(Australia 1941 – Jul 1999)
20.0 x 47.4 cm image; 22.0 x 48.8 cm sheet
While having undertaken commercial photographic training and freelance work early in his career, Harris’s interest in pursuing a personalised account of his world led him to largely abandon his use of sophisticated photographic equipment in favour of a pinhole camera. The unhurried simplicity coupled with the peculiar effects of this approach appealed to Harris whose growing interest lay in revealing the instinctual and subjective aspects of photography, preferring ‘to rely on my mind instead of relying on optics’.1 In an interview Harris explained this further:
Photography is very mechanical: you use a machine, chemicals, technical devices. The human things should be in the taking of the photograph. Reality must be different for all of us. There is a conformist reality, but we all have our own personality. If you can convey the way you feel about what you’re photographing, that’s right.2
In ‘Untitled’ Harris offers a partial glimpse of a suburban house and its sheltered backyard, a scene somewhat familiar and mundane. The pinhole camera enhances this familiarity while transforming the details of the everyday. The two shadowy ends that enclose the image provide the viewer with a sense of proximity to both the scene and the pinhole camera which recorded it. It is this impressionistic and individual perspective that Harris shares with the viewer, not the visual facts of technical documentation.
1. 1976, ‘Camera & Cine’, Jul p 42
2. 1977, ‘Vogue’, Apr np
© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007
Judy Annear, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'Magical realism', pg.226-245, Sydney, 2007, 245 (illus.).
Magical realism, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 18 Feb 2006–02 Apr 2006