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Reveries: Photography and Mortality

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This exhibition brings together photographs that deal with the last phase of people's lives. Many of the photographs - by photographers from Australia and New Zealand - have not been exhibited before. The time span is from the late 1970s up to the present day, coinciding with what is sometimes known as the 'death awareness movement'. This emerged to counter what French historian Philippe Ariès terms 'the modern death' that is characterized by an ever-increasing amount of medical and technological intervention.

Reveries is concerned with death of self, death of other, and reflections on mortality prompted by one's own direct experiences, such as serious illness or the death of a loved one. The emphasis throughout is on states of heightened awareness and consciousness of mortality and therefore with natural death rather than violent or accidental death.

While acknowledging at the outset that each death represents the life of an individual and the sum of a unique set of experiences, the aim has been to consider the preoccupations and patterns that emerge from the photographs as a group. What is astounding is how many connections there are.

263 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2007

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About the author

Helen Ennis

18 books5 followers
Helen Ennis is one of Australia’s leading photography curators, historians and writers.

She joined the Department of Photography at the National Gallery of Australia in 1981 and was Curator of International and Australian Photography at the National Gallery of Australia from 1985-92. She has extensive experience as an independent curator and writer specializing in the area of Australian photographic practice.

Her curatorial projects include Mirror with a memory: Photographic portraiture in Australia (National Portrait Gallery, 2000); a retrospective exhibition of Olive Cotton’s photographs (Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2000); and the two-part exhibition In a New Light: Australian Photography 1850s-2000 (National Library of Australia 2003 and 2004). Her exhibition of the work of European émigré photographer Margaret Michaelis was shown at the National Gallery of Australia in 2005.

Helen’s publications include Olive Cotton (Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2000), Man with a camera: Frank Hurley overseas (National Library of Australia, 2002), Intersections: Photography, history and the National Library of Australia (National Library of Australia, 2004) and the award-winning biography Margaret Michaelis: love, loss and photography (National Gallery of Australia, 2005). Her book Photography and Australia was published by Reaktion, London, in 2007.

In 2007 she curated Reveries: Photography and Mortality for the National Portrait Gallery and in 2008 curated A Modern Vision: Charles Bayliss, Photographer, 1850-1897 for the National Library of Australia.

Helen is a certified valuer for the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program.

She is currently Associate Professor, Art Theory, and Graduate Convenor, Research at the Australian National University School of Art


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