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Posts Tagged ‘Jackie Ranken

JACKIE RANKEN @ BIFB: Doug’s catalogue essay

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Jackie Ranken's BIFB show

Jackie Ranken’s BIFB show

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Jackie Ranken has a huge show at the 2013 Ballarat International Foto Biennale –

I was privileged to write the catalogue essay …

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Jackie’s BIFB Catalogue pages

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Egg Poacher

Egg Poacher

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THE ESSAY

Jackie Ranken: far-flung – home and away

The call to photograph demands a photographer to react with spontaneity, vigour and intuition to record the observed moment. As they go into the world and seek out subjects of interest to make into photographs their operational mode could probably be described as that of the hunter-gatherer. Photographers like Elliott Erwitt, Robert Frank, Ansel Adams, Faye Godwin, Helen Levitt, William Eggleston and Martin Parr have shaped the history of photography using this mode of working. The quest undertaken by these hunter-gatherer photographers is to capture from the world something that is invisible or unseen in everyday life.

Then there are other photographers that are not content with just photographing what is before them, and as such are compelled to create their own realities to photograph. These constructed tableaux can combine disparate elements that may never have physically or metaphorically co-existed, presenting visual challenges and conundrums to those who look at these photo-fictions.

Australian born photographer Jackie Ranken, now living in New Zealand, is somewhat a photographic chameleon as she can manoeuvre between the two image-making styles with ease. Regardless of her mode of working Ranken’s photographs consistently present new and unique images of the world to inform, surprise and inspire the minds of the both the photo-specialist and public audiences.

The body of work that first brought Jackie Ranken to national prominence was a series of aerial photographs reinterpreting the Australian pastoral landscape. Ranken made these images precariously strapped into a Gypsy Moth bi-wing aircraft flown by her father. Aerobatic manoeuvres were required so that a straight-down view could be imaged without wing tips and struts. The result of these hair-raising flights was tightly composed photographs of landform details. Devoid of the references of perspective and horizon that viewers usually need to make sense of the landscape, these images presented visual cryptic patterns of the land rendered as geometric, non-representational shapes–patterns of cattle and sheep tracks, fence lines and the twist of a stream’s course. The viewer metaphorically flies above unfamiliar terrains visually seduced by the intricate beauty of these abstract landforms.

While this body of work may fit comfortably with the idea of the hunter-gatherer photographic mode, Ranken also purposefully constructed a space for her images to be created. She was not a casual observer waiting for the moment to capture her subject, but rather she provoked the landscape to reveal itself through her unusual viewpoint and representation.

The chameleon photographer that is Jackie Ranken has embraced many of the more traditional genres of photography including press photography, photodocumentary and travel or destination photography. Always present in her photography is an edginess that takes the viewer into new and exciting visual territory and the body of work presented in this year’s Ballarat International Foto Biennale is no exception. In her Kitchen Stories and other realities Ranken employs the New Zealand landscape as a stage in which many players or objects are cast. The landscape backgrounds selected by Ranken are often in themselves places of natural beauty – snow-capped mountains, barren grassy hills and clear watered lakes … until the landscape’s seemingly still and quiet nature is interrupted by flying objects that come across the field of view and grab the viewer’s attention. These unexpected and incongruous objects, now frozen in time and space, hover motionless over a monochrome landscape. An antique aluminium two-egg steamer pops up before a rustic country shack in field of tussock grass. In another image, located on a beach a drop-sided toaster and power cord snake serpent-like across the foreground perhaps as the Manaia[1] of New Zealand Māori culture.

Flying Toaster

Flying Toaster

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The design of the objects, their attitude in flight or physical placement in the frame, often imply a face in particular–the eyes, but as you allow imagination to take hold other features emerge. Robotic, alien (from outer space), drone-like apparatus and contraptions appear. In some images the similarity of object and location seem to connect with some kind of loose logic. Aluminium rice steamers have landed on earth and attempt to mimic the Moeraki Boulders behind them–hoping, maybe, to go unnoticed. Yet in other photographs, such as ones in which forks, with tines pointed skyward, emulate a miniature steely massed forest.

Moeraki Rice Cookers

Moeraki Rice Cookers

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The mysterious presence in Ranken’s photographs is further enhanced by her warm tone, sepia treatment of the images. Adding to the visual presentation of the photographs is the use of a dark border and veil-like texture screen. These techniques enable the normal colour and tone rendition of the subject to be transformed into an image that invokes fleeting memories and dreams. Anecdotes in the author’s own hand surround the image to recount Ranken’s connection with the object and the circumstances of the photo-making encounter.

Through the visual narrative of Kitchen Stories and other realities, Ranken constructs visual communiqués to connect the viewer with their memories and experiences and to encourage a heightened awareness of the ordinary things that surround their everyday life. In the captured ephemeral moments of flight Ranken presents the viewer with an opportunity to contemplate these objects of everyday experience. Ranken comments in her artist’s statement, that the Zen philosophy of Shibui informs her approach to life, and therefore she seeks to create images that present glimpses of a world where beauty can be found in simple and mundane objects.

What meaning should the viewer take from this? Are Ranken’s flung kitchenalia also a personal rebellion against homecraft and the traditional expectations of the housewife? Could it be a fascination with flight? Or is it that Ranken is a visual provocateur? In her artist’s statement the latter seems to be her strategy and it’s up to us to make sense of these incongruous apparitions. At first there may be a resistance to engage beyond the whimsical nature of the work. But these photographs deserve close and extended viewing, if not only to satisfy our curiosity for what has been presented to us, but also for what we may discover about ourselves, and the connections we make with the world.

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Dr Doug Spowart

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manaia_%28mythological_creature%29

BIOG: Doug Spowart is an artist, photographer, lecturer and artists’ bookmaker. With over 30 years continuous involvement in his art practice he has exhibited widely and his work is included in major gallery and library collections. Spowart has a PhD with his main research interests in both the photobook and social media.

 

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Photos © 2013 Jackie Ranken and Doug Spowart,  installation photo

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This text is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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Written by Cooper+Spowart

August 22, 2013 at 9:39 am

QUEENSTOWN: Catching up with Jackie Ranken and Mike Langford

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We recently visited two of the great luminaries of the Australian and New Zealand professional photography scene, Jackie Ranken and Mike Langford at their Queenstown Centre for Creative Photography. And as if the work these guys do is not amazing enough their home, in the QCCP has one of the world’s most magnificent views over the city of Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and on to Walter Peak on one side and the Remarkables mountains on the other. It’s hard to engage in conversation with Jackie and Mike in daylight as every now and then your attention wanders to view outside — you need to excuse yourself, and grab a camera to capture the changing remarkable scenery out the window.

Between them Jackie and Mike have amassed a collection of AIPP APPAwards ‘glass eye’ trophies, NZIPP glass trophies and the AIPP New South Wales Awards antique cameras. It takes one large windowsill to show just some of the awards. Facing the lake and mountain view is a gallery of their stunning landscape and documentary works. The QCCP is an amazing and inspirational place to visit.

A selection of Professional Photographer of the Year trophies

After dinner we spent time talking about the issues of photography, great photographers past and present, and shared stories of places encounted and photographed. A data projector was positioned before a screen and we made presentations of recent works. One of Jackie’s projects, which we’d call ‘flying kitchenalia’, shows household items, mainly from the kitchen, being captured mid-air above various New Zealand picturesque locations. The incongruous pairing presented a completely different perspective in the photography of this already well-documented landscape. The absurd combinations in these images evoke a hilarious viewer response.

For some time the pair have travelled in Burma (sometimes called Miramar) and a presentation of Jackie’s documentary images of showed us that this is a most remarkable place for travellers, particularly those with a camera. While we recognized that Miramar is an amazing place, it is important to acknowledge Jackie’s skilled and astute photographic vision. In these images there was the poetry of a well-seen moment and yet a profound sense of place. Jackie captured poignant human moments where her subjects had unknowingly shared something special of themselves and their lives in this country. In turn this experience was shared with us. Jackie’s images are a remarkable document of a people and place that is about to change, and somehow, that’s exactly where photographers do their most profound work.

Mike’s images of Japan explored this familiar subject for him through an interesting concept of transitions referring to movie making techniques. Here Mike was looking at a more intimate and personal vision of this intriguing country. Our conversation continued well into the evening . . .

The next day was an early rise so we could catch our flight home. For breakfast Mike scrambled some eggs, toasted rustic bread and made coffee. Doug made a silhouette portrait of the pair before the picture window and then off to the airport — a bit rushed, but rich with the thoughts of the time spent together.

Jackie and Mike in silhouette

Thank you Jackie and Mike.

Doug and Vicky

SEE more about Mike and Jackie and the QCCP here:

http://www.qccp.co.nz

http://www.jackieranken.co.nz

http://www.mikelangford.co.nz

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