Up Close: Photographs of Candid Intimacy

Up Close: Photographs of Candid Intimacy

Up Close is a collection of photographs on exhibition at Australia’s Heide Museum of Modern Art, featuring the exceptional talent of four photographers whose images capture people, places and events with candid intimacy.  Up Close traces the significant legacy of Australian photographer Carol Jerrems (1949–1980) alongside that of contemporary artists Larry Clark (USA), Nan Goldin (USA) and William Yang (Sydney).  The collection takes its inspiration from the way each artist candidly depicts a social milieu and urban life of the 1970s and early 1980s.  Sharing an interest in sub-cultural groups and individuals on the margins of society, each artist reveals a remarkable capacity to provide an empathetic glimpse into semi-private worlds through intimate depictions of people and their surroundings.

Jerrems’ photography was associated with a feminist and political imperative, a preoccupation with  subcultures, forgotten and dispossessed groups, especially Aboriginal communities of the time.  Larry Clark unflinchingly turned the camera onto himself and his amphetamine-shooting coterie to produce Tulsa (1971), a series of photographs repeatedly cited for its raw depiction of marginalized youth.  With its grainy shot-from-the-hip style, Tulsa exposes a world of sex, death, violence, anxiety and boredom capturing the aimlessness and ennui of teenagers.

Larry Clark’s work influenced Nan Goldin and a whole generation of artists who aspired to break with the more traditional documentary modes.  Mining the emotional depths of her friends, lovers and family, Goldin’s work reveals a riveting intimacy while  uncovering the bohemian life of New York’s Lower East Side.  Goldin says, “I was documenting my life.  It comes directly from the snapshot, which is always about love.”

William Yang’s photographs from the 1970s further the snapshot aesthetic through journeying into the intimate world of his particular social milieu: drag queens, Sydney gay and inner-city culture.  Yang’s direct, unpretentious photographs provide a unique chronicle of marginalised groups especially as he put it: “…people who are gay, who were invisible, who were too scared to come out.  During gay liberation people became visible, people became politicized, and there was a Mardi Gras that was a symbol of the movement.”

Girl in a Mirror: A Portrait of Carol Jerrems

Tulsa: The Photography of Larry Clark

Slide Show: Up Close/Photographs of Candid Intimacy

(Please Click Image to View Slide Show)

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Us: On Love, Trust, Loss and Regrets

Us: On Love, Trust, Loss and Regrets

Us is an award winning, thought-provoking short film directed by James Blick that explores issues of trust and intimacy, showing us how fragile those things are.  In all of our relationships, we make choices that are sometimes right and sometimes wrong, but always with consequences.

In Us, a series of flashbacks captures a woman’s memories of her former lover.  They trusted each other, and everything else depended upon that.  But what happens when trust is broken, and loving relationships can no longer be sustained?  When we end up left all alone, are we destined to live with our regrets through a forsaken life of melancholy reminiscence?

Us: On Love, Trust, Loss and Regrets

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Gus Van Sant’s Discipline of Do Easy: The Destruction of Emotional Intimacy

Gus Van Sant’s Discipline of Do Easy: The Destruction of Emotional Intimacy

Over the years, Gus Van Sant has become one of the premiere modern-day story tellers about the burdens of social and emotional dysfunction, assembling for his films a parade of hustlers, junkies, psychopathic weather girls and troubled geniuses to wander and stumble across the stage as fascinating displays for his film’s audiences. I have always found it to be a curiosity that in his increasingly popular films seemingly about sex, sexuality and wishes for emotional attachment in the lives of those living on society’s outer fringes (for example, Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho and Milk), there is in fact a puzzling lack of real sexuality, sensuality or emotional intimacy between the main characters.

It appears that Van Sant presents his audiences with charades of sensuality and intimacy, directing his actors to perform as though they were emotionally engaged, when in fact they are not. Van Sant has adopted the very same vacant voyeuristic stance that was so characteristic for two of his main filmmaking heroes, William S. Burroughs and Andy Warhol.

Gus Van Sant’s 1978 short-film adaptation of William Burrough’s essay/short story Do Easy (DE) provides a clear example of the projection of Van Sant’s own psychology spilling over into the area of relational impairment. Most short reviews of Van Sant’s adaptation, The Discipline of Do Easy, blithely describe the film as an offbeat “instructional” little film about living in the easiest, most relaxed way we can. Some even say that the short film is filled with great advice that’s very zen-like in nature. A quirky and fun film to watch.

But let’s have another take on what goes on in Do Easy. Van Sant’s advice centers upon themes of collecting, measuring, counting, cleaning, repetition and “magical” undoing. He describes Doing Easy as a WAY of doing, but the doing is in fact constantly being alert to things, a never-ending vigilant observance of potentially dangerous objects, even within the small world of one’s very own apartment. Doing Easy yields neither an easy nor relaxed life, but rather an obsessive-compulsive pathology, most clearly manifested in a socially deadly form of isolation of affect.

Thinking and observing are separated from and take the place of real emotional relationships with others. And that is what is so characteristic of his major films about society’s outsiders. In this particular short film, Doing Easy doesn’t lead one to a relaxed sense of attachment to or closeness with others, but rather in the end it provokes the fearful destruction of others.

Do Easy: The Destruction of Emotional Intimacy

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Remembering 28 Days: Rediscovering the Intimacy of Love

Remembering 28 Days: Rediscovering the Intimacy of Love

28 Days is the story of a successful New York City writer who is living in the fast lane and is everyone’s favorite party girl. She shares her roller-coaster social lifestyle, hopping back and forth from dance clubs to bars and the morning after hangovers, with her boyfriend. He is handsome and magnetic, but equally attracted to life on the wild side. Life is nothing but a perpetual game of debauchery, until she gets drunk with her boyfriend on the day of her sister’s wedding, commandeers her sister’s wedding limousine and ends up with a 28-day stay in a substance abuse rehabilitation center.

A young urban woman who is cynical to the core, she is determined not to conform. But her experiences within the highly structured rehab setting begin to break through her carefully constructed defenses and lead her to start taking a closer look at who she might really be. Ultimately, she gradually starts to lose her deeply jaded sense of pessimism about life and begins to rediscover the possibility of having intimately loving relationships with others.

28 Days: Rediscovering the Intimacy of Love

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There’s Just No Place Like Home

William Hogarth: The Strodes Family

The Idea of the Home

During holiday times, such as the winter season of festivities that many of us are enjoying right now, a substantial number of people travel sometimes large distances to re-connect and celebrate with other relatives back at their families’ homes.  This led to my reflecting not so much about the reality of the home, as the idea of the home.  The conception of the home, or “hominess,” evolved over a period of many centuries.  By the early 1500s, domestic life was rather austere, but had come to reflect a sense of intimacy and privacy.  On the other hand, if we were to have asked any of them if they felt comfortable where they lived, they would have been puzzled by the question and unable to answer.  The first appearance of the word “comfort” to mean a level of domestic contentment is not reported until the eighteenth century.

One illustration of this new found sense of domestic comfort is shown above in William Hogarth’s painting of an early Georgian interior.  Notice how the softened furniture complemented the rich costumes of the time and served as counterparts to the billowing gowns worn by women, as well as to the finely embroidered coats and wigs of the men.

The slightly pompous interiors also reflected the clothing fashions of the time.  Skirted chairs and gathered draperies reflected the details of how cloth had come to be used in skirts and gowns; wallpaper often copied the designs used in fabrics. The lavish Art Deco furniture reflected the homeowners’ own luxurious garments.

My personal thought for each of you who has been able to spend time re-connecting with loved ones is to always remember that home is where all of us started from.  I very deeply hope that going back provided you with strong feelings of warmth and deep affection.

There’s Just No Place Like Home

Michael Buble: Home

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