(Kuwait, Australia 1967 – )
17.0 x 21.0 cm image; 41.0 x 36.4 x 38.0 cm frame
Jane E. Brown is a contemporary Australian photographer based in Melbourne who remains committed to analogue film technology. Her black and white photographs, hand-printed in the darkroom, are charged with an unsettling sense of displacement. The familiar is recast as the foreign.
Like much of Brown’s photography, ‘Captain’s Flat Hotel, New South Wales’ and ‘Eyes of Time, Melbourne University Darkroom’ are delicate studies of absence. There are no people in these interiors, only the residual traces of inhabitants like the towels placed on the table by the hotel stairs and the images tacked onto the pin board in the darkroom. The outlines of recently removed posters are still slightly visible, exposing the touch of a human hand.
Often, Brown chooses to photograph interior spaces that invite movement, not stasis and bear witness an endless cycle of arrivals and departures. The staircase in ‘Captain’s Flat Hotel’ is a connective structure while the photographic darkroom in ‘Eyes of Time’ is a workstation. But with its lights on, the darkroom is useless. Photographing it in this state, Brown denies the space its functionality. The same can be said for the staircase in ‘Captain’s Flat Hotel’. Without a figure, it sits dormant and unused. In these photographs, Brown captures a pause, a moment plucked from the narrative of the everyday.
In Brown’s empty rooms, the subtleties of tone and texture command attention. Without the distraction of a human subject, the matte surface of the prints in the darkroom and the smooth patina on the hotel banister become more noticeable. The exaggerated tactility of these images is enhanced by the absence of colour. Texture, tone and light are afforded a more pronounced vitality. In her own words, Brown reaffirms this point: “I suppose I would describe black and white, or monochrome, photography as a filter. It filters out the colour so you become aware of the light, the shadows, the composition and not the colour.” 1
1. Quoted in; Caterson, Simon, 2011, ‘Paint it Black,’ ‘The Weekend Australian: Review’, The Australian, 6-7 August, pp.8-9, p.9