Carol Jerrems’s photographs are emblematic of a particular moment in Australian culture, that of a 1970s counterculture optimism. From her first exhibition in 1971, Jerrems’s career spanned just nine years to her early death in 1980. Much of her work between 1972 and 1978 captures friends, intimates, colleagues, all invariably young – often artists, actors and musicians – and the freedoms and anxieties of their less restricted lifestyles. Jerrems’s work emerged from her strong commitment to feminism and broader social change. It also resonates with that of other 1970s photographers such as Larry Clark, who also used his friends as subjects and focused on young contemporary life. Jerrems, however, presents a more positive reading of her milieu: ‘I really like people … I try to reveal something about people, because they are so separate, so isolated; maybe it’s a way of bringing people together, by showing them photographs of each other a sort of communication.’1
Much of Jerrems’s photography is a reaction against the kind of photojournalism that exploits its subjects by taking pictures without permission. Like other Australian feminist photographers of the 1970s, such as Micky Allan and Sue Ford, Jerrems subverted this approach by working in a collaborative mode with her subjects, seeking their consent and sometimes intervening by consciously staging the photograph. ‘Juliet holding ‘Vale Street’’ is an example of such a staging where the subject holds one of Jerrems's earlier photographs, itself an ambiguous reading of female liberation in which the assertive figure of a young woman is set in relief against the menacing and shadowy presence of two lurking boys.
1. 1990, ‘Living in the 1970s: photographs by Carol Jerrems’, University of Tasmania, Hobart
© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007
gelatin silver photograph
30.4 x 20.1 cm image; 37.9 x 30.3 cm sheet
Signature & date
Signed and dated l.r. sheet, pencil "Jerrems, 1976".
Not on display
© Ken and estate of Lance Jerrems
Shown in 4 exhibitions
Inheritance, Australian Centre for Photography, Paddington, 21 Mar 1996–04 May 1996
What is this thing called photography?, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 05 Jun 1999–29 Jul 1999
What's in a face? aspects of portrait photography, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 24 Sep 2011–05 Feb 2012
The photograph and Australia, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 21 Mar 2015–08 Jun 2015
Referenced in 4 publications
Bronwyn Clark-Coolee, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'Time - memory - people', pg.246-265, Sydney, 2007, cover (illus.), 248, 256 (illus.). cover reproduction is a detail
Unknown and Unknown (Editors), What is this thing called photography? Australian photography 1975-1985, Annandale, 2000, 10 (illus.).
What is this thing called photography?, Sydney, 1999, cover (illus.). no catalogue numbers
Unknown, The photograph and Australia, Sydney, Jun 2015, 108 (colour illus.).