By Belinda Hungerford
When I first began digging into the ACP archive in earnest, I was keen to locate the box containing the earliest documents relating to ACP and its formation. According to the inventory, Box 45 ‘General Admin 1973-74’ was the one. Finding this at first was a little tricky because of the multiple numbering systems used over time. However, once located it proved to hold a wealth of fascinating and enlightening information.
Amongst the multitude of documents there was a call out for the first exhibition to be held at ACP, entitled ‘Why This Moment.’ This was very intriguing, since as many of you will know, the inaugural exhibition at ACP was ‘Aspects of Australian Photography.’ So what was and what happened to ‘Why This Moment’?
The call out was published in 1973, when ACP was still known as The Australian Foundation for Photography. The Advisory Panel was starting to plan the first exhibition and invited interested photographers to participate. The exhibition was essentially to be a vehicle to demonstrate the scope of ACP and so would contain many types of photography with diverse subject matter. Yet it would not just be a display of different photographs but “endeavour to explain why the photographer made the selected picture and how that picture related to those that came before and after on the roll.”
The response to the call out was popular with many photographers submitting images however the exhibition was eventually abandoned because “the idea didn’t really work into areas definitive of the time element in photography.” (letter by Graham Howe, 6 August 1974). Instead the inaugural Director, Graham Howe, reworked the initial concept into a publication, ‘New Photography Australia.’ It does appear that this new permutation was also going to be an exhibition but due to a delay in opening the ACP gallery, it was decided to proceed with ‘New Photography Australia’ in book form only.
This first publication, ‘New Photography Australia: A selective survey’ was published late 1974 and sold for $5.00 a copy. It aimed to outline current trends in Australian photography and contained a (mostly) single image by 49 photographers accompanied by text of varying lengths. Some included biographical details and a statement about their work, others a single line. In the introduction, Graham Howe highlighted three branches of photographic tradition that emerged in the publication:
The documentary spirit characterised by technical dexterity, visual and intellectual clarity visible in the work of Philip Quirk and Roger Scott. The straight photograph, after the tradition of Edward Weston and Alfred Stieglitz, concerned with the physical pleasure of seeing. Grant Mudford and Geoff Parr share this approach while Ken Middleton and John Brash maintain a continuance of synthetic photography, where the manipulated image is a statement of synthesis and analysis.
The photographers included were: Robert Ashton, Colin Beard, John Brash, Anthony Browell, John Cato, Jon Conte, Paul Cox, Stephen Crowfoot, Michael Cullin, Meredith Davis, Christina de Water, Ian Dodd, Edward Douglas, Ron Eden, Rennie Ellis, Barrie Flakelar, Gillian Flounders, Sue Ford, Duncan Frost, Richard Harris, Douglas Holleley, Carol Jerrems, Johann Kris, Melanie Le Guay, Peter Leiss, Jean-Marc Le Pechoux, Tony Maskill, Grant Matthews, Graham McCarter, Robert McFarlane, Ken Middleton, David Moore, William Moseley, Grant Mudford, Dieter Muller, John O’Neil, Geoff Parr, Philip Quirk, Bob Rhodes, Elizabeth Roddick, Roger Scott, Syd Shelton, Wesley Stacey, Warren Townsend, John Walsh, Gregory Weight, John Williams, Richard Woldendorp and John Wong.
At the Printing Industries Craftsmen Association Superb Printing Awards in 1975, 'New Photography Australia' was awarded first prize in the ‘Black and White duotone’ category.
Image 1: ACP archive box © ACP
Image 2: Call out for ‘Why This Moment’ exhibition © ACP
Image 3: Cover of ‘New Photography Australia’ © ACP
Images 4-9: Book spreads from ‘New Photography Australia’ © ACP