With the advent of digital capture, photography of the built environment has been liberated from reality.
It is now possible to create a fiction that is in fact more sympathetic to the architect’s intent than reality.
An exhibition of Gollings recent work will illustrate this and encourage debate as to its merits.
My mother maintained that I was three months premature at birth, but I think she was three months late getting married! So much for the social mores of the forties!
By the time I was nine years old, I was a photographer.
By twenty three I had left Architecture at Melbourne University and was offered an assisting job in a small creative boutique called Orpin and Bourne. Kevin Orpin, an energetic autodidact, taught me design and marketing, while Bob Bourne, ex London swinging 60’s, taught me lighting. “Never add a second light till you have exhausted the first one!”
I was to assist Peter Gough, who in turn was Norman Parkinson’s assistant back in London. He tired of me after three months and the studio decided to launch me as a photographer in my own right.
My folio was eclectic but I was offered a job reshooting a Marlboro cigarette campaign when a week long shoot by a famous photographer didn’t satisfy the art director. For $250 for a days work, my career was launched, and the agency got three billboards.
Remarkably, I picked up a succession of big national accounts. Remember I was an untrained nerd who loved the technology and had sleepless nights before a shoot, petrified of not knowing what to do.
A brilliant art director, Barton Gole, taught me everything about what made a photograph really work, it was always the out-take, the shot I took intuitively, but thought a failure. Eccentric cropping, wrong exposure and maybe blurred or out of focus.
He had the wit to choose one, and produce amazing ads, that sold product and won awards.
I stumbled through the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s shooting fashion and advertising, amongst Get Wrecked on Great Keppel Island, Dunk Island, Sportsgirl, Levante Hosiery, Bri Nylon, Sitmar Cruises, Jag, Prue Acton, Air Lanka, Air Nauru , Oberoi hotels, Hyatt hotels, and many more. Many of these travel accounts got me to exotic locations, which enabled me many of my personal projects.
Along the way I was mentored by some remarkable photographers like Ezra Stoller, Ansel Adams, Wolfgang Sievers, Mark Strizic, David Moore and Max Dupain.
Meanwhile I discovered dead cities and started my own projects in New Guinea, India, Cambodia, Western China , Indonesia, Turkey and Libya.
This urban documentation has become an obsession with return visits to various sites annually. None of this work has had much exposure, it’s been hard to find a publisher. In some ways I’m better known in India, where whole museums have been built, to house my work on the Vijayanagara Empire.
With the growing realization that an old fashion photo has no immediate value, I started to concentrate on architecture photography exclusively from the 80’s on. I’m proud of an archive of significant buildings across south east Asia. All of it archived and digitized on a massive server.
I was an early adopter of digital capture and post production, it enables me to control both the image and the architecture.
In 2010 I was the creative co-director with Ivan Rijavec of the Australian pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale. I had discovered a way to make hyper stereo images from a helicopter at night, using a single camera. The documentation of cities and mining pits in large scale 3D projection attracted a lot of attention with 95,000 attendees.
It’s been a different trajectory ever since! I’m trying to be more experimental and expressive now, serious still photography has been liberated by video and social media.
This exhibition shows one aspect of my recent thinking and practice to date! An obsession with perfecting the image at the expense of reality.
John Gollings AM, April, 2020
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