Sue Ford (1943-2009)
Last year I had the good fortune to come across an exhibition of work by the important Australian photographer Sue Ford. It isn't often that I go to photographic exhibitions, which I guess sounds a bit odd coming from a photographer keen on learning and developing. The truth is, I find them to be, on the whole, boring. They rarely seem to me to be overly revealing of either the photographer(s) featured or of their work. Oftentimes they are simply marketing exercises put together with the view to what will sell.
The Sue Ford exhibition (held at the National Gallery of Victoria and billed as a major retrospective of "her artistic life and career") was a surprising exception. I came away feeling I had discovered an important artist and that I had learned about her work. I felt strongly that I had been shown the artist's inspirations, motivations and methods; I had a real sense of what she was trying to say. And I felt I had been allowed to see a fair representation of her prolific and varied output. I left the exhibition feeling renewed and excited. While Ford wasn't a street photographer, there was something familiar about her work and her aesthetic that I really resonated with and which I am sure has had an impact on my own work and thinking.
Just to give you a bit of an idea of who Sue Ford was and what she was about, here's the bio from that show:
Sue Ford was a pioneer of Australian photography, and one of the most important practitioners to emerge in the wave of 1970s feminist photographers. This retrospective exhibition celebrates her artistic life and career. It brings together key photographs, digital prints, collages and films created over an almost fifty-year period, as well as important archival materials.Ford’s work was both personal and political, and shows a fascination with private, shared and forgotten histories. Several concurrent strands become apparent when surveying Sue Ford’s practice, such as the influence of personal biography and a questioning of identity; an interest in gender issues and an advocacy and promotion of women in art and feminism more broadly; a serious connection to social discourse and contemporary politics; and a passionate interest in reconsidering and discussing the histories of Australia and its Indigenous people.Her prolific output also allows for a survey of the development of her unique experimentation with photographic, film, printing and multimedia techniques since the 1960s – processes which were connected, from the very beginning, by an interest in the politics of representation.
If you would like to learn more about this important artist, you can head to her official website here, where you will find more of her life story as well as an archive of her important works and other information. Well worth a visit, as is a more extensive search online