‘I have always been interested in how actions taken in the past could affect and echo in people’s lives in the present. Most of my work is to do with thinking about human existence from this perspective.’ Sue Ford 1995 1
Sue Ford’s work marks the beginnings of feminist photographic art practice in Australia. Her interest in photography developed from an early age, documenting the everyday using her family’s Box Brownie and moving for a short period to commercial photographic practice in the mid 1960s. Her earliest ‘studio portraits’ were of her friends, dressed and made-up in the latest fashions, often posing in self-conscious mimicry of the codes of glamour photography. She continued to portray her friends, their houses and their children, at leisure and at work, over the next 20 years.
The ‘Time series’, beginning in 1964, grew out of longstanding friendships and relationships with people. The resulting portraits are presented as diptychs or triptychs, each separated by a decade. Ford allows the camera to record the passage of time without intervention at a technical level. The photographs are taken without props or special lighting, and the subjects face the camera directly, without overt displays of expression or emotion. This lack of interest in technical finesse was in part a reaction against the emphasis on technical prowess and mastery of both camera and subject which dominated the 1960s. Ford’s approach presents an early feminist response to both the masculine emphasis on technique and to photography’s capacity for objectification. She consciously works in a collaborative mode with her subjects and structures her images in such a way that it is the temporal dynamic between the photographs – the tension between what is presented, which is spare and economical, and what was lived ‘between time’ – which constitutes the significance of the work.
1. Ennis H 1995, ‘Sue Ford: a survey 1960–1995’, Monash University Gallery, Melbourne p 17
© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007
3 gelatin silver photographs
edition of 6
left - Fabian 1966; 11 x 7.6 cm; image
left - Fabian 1966; 11.8 x 8.4 cm; sheet
centre - Fabian 1974; 11.3 x 8.2 cm; image
centre - Fabian 1974; 12 x 9 cm; sheet
right - Fabian 1980; 11.1 x 8 cm; image
right - Fabian 1980; 11.9 x 8.8 cm; sheet
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Not on display
© Sue Ford Archive
Shown in 4 exhibitions
What is this thing called photography?, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 05 Jun 1999–29 Jul 1999
Mirror with a Memory: The Photographic Portrait in Australia, National Portrait Gallery [Old Parliament House], Canberra, 03 Mar 2000–11 Jun 2000
What's in a face? aspects of portrait photography, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 24 Sep 2011–05 Feb 2012
Sue Ford, Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 17 Apr 2014–24 Aug 2014
Referenced in 5 publications
Judy Annear, What is this thing called photography?, Sydney, 1999. no catalogue numbers
Bronwyn Clark-Coolee, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'Time - memory - people', pg.246-265, Sydney, 2007, 248, 257 (illus.).
Helen Ennis and Geoffrey Batchen, Mirror with a memory: Photographic portraiture in Australia, Parkes, 2000. no catalogue numbers
Maggie Finch, Sue Ford, Melbourne, 2014, 87 (illus.).
Ewen McDonald and Judy Annear (Editors), What is this thing called photography? Australian photography 1975-1985, Annandale, 2000, 64 (illus.).