Knocking the Samstag Museum for six
Beginning on June 30, the University of South Australia’s Samstag Museum will be exhibiting a creative collaboration between esteemed photographer wife and husband duo Narelle Autio and Trent Parke entitled, The Summation of Force. The multi-channel video work explores the mythical power of cricket; more than an innocent backyard game, the sport is pitched as a metaphor for life.
Alumna Narelle has had an expansive career as photographer. Initially beginning as a photojournalist for the Adelaide Advertiser, she eventually went on to win awards such as the Walkley Award, Oskar Barnack Award, and World Press Photo Award.
Narelle discusses the uniqueness of Australia, the evolution of her photographic style, and the intricacies of collaborating with her husband.
Please describe your work.
Based in reality, candid, cinematic, and optimistic. Photography is like therapy for me, I like to search out what makes me feel better about the world.
I think my style has evolved over time but I am still drawn to photograph reality. I love waiting for a moment to present itself. Without fail, life will always give me something more amazing than my imagination could come up with.
I am a bit of a bowerbird and take inspiration from lots of different artists working in various mediums, but I am not one to totally study someone. I think the best work is done from the closest point of view. When you are truly connected on a personal level and not trying to emulate anyone. I have always allowed my life to lead the way and for the most part take inspiration from what is happening around me.
Please briefly describe you journey from studying a Bachelor of Arts (Visual Arts) to where you are now.
After graduation my first job was as a photojournalist with the Adelaide Advertiser. I then travelled around the USA and onto the United Kingdom working throughout Europe for various British national newspapers and the then News Limited Australia (News Corp Australia). After returning to Australia I worked on staff at the Sydney Morning Herald for several years while establishing myself as an artist.
What are some of your career highlights?
Hard to say. Working as a photojournalist allowed me to visit a lot of incredible places and gave me a lot of unforgettable experiences but the best part was the privileged access I had to ordinary people with stories to tell. Photographing the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and being trackside when Cathy Freeman won gold was pretty special.
Congratulations on receiving numerous, highly regarded awards! Which award are you most proud of?
The Leica Oskar Barnack Award. I was the first and I think I am still the only Australian to win this award. It was for a series of photographs taken in and out of the water and around the coastline of Australia. It was extremely satisfying to be rewarded internationally for work done here in my own country about our relationship with the ocean, a great passion of mine.
You have travelled and worked around the world, where is your favourite place?
Australia is my favourite place, it is why I came back here and stayed. After working in the media industry in various countries for 10 years I was feeling uninspired... but I fell in love with Australia and photography all over again when I returned from overseas. My favourite trip was searching out family in Finland and visiting the island where my grandfather was born. I took my parents, at that time on their first overseas trip. It was incredibly moving. One of my favourite cities would be Seattle and Washington (State) – amazing coastline, so different from Australia but breathtakingly beautiful.
Please briefly describe your exhibition coming soon to Samstag, The Summation of Force.
The moving image work looks at the history of cricket through the backyard game. Opening up a conversation about attitudes to sport. From the innocence and fun of cricket at a grass roots level, through the anxiety of training and striving to be the best, and finally the worshipping of the sports professional.
Is this exhibition different to your others, or will it have a similar tone and presence?
It is different because it is a moving image work, something we have never done before but the subject matter revolves around our life and investigates and questions why things are what they are. The photography uses a lot of light and darkness so while based in reality there is a feel of a dream, in that way continuing on the themes of our previous work.
What is it like working with your partner? Do your unique skills combine well or, at times, contradict?
Bringing two different points of view together keeps the project energetic and the male and female perspective at times can be both enlightening and contentious. In most cases we welcome the artistic argument that inevitably happens when our ideas contradict. The first project we did together was almost twenty years ago so we know each other very well and trust each other’s opinion and honesty. This is a huge benefit as the work has been through a pretty rigorous editing process by the time it reaches an audience and it is incredibly rewarding to achieve something together.
Do you have any tips or advice for recent Visual Arts graduates starting out their careers?
Get a real job, one that pays money! Then work hard every spare minute you can to develop your art practice. Don't follow. Find your own story.
By Keir Hale