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"Telling tales: the child in contemporary photography"
2000-08-01 until 2000-10-09
Monash University Gallery
Clayton, VI, AU Australia

An exhibition of contemporary photography that explores representations of children and childhood by presenting the work of eleven artists working with this subject as a source for personal, social and cultural investigation. The common photographic experience is located in childhood. As children, we are photographed more than at any other time in our lives. From baby shots and school portraits, to birthday party and holiday snaps, photographs provide a visual record of our earliest private and public experiences. They trace our development, remind us of who we were and trigger distant memories.

Artists included are: Di Barrett, Pat Brassington, Kate Butler, Anne Ferran, Bill Henson, Nicola Loder, Mark McDean, Tracey Moffatt, Deborah Paauwe, Polixeni Papapetrou, and Ronnie van Hout.

While not all childhood experiences are ideal, the child remains a symbol of all that is pure, innocent and full of promise. Similarly, prevailing representations of childhood, commonly described as the best years of one's life, embody a nostalgia for an allegedly better, happier and less complicated time.

Telling Tales examines these idealised notions of children and childhood and the tensions that arise when contrary, darker views - child sexuality, dysfunction, isolation or despair - are broached. As Kevin Murray notes in his essay 'Three Child Proofs': The innocent child is after all essentially an adult invention: through this innocence we define ourselves as the cynical products of a hard world.

For some artists, too, focusing on children and childhood through their work is a way of investigating the parenting experience.

In her catalogue essay for the exhibition, Anne Marsh, Head, Department of Visual Culture at Monash University, writes:

Telling tales: the child in contemporary photography is an exhibition of photographs of children by adult photographers. Some explore their own childhoods through the family album or theatrical re-stagings (Di Barrett, Mark McDean, Deborah Paauwe, Kate Butler) and some present pictures of their children or children they know well (Polixeni Papapetrou, Anne Ferran, Nicola Loder, Pat Brassington). Tracey Moffatt explores memories of childhood experience as remembered by adults, Pat Brassington often uses found imagery, Bill Henson uses adolescents as models for his photo-tableaux and Ronnie van Hout creates his childhood scenes using miniatures.


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