'An urban dialogue' opening night speech - the video by Albion Harrison-Naish

So here's me giving the opening night speech at my recent exhibition, put on with the wonderful and talented Anthony Ginns and Markus Andersen (you can see some of Anthony's fabulous images behind me during most of this clip).

The video comes in after the hellos, thank yous, some asides and jokes, just in time for the more serious bit. After a minute of so, you get a better view, so stick with it. See the post below for the draft of the speech that I hold in my hand during this video. Enjoy.

Speech given on the evening of the 2nd May 2015 at X88 Gallery, Chippendale, Sydney as part of the 2015 Head On Photo Festival.

'An urban dialogue' opening night speech - the text by Albion Harrison-Naish

The text used for the opening night speech of An urban dialogue, held at x88 Gallery on Saturday 2nd May 2015 as part of the Head On Photo Festival.

[Some hellos, thank yous, asides and jokes…then...]

As photographers we are in constant dialogue with our surroundings, surroundings that are in persistent flux as we walk through them. You are almost always paying close attention to what’s going on around you, what people are doing, what the architecture is like, the space more generally, how people are using it, what the weather’s like, how the light is hitting the scene and the way the light shifts throughout the year and illuminates different patches and different vistas. Plus any number of other things. And then you try and understand, however unconsciously, what patterns this makes. You do this no matter whether or not your camera is on you or in use.

This conversation and interaction coalesces in many different forms. In photography in contrast to many other art forms, there is a pervasive notion of truth and neutrality. Both are of course spurious in reality. However much truth or attempted objectivity there is present, there is no fundamental truth. The camera and the photographer cast their judgements over the scene as surely as they press the button to release the shutter.

The camera and the photographer contextualise by decontextualising. By framing a scene, we inherently choose what to include and what to exclude. Some of that which is excluded we try to imply but much of it is simply not there. Left out of the reality we present. To get all Rumsfeldian, What is now there, is shaped by things now not there. - But how are we as viewers to know in what ways this happens? So the truth given to us is a limited one and one where much trust is asked by the photographer.

Much photography relies on elements of this, especially when the scene is familiar. This familiarity can be based on knowing the physical location of the photo well, or perhaps we simply know the mood the photograph captures, so intimately that we respond with ease and familiarity. But our notion of familiarity can be more based on a built up understanding of what a certain type of scene should look like. The most obvious examples here are war and natural disaster photography. Both rely to some extent on assumptions about what these spaces should look like, assumptions that have been largely built up by earlier images, both still and moving. But whichever way that familiarity is being utilised, our sense of the world and its emotional relationship to us, is to a large extent, reinforced.

A different type of photographic approach, and one which also plays with these notions of truth, witness and representation, is that which attempts to show the familiar or the mundane, in a way that makes it other. Makes it strange and perhaps exotic. It takes away from us our familiarities and gives them back changed. Altered. And when we get back these familiar but altered realities, we expand our understanding of the world and our place in it, along with the possibilities contained within each moment of our lives and worlds.

It is these, what I like to think of as ‘secret’ or ‘hidden’ views of the world, that the camera and the photographer’s eye are especially well equipped to capture, … with its blending and shifting of contexts, it’s blurred notions of truth, imagination and fiction, that are created when you frame a scene and isolate it.

So we hope you each find amongst these photos some otherwise almost obscured vision of your usually familiar surroundings, now illuminated.

An urban dialogue - exhibition description by Albion Harrison-Naish

A city’s character is not orchestrated by some invisible hand, but rather grows organically through a multitude of voices, experiences and interactions.

We each have our own dialogue with the cities we live in. An urban dialogue brings together three complementary and sympathetic voices on what makes up the character of Sydney, with each looking to approach that famously harsh, haunting and beautiful Sydney light, seeking ways for it to become an intrinsic and seamless part of their compositions.

With a documentary aim and a street photographer’s embrace of serendipity, the taking of what comes rather than pre-emtping what will be found, we get a vision of Sydney that is both familiar and different. New and yet at one with the visions that have come before. Local but with an eye to the world, this series of black and white photographs of Sydney will enrich your own dialogue with the city and leave you with a fresh take on the familiar.

As Max Dupain once said “Colour tells all; black and white tells just enough to stir the imagination.” An urban dialogue aims to stir your imagination and capture the energy, romance and narrative potential of this great city.