The Weekend Australian - Review - - Visual Arts -

had ‘‘ al­ready taken pho­to­graphs of al­most ev­ery build­ing in Melbourne, as well as in ev­ery town of any im­por­tance in Vic­to­ria’’. The neg­a­tives were held in the Melbourne of­fice, and re­pro­duc­tions could be or­dered by mail.

What made this unique pro­ject dou­bly in­ter­est­ing was that Mer­lin would have the peo­ple who lived or worked in each build­ing come out­side and pose for the cam­era in front of their house or work­shop. The re­sult is not sim­ply an ar­chi­tec­tural but a so­ci­o­log­i­cal sur­vey, com­ple­mented by the stu­dio por­traits of those who wanted a more for­mal pic­ture of them­selves — though per­haps not sur­pris­ingly the stu­dio pic­tures are of­ten stilted and un­com­fort­able, es­pe­cially in con­trast with the spon­tane­ity of the street scenes.

The qual­ity of the wet-plate or col­lo­dion process of pho­tog­ra­phy al­lows the im­ages to be en­larged al­most in­def­i­nitely. Dig­i­tal im­ages, as we know, are con­verted into data and de­pend­ing on the de­gree of res­o­lu­tion — ba­si­cally how big we are will­ing to make the data file — we find the im­age even­tu­ally will de­com­pose into pix­els as we zoom in. An ana­log pho­to­graph, though, is not made up of a fi­nite num­ber of data but is a con­tin­u­ous fab­ric, an imprint of re­flected light that can be opened up to re­veal de­tails in­vis­i­ble at first; this was the premise of Michelangelo An­to­nioni’s film Blow-Up (1966).

The im­ages in the ex­hi­bi­tion (now also on­line on the State Li­brary of NSW web­site) are dis­played in en­larged form or, even more sug­ges­tively, on dig­i­tal screens, demon­strat­ing the process of en­large­ment be­fore our eyes: the rev­e­la­tion of de­tail, as faces ap­pear in the crowd, and ex­pres­sions on faces, as signs and

Top, John Davey, baker, at Cana­dian Lead town­ship near Gul­gong in 1872; above, Bern­hardt Holter­mann at Hill End with the Holter­mann nugget he un­earthed in 1872

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.