Friday, September 17, 2010

Mclean Stephenson

Photography is a strange art-form, it essentially captures reality through the eye of the photographer and the lens of the camera, but for a photo to be true art it needs to be distorted by the artist so as to reflect the altered truth of their vision. This is something most photographers fail to realise, spending all their time on focussing on achieving clarity or making sure everything is in focus and lit properly. By contrast Mclean Stephenson seems very aware of this, his photos transforming the world and people before him, washing them in his own mantle of decay and neo-Victorian gloom.

His first exhibition held a few weeks ago at the charming Moon Age vintage clothing store in Surrey Hills showcased a variety of his work, mainly that featuring the musicians he's made a career out of shooting. These include the venerable PVT, the gorgeous Bridezilla, brooding troubadour Jack Ladder and the ever enigmatic Kirin J. Callinan amongst others, and Stephenson does a remarkable job at capturing their energy and attitude in photos that look as if they could have been taken from Gatsby's private collection.

However while these more commercial shots are great, and easily the best press shots I've seen taken by an Australian photographer, it is Stephenson's landscape and more abstract work that really captures the imagination. Taking views of Sydney's outer suburbs and transporting them to WWII France, constructing ghostly images where dark figures loom over the frame, his work seems to speak a language of tension, anxiety and fear, which is also tempered with a childlike humour and wistful sense of nostalgia.

I already feel pretentious enough discussing such subjective material while wielding a heavy mace of hyperbole, but before I wrap up this eerie love letter, let me just say that I have never seen work from an upcoming photographer that displayed such a well balanced sense of style and such a cohesive and consistently brilliant aesthetic. My only criticism is that there aren't more photos for me to obsess over.

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