International Symposium

Walker Evans: Reading the Magazine Work unpacks the inventor of documentary style photography, offering three new readings of this crucial figure and a lively discussion with visiting British photography historian and curator David Campany.

Presented on the occasion of the exhibitions, Walker Evans The Magazine Work curated by David Campany and The Documentary Take curated by Naomi Cass. Presented by Deakin Motion Lab Centre for Creative Arts Research, Deakin University and MADA, Monash University, as part of the 2016 Melbourne Festival.

Friday 7 October, 2pm—6pm
Centre for Contemporary Photography
404 George Street, Fitzroy, VIC, 3065
Gold coin donation,
bookings essential

Keynote speaker:
David Campany, University of Westminster, London
Papers by: Patrick Pound, Deakin University, Melbourne and Donna West Brett, University of Sydney, Sydney

Followed by a Panel discussion
Moderator, Daniel Palmer, Monash University, Melbourne.

Each paper will conclude with a short question time and the symposium will conclude with a panel discussion.

Keynote Speaker: David Campany, A delicate balance
There are good reasons to be affectionate about photography and there are equally good reasons to be suspicious of it. As a medium (however you define ‘medium’) photography can be fascinating and compelling for image-makers and audiences. But as a mass medium in the service of all that is shallow, exploitative and distracting in contemporary culture there is plenty to be suspicious about. Whatever individual and artistic hopes we may have for photography, the medium never belongs entirely to the individual. If we were teaching media studies to a group of ten year olds, which I think is something we should be doing, then we would be teaching them to be suspicious: critical of the image world around them, be it news, advertising or corporatized social media. Suspicion is an essential tool of political and psychical health. But if we were teaching photography in an art class, we would need to encourage an affection for it. Suspicion without affection leads to cynicism. Affection without suspicion leads to sentimentalism. The best practices, it seems to me, balance the two. Walker Evans balanced affection and suspicion, especially in his magazine work.

David Campany is a writer, curator and artist, working mainly with photography. His books include A Handful of Dust (2015), The Open Road: photography and the American road trip (2014), Walker Evans: the magazine work (2014), Gasoline (2013), Jeff Wall: Picture for Women (2010), Photography and Cinema (2008) and Art and Photography (2003). He also writes for Frieze, Aperture, FOAM, Source, Photoworks and Tate magazine. Recent curatorial projects include The Open Road: photography and the American road trip (various venues, USA, 2016) Dust (Le Bal, Paris, 2015/16) Walker Evans (various venues in Poland, France, Belgium, Italy, Australia and New Zealand), Lewis Baltz: Common Objects (Le Bal, Paris 2014), Victor Burgin: A Sense of Place (AmbikaP3 London, 2013), Mark Neville: Deeds Not Words (The Photographers’ Gallery London, 2013) and Anonymes: Unnamed America in Photography and Film (Le Bal Paris, 2010). David has a Phd and teaches at the University of Westminster, London. For his writing, he has received the ICP Infinity Award, the Kraszna-Krausz Book Award, the Alice Award, a Deutscher Fotobuchpreis, and the Royal Photographic Society’s award for writing.

Patrick Pound: Walker Evans: documentary detachment, narrative sequences and telling juxtapositions
This paper will re-examine the long established position of Evans as the quintessential detached documentary style photographer. I propose that is only part of the story. Evans was the inventor of the clinically detached and knowing ‘documentary style’. However, we will see that his magazine portfolios and his portfolios in book form; function quite differently. I will argue they employ a surprisingly engaged pictorial narrative form that echoes his personal scrapbook arrangements of magazine cuttings, and international magazine tropes of the time. Evans arranges his otherwise detached documents in satirical juxtapositions and telling sequences. I will argue that the Vitruvius of the vernacular is after all, also an engaged and engaging storyteller.

Patrick Pound is a Melbourne based artist and photo historian and Senior lecturer in Art at Deakin University. He has a PhD in Art History: “Significant Documents: Photography and Narrative from Alvin Langdon Coburn’s and Henry James’s New York Edition (1907-9), to Walker Evans’s and James Agee’s Let us now Praise Famous Men (1941, 1960)”. His artwork is held in numerous public gallery collections in Australia and New Zealand including: the National Gallery of Australia, the NGV, the Art Gallery of NSW, the Museum of New Zealand and Auckland Art Gallery.

Donna West Brett: Damaged: Ruin and Decay in Walker Evans’ Photographs
In an interview in 1974 Walker Evans described photography in terms of its illusive nature as “the thing itself is such a secret and so unapproachable.” He thought of his simple and straightforward photography as an “unconscious phenomenon” that culminated in an amazing accident that arose so convincingly to speak to a generation of Americans. This paper will explore his photographs that image the ruin and decay of everyday life in America and what he called the “aesthetically rejected subject”.

Dr Donna West Brett lectures in art history at the University of Sydney. She is author of Photography and Place: Seeing and Not Seeing Germany After 1945 (Routledge 2016); ‘Interventions in Seeing: GDR Surveillance, Camouflage & the Cold War Camera’, in Camouflage Cultures: the Art of Disappearance (University of Sydney Press, 2015) and ‘Home and Homelessness: Ann Shelton’s Aesthetics of Displacement’ in Ann Shelton: Dark Matter (Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki Gallery, 2016). Brett is an editorial member & reviews editor for the Australian & NZ Journal of Art and Research Leader for the Photographic Cultures Research Group.

Daniel Palmer: Panel Discussion Moderator
Daniel Palmer is Associate Dean of Graduate Research and Associate Professor in the Art History & Theory Program at Monash Art, Design & Architecture (MADA). His book publications include the forthcoming Photography and Collaboration: From Conceptual Art to Crowdsourcing (Bloomsbury 2017);Twelve Australian Photo Artists (Piper Press, 2009), with Blair French, and the co-edited volumes Digital Light (Open Humanities Press, 2015), with Sean Cubitt and Nathaniel Tkacz; and The Culture of Photography in Public Space (Intellect 2015), with Anne Marsh and Melissa Miles. He is currently collaborating with Martyn Jolly on an ARC-funded research project around photography curating.

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.

Donna West BrettComment