorporated all of our combined activities into the entity Les Walkling & Co Pty Ltd to not only formalise our business structure but to also significantly extend the range of services and products we offer.

In 2012 I was appointed to the Committee of Management of the Monash Gallery of Art (The Australian Home of Photography) where I am also a member of the Art Acquisitions Sub-Committee contributing to the development of the collection and MGA’s acquisition policies and procedures. In 2012 I was awarded the title ‘Fellow of the Australian Institute of Professional Photography’ (FAIPP), the Institute’s highest honour, in recognition of my contribution to the worlds of professional photography, and in 2015 I was also appointed to the Banyule Arts and Cultural Advisory Committee supporting the strategic direction, policy and planning of arts and cultural development in the City of Banyule, which is also my local community.