The ground-breaking work of Australian photographer and filmmaker Sue Ford will be explored in a major retrospective opening at the National Gallery of Victoria on 17 April. One of the most important practitioners to emerge in the wave of 1970s feminist photographers, Ford is recognised for her inventive and unique approaches to the medium and passionate engagement with feminism and gender issues, contemporary politics and the histories of Australia and its Indigenous people.
The exhibition will bring together more than 150 photographs, digital prints, collages and films spanning the five decades of Ford’s career, as well as important archival materials and, poignantly, several unseen works that the artist was working on at the time of her death in 2009.
Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV, said, “Sue Ford has a long and significant history with the National Gallery of Victoria; she was the first Australian photographer to hold a solo exhibition at the Gallery with her renowned Time Series in 1974, and we have been honoured to present her work many times since. It is appropriate, then, that the NGV presents this retrospective exhibition surveying and celebrating her artistic work and life.”
Ford’s Time Series 1962-74 is regarded as a key moment in Australian photography. In this work, black-and-white double portraits of Ford’s friends and associates were taken around ten years apart and displayed side by side. Some sitters were photographed for a third and even fourth time, producing a remarkable dialogue on the passage of time, identity and personal histories. The entirety of the Time Series will be on display in the exhibition, along with Ford’s long-term project Self-portrait with camera, an extraordinary series of 47 self-portraits taken between 1960 and 2006.
The exhibition will feature Ford’s social documentary and portraiture work; both political and personal, these images reveal intimate depictions of life in inner-city Melbourne along with powerful records of critical political and social milestones including the 1988 Barunga Festival in the Northern Territory. Her prolific output also allows for the exhibition to survey the development of her experimentation with photographic, film, printing and multimedia techniques since the 1960s, such as the photogram, multiple exposures and mirroring of negatives.
Maggie Finch, Curator of Photography, NGV, said that Ford was renowned for her distinctive approach to photography and image-making.
“The photographic work of Sue Ford defies easy definition, sitting outside traditional understandings of ‘portrait’, ‘documentary’ and ‘landscape’ photography – they are always something more, something different.
Ford constantly turned the camera on herself, her family, friends and acquaintances for social and political ends, and is thus aligned with the important wave of 1970s Australian feminist photographers that included Micky Allan, Virginia Coventry, Sandy Edwards, Ponch Hawkes and Ruth Maddison. During more than five decades of practice, which included significant exhibitions both in Australia and internationally, Ford sustained a passionate artistic output which was consistently sincere, experimental and demonstrative of a profound curiosity for art and life,” said Ms Finch.
A full-colour 176-page hardback publication will be available for RRP$39.95 from the NGV Shop. This comprehensive publication, produced in collaboration with the Sue Ford Archive, is the first major monograph on the artist and a celebration of her outstanding artistic life and prolific career.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of public programs – visit ngv.vic.gov.au for further details.
Sue Ford will be on display at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia from 17 April to 24 August 2014. Open 10am–5pm, closed Mondays. Free entry.