Play of light and shadow
Ace photographer Trent Parke on “creating a fiction from the real”.
A different face Trent Parke’s photos are of the hidden and less known areas of Australia.
Trent Parke’s photos shouldn’t be called black and white. But black and light instead. Mounted at New Delhi’s AIFACS Gallery, this Australian photographer renders this world unworldly. Through a surreal use of light, he makes shadow
s and phantasms of people and places. Some of his photos resemble stills from Alfred Hitchcock. They share Hitchcock’s sense of mystery in the real. They are beautiful for they hint at a hidden immensity.
But “Minutes to Midnight” is more than art. Instead, it’s a chronicle of Parke’s 90,000 kilometres road trip through Australia. Born in 1971 and having started photography at 12 years, he is the only Australian photographer to be represented by Magnum. He has repeatedly won World Press Photo Awards. He already has three books and his works have travelled globally. He takes time to answer some questions.
How much is “Minutes to Midnight” a process of self-discovery as it is a chronicle of Australia?
It would be an even split. I always try and put myself and my feelings into my photography. I like people to use their imagination, as a lot of the imagery is used as symbols. I try to capture an emotion of the time by building up a series of images.
Why did you decide to undertake the epic journey through Australia in 2003?
At that time, Australia was in the middle of the worst drought, which also led to some of the worst firestorms. The outback towns and country were (and still are) really suffering. The world had witnessed events like the Bali bombings (where hundreds of Australians lost their lives) and September Eleven. Suddenly, Australia actually felt threatened. A weekend newspaper said that 60 per cent of Australians thought the country had come to the end of an era and lost its so called innocence. It seemed to me the right time to do a big trip around Australia with this perceived change of feeling in mind.
I decided I wanted to try and build up a psychological portrait of a country. It’s not about physically what it looks like but what it emotionally feels like.
Your journey must have provided epiphanies?
I travelled with my partner for two years living out of a two-men tent, and mainly concentrated on the outback areas as this to me is the most unique and interesting aspect of Australia. Most Australians live on the coast, and have never even been into the country areas and have no idea what it is like to live there. It wasn’t a particular moment, however not seeing a single cloud for three months is something that will always stay with me. A very strange feeling but an important one if you have ever experienced the Australian outback and the plight of the people who try and survive out there. For three months it felt like we had slid from the face of the earth and ended up in some future world.
Is your exhibition an attempt to de-glamourise Australia?
I have never even thought about the rest of the world or what their reaction would be to the images. This is my personal journey around my country. I take pictures for myself to explore the world around me and for no one else. Australia, however, is very important to me. I am not interested in photographing in other countries. If I don’t have an emotional connection I don’t have anything to say.
What are the projects you are working on right now?
All my projects last for many years. My next major show is a look at family life and revolves around the Christmas period. It is a black comedy that I have been working on for the past three years. I’m also looking at the changing urban landscap
(The exhibition runs till July 27 at AIFACS Gallery. Timings:1 to 7 p.m.)
Send this article to Friends by
Chennai and Tamil Nadu