Posts Tagged ‘Narelle Autio’

POSTINGS: December 2009

December 14, 2009

This month we’re featuring TWO PUBLICATIONS, one that features a series of Alex’s early black-and-white photography, TWO LINKS, including a video that explores the lives and work of Australian photographers Trent Parke and Narelle Autio, who we featured in last month’s TWO LOOKS column, and, lastly, TWO VIEWS of a creature of the night.––Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb

Alex Webb, Mound Bayou, Mississippi, 1976


Since 1979, I have photographed almost entirely in color.  However, prior to that, I was totally committed to working in black-and-white.  This month, a literary journal, the Threepenny Review, has a selection of some of my black-and-white work, ranging from an early series on teenagers in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that I produced in 1972 and 1973, while I was in college, to work from my first trips to Haiti (1975), the Mississippi Delta (1976-77), and the U.S.-Mexico Border (1975 and 1978).  It also happens to be the Threepenny Review’s thirtieth anniversary issue, so congratulations to Wendy Lesser, the review’s founder.

Since a number of our workshop participants are street photographers, we thought we would also mention there’s a new biannual periodical featuring street photography, called Publication, which is published by the In-Public street photographer Nick Turpin and which is now accepting online submissions. –– Alex Webb


Since we featured Trent Parke and Narelle Autio in our last Two Looks posting (November 23, 2009), we thought we’d link you to this video, called Dreamlives 2002, that explores their work –– including both their photojournalism assignments and their more personal projects –– as well as their relationship.

Garry Winogrand, from the book, The Animals

The International Center of Photography also has links to videos of talks by noted photographers, but I was especially intrigued with their audio programs, including the link below to a talk by the late great street photographer Garry Winogrand, author of The Animals,  an inspiration for Rebecca’s first book, The Glass Between Us.––Alex Webb


Rebecca Norris Webb, from the series, On Extended Wings

I’d like to leave you with TWO VIEWS of the owl, a creature long associated with the night and wisdom and death.  Appropriately, I’ve included a poem by the late M. Wyrebek, a poet who spent most of her short life battling cancer, and perhaps because of that struggle, her poetry is unflinching and courageous, open to both suffering and mystery. Her poignant poem, Night Owl, below, from her award-winning book, Be Properly Scared, relates an encounter she had while driving home through the countryside late one night after receiving troubling news about her cancer. “It’s as if a night owl becomes her Virgilian guide into the vast night,” wrote her friend and fellow poet, Edward Hirsch.

I’ve paired Night Owl with a recent unpublished photograph of mine (above), which I took in Morocco in October.  It’s part of my new series, On Extended Wings, inspired in part by this quote by the poet Li-Young Lee: “Only birds can reveal to us dying by flying.”––Rebecca Norris Webb


Driving my bad news the back way home

I know I’m in the land that is life

when I reach my favorite stretch of road –– fields

flat and wide where corn appears soon after

planting the soil tilled, night-soaked

and crumbled into fists.

Ferguson’s barn is somewhere

at the end of this long arm of tar

and as I near it, something grazes the back

passenger-side door, luffs parallel to my car ––

a huge owl on headlight spray floating,

holding night over the hood to see

if this moving think is real, alive,

something to kill –– then gliding in

close as if to taste glass.

The road levitates, buffeted on a surf

of light, the fog-eaten farm disappearing

as I ride into starlessness, cells conspiring

so I am bright-flecked and uplifted –– is this

what it feels like to be chosen –– to be taken

under the wing of something vast

that knows its way blindly?

TWO LOOKS: Trent and Narelle

November 23, 2009

Trent Parke, a Magnum photographer from Australia, is one of the first photographers that Rebecca and I showed our Violet Isle book dummy to a couple of summers ago in Paris.  There was good reason: He and his wife, Narelle Autio, the wonderful and painterly photographer, had already published a joint book of their photographs, The Seventh Wave (2000). So no surprise that Trent was the first to notice how our two bodies of work played off each other.

Unlike Rebecca and I, Trent and Narelle have photographed not only in the same location, but in the very same spot, sometimes even taking their photographs just minutes apart, as their TWO LOOKS column below explains.  To read more about these two Australian photographers –– and to see more of their lyrical images –– click on the links at the end of this posting.––Alex Webb


Trent Parke, Cottesloe Beach, 2004

Trent took this picture while we were travelling around Australia, living out of the back of our 4WD. We were in Fremantle, Western Australia. It was a 40°C day (104°F ) in the middle of a week-long heat wave and like most Australians –– and especially those living in a tent –– we headed for the beach. At the time I was literally immersed in my project Watercolours. I had spent three days photographing in the ocean, hanging around in deep sea. Strangely, during most of this time I had had to be forced into the water. Normally totally at home in the water, I couldn’t shake that ‘sharky’ feeling. After three days of Trent’s urging me back in the water and convincing me not to worry, I finally said that’s enough.

Not long after, a loud wail screamed over the beach. The siren sounds –– not unlike those signalling an air raid –– but on an Australian beach no one looks up at the sky. Within seconds the crowded water was empty, the beach now lined with people looking seaward, searching for the telltale shadow. And there was the shark –– all five metres of it –– swimming up and down the beach, oblivious of the commotion it had caused.

When I first saw this picture of Trent’s I was devastated –– in a friendly rival kind of way. I wanted it. It was such a fantastic unusual view of the beach. I had also attempted to capture the strange sight of hundreds of people looking out to an empty sea, and, although I was yet to see my transparencies, I knew I would have nothing as strong in colour. His black and white image conjures up those chilling, historical images of unknowing spectators watching atomic test explosions, their shielded faces lit by a mesmerising, blasting light.

This photograph, which went on to become an important part of his Minutes to Midnight series, is a classic example how Trent approaches his work. The image, while standing alone as a documentary photograph, has become something quite different. It now also represents a dark episode in our history and seen together with the rest of Minutes to Midnight it becomes an apocalyptic chapter out of this epic imaginary story about Australia.   He has used symbolism and a joint memory to take it to another level. It is something that Trent does with maddening regularity –– but it always amazes me.––Narelle Autio


Narelle Autio, "Splash" from the series, Watercolours.

This photograph of Narelle’s is one of my favourites from her Watercolours series. It has all the elements of herself and her photography in it: Her trademark use of colour and light, her optimistic outlook, and her painterly approach.

For three days we returned to this beach in Fremantle, Western Australia. Out past the breakers on Cottesloe beach is a floating buoy.  It is sizable enough to hold three or four people –– that is, if you have the arm strength to haul yourself up. I remember for two days Narelle continually swimming out to the buoy and photographing the swimmers throwing themselves off and plunging in. However, on the third day after swimming out, she turned around and came back to shore. I asked why. It was, after all, the reason we had continued to return to this same beach. She said she didn’t feel comfortable and had that “sharky” feeling. (I had swum out to the buoy myself the previous day and had also encountered that same sharky feeling. It was that sort of place.)

Regardless of the fact that a five-metre shark did manage to close the beach less than an hour later, I am very glad she did decide to come back to shore. Because otherwise she would never have taken this picture (above).  Yes, there was the other small fact that she could have been eaten by a  shark.  But what is more important when you take a frame like this?

I also remember being in our two-man tent at a caravan park further up the west coast, when her processed transparencies arrived back from the East Coast. I remember coming to this sleeve of negs and my eye immediately going to this frame. I think I said it to her then: “You won’t beat this frame on this trip –– and neither will I.”

Of all the amazing photographs she has taken at the beach and under the water, I still come back to this frame as the one that truly represents her work. If you look at both photographs we took on the same day, maybe only several minutes apart,  it gives a pretty good indication of our personalities and the way we look at the world.  And it shows how two photographers can be at the same place at the same time, but the resulting photographs can have completely contrasting emotions.

Oh, and by the way, several swimmers did get stranded standing on the buoy. The whole beach watched as they waited to be rescued by the coast guard as the shark circled nearby. As one man tried to mount the rail of the boat, he slipped and fell into the water.  I have never seen someone swim so fast in my entire life. The ensuing thrashing and panic was incredible as he tried to haul himself back on to the buoy. It really was like a real life scene from the movie Jaws. ––Trent Parke

Visit the Still Gallery website to see more of Trent’s and Narelle’s work and read their bios:

In addition, you can see Trent’s work on the Magnum site: