Hedda Photography Group - Andrea Bryant, Andrée Lawrey, Brenda Runnegar, Eva van Gorsel, Helen McFadden, Judy Parker, Julie Garran, Lyndall Gerlach, Margaret Stapper, Marion Milliken, Pam Rooney, Susan Henderson and Ulli Brunnschweiler: A Feminine Perspective. M16 Artspace Until September 25. m16artspace.com.au.
This is the first exhibition from the Hedda Photography Group - named for the wonderful photographer Hedda Morrison who lived the last part of her life (1967-1991) in Canberra.
Its convenor started the group "because some photography clubs tend to be male oriented". She feels that, stereotypically, men are more interested in equipment whilst women are more interested in what images mean, and how they relate. Most of the exhibitors know me, as photographer and reviewer. I'd be surprised if they consider me to be any less interested in the actual images than they are. I have known some men keenly interested in cameras and lenses, I also know women who fit that bill.
One of the women exhibitors revealed that the group's members had shared a long and vibrant discussion about feminist perspectives and that many different views were expressed. Are photographers' life experiences the main determinant of their interests? Are they gender related? Do they reflect our cultural backgrounds? Or our economic circumstances or where we have lived?
The exhibition concept was for participants to express what they wanted, however they wished, with no constraints as to subject matters or themes. The gallery website says, "as women they are interested in subjects that may tend to be relegated from mainstream art practice, perhaps because of their perceived lack of relevance to the male gaze".
So, against that background, I went to the exhibition wondering what I might see and how, as a mere male, I would react. I saw portraits (of women and store mannequins), architectural details, abstracts, nature (including details), family history (one even including an image of a man), wonderful contemporary creations, and many beautiful artworks. There are references to crafts that, traditionally, women have been more likely to explore than men. There is some exploration of families, but not specifically of women's family roles. And haven't we all seen the increased numbers of men assuming such roles? I saw nothing that exclaimed, to me, "only a woman would have seen or created this".
However, none of this means I didn't very much enjoy the show. There are many excellent works on display. So let me now select some for specific mention. Susan Henderson has four delightful works, showing old family photos together with other items of family significance. Each of them works very well. A collage work titled Memories: Cousins Tilly and Sunday, 2022 incorporates scans of brightly coloured vintage Suffolk puffs - from the patchwork and quilting world.
Brenda Runnegar's three works showing Amber and friends at various locations are intriguing, visual allegories - the hidden meanings of which might have moral significance. Or might not? Andrea Bryant's three portrait images use the word enigma in their titles. Enigma 3, with its eyes peering through bubble wrap is the most mysterious one.
Judy Parker's delicately coloured compilations of dead and decomposing leaves and other organic material are fine examples of this genre that she does so well. Julie Garran is showing a strong sample of her store mannequin and doll images, the latter incorporating some images of a daughter. Marion Milliken is displaying a fine essay of architectural building pieces. Lyndall Gerlach has four exquisite examples of her lilies. And Ulli Brunnschweiler's Groundworks series are wonderful abstracts. I could mention every individual exhibitor, but space does not permit. Suffice to say that all of them are showing strong works.
I encourage you to visit and enjoy each artwork, including six photobooks. Consider what contemporary photography and photo art is all about, and how both women and men photographers see their worlds.
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