Tasmanian Times

Arts

Communicating integrity

Richard Butler

The vision of this project is clear and simple – to create a beautiful body of work that communicates the integrity of those who are simply saying “No”. These are the people who make up this community – and over time whether its 2 or 3 generations or the year after next I have no doubt that the work will be an important social document. “

AN ambitious photographic art project is about to go into full production in Tasmania. It has been conceived in response to the widespread passion and commitment of all those opposed to the
proposed Gunns Mill. The project aims to produce about 500 fine quality portraits of those people.

For Melbourne based photographic portraitist Richard Butler, the project provides a unique opportunity to say ‘thanks”.

But thanks for what ? and to whom ?

Says Richard:

” ……… Many years ago I was taught photography by Robert McMahon at Matric College. I didn?t realise how much we didn?t learn about the formal aspects at matric until I
went on and studied in Victoria. I quickly learned they didn’t teach like Robert. Robert didnt teach picture taking – he taught the core fundamentals like passion and engagement. Our class would go to these very normal places in and around Launceston and have major adventures. We’d take pictures using old post war cameras and rush back to the darkroom (which leaked light like a seive leaks water) and make terrible prints. But we were engaged in the moment and it was magnificent !

It was during these times that Robert officially coined the phrase – “(film) grain as big as dogs balls”. Kids would come out of the darkroom with prints dripping chemistry everywhere saying “are the balls big enough.?.” Grain was king – no better – grain was god.

A grainy print was about art. It showed the disintegration of reality and opened the possibility that the print was of something else. If you like – Robert taught us one of the most important life lessons – all things are not what they seem.

The vision of this project is clear and simple – to create a beautiful body of work that communicates the integrity of those who are simply saying “No”. These are the people who make up this community – and over time whether its 2 or 3 generations or the year after next I have no doubt that the work will be an important social document. ”

Richard commented that cause-based photography was done many times in the 20th and 19th centuries – and artists created bodies of work that put the issues of the day into important context. Like for example the document of the American Indian – which took 40 years and produced over 20,000 glass plates an showed the decline and demise of that nation. The artists remain giants among men – like Edward Curtis, Irving Penn and most recently Sebastiao Salgado.

http://arts.guardian.co.uk/salgado/0,,1294976,00.html

Richard said “The project is costing a lot and Im paying the costs as I go. Id welcome sponsorship !! But regardless – the work needs to be done and I dont feel I have a choice. Many people have given so much – and if we dont give – we cease to be a community. This is about ordinary people doing extra-ordinary things in extra-ordinary times.”

Pre production commenced before Christmas and involved choosing sites and getting tentative lists together. The actual photography starts in March.

Closing note: People interested in the project can email Richard on Richard_Butler@mac.com

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]
1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Valleywatcher

    February 4, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    Congratulations, Richard. I look forward to being one of your subjects, having been in on this from the beginning. Hope photogeneity is not a pre-requisite!

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