Series, performance, 
experimental and the experiential

Snorkel Gallery

This intimate vignette draws on MGA’s collection of donated works and examines the different approaches photographers use to explore subject matter. A diverse range of works are brought together which intersect and coalesce in strange and beautiful ways. There is a particular focus on photographers who use long form narratives to explore their subject matter through a series of works. Some embrace chance and experimentation through cameraless techniques, others capture the complexities of modernity through documentary photography and performance, while others explore the intricacies of our landscape and memory.



Many photographers often build a series of works to create a long form interrogation of their subject matter over time.

John Cato produced a number of poetic photographic series based on his journeys into the Australian landscape, Virginia Coventry explored feminist practices by photographing the grainy footage of the 1974 Miss World pageant, and Patricia Piccinini’s photographic series SO2 (series 1), presents fictional narratives of a mutant creature engaging in everyday Australian life to explore ideas of what is ‘natural’ in the digital world and the impact of science and technology on the human form.



Tree – a journey  1971–79
from the series Essay I: landscapes in a figure
gelatin silver print
35.5 x 27.5 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
donated by the artist 1981
MGA 1982.19
courtesy of the John Cato Estate



Petroglyph  1971–79
from the series Essay I: landscapes in a figure
gelatin silver print
35.5 x 26.0 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
acquired 1981
MGA 1982.15
courtesy of the John Cato Estate


John Cato (1926–2011) commenced informal studies in photography with his father, photographer Jack Cato, in 1938. He worked as a commercial photographer from 1946 to 1975, including a stint as press photographer for the Argus from 1947 to 1950. He worked with Athol Shmith for over 20 years, first as Assistant Photographer of Athol Shmith Proprietary Limited from 1950 to 1955 and then as Director of Athol Shmith, John Cato Proprietary Limited from 1955 to 1974. He subsequently began his career as a photography educator, lecturing at Prahran Technical College and Photography Studies College. He also ceased working in commercial photography to focus on his practice as a fine art photographer.

During the 1970s and 1980s John Cato produced a number of poetic photographic series based on his excursions into the Australian landscape. The largest of these projects is Essay I: landscapes in a figure (1971–79), which consists of 80 black-and-white prints arranged into five thematic groupings: Tree − a journey, Petroglyphs, Seawind, Proteus and Waterway. This multi-part structure testifies to Cato’s interest in using a series of photographic prints to compose something similar to a sonnet or symphony. Although these works are based on Cato’s close attention to the natural environment, he abstracts the subject matter by using the camera to isolate patterns and textures.



Miss World televised  1974
gelatin silver print, 6 of 6
15.5 x 13.5 cm 
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
donated by Virginia Coventry 2015
MGA 2015.001.f
courtesy of the artist


Virginia Coventry (1942– ) studied painting at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology during the early 1960s before undertaking postgraduate studies at the Slade School of Fine Art, University College, London. While painting and drawing have remained a constant part of Coventry’s practice, she started taking photographs during the mid-1960s and developed a significant reputation during the 1970s for her photographs and installations. Her photographic work often comprised sequences of images combined with text and other fragments, and often examined the relationship of landscape, place and power – particularly in relation to the experience of women. 

Miss World televised is typical of Virginia Coventry’s photographic work from this period, which tended to revolve around tightly organised sequences of pictures of the same subject or an event. The work reveals much about feminist practices and networks in Melbourne during the early 1970s. 

At the time, Coventry shared a house with Micky Allan. One night, while watching Allan’s black-and-white television, she saw footage of the 1974 Miss World pageant on the news. Immediately taken by the way the poor reception distorted the bodies of the contestants, Coventry began to photograph the footage. Once she developed the film, she realised the visual ‘disruption’ caused by the incongruity of the telecast process and the camera’s shutter speed effectively cancelled out the figures and the beauty of the contestants, without necessarily deriding or critiquing the women themselves.

As Coventry has written of the pictures: ‘I remember discussions with other women at the time about the way that the distortions offered a protection to the integrity of the actual person in the photo-images. Because of the radical slippage between reportage and reception, the individual is no longer the subject. The title operates to focus attention on Miss World telecast as a quite abstract construction– as do the black-and-white, grainy, prints.’

MGA logo 2018.jpg


Pier  Apollo Bay  1978

gelatin silver prints

28.5 x 18.5 cm; 20.0 x 28.0 cm; 20.0 x 28.5 cm

Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection

donated by the artist 2007

MGA 2007.24

MGA logo 2018.jpg


Gurkawuy, Trial Bay, Northern Territory  1974

gelatin silver print

7.7 x 11.5 cm

Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection

donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program by Christine Godden 2013

MGA 2013.095.a-e


Jon Rhodes (1947– ) is a documentary photographer and film-maker who has spent extended periods of time working with Indigenous communities around Australia. Rhodes’s work is primarily concerned with the physicality of place, and the way that people relate to the environment. Many of his photographs are portraits that locate his subjects in the landscape, but he also documents unpeopled landscapes and rural streetscapes. 

Like many documentary photographers of his generation, Rhodes prints the frame of the film, which appears as a black edge around the image. This insists on the documentary veracity of the image – it has not been cropped – and also emphasises that the photograph is just one point of view on the world. Rhodes often likes to arrange his still images in series and sequences, allowing him to acknowledge movement and the passing of time. These sequences make human activity look capricious in contrast to the slow, almost imperceptible transitions of the physical environment.



Waiting for Jennifer  2000
from the series SO2 (series 1)
chromogenic print
80.0 x 80.0 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program 2012

MGA 2012.040
courtesy of the artist


Patricia Piccinini (1965– ) was born in Sierra Leone and arrived in Australia in 1972. She completed a Bachelor of Arts (Painting) at the Victorian College of the Arts in 1991. Piccinini is now one of Australia’s most recognised contemporary artists and her practice incorporates a wide range of media. Since the early 1990s, she has exhibited her work widely in Australia and overseas, including representing Australia at the Venice Biennale in 2003 and most recently at QAGOMA. 

Patricia Piccinini explores ideas of what is ‘natural’ in the digital world and questions the impact of science and technology on life and the human form. Photography was central to her early career and laid the foundations for her ongoing interest in digital technologies and the manipulation of ‘reality’. ‘Waiting for Jennifer’ is from Piccinini’s photographic series SO2 (series 1), which presents fictional narratives of a mutant creature engaging in everyday Australian life, in this case riding in a car with a young man. Piccinini’s creature, SO2 (synthetic organism 2) was inspired by a real life event; the creation of SO1, a microorganism that was the world’s first synthetic life-form. SO2 features in many of Piccinini’s works, in both two and three dimensional form. The creature, now known as Siren Mole, represents the dream of creating a new life and raises issues surrounding the definition of life, and how it might be affected by new medicine and contemporary genetic technologies. 

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36 degrees on the 14th  2000

from the series Siren Mole (SO2)

chromogenic print

80.0 x 80.0 cm

Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection

donated by Patricia Piccinini 2002

MGA 2002.12



Earlier this year MGA presented the landmark exhibition Antipodean emanations: cameraless photographs from Australia and New Zealand (10 March 2018 to 27 May 2018) which showcased over 80 cameraless photographs and brought together Australian and New Zealand artists who push boundaries through experimentation, unearthing the elemental properties of photographic practice.

Many of the works had never been exhibited in Australia and their inclusion has been made possible through a partnership between MGA and the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Zealand. In 2016 Govett-Brewster Art Gallery explored the international history of cameraless photography through their exhibition Emanations: the art of the cameraless photograph. Using this exhibition as a springboard, MGA continued this conversation. Beginning in the 1930s when modernist avant-garde movements were inspiring photographers to experiment with cameraless processes for artistic effect, Antipodean emanations highlighted the lasting impact of these traditions on photographic practice. Putting the spotlight on Australian and New Zealand artists, MGA’s exhibition explored experimentation and innovation. On view in this homage to cameraless techniques are works by Katthy Cavaliere, Robert Owen and Harry Nankin.



Study for 'Untitled home' 2  2007
gelatin silver print
39.5 x 33.5 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
donated by the Estate of Katthy Cavaliere 2017
MGA 2017.51
courtesy of the Estate of Katthy Cavaliere


Katthy Cavaliere (1972–2012) began exhibiting her work in 1993 and became known for her performance installations inspired by the everyday. She also worked extensively with photography, video and drawing. The photogram on display in this exhibition is a trace from Cavaliere’s installation, ‘Untitled home’ (2007), which explored the transience of homelessness. For this installation, Cavaliere filled a trolley with a pile of infated plastic bags. Typical of the artist’s practice, this installation involved the poetic use of everyday objects as well as the artist’s own presence. While Cavaliere’s physical body was not present in this installation, the plastic bags that formed part of it had been individually inflated by the artist and thus contained her breath. This photogram is therefore a direct trace of a vessel that contained a direct trace of the artist’s presence.


Robert OWEN

Endings – Kodachrome 64, No. 37, 19/06/1995  2009
from the series Endings
pigment ink-jet print
80.0 x 52.0 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program by Robert Owen 2016
MGA 2016.70
courtesy of the artist and Arc One Gallery (Melbourne)


This photograph is from Robert Owen’s series Endings. Owen’s artistic practice primarily revolves around abstract painting and sculpture, and this series of photographs continues his explorations of colour, light, form and abstraction. The photographs in this series are created from film stubs collected by the artist between 1968 and the mid-1990s. The images, which rely on chance and accident, push the boundaries of photography. Owen has used the medium’s raw materials not only as a tool but also as a subject. These images are devoid of any reference to the world beyond the essential properties of photographic film. The series thus references photography and the end of film both literally and metaphorically.



Fragment 13  1993
from the series Cathexis
toned gelatin silver print
40.0 x 40.0 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
donated by Tina Smyrnios through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program 2002
MGA 2002.15
courtesy of the artist


Harry Nankin (1953– ) is a Melbourne-based artist and lecturer. He completed a Master of Arts (Photography) at RMIT University in 1994 and a PhD at the School of Art, RMIT University in 2015. His practice focuses on the natural environment and he has been working with cameraless photographic processes since 1993. Rather than use a camera to photograph the world, Nankin uses simple, direct contact techniques such as the photogram to record traces of nature. His works have been widely exhibited since the early 1990s and he is represented in important Australian public collections.

While Nankin often produces his works outdoors in the natural environment, his series Cathexis was created in a darkened studio setting. Nankin physically placed his subjects on photographic paper then exposed the paper to the light of a torch before processing the images in the darkroom. The series incorporates skeletons of common Australian animals and a human being, attempting to connect them through shared shapes and forms. Nankin sees these works as two dimensional records of the interiors of three-dimensional objects, similar to a cross-section or an x-ray.



Collingwood vs Carlton  2005
from the series The faith
gelatin silver print
23.0 x 34.0 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
donated by the artist 2011
MGA 2011.142
courtesy of the artist


Paul Dunn (1960– ) has been taking photographs for over 20 years. He had his first solo exhibition in 2004, showing his photographs of the Collingwood Cheer Squad at Reportage Gallery in Collingwood. Photographs from this series were featured in an MGA touring exhibition, Australian rules: around the grounds. He has also produced a body of work exploring suburban growth corridors in Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and Sydney, which was exhibited at MGA in 2009. 

Over a number of years Dunn embedded himself in the culture of the Collingwood Cheer Squad to produce a photo essay titled The faith. This renowned group of supporters welcomed Dunn into their midst as their ‘official’ photographer, providing him with an insider's perspective on their weekly rituals and game day preparations. 'Collingwood vs Carlton' depicts football fans milling around the parklands of the MCG.



Laser vision  2011
from the series Don't just tell them, show them
chromogenic print
50.8 x 74.0 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program by Michael Janover 2014
MGA 2014.023
courtesy of the artist


Jesse Marlow (1978– ) is an internationally recognised street photographer. Marlow is a member of the Australian documentary photography agency OCULI and the international street photographers collective iN-PUBLiC. In 2011 Marlow won the inaugural London-based International Street Photography Prize, and the following year won the William and Winifred Bowness Photography Prize with the picture 'Laser vision'.

The photograph shows a woman walking past a fish-and-chip shop on the corner of Blackburn and Ferntree Gully Roads in Clayton, in Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs. The image depicts the chance encounter of a range of graphic elements in one frame, including the woman’s red and blue checked scarf, blue and white rays painted on a shop window, and other striped forms reflected in the window behind her. In doing so, the picture reflects something of the often fragmented and visually discordant experience of contemporary suburban Australia. By bringing these graphic elements together he evokes the complexity of modern urban life in a single frame.





Many a slip...  2012
from the series Accident and process
pigment ink-jet print
180.0 x 180.0 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program by Derek Kreckler 2014
MGA 2014.092
courtesy of the artist


Derek Kreckler (1952– ) originally trained as a sculptor and during the 1990s established himself as a performance artist. Over the last decade he has increasingly turned towards photography and the integration of performative elements to realise different narrative forms. Kreckler’s work often involves the use of highly constructed photographic images presented at large scale in public places. These include billboards showing images such as encounters between Indigenous Australians and colonial paintings. Invariably, Kreckler’s photographs engage with the experience of time. 

Kreckler’s interest in the experience of time has extended to chance and accidental encounters – such as a collision caused by a falling tree or glasses. He is interested in the way that the temporality of the accident and chance is often experienced in different ways and how they can lead to creative outcomes.

As Kreckler said: 'Many a slip...in part deals with cognition. I once dropped an egg. I knew immediately what to do. I knew what to do even before the egg hit the floor. It was as if the accident itself contained an understanding of how to fix it. I came to consider the way in which one small event – dropping an egg – can be suggestive of larger events. A task may seem simple, but clearly quite a lot can go wrong. The proverb ‘Many a slip between the cup and the lip’, seemed an appropriate title. Situating an accident in Wollongong City Gallery, allowed me to play with the idea of chance and its role in art. (Derek Kreckler, artist statement, 2013 Bowness Photography Prize, Monash Gallery of Art)



King of the castle #1  201213
from the series Beyond the black stump
hand-coloured pigment ink-jet print
58.5 x 58.8 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gift Program by Joy Hirst 2015
MGA 2015.046
courtesy of the artist and Retrospect Galleries (Byron Bay)


Alberto Sanchez (1971– ) is a photographer and multi-media artist based in Byron Bay. He completed a Certificate in Advanced Photography in Mexico City in 1994, a Diploma in Performing Arts at Ballyfermot College in Dublin in 2000 and an apprenticeship in photography with Manuel Blanco in Madrid from 2000 to 2002. After running a commercial photography business, he now focuses solely on his artistic practice.

He creates his works using hand colouring to change mundane, black and white photographs into colourful artistic expressions that explore ideas of urban expansionism, capitalism and how individuals define themselves in an overloaded environment. He has been actively exhibiting his work in Australia and overseas since 2008. This work is from Sanchez’s series, Beyond the black stump, which is a series of images created as parodies and situations to challenge our perception of male and female role models. It is typical of Sanchez’s practice in that it shows his use of hand colouring over a black and white photograph.


Landscape & Memory



Stephenson Street 1  2001
from the series Slab
selenium-toned gelatin silver print
150.0 x 120.0 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
donated by Tom Bruce through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program 2003
MGA 2003.30
courtesy of the artist


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Sharyn MEADE

Central Courtyard, Old Castlemaine Gaol  1995

sepia-and-selenium toned gelatin silver print

100.4 x 74.5 cm

Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection

donated by the artist 2001

MGA 2001.05

MGA logo 2018.jpg


Image for Thelma  2004

chromogenic print

103.0  x 101.0 cm

Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection

donated by Elissa Ashton-Smith 2004

MGA 2004.31



Filing cabinets  1998
chromogenic print
79.9 x 80.0 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
donated by Glenn Sloggett 2014
MGA 2014.067
courtesy of the artist



Glenn Sloggett (1964– ) is a Melbourne-based artist who graduated from the media arts program at RMIT in 1996. He works almost exclusively with still photography and has been exhibiting his prints in contemporary art contexts since the mid-1990s. Sloggett practises a highly personalised form of documentary photography, recording aspects of his environment that emphasise the tragedy and humour of human ambition, which documents traces of human activity in suburban streets, retail strips, public parks, cemeteries and domestic spaces.




Juliet 'Girl amongst leaves'  1976
gelatin silver print
20.2 x 30.3 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
acquired with assistance of the MGA Foundation 2012
MGA 2012.113
courtesy of Ken Jerrems and the Estate of Lance Jerrems