By Lola Pinder
Anne Ferran is one of Australia's most acclaimed contemporary photographic artists. Her body of work spans from the 1980s and has focused on femininity and representation, as well as more recently Australian female history.
Throughout her career Ferran has had a long relationship with the ACP, from tutoring to exhibiting. After finishing an undergraduate in Visual Arts at Sydney College of the Arts, Ferran tutored in photographic workshops at the ACP and made great use of the darkroom, She says ‘[ACP director] Alasdair Foster let me work [in the darkroom] for free, which was great as I was hard up at the time’. Ferran was a board member of the ACP in the 80s and part of the Photofile editorial committee when Geoffrey Batchen was at the helm. Her first exhibition at the ACP I Am the Rehearsal Master was shown in 1989 and most recently, her 30-year retrospective, Shadow Land, closed in January this year.
Ferran’s work investigates the materiality of photography; from photograms to allusions of daguerreotypes, her work is borne through a celebration of the photographic medium. Her Lost to Worlds series, of which selected works were recently shown within Shadow Land at the ACP, was shot on a Hasselblad, the 6x6cm negatives then scanned and printed onto aluminium. Previously the work had been printed on paper, yet it is the transfer to metal that gives the works a physical presence. This also harks back to 19th century photographic processes. Light leaks from the camera evident in the images highlight the materiality of these works. The over-exposed areas of the images reveal the naked aluminium underneath, this becomes highly reflective under gallery lights. The metal surface and the tilted gaze of the camera lens in these works create an experiential connection for the viewer, perhaps of shame and certainly of melancholia towards the history of the landscape.
As seen in her retrospective exhibition, Ferran’s work is often made up of project or series-based works that investigate formal and conceptual aspects of an idea, with careful thought to the diverse nature of presentation in each. I asked Ferran if she thought, in the digital age, in which the singular image has dominated through the use of camera phones and social media platforms, whether there was still a case for the photographic series. Ferran is eloquent and optimistic in her response; she observes that the interest in individual works has freed photography from a tradition on the photographic series. She states ‘personally I like those photographic "series" where the works are visually different yet clustered around the same nucleus of ideas’. She explains ‘they seem to take less for granted, and they demand more of their audience, which to me is a good thing’.
Recently Ferran has been working with performers, for her portraits of figures improvising with lengths of industrial style, coloured felt. One such series, Box of Birds examines history and memory, as well as representations and implications of concealment through the movements of the figures with the material. Ferran explains that she is interested in continuing to work with performers in her photography. She is excited to meet new performers and find new locations as she travels through France and Finland this year. 2015 also see Ferran showing in Bookmarked at Stills Gallery in March and The Photograph and Australia at the Art Gallery of NSW until June.
Ferran is represented by Stills Gallery in Paddington, Sydney and Sutton Gallery, Melborune, and is part of major national collections including Artbank, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of South Australia, Monash Gallery of Art, National Gallery of Australia and the National Gallery of Victoria.
This post is part of the Art Month Event Creative Paddington taking place on March 7th in conjunction with Metro Screen and UNSW Art & Design.
Images: Installation and preparation of Shadow Land, 2014. Courtesy and © Michael Waite