Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Interview | Keiko Sasaoka 

Wallflower Photomedia Gallery’s last show for 2014 is sadly closing this Friday – thanks the wonderful Katrin Koenning. This was our third exciting year of exhibitions and events. Stay posted for future expansive developments in 2015. We will continue our online activities over summer and to kick them off we have the promised extended interview with Japanese photographer Keiko Sasaoka who exhibited her project "Remembrance" with WPG in September.    

Questions by Kristian Häggblom & Katrin Koenning 

There are a lot of different and interesting locations in your “Remembrance” project. There is of course also many around the devastated Fukushima region. From my understanding this work is about your approach to landscape and photography. What other locations are included? And from what series’ of photographs do they belong? 

Japan is an island nation which means inevitably many people live on the coast. The Tohoku Great Earthquake and the tsunami caused by it destroyed many lives of those who dwelled in the vast coastal area. At the same time, many Japanese people not only live by the sea but also on the mountains and this helps to facilitate an appreciation with Mother Nature and all that she provides. I included the places where people live closely with natural environments, and these inhabitants are in awe and accept any consequences that nature brings. It is hard to place my works in one series. I have shot and released photographs of the places where people and nature meet under titles such as  "Volcano" or "Water". Each series interweaves and they resonate with one another, and, at this point in time, one could say the fruition of all my work is "Remembrance".

Can you expand on how “Remembrance” ties or connects your other projects together? Also, perhaps importantly, in the series there is one pamphlet that features a classical Japanese scroll painting, can you tell us about the significance of that work? 

As I mentioned before, I've been photographing places where people are in touch and coexist with complex yet rich Japanese natural environments. But that doesn't mean these places are undeveloped or untouched by humans. On the contrary, these are the places where one can sense human inhabitance. The featured scroll painting was said to be ordered by the feudal lord in present day Ehime prefecture during the Edo period for the purpose of geographical and natural resource studies which assisted the governance of the area. Over 100 years later, in 2009, I had the opportunity to find the exact locations that feature in the scroll, and photograph those places. Upon visiting these landscapes I discovered that some places were further developed whilst others were abandoned and are now only ruins. That made me aware of the passing of time and how people's lives change and, above all, the greatness and subtlety of nature herself. Tsunami and other natural disasters are constant threats in Japan. That is why many tales of major natural disasters and warnings for the next generation have been passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth in many parts of Japan. I photographed those places in the scroll painting years before the earthquake and tsunami. However, I felt it represented the importance of studying one place for a very long time frame so I decided to include it in "Remembrance".

   WPG installation image (scroll on far right)
The pamphlet design and layout is very interesting and has had much interest in the gallery. We tried to exhibit the project to emphasise the fact that it is a fold out object. Can you tell us about the design and reasons for using this format? 

I wanted to release the photographs as soon as they were taken. So, I thought about the easiest, the most economical way of doing that and, more importantly, a way that allows me to create the layout, packaging and everything else by myself. And that was the solution. At the same time, it was also important that I went for this fold out design rather than your typical photobook or magazine style because it somehow represented that everything is a part of one big picture and symbolized the fact that the disaster is not finished yet. 

“Remembrance” contains so many powerful images of Fukushima, how many times have you visited the area? 

It is almost impossible to give you the exact number. Right after the tsunami I was going there once every two or three months and spent 10 to 14 days each time travelling along the coast that stretches about 300 km and taking photographs. It is perhaps hard for non-Japanese people to imagine the sheer size of disaster-hit area – it is truly massive. I still visit the region whenever I can. 

There are many different views on how trauma impacts land/site. Do you believe it manifests, either physically or as something more felt – a presence perhaps? 

Traumatic memories and experiences are a very complex issue. I come from Hiroshima. I have taken photographs of the urban-landscape in Hiroshima for a long time. It's a place full of memories of unimaginable catastrophe. Having taken those photographs, however, I realised that the visual manifestation of any trauma is often difficult to see and highly complex. One can only photograph visible objects. That being said, I also believe photographic art is a media that can trigger viewers' imagination to see what is not visible – like a presence.

In making this work you chose a language quite removed from common methodologies applied to reporting on sites of trauma; it seems you used a language of 'slowness'. How was your quiet, almost meditative, approach important to communicate “Remembrance”? 

When one takes photographs of a certain phenomenon, captions and explanations are often necessary. However, I have tried to remove any extra information besides dates and places. I wanted to avoid forcing my ideas or views on the places and subsequent victims. I believe all great photographs have what I call "silent voices". On the other hand, I have offered short essays about what I felt and thought when I took these photographs in Japanese. I'd like to think that my essays help people listen to the "silent voices" rather than obstruct them. 

The work speaks so poignantly about a culture as much as a landscape in transition, and it seems to be as much about holding on as it is about moving on. In a more general sense do you see things improving in the Fukushima area? 

It's a difficult issue. The definition of "things improving" in this case is different even within Japan, let alone overseas. What I'd like to observe is the life of people in the area and the relationship these people have with nature. People there used to grow rice and vegetables and lived very peacefully. The lives of those today, whether they moved on and how/if they settled down is a question that needs to be asked individually. The first thing that crosses the minds of the people observing the disaster from a distance, including overseas critics, are radiation-level figures, how highly radioactive debris are handled and things like that that they see in the news. I'm neither one of them nor a victim. All I can say is that the nuclear disaster is far from under control. 

A large number of respected Japanese photographers have made work about 3.11. Are there any particular projects that you think stand out? 

I don't know about other people's works. After the disaster each photographer asked him/herself and made up his/her mind as to whether they should take or not take photographs in Fukushima. Nothing more, nothing less. I must say, though, I do have a problem with photographs that portray the disaster-hit area naively and somehow over personalise it.
I often visited the Photographers’ Gallery in Shinjuku when I lived in Japan and saw many interesting exhibitions and publications. You were one of the founding members, can you tell us about the activities of the Photographers’ Gallery and perhaps a little about the other members? 

We started "photographers' gallery" as a place that supports photographers and assists with ongoing projects. Public funding and support are notoriously low in Japan. So, in order to support one another, we, as a group, needed to open a place that is flexible and helpful. As for the latest info, the gallery's magazine "photographers' gallery press" new issue (no. 12) will be released shortly. I was the editor of this issue which deals with Hiroshima A-bomb photographs. 


As with all our interviews, we ask photographers to suggest a soundtrack for their project. What track, album or artist would you suggest? Something that may inspire you or give further insight to the photographs? 

As I said before, I believe great photographs have "silent voices". I believe a soundtrack is unnecessary as the voice one has to catch is very subtle. I would like people see my works in silence to catch that silent voice.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Photo Set | DEAR CHRIS install & opening

For the last exhibition of the 2014 calender we were very excited to present Katrin Koenning who is a curatorial adviser at WPG. The show looks amazing and Katrin and Team Wallflowerian worked hard to pull off another experimental hang of Katrin's work across all three gallery spaces.

"A country big enough to disappear in" is a great article on Katrin's work by Annika Lems from Inside Story:


There are many big plans afoot for Wallflower Photomedia Gallery in 2015 so stay tuned... 

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Photo Set | Remembrance opening

Another great opening last week at WPG - thanks to those involved and of course the artists: Keiko Sasaoka, Robert Canali and Kieran Boland.

Sasaoka is a founding member of Photographers' Gallery in Tokyo so it is great to form an association with them. Check out what they do here (English also):


For some further information on Sasaoka's Remembrance project check out Maro Bohr's article from the Visual Culture Blog. Also pay attention to the comments at bottom for further interesting discussion.


Both Canali and Boland have comprehensive websites about their wonderful work:


Some opening night and installation photographs by Fleur Ruddick.


Friday, 8 August 2014

Interview | Martin Brink

Martin Brink is presently showing in the Projection Space as part of the exhibition “View from the Window”. This interview was made while deciding on what to exhibit and how through emails between Sweden and Mildura (affectionately know as “The Yabba”).

Can you tell us a little about how you came to photography and about the scene in Sweden?

I took a short course in photography in school. It was the usual: learning the basics of a manual camera, shooting film, developing and printing in the darkroom. At the time I didn’t have a huge interest and I didn’t like the darkroom. The interest developed and started to grow during the years after, although I never returned to the darkroom. The computer felt more like a natural darkroom to me. I also assisted a commercial photographer now and then during a two-year period.

Regarding the photo scene in Sweden, personally I’m more and more interested in good work, whether it’s different types of photography or other mediums. I’d say the photo scene here is quite narrow and a bit centred around documentary work by older photographers: Strömholm, Petersen, etc.

Leading up to the occasion of featuring your work in the exhibition “View from the Window” I certainly want to talk about your practice but I must also ask about The Digital Photobook blog. It is an immense online resource, honestly, I didn’t know that that many photobooks were available digitally. I often get overwhelmed in good bookstores but I also got the same feeling looking at all the available online content on your blog – I must admit I felt a little in the dark and unawares. You no longer run the blog but it is still out there for all to use for research. I understand it must have been a huge amount of work. What initially inspired you to start the project and how do you feel about it now?

Thanks for the kind words. What inspired me to start TDP (The Digital Photobook) was basically to show what was out there. I felt and still feel that there’s a huge focus on the photobook (physical) in photography. I love them too, but sometimes it almost feels like the books are more important than the actual work, which can lead to less impressive and interesting work/books. With the TDP I wanted to offer an alternative view. In the beginning I didn’t know a lot about how many digital projects were out there, but I found more and more after research, and after people discovered the blog and started e-mailing me.

Like you say, TDP was a lot of work and sadly these projects don’t get much support, although they might be valuable to some people. The main reason for quitting was to focus more on my own work, and my goal with the TDP wasn’t to become an expert or critic on the subject. Although I did that to an extent, I’m not sure we need more authorities telling us what’s great photography or a great photobook, how to handle our careers or how to pursue a project. Basically, I’ve become more interested in making work than discussing, talking or writing about it.

I would like to discuss two bodies of work first that I think are linked by quotes below and could link your practice overall. In regards to your earlier project “Mailboxes” you have said:

“Mailboxes” isn’t really about the mailboxes at all. I just let them decide where and what I would photograph. It was random snapshots shot by chance of where I would find them. How will I photograph a given scene? What will be in the frame once I’m there? Can photos be created anywhere at any time? These were some of the questions I was asking myself.

And in regards to “Walks” this is a more recent quote from “Another Place” magazine:

The “Walks” photos are not about the path, although it might be visible. Instead, the photos are a method of discovery, of getting out, keeping focus, staying productive and alert. I see the photos as documentations, not of places, but of the brief selected moments when I stop and see that a composition has formed in front of me.

So we have two very simple titles that a representative of a methodology – one that is very Zen-like and also reflective of art that is produced through instructions (I’m thinking something like Yoko Ono’s “Grapefruit” book, etc). Both projects function through a kind of set of rules. Is this the case with all your work? And how do you create these working parameters? 

These two projects have working parameters, but most of my work isn’t planned or shot as projects. The “Walks” aren’t really planned either, but I have parameters and a camera with me on walks. With both of these projects, and at the times, I’ve found it liberating to have some sort of plan or rule, because there’s so much to shoot and focus your attention on.

At WPG we are showing screen recordings of you GIF works (Gray Sky, Water 140620 & Wind) in an exhibition that explores new ways of both making and presenting photomedia. You have mentioned that you are interested in computers, the Internet and presenting works through websites as it is not a static medium like pictures on a wall. Can you tell us more about your projects and how they relate to your website.

I’d say more and more of my projects relate to the website. For example, when I did “Walks” during 2011 the goal was probably a photobook. Occasionally I updated my portfolio on my website with new photos to show where I was. For my restart of the project in 2014, I instead upload new photos to my Tumblr-run website as I shoot and edit. So the photos are basically single photographs, but belong to an open series at the same time. I think it fits the series and makes the website less static and more fluid. The same method is basically used for my gifs. I can’t say for sure, but I believe much of my future work/projects will be conceived and shown on an update-basis without any clear finish line, if one at all.

Importantly, much of your work is available online in PDF formats. People can download them, keep them, print them, etc. There certainly is something exciting about a PDF book being downloaded and printed in somebody else’s house, office, etc. How do you feel about that – is it part of the appeal?

The reason for making them was to make proper edits of projects and make them available in one place/file, as opposed to just website photos. I was also interested in how we value something free/digital compared to the physical/collected. If people download and keep them, I think that’s great and a sort of archivation. I haven’t made any PDFs for a while now and the last “digital book” I made was an ebook called “Grass” containing GIFs.

In relation to the last question, we have been in discussions with English photographer and writer Lewis Bush about a future WPG project. His project “War Primer 3” is also available as a downloadable PDF and works with appropriation and the archive. What do you think of that project?

Good to hear that you might be working with Lewis. We’ve been in touch a couple of times and I know about the project. One of the last posts at TDP was actually a short post about “WP3”. I think it’s a brave project, to dare make a comment that he believes in and make it in a smart way. That said, I also like “WP2” by Broomberg & Chanarin.

Can you elaborate on the GIFs? How do they function amongst your other projects and do you have some plans for showing them via alternative means?

When I started making GIFs I initially just sent them out in my newsletters. They were probably both appreciated and/or people didn’t know what to think of them. I liked making them though, it was challenging, playful and a contrast to just making photos. They relate to my photos in tone and content, and also because they are mostly based on photo/video material. Some of my photos may look like they’re 40-50 years old and they’re mixed up with digital animation. There’s something that feels wrong about this, but I like that friction. I’ve never had a clear plan or strategy for them and maybe sometimes that’s good.

    Three GIF

I like that fact that it is creating friction and morphing into your other projects and platforms to present the work. Where else online (or elsewhere) can we see other interesting works created in GIF format?

I don't look at any specific sites, as I usually stumble by GIFs through social media: Tumblr, Twitter etc. "New media art" and "internet art" artists/sites/blogs might be worth following. Google Images can also be a pretty good source, now that you can search for GIFs.

As always Martin, we ask our interviewees what soundtrack they recommend listening to while viewing the project. Any suggestions?

Whatever YOU like, but maybe something instrumental.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Photo Set & Research Links | View from the Window

Leading up to the opening of View from the Window presented in association with Edmund Pearce we posted some Facebook links to readings about the artists - find those and some pics from the opening with co-curator Vivian Cooper Smith below. 

Also keep an eye on the blog for forthcoming Martin Brink interview.

Danica Chappell

Kim Demuth
Jackson Eaton

Mike Gray

Benjamin Lichtenstein

Melanie Jayne Taylor

Friday, 25 July 2014

Photo Set | Perimeter Books

A collection of candid shots from last weekend when Dan Rule was in town for the pop-up bookstore. It began with an 'in conversation' at Häggblom's "Viewing Platforms" exhibition at Mildura Arts Centre and was followed by a weekend of books during the Writers Festival.

Follow WPG blog to see coming details of book purchases:

Favourite purchase thus far: Erik Schubert, How to Win Friends and Influence People

Thanks to Dan Rule, Ross Lake, MAC and Fleur Ruddick (for pics). 

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Viewing Platforms | in conversation Kristian Häggblom, Dan Rule & Ross Lake  

Wallflower Photomedia Gallery curator and current exhibitor Kristian Häggblom  with discuss the exhibition, Viewing Platforms, and the rise of the photobook in contemporary art practice with Dan Rule from Perimeter Books. The conversation will be facilitated by the Chair of Arts Mildura, (and avid book collector) Ross Lake.

Mildura Arts Centre: Friday 18 July 5: 00 - 6: 00

   Viewing Platforms: Pink Lakes (The Animals), 2014

Monday, 14 July 2014

Pop-up Event | Perimeter Books

We are happy to announce that the Perimeter pop-up book store will be appearing at the Mildura Writers Festival once again this year. The gallery will be open between 10 - 4 both Saturday and Sunday (July 19 & 20) . Perimeter will have a curated selection of local and international small press, art and photography, architecture and design publications not easily accessible in Mildura or Australia. Recently one Wallflowerian purchased this little gem while browsing in store:

Friday, 4 July 2014

Interview | Paul Batt & Fernando Montiel Klint

The present exhibition explores CHINA visually, we thought we would get some further insight from the artists themselves:

>I would like to start with some logistical questions; how did you guys meet? How did you concoct the idea of travelling together and plan/fund the adventure? How long did you spend there? Did you fight?

PB -The project came about by chance in many ways. Fernando and I met in China at the 2012 Pingyao International Photography Festival while we were both exhibiting there. I was flown over to China as part of the FutureGen exhibition that had toured from the very last FotoFreo Festival, while Fernando was there with a Mexican exhibition curated by Alasdair Forster. I think it was Alasdair who made the initial introduction.

 FMK – Yes we both met in Pingyao, when Paul and I were having different exhibitions during the Pingyao Photo Festival. We got along immediately and we found we shared a lot of things common, even despite the fact that we lived on the other side of the world to each other, Australia- Mexico. It was then that we decide to travel together to Beijing with our partners, to photograph for a week. In my case it was my second trip to China and I spent a month there before meeting Paul. It was 2 weeks in total and during our final week in Beijing, we would go out and get lost in the city, finding diverse situations which motivate us to shoot.

>I’m interested in collaboration, you know, ‘death of the author’ and all that… Especially photographically it’s fairly rare. Can you talk about how you worked together both shooting and editing and, importantly, how the actual photographs are not credited to either of you but the project overall?

FMKWe took a lot of photos together walking through the streets of Beijing but most of the work we shot separately.  Once we were back in our home countries, we start to doing our own editing and we would reunite on Skype, email and share our editing thoughts. While doing this we would give each other comments on what was or wasn’t working.

 PB - It wasn’t long after this process started that we were approached to exhibit by the Auckland Festival of Photography in New Zealand and the results of our collaboration eventually become a part of the 2013 festival. 

>Are there other collaborative projects you know of and respect?

PB - I think you’re the right the idea of photographers traveling and collaborating is fairly rare! Aside from agencies like Magnum, where a group of photographers would go out on assignment, there are only a few examples of collaborative photographic projects I know of and respect. A favorite of these would be ‘Of Time and Place’ by Walker Evans and William Christenberry where they travelled through Hale county in the American South, revisiting the places made famous by Evans in his FSA photos. More recently I discovered the book ‘A Russian Journal’ its quite rare and documents John Steinbeck and Robert Capa’s collaborative 1947 journey in post-war communist Russia. It’s a surprisingly under appreciated book now but served as an inspiration when I trying to translate our own tour and work. 

>I hate to get technical, but it seems like the works are made in a few different mediums. I’m guessing (and don’t kill me); small & medium formats, video screen stills and maybe phone cameras? How did this work into your methodology?

PB -There is a designation of the works as such, my images are the A3 even sized white boarded shots and Fernando’s are the larger, smaller and uneven sized prints. Fernando used a number of different cameras (Yes including a camera phone!)
while I exclusively used a Nikon D700. I tend to be fairly strict about using the same camera right through a series, be that 35mm, digital or 4x5, while Fernando is the complete opposite, employing a number of different cameras or even using a video. Despite these technical differences, ultimately we were both surprised by how close both of our visions were.

>In regard to the last question, this working method obviously reflects the fast-paced flow of Chinese society – care to elaborate on this?

FMKI think the diverse use of the medium I employ, goes with the chaos of the cities and the multi-screen society that the Chinese lives in. I became more and more use to seeing the different daily life there and the heavy use of advertising TV screens and signage. It was like a new way for humans to view and be in the world and I wanted to translate those surroundings.

 >Being photographers from both Australia and Mexico can you nominate a few words to perhaps describe the art/photography scenes in both places?

PB - In Australia I think we have a particularly vibrant photographic scene, that tends to punch above its weight. Part of this due to the fact that we’re not in the direct spotlight of attention you’d associated with parts of Europe, the US or UK and that can have a withering or conforming effect on the art in those countries. I think this relative isolation is an ironic strength of Australian photography and it tends to breed something of greater interest.

FMKIn Mexico we have a very long history of documentary photography and the perception of what photography is, is only just starting to change. In the last 10, 15 years, as a viewer, you can begin to see more of a change towards that. In my case I work a lot of construct image and I really enjoy shooting in this way with larger formats.  In China I experimented, shooting with small cameras, without a tripod to find images that weren’t pre-conceived, while also trying to be open to find situations in the streets that inspired me.  
>Dare to enlighten our audience with any details of new projects?

FMKIn my case in this last 2 years I’m working on a project call Doubernard that is based on my family and my roots with a little twist in it between real and fiction because I think family albums are fictions. 

PB – Much of my work over the years has been concerned with the same set of ideas concerning human absence or presence in urban environment. I’ve explored this in a number of ways and at the moment I have a few new projects that try to further develop these concepts. 

>Lastly, as we usually do with interviews, what tunes would you recommend listening to while viewing the CHINA project at Wallflower? 

FMKPaul is a better DJ than me and China for me sounded a lot like Grimes, Jazzmataz, maybe even some of Phillip Glass or some rockabilly.

 PB In terms of recommendations, I remember Fernando and I had Tame Impala’s Innerspeaker playing lot in our hostel in Bejing. Single wise I seemed to be playing the Dead Kennedy’s Holiday in Cambodia an awful lot too. Presumably because I was having a ‘holiday in Asia’ but also because the album Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death seemed to sumerise some of my thoughts about what was happening in modern China.

Friday, 20 June 2014

 Photo Set | CHINA Exhibition Opening

Photographs by Fleur Ruddick of smiling people at the opening of CHINA by Paul Batt & Fernando Montiel Klint with super special guest from the Philippines Buen Calubayan.