26 August 2012

Living in the Seventies

I visited the National Gallery to view a retrospective of Carol Jerrems yesterday. CJ was a photographer who documented life in the 70s: Hair (the tribal love rock musical); Skyhooks; share houses; women in an age of post-pill feminism. I expected to feel at home and to learn something new, or at least to recognise something, this being my formative era. But I didn’t. Nothing much cut through for me. Mark and Flappers were more AC/DC than Skyhooks (maybe it's poor judgement, but I walked out on AC/DC when they were supporting Lou Reed). I found most of the exhibition distant and confronting and borderline angry. I enjoyed some aboriginal pics, where people had real reason to be angry but were welcoming. I enjoyed a pic of Kath Walker with fine dark skin against corrugated iron that reminded me of a classic Miles Davis photo. But many of the pics weren't so technically satisfying. I quite liked a little girl with matching dress and wallpaper but it was too obviously a take on Diane Arbus' identical twins. I liked a few playfully sexy pics of Jenny Bonette and some dogs. My favourite was Flying dog. It was obviously a hard pic to capture and it had joy and was unexpected and nicely juxtaposed like a Cartier-Bresson moment. Maybe it’s just photography that disappoints. I like it well enough and I enjoy playing with it but these days I find it a minor art. I used to treat it with some seriousness: Nikon FM, B&W even Tech Pan 2415, darkroom, zone theory, rule of thirds and the rest. That was then. So CJ didn’t tell me a story of my era that I recognised. For that, give me Helen Garner or David Malouf.

The pics are all over the net, but given copyright, you'll just have to follow these links:
  • Flying dog / Carol Jerrems
  • Kath Walker, Moongalba / Carol Jerrems
  • Vale Street / Carol Jerrems (her most famous)
  • Lots more...
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