Random Sights and Diversions

Photography Media Reviews Commentary


Desert Grassland

Desert Grassland. Nikon D200. AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8 ED-IF. 55mm. ISO 200. 1/200 sec at f/11. Copyright © Joanne Mason 2011.

Many people tend to assume that deserts are inherently arid lifeless places. But quite the opposite is true. And the extreme diversity of life in the desert is extraordinary. Here (shot in Joshua Tree N.P.), the grasses look soft and inviting enough to lie down in.


Cactus Garden

Cactus Garden. Arizona. Nikon 8700. 16.8mm. ISO 100. 1/230 sec at f/4. Copyright © Joanne Mason 2011.

I’ve had this image (shot outside of Sedona) bouncing around for ages. I like the shot but I think I’ve worked on it about fourteen times. Have I  been successful this time?


Simryn Gill, “Forest” at The Getty Center

Simryn Gill, "Forest". Source: Art Gallery of New South Wales.

The Getty Center owns an exceptional photography collection, and among the exhibits currently on display is “Forest” by the Singaporean/Australian photographer Simryn  Gill.   “Forest” is a part of the exhibit →Narrative Interventions in Photography, through March 11, which also includes works by Eileen Cowin and Carrie Mae Weems.  Simryn Gill’s work is interesting in its own right as well as underscoring  fascinating and perplexing questions about the nature of the photographic image.



Simryn Gill, "Forest." Source: Art Gallery of New South Wales.

The Getty has provided no catalog for this exhibit and has not permitted photographs (although the video above is provided by the Getty). These images are from the Art Gallery of New South Wales, in Simryn’s own Australia. The NSW Gallery exhibit provided a good description of “Forest.” (→Source here )

Through photographs, objects and installations Simryn Gill considers how we experience a sense of place and how both personal and cultural histories inform our present moment. Her work also suggests how culture becomes naturalised, an almost invisible part of our physical environment.

Gill tore up the fibrous matter of book pages and grafted fragile strips of text into the natural environment. Attached to tropical plants, they look like natural forms, becoming exuberant banana florescences, dangling aerial roots on fig trees, mangroves emerging from mudflats, variegations on the leaves of lush tropical foliage and decaying vegetation at the base of epiphytic ferns. The original plant interventions occurred in places where a tamed nature was in the process of becoming wild again, in decrepit gardens and decaying buildings in Malaysia and Singapore. There is something of a ‘lost cities’ quality to these works, as nature is in the process of reclaiming culture if not civilisation.

Simryn Gill, "Forest". Source: Art Gallery of New South Wales

Gill’s photographic records of her interventions recall botanical drawings and are printed in subtle tones of gray. In keeping with their observational purpose, they depict space up close and there are no vistas, faraway horizons or the distant sublime.

(Even though there is no catalog for the Getty’s installation, the Getty website does provide a →somewhat interesting video of Gill discussing the “Forest” work.)

I find this show and Gill’s photographs a fascinating observation on the nature of the photographic image.

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