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	Image: Yanagi Miwa Windswept women 2 2009, Laserchrome photographGift of Geoff and Vicki Ainsworth 2009 © Yanagi Miwa

Photography symposium

Subject and object in 21st century photography

What do subject and object mean (or what can they mean) in photography in the 21st century?

Photography is a constantly mutating medium, reacting to (and sometime precipitating) changes in art, society, politics and technology. In the 21st century, photographic practice has come into increasingly close contact with other art forms and, through the virtual environment, an increasingly diverse audience.

However, few new theoretical frameworks for considering contemporary photography have arisen to push photographic theory beyond the seminal work of writers such as Barthes, Benjamin, Sontag and Krauss. This symposium, the first of a new annual series of symposia dedicated to photography, explores new ways of thinking about the medium in the 21st century. Have new frameworks for considering contemporary photography arisen? If so, what are they?

The exhibition Photography & place examines recent Australian landscape photography and its relationship to ideas of place and culture. A particular concern of the exhibition is to identify the role of the photographer as a mediator and storyteller. The exhibition includes work from eighteen artists such as Bill Henson, Jon Rhodes, Lynn Silverman, Simryn Gill, Ricky Maynard, David Stephenson, Rosemary Laing and Paul Ogier.


Symposium registration and exhibition viewing

Session 1

Welcome and introduction to new photography program
Judy Annear, senior curator hotographs, Art Gallery of NSW

Cardinal points: the significance of visual vectors in Australian landscape photography
Dr Martyn Jolly, Australian National University
For Australia’s landscape photographers of the 1970s and 80s, the shooting angle of the camera – whether aiming up, down or towards the horizon, whether shooting wide-angle or telephoto – gained an unprecedented personal and political significance. These photographic strategies challenged the traditions of the picturesque, the pastoral and the aerial and reflected new ways of thinking about the Australian landscape itself. But what visual 'vectors’ are dominant today?

Towards a photographic sublime: subject as metaphor
A/Prof David Stephenson, University of Tasmania
Photography’s subject has traditionally been seen as an objective representation of the physical world. While digital manipulation has made the photograph less reliable as evidence, there is still a deeply held belief in the concept of ‘photographic truth’. Drawing on a range of personal projects over three decades, this paper will look at various challenges to this tradition and trace an idea of photographic subject founded on notions of metaphor.

12.30pm Lunch

Session 2

Towards an emotional theory of photography
Dr Kyla McFarlane, Centre for Contemporary Photography
Through its ties to humanism and the document, photography has had an historical relationship with emotional response. When art photography abandons the notion of photography’s direct correspondence to the real, how might it convey sorrow, humiliation, pity or grief? Equally, can austerity be a powerful force in the historical record?

Is Australian photography global?
Dr Daniel Palmer, Monash University
If part of photography’s global popularity is due to the ease with which a photograph can fit into different contexts, the digital era makes this even more obvious, as the printed page gives way to the computer screen. This globalisation of photography has major implications for how we understand the representation of place and the circumstances of a photograph’s creation. Our task is to discern and describe this changed world of photography, and what it means for photographic art.

Panel discussion
David Stephenson, Kyla McFarlane, Martyn Jolly, Daniel Palmer, Judy Annear
Chair: Dr Andrew Yip, Public Programs, Art Gallery of NSW

Symposium close and drinks


Listen to podcasts of the papers

Also available through iTunesU

Image: Yanagi Miwa Windswept women 2 2009, Laserchrome photograph
Gift of Geoff and Vicki Ainsworth 2009 © Yanagi Miwa

Saturday 9 April 2011, 11am–4pm

Non-members $65
Members $55
Students $30
(includes lunch and afternoon drinks)

Bookings and enquiries: 02 9225 1878


Become a member

Duration 5 hours
Location: Domain Theatre

Related exhibition: Photography & place