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An image of Old age by Micky Allan

Micky Allan

(Australia 1944 – )

Old age, from the series Old age
Media category
Materials used
gelatin silver photograph, hand coloured with watercolour and pencil

18.3 x 12.3 cm image (irreg.); 25.4 x 20.4 cm sheet

Signature & date
Signed and dated l.r., pencil "M. Allan 1978".
Gift of Patrick White 1978
Accession number
© Micky Allan
Not on display
Further information

With a body of work ranging across painting, photography and performance, investigations of subjectivity have been central to Micky Allan’s practice. Allan has consistently drawn on feminist strategies which emphasise the personal and autobiographical. In the early 1970s she became involved with the experimental performance and collective activities based at The Pram Factory in Melbourne, working there as both a set designer and a photographer, documenting early feminist work. Of this time Allan has said that she saw ‘photography as a form of social encounter … that in comparison with painting it [was] much more integrated to what was going on’.1

Allan has acknowledged social documentary as the basis of her photographic work. For a short period she recorded political figures and the surrounding social changes in which she was both a participant and an observer. ‘Old age’, the second of three series whose focus is lifecycles (the other two being ‘Babies’ 1976 and ‘The prime of life’ 1979–80), comprises 40 hand-coloured individual portraits. Allan introduced the technique of hand-colouring in her work in 1976, a technique taken up by many women photographers at that time to counter the then dominant modes of masculine production. While there is stylistic variation across the series, each portrait, close-up in viewpoint, is meticulously rendered in pastel colours. The images do not capture a simple moment but rather work together to poignantly symbolise a rich regard for age. Of this Allan has said: ‘Altogether they are an attempt to familiarise and personalise “age”, in a society which tends to ignore or stereotype the old.’2

1. ‘On paper – survey 12’, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 21 Jun – 20 Jul 1980, as quoted in 1987, ‘Micky Allan: perspective 1975–1987’, Monash University Gallery, Clayton p 4
2. ibid p 19

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007

Exhibition history (4)

Micky Allan: Handcoloured photographs, drawings, poetry., Watters Gallery, East Sydney, 19 Jul 1978–05 Aug 1978

Old Age (Project Show), Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Jul 1982–Jul 1982

Celebrity Choice - Sam Neill, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 08 Jan 1987–08 Feb 1987

Contemporary Colour Photographs from the Collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 06 Jul 1991–22 Sep 1991