In 2009 the City of Melbourne Arts and Heritage Collection invited me to produce an exhibition based around their large collection of engineering photographs. These photographs, produced mainly by the engineers themselves and almost entirely unattributed, covered a wide range of subjects; from illustrated reports on the city’s park benches to the laying of roads and the progress of cracks in public buildings. Contact prints of the images were pasted in a variety of annotated Goliath Brand ring binder log books and the corresponding negatives were carefully filed in the engineers’ empty payslip envelopes, this collection came to be referred to as the photofiles.
Although the engineers’ archive was intended as a utilitarian one, designed to document and illustrate the public works they undertook, the resulting images show far more than a selection of “no parking” signs and lamp post installations. Many of these photographs exhibit what Lee Friedlander has described as the medium’s “generosity”, by including extra details and alluding
to hidden correspondences beyond the initial didactic intent. This ability of a photograph to extend beyond its operator’s desires has provided the foundation for many works of art and the exhibition Record and Analysis and its accompanying essay, drew heavily on the long tradition of appropriating vernacular photography. At the heart of this practice a question of authorship emerges and in order to properly address this, a number of works from my own archive were included, without attribution, into a series of drawers that contained themed selections of photographs.
a pdf catalogue essay can be found here.
City Gallery Melbourne 2009