Down in the poor country (films)

Down in the poor country (films), 2003-20

A series of sixteen singular, multi-layered and multi-piece camera-less toned gelatin silver films encapsulated in Mylar envelopes. Unique objects displayed backlit on light boxes.

When Australian poet John Shaw Neilson (1872-1942) wrote “down in the poor country no pauper was I”, he was proclaiming his love for the parched, infertile, half-cleared Mallee country—and his uncertain faith in the redemptive power of love itself. These life-scale shadows cast by flash and moonlight at night on sheets of gelatin silver photographic film (some remade and sandwiched together in the studio) record live vegetation and animal bones at sites not far from where Neilson once lived: accompanying them are other camera-less images including medical x-rays and enlargements of an old map of the moon—a perennial light of night in the Mallee, as everywhere.
Like most of the surviving bush in the region these relics of untidy dry woodland, grassland and saltbush animated by insects do not lend themselves to naked-eye representation. Rather, like the poet, these juxtaposed and fragmented chiarascuro’s of layered, pin-sharp and blurred camera-less imagery suggest riches beyond appearances—riches perpetually veiled at the threshold of revelation or erasure: revelation or erasure doubly indicated by the uneasy play of lifeless moon and human presence.

‘Flow’ exhibition, Counihan Gallery, Brunswick, April-May 2017. Photo by Garth Henderson

‘Flow’ exhibition, Counihan Gallery, Brunswick, April-May 2017. Photo by Garth Henderson

‘Flow’ exhibition, Counihan Gallery, Brunswick, April-May 2017. Photo by Garth Henderson

‘Flow’ exhibition, Counihan Gallery, Brunswick, April-May 2017. Photo by Garth Henderson

Preparing hinged scaffold for high level nocturnal shadowgram exposure, Meringur Flora & Fauna Reserve, 2003

Preparing site for ground level nocturnal shadowgram exposure, Meringur Flora & Fauna Reserve, 2003

Preparing scaffold for mid level nocturnal shadowgram exposure, Meringur Flora & Fauna Reserve, 2003

Preparing hinged scaffold for high level nocturnal shadowgram exposure, Meringur Flora & Fauna Reserve, 2003

Preparing hinged scaffold for high level nocturnal shadowgram exposure, Meringur Flora & Fauna Reserve, 2003

High level nocturnal shadowgram exposure, Meringur Flora & Fauna Reserve, 2003