The Walls of the World

by Les Walkling on December 29, 2019

The Walls of the World 1992Les Walkling, The walls of the world, 1100mm x 1100mm, Inkjet Pigment Print

For some things words have little purpose. And when words fail us and our faith falters images become the last refuge of a troubled mind. Yet the implied pictorial logic also too often escapes us as distractions overwhelm us, and greed and selfishness numbs us. But listening carefully, pictures can tell us a lot.

For one thing, they distill time and space into a singularity, forever patient and willing to cooperate. But without a purpose, or at least sentience of their own, we have to take on the responsibility for times past, present and future. An image is finally resolved when its sense of chaos and comprehension no longer bothers us. Though not through sheer exhaustion, but due to a willingness on our part to allow it something of its own; to be what it is without us having to tell it.

But such encounters take time to understand, and we can often lose our way along the way. For there is no time limit on eternity, and too many casual relationships we can’t imagine. And as photography continues to gather and disseminate itself in ever more interesting and fractured ways, the monumental calmness of a still picture, even one depicting agitated minds or sullen and tragic moments, pervades itself without hesitation. It is just there, and without remorse, as we walk around it. It is persistent and stubborn to the point that we can’t afford to ignore it.

But the lessons, though many and splendid are hard won. For there is nothing sadder than a relationship lost to itself, buried at best in forgotten moments and wayward gestures, and at worst in acts of atrocity and lawless condemnation. But from compelling pictures and their contemplation, we can take time out to consider and reconsider what they will permit, or refute, or refuse to become. Like ancient trees passing time, some pictures appear to posess our world and everything in it. But their willingness, patience, and the empathy required to momentarily forget who we are, and become kinder, quieter, and capable of reconciliation, repatriation and justice, is still in short supply despite no shortage of pictures.

So perhaps it is not the pictures themselves, but our unwillingness to believe and invest in them that we so desperately need.

I acknowledge the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the Traditional custodians of the lands and waterways in the area where I was born, live and work, and pay respect to their Elders past, present, and emerging, as well as to all First Nations’ people present, past and future. Ngoon Godjin.



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

December 29, 2017

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 [...]

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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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