News

Featuring at The Blackheath Hub

My work will be featured at The Hub in Blackheath from 14 May to 16 June 2016. As well as a bunch of framed works, new and old, my small prints and greeting cards (a new project) will be for sale too. Please see the flyer below.

If you haven’t been to The Hub before, it has a huge variety of quality work by many Blue Mountains’ artists and artisans, including various visual arts, cards, prints, textiles, woodwork, candles, soap, produce, jewellery and more. You can check out The Hub on Facebook here:

The Hub Blackheath
Ian Brown Hub flyer

Exhibition at Braemar: Intimate Earth

I’m having a new exhibition in one room at Braemar Gallery (Springwood) this February-March.  The other rooms will be occupied by Eric Newman’s woodwork and a John South video installation, Dreamscape.  See the notice below for details.

This show will include a number of works larger than I have exhibited before.  I think this adds another dimension (so to speak) to some of the images.

IanBrown Braemar FebMar2016 flyer A5 27Jan sRGB

Advancing World Heritage for the Blue Mountains

When the Greater Blue Mountains Area was being nominated for World Heritage, geodiversity, cultural values and aesthetic beauty were all considered, along with biodiversity.  The area was nominated for the lot, except geodiversity, because geological understanding was considered inadequate, at that stage, to support a successful case.

The area was ultimately accepted for World Heritage in 2000, on biodiversity grounds alone.  It was early days for the ‘cultural landscape’ argument, which was poorly understood by the assessors, and maybe the Blue Mountains just wasn’t proven to be beautiful ‘enough’ to get over that particular line (I’m doing my best to try and fix that one).

A lot has happened over the past 15 years.  Knowledge has advanced in many areas and community views have also progressed.  So it was that the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area Advisory Committee (community representatives who advise on management) decided to prepare and publish a group of papers arguing that the Blue Mountains deserves World Heritage on a number of additional grounds.

I was privileged to be asked to supply images for the publication (see two below).  The booklet also argues for extra areas to be added to the World Heritage Area, including the magnificent Gardens of Stone Stage Two.

Values for A New Generation (see cover below) is an essential reference for anyone interested in the Blue Mountains.  It can be downloaded as a free PDF here:

PDF download

Geodiverse Kanangra
Ben Bullen State Forest – good enough for World Heritage?

Wild Blue Mountains Calendar 2016

The 2016 edition of the Wild Blue Mountains Calendar is now available from our Publications page and selected stores across the Blue Mountains.  Images are all new and never before published and include the Gardens of Stone, a tall forest, Kanangra heathland, a canyon, the Grose Valley, Pink Flannel Flowers, Kowmung River and rainforest, with a pagoda landscape on the cover.

ANZANG competition 2015

I have been fortunate enough to have two of my entered images short-listed in the 2015  Australian Geographic ANZANG Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.  I’ve been in the finals twice before with landscape images but these two are in the ‘Botanical ‘ category.

The ANZANG comp is organised by the South Australian Museum and “celebrates the unique natural beauty of Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica and New Guinea through the eye of the nature photographer”.  See http://www.anzang.samuseum.sa.gov.au/competition/

Competitions don’t really mean very much, but it’s nice to have validation that you’re producing worthwhile images.  What I like about this comp is that its all about conservation and nature in the raw.  Entries can only be produced from a single image with minimal editing.  Observation and camera work are more important than computer imaging skills.

Brittle Gum and snow

One of the short-listed images was captured during heavy blizzard that hit the Blue Mountains suddenly in October of 2012.  “Brittle Gum and snow”  features (fittingly) on the July page of the 2015 Wild Blue Mountains Calendar (the new 2016 edition will be available in September).

The other ANZANG finalist is a stark contrast. While walking in a part of the Victorian Alps that has seen several recent bush fires, I saw silvery trunks of dead Alpine Ash trees against a blue-shaded and dead-stick valley.  This eucalypt is killed by hot fire and regenerates from seed…which it is doing, vigorously.

Alpine Ash

These images will now appear in the touring exhibition and in the book published for each annual competition.  Prize-winners are announced on 31 July.

New solo exhibition

My new exhibition, The Blue Mountains: grandeur and intimacy, will be held at Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mount Tomah, from 7 March to 27 April 2015.  Entry is free, 9.30am to 5pm daily.

For this show I have put together 30 diverse works, two-thirds of which have never been exhibited before, with the aim of affirming “the magnificence and value of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area”.

 

 

 

The most expensive photograph ever sold ???

Phantom, by PeterLik

High profile photographer Peter Lik claims to have sold a monochrome image of Arizona’s Antelope Canyon titled Phantom for A$7.85 million.  This follows several other reported multi-million-dollar sales by Lik.  You can read about it in the Sydney Morning Herald HERE

Wow.  Is it true?  Is it worth that much?  Commentators have raised doubts on both counts (e.g. see THIS).

One arts consultant says that Lik’s photographs have no resale value, which would make a purchase on that scale quite extraordinary.  Lik, an accomplished spruiker, claims to be “the world’s most influential fine arts photographer” and “one of the most important artists of the 21st century”.  Yet he has allegedly been ‘spurned’ by the arts establishment and ‘dismissed’ by critics.

One of the most interesting aspects of this whole affair is that it has prompted a debate about whether landscape photography counts as art.  The Guardian’s art critic Jonathan Jones launched an extraordinary broadside against both Phantom and photography in general which can be read HERE

Jones’ comments included these beauties:

Photography is not an art. It is a technology…My iPad can take panoramic views that are gorgeous to look at. Does that make me an artist? No, it just makes my tablet one hell of a device.

This record-setting picture typifies everything that goes wrong when photographers think they are artists. It is derivative, sentimental in its studied romanticism, and consequently in very poor taste. It looks like a posh poster you might find framed in a pretentious hotel room.

The fact that it is in black and white should give us pause. Today, this deliberate use of an outmoded style can only be nostalgic and affected, an “arty” special effect.

…beauty is cheap if you point a camera at a grand phenomenon of nature…this downward stream of light is simply a natural aspect of Antelope Canyon…The photographer has added nothing of any value to what was there already.

It is a cliche: easy on the eye, easy on the brain, hackneyed and third-hand. If this is the most valuable “fine art photograph” in history, God help fine art photography.

Ouch.

Guardian colleague and photography critic Sean O’Hagan went in to bat for the other side against Jones, saying “photography is art and always will be”. But in the process he still managed to disparage nature photography as art, dismissing the Wildlife Photographer of the Year show for instance (O’Hagan’s report is HERE).

As part of the discussion, Australian gallery owner Megan Dick said art was driven by ideas, not documentation.  “Being such a literal interpretation of the subject, landscape photography is more in the realm of documentary rather than art.”

The Herald report also says that “pointing a camera at nature” is “pretty well all Lik does”.

Hmmmm…where do I stand?  I don’t want to go into the merits of Phantom or Lik’s work in general.  And I’m no art expert, but I do believe that the best nature photography is most definitely art.  However a detailed exposition of that view would take a lot of time and research.  Rather, I will make some related observations:

  • There are as many views about art (and photography) as there are critics and artists (and photographers).  The whole ‘art world’ is a confused, conflicted and very bitchy place.
  • My own perhaps old-fashioned view is that art should include purpose, or intention, as well as craft and skill in execution.  But the end product doesn’t necessarily need to be ‘beautiful’.
  • The line between ‘art’ and ‘documentary’ is infinitely blurred.  Obviously not all photography is art…and I don’t think all ‘art’ is art either!
  • Painting and writing are technologies too, but it would be stupid to suggest that because some people paint houses then painting cannot be art, or that journalism annuls the art of literature.
  • If art is only driven by ideas, then where does that leave Monet, Vermeer, Van Gogh, Rodin and Constable?  Or in the Australian context, Grace Cossington Smith, Brett Whiteley and Tom Roberts?  Amongst more contemporary artists, what about Jackson Pollock or John Coburn?
  • Besides, the implication that landscape and nature photography do not emerge from a world view or philosophy, or a drive to convey ideas, is simply wrong (here I’m referring to serious, quality, ‘intentional’ photography).  The best nature photography is deeply spiritual.
  • It seems to me that Jonathan Jones knows little about photography and the vast diversity of practice and purpose out there.  His ignorance of why photographers might still choose to work in ‘outmoded’ monochrome is emblematic (it could equally be argued that by now all painters should have shifted to digital techniques).  Similarly, Sean O’Hagan does not understand nature photography.  Perhaps this ignorance is down to us nature/landscape photographers who have not effectively communicated what we do and why.  Or maybe its another example of how tragically divorced we are becoming from the real world.
  • Photography is different to other art forms, and sometimes the ‘reality’ of realistic images can blind us to more subtle meanings.  As with all art, some knowledge of the genre, its history and philosophy, as well as the artist and their intentions, can aid appreciation, how we perceive and understand the work.
  • “Pointing a camera at nature” and “beauty is cheap” (easy) are ludicrous oversimplifications, as anyone who has tried to make an interesting or compelling photograph knows.  Finding the subject, selection of viewpoint, composition, lighting and mood are all inherently aesthetic/creative/artistic processes.
  • There seems to be an assumption that Lik’s image and similar can’t be art if they are literal.  Putting aside the validity of that idea, I suspect Phantom is actually highly manipulated.  It looks like HDR (high dynamic range) processing has been used, and also that the dust ‘phantom’ may have been inserted or modified digitally.  So would heavily manipulated, ‘non-literal’ photographs be more worthy of consideration as ‘art’ in Jones’ view?
  • Nature photography, of the sort I value from others and try to achieve myself, is not about the single ‘wow’ image of the kind that often wins competitions…even if we might all be attracted to such photographs and try to make them from time to time.  It is more about a total body of work, a personal style, a mood and a feeling, an accumulated view of nature that is conveyed without verbal explanation.  Personally, in the work of other nature photographers I value subtlety, history, originality, harmony, vision and intimacy with the subject…a sense of communion perhaps…over immediate impact which often wears thin in a short time.  If you look at the work of the photographers on my Links page, you might struggle to find a single ‘award-winning’ image from many of them.  But oh how they sing.

 

Laugavegur walk, Iceland

On the way back from Greenland (pics still coming!) at the end of August, I spent 8 days on the Laugavegur trail in Iceland.  The name means something like “Hot Springs Way” and its the most popular extended walk in Iceland.  The trail traverses an astounding and varied volcanic landscape, first across colourful, thermally active rhyolite highlands, then through more stable and very black lava country, with icecaps looming all around.  I walked south from Landmannalaugur to Thorsmork (“Thor’s Forest”) and then continued over the 2010 Eyjafjallajokull eruption site and and  Fimmvorthuhals (“Five Cairns Pass”) to finish at Skogar on the south coast.  There was a lot of fog and rain! (plus one ‘hurricane’) but on the last morning a frost.

(My apologies that this template does not allow the use of  special Icelandic characters for authentic spelling).

Selected Iceland images are now available in the New Images gallery.

Herbfield and birch trees, Basar
Snowlines and sun

 

ArtforParks

I was invited to participate in the upcoming ArtforParks exhibition at Hornsby, which is part of the Hornsby Festival of the Arts, and timed to coincide with the World Parks Congress in Sydney.

The exhibition is on at the Wallarobba Arts and Cultural Centre, 25 Edgeworth David Avenue, Hornsby, 4-15 November 2014 (10 am to 5 pm).

The 8 works I am exhibiting are all from the Blue Mountains. There are lots of good and interesting works, all in the interests of inspiring conservation of our wonderful and deeply threatened natural heritage.