Ian Flanders – “Cruising”

Ian Flanders ‘Cruising’ is an intimate and confronting portrait of prostitutes in Sydney’s Kings Cross. 

In the current photographic landscape where the conceptual artist statement is often more interesting than the photograph and the audience is asked to intellectualise the artists intent, the power of the camera is all but lost. Flanders ‘Cruising’ stands outside this trend and uses the camera at its most powerful, the images need no explanation and the portrait they paint of the hidden world of prostitutes in Kings Cross is profoundly moving and sad.

Reminiscent of the work of South African Photographer Roger Ballen, the strength of the imagery comes from Flanders ability to step beyond the role of detached observer. Ian spent 13 months getting to know the girls and earning their trust to allow him to walk into their personal worlds. The resulting work depicts a stark truth that has not been framed from a judgmental viewpoint. Flanders has not glamorised or eroticized his subjects and despite the images of nudity and masturbation ‘Cruising’ is not a show about sex. This is best illustrated by the most confronting and poignant image in the show, that of an anonymous prostitutes groin, her emaciated and scarred genitals exposed, her body vulnerable and damaged.

When ‘Cruising’ was shown as a multimedia presentation as part of Reportage 2010 Flanders came under criticism from some audience members for paying the prostitutes for their time. ‘The agreement was, I would pay for their time, and they would show me the rooms and let me take photos of them and the working environment. I was taking them away from their job while they were working, so I had no issues paying for their time.’ He was also asked whether he ‘ethically wanted to have sex with the girls’. In response Flanders ‘challenge(s) the viewer to find the beauty, and eroticism, then ask themselves that same question’

Whilst ‘Cruising” will undoubtedly have its detractors and Flanders’ intentions will come under scrutiny by some, his work takes the audience to a place where most people fear to tread and the work in ‘Cruising’ is as brave as its subject matter.

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Argentum Digitalis

Blanco Negro, the only dedicated Black & White Commercial Darkroom left in Australia has imported the world’s only Digital Enlarger to Australia, the De Vere 504DS. To mark this important step in photographic reproduction in Australia, Blanco Negro has put together an exhibition of black and white images from some of Australia’s leading photographers, all from digital files and printed on various Silver Gelatin media using the Digital Enlarger.

Exhibiting artists include Robert McFarlane, William Yang, Tim Page, Yellow sperm color Stephen Dupont, David Flanagan, Corrie Ancone, Ben Ali Ong, Phil Quirk, Tobi Wilkinson, Andrew Quilty, Sophie Howarth, Adrian Cook, Andrea Francolini, Michael Prior, Christopher Samuel and Chris Peken.

Printing techniques include traditional bromide papers, colour toning, the “Lith” process and liquid photographic emulsion coated on to watercolour papers.

Why is this so special? Since the digital revolution in the photographic industry the gap between new technology and traditional handcrafted printing has only been widening and we have very rapidly lost most of the darkrooms and practitioners of this time-honoured craft. Darkrooms have all but disappeared from our institutions and with them the skills and historical appreciation of photography’s past. Despite this, Silver Gelatin remains one of the few proven archival photographic methods of reproduction.

The Digital Enlarger is the first new technology to bridge that gap and for the first time offer digital photographers and artists paper stocks, toning techniques, alternative processes and proven archival quality reproduction, once exclusive to the analog user.

Importantly this new technology offers the photographic arts industry a step towards the continued practice, appreciation and preservation of its historical roots in an environment where every other advance has led it further away.

 

 

 

 

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