Is that all there is

by Les Walkling on January 28, 2019


Les Walkling, The Fragility of Goodness, Silver Gelatin Print, 890 x 890mm

“As long as I find someone beautiful – which is, in different degrees, a matter of love – I commit myself to its being worthwhile for that person to be – to whatever extent – part of my life and for me to be, in turn, part of their own life as well. Without that forward-looking element, and all its risks, attraction and love wither and disappear. And so, also, with art. A work we admire, a work we love, a work we find, in a word, beautiful sparks within us the same need to rush to converse with it, the same sense that it has more to offer, the same willingness to submit to it, the same desire to make it part of our life. I don’t want to understate the differences, but I also don’t want to lose sight of the similarities.”  Nehamas, Alexander (2002) A Promise of Happiness: The Place of Beauty in a World of Art.” In The Tanner Lectures on Human Values 23: as quoted in Smith, Michael. 2017. “The ‘What’ and ‘Why’ of Love’s Reasons, p.156, in Love, Reason and Morality.

This is a ‘remember me’ moment; something to hang onto when there is nothing to embrace. Ink on paper miraculously displacing, indeed transcending the fragility of memory; of lives lived and lost. With just a little luck, this humble picture will survive, and carry something of me with you. When those past who we admire were doing what we now revere them for, they weren’t gazing backwards. They were not subsumed by distraction, but asking difficult questions. And though the world can’t provide peace, thanks, or serenity – by the same measure, the world can’t take any away. Only we can lose it through indifference, neglect and incompetence, and most certainly not through asking difficult questions. Despite this some of us, still collapse. For as our institutions decay, as we succumb to distraction and the incomplete, and our vigilance gets hijacked, so do we.  Though in their transience are only fleeting moments, when one’s work is just too demanding and overwhelming to be entirely joyful is also when you realise the real pay-off is not what it promises, but the dedication and humility it ensures.

“There is no need for the western political artist, too often a disaster tourist, to ‘sail the seven seas’ looking for injustices to denounce. Inequality and exploitation saturate the ground on which we stand, they are in the grain of everyday life.”  Burgin, Victor and Van Gelder, Hilde (2010) Art and politics: A reappraisal. A Prior Magazine 20)


Our Education Programs 2018

by Les Walkling on December 29, 2017

Andrey - Orpheus Island Workshop 2013, © Greg Norris

Andrey – Orpheus Island Workshop 2013 – © Greg Norris

This is the fortieth year I have presented specialist photography workshops, and the twenty-fifth year that I have contributed to the education program at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP) in Melbourne. It is also the tenth year I have been team teaching with my son and business partner, Andrey.

Artists, photographers, designers, curators, scientists and others from across Australia, New Zealand and Asia, both professionals and enthusiasts, attend our workshops and courses. Many people have repeated courses over a number of years, not only to update or extend their skills and knowledge, but also to benefit from the friendships, collaborations and networks that naturally develop out of these programs.

So much about photography has changed in this time while so much remains the same. Though the speed and ease of access and acquisition has accelerated, it still takes as long as ever to acquire those critical distinctions and essential skills that arise not from reading a web page or watching a video, but from taking photographs across varying conditions, subjects, and outcomes.

Photographic education has equally changed over this time with the obvious shifts from chemical and mechanical to electronic capture, processing and distribution. More subtle changes have emerged from the herculean task teachers faced having to learn what they were presenting while teaching it. This missing expertise produced some extreme reactions, from enslaving analogue practices in the mistaken belief that essential foundations only arise through traditional means, to a monoculture of unphilosophical and ahistorical pedagogy. In particular the dissolution of photographic history and theory abandons photographic education to the whims of reactive and passing moments, and fosters a belief that education can be self-served.

But education remains a collective experience, and many things we need to understand can’t be googled. You can’t look-up the ‘presence of a mould made paper’, or how a lens ‘draws a face’ from its optical specifications. And you certainly don’t learn to ‘see the light’ by staring at a monitor. Consequently we are encountering more and more people who have learnt photography online but are completely lost – stranded between contradictory opinions and indistinguishable misinformation and acquiescence. Webinars and podcasts though well intentioned are not unifying, and while a video might help me set my printer’s LAN address, only knowing how to release a shutter only guarantees a ‘naive capture’.

Therefore it should be no surprise that we still need as wide a range of sources and resources as ever, including the presence and scrutiny of experienced coaches, where inquiry-based learning turns classrooms into research sites and field work into adventure playgrounds. Historical and theoretical studies, instead of shunned and compromised through broadcasting them, can be individually focused and interpreted. This is the classroom gift of reciprocal conversations enriching translation, adaptation, and understanding. This is learning through experience where understanding is the outcome of critical and supported practice.

So this year we are presenting another broad range of educational opportunities, including our annual eight day Daintree 2018 residential workshop in far Nth. Queensland, sixteen specialist one day Studio Workshops in our Melbourne studio, and at the CCP we are presenting three (six week duration) Short Courses on Monday evenings, eight Weekend Courses, plus a three day January Summer School.

Les Walkling


The Photography of Peter Dombrovskis

December 16, 2017

Preparing/printing Peter Dombrovskis’ images for the National Library of Australia The following extracts are from an interview by Stuart Westmore (SW) first published on 2 December 2017 in OnLandscape Photography Magazine. SW: Did it feel like detective work the way you had to piece together the truth of the image? LW: Perhaps veracity is a [...]

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Considering Photoshop

August 20, 2017

Les Walkling, An unspeakable betrayal 1999, 866mm x 864mm First impressions of Adobe Photoshop can all too often be confusing, confidence sapping, overwhelming complexity, and fear about doing the wrong thing.  However despite Photoshop’s errors, inconsistency, incoherence and at times downright silliness, when employed in specific ways Photoshop can help produce truly stunning images capable [...]

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On Photographic Education

June 21, 2017

Les Walkling, Moonrise Daintree 2017, inkjet pigment print, 800 x 1100 mm Education entertains nearly a third of my professional life. Therefore why I teach, and why I teach in far away places like ‘the Daintree’ are important personal, artistic and pedagogical questions. The answer, in part, is that ‘the Daintree’ doesn’t have Icelandic waterfalls, nor [...]

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On talking to dead people

June 5, 2016

Les 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 [...]

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Photography, Cinema and the Drama of Representation

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 [...]

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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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