What: The Camera is God
Artist: Trent Parke
Medium: Pigment print
Subject: A series of street portraits, Adelaide 2013
Where: Premiered at the 2014 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art – Dark Heart at the Art Gallery of South Australia
Why: Upon my first encounter with Trent Parke’s work, at his solo exhibition Black Rose in the Art Gallery of South Australia early last year, I was struck by the sensitivity communicated through his photographs and the sense of familiarity I found in them. He rendered the scenes and characters of my everyday life into something really poetic, exquisite, and profound. Parke created the The Camera Is God series by snapping anonymous members of the public across a busy pedestrian crossing on King William Street. The earthy, dirty grain and indistinctness of the portraits reflect our experience of city streets: transient, hurried, somewhere between A and B. There’s a kind of spirituality communicated; the haze reflecting that of personal memories or the fleeting yet influential presence of a relationship in one’s life. Parke sees himself as a story teller and recognises the power of photography to manipulate images already ingrained in minds- viewers seem to be drawn to or almost recognise certain faces based on their own experiences.
The melancholic characteristic of the portraits seem to accent the complexity and humanity behind each emerging face. Since the death of his mother early in Parke’s life, sadness has permeated his work in a way he describes as motivational- it keeps him “waiting, looking for the next thing.” Happiness blended with a mysterious sadness is an in-between emotion I anticipate many can relate to, and I admire Trent Parke’s ability to strikingly communicate and explore this. Lastly, the chance associated with the artist’s method of creation itself- film photography, reflects the theme of the nature and chaotic beauty of life found throughout his works.
Parke’s photos feel gutsy, sincere and all the while soothing. I struggled to pick a single work, and encourage you to look through more of his photos!
Legacy: Parke is the only Australian member of the renowned Magnum Photo Agency, and has won numerous awards including four World Press Photo Awards and the prestigious W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography for his series Minutes to Midnight.