IMAG­ING THE UR­BAN WILD / THE LONE, UNIDENTIFIABLE FIG­URE

KAYE DAVIS DIS­CUSSES LISA SAAD’S NZIPP- AND AIPP-AC­CLAIMED SERIES, THE ANONY­MOUS MAN, AND OUR OWN PLACE WITHIN THE UR­BAN EN­VI­RON­MENT

The Photographer's Mail - - Column - KAYE DAVIS

Late Au­gust saw me again judg­ing at the 2016 Aus­tralian Pro­fes­sional Pho­tog­ra­phy Awards (APPAs). I be­came im­mersed in three days of in­spi­ra­tion, and it con­tin­ues to amaze me how much cre­ativ­ity and in­no­va­tion there is within the pho­to­graphic world.

One artist who was seen to be break­ing bound­aries this year is Mel­bourne-based ad­ver­tis­ing and com­mer­cial pho­tog­ra­pher Lisa Saad. Her four en­tries were awarded from Sil­ver with Dis­tinc­tion through to Gold with Dis­tinc­tion, earn­ing her 2016 Ad­ver­tis­ing Pho­tog­ra­pher of the Year, as well as the big one: 2016 Aus­tralian Pro­fes­sional Pho­tog­ra­pher of the Year.

Each of Saad’s en­tries, two of which were com­mis­sioned pieces, were taken from a project she’s been work­ing on for close to two years called

The Anony­mous Man. The series, now com­pris­ing 28 pho­to­graphs, ex­plores the con­struct of our ur­ban ex­is­tence, re­flect­ing the anonymity that comes through the pres­sures, free­dom, and un­ex­pect­ed­ness we ex­pe­ri­ence as we live, work, and com­mu­ni­cate within the ur­ban­ized world. When look­ing at the images, there’s a sim­plic­ity that is strength­ened through the use of line and shape, and, in each im­age, there’s a sin­gle, lone, unidentifiable fig­ure — the anony­mous man.

The hu­man el­e­ment in each im­age may rep­re­sent hu­man fragility, in stark con­trast to the vis­i­ble strength and size of the build­ings that sur­round him — the ur­ban jun­gle, where we con­tinue to build even big­ger, higher, and with in­creased den­sity. The anonymity of the lone fig­ure al­lows us to ex­plore the en­vi­ron­ment through the anony­mous man’s eyes or through con­sid­er­ing our own per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences — and our own jour­neys through and within the built en­vi­ron­ment around us.

To cre­ate the images, Saad com­bines and blends mul­ti­ple pho­to­graphic com­po­nents in Pho­to­shop, with some com­po­si­tions made up of two or more lo­ca­tions. The build­ings and struc­tures them­selves were cap­tured within Can­berra and in places as far away as Sin­ga­pore, New York, Bangkok, and Chicago.

The Fly­ing Doc­tors, num­ber 26 in The Anony­mous Man series, pic­tured, pays trib­ute to the Aus­tralian Royal Fly­ing Doc­tor Ser­vice (RFDS), an or­ga­ni­za­tion that has pro­vided a med­i­cal ser­vice to ru­ral and re­mote parts of Aus­tralia that dates back to 1928. As the idea for the im­age evolved, Saad set out to lo­cate and pho­to­graph each of the el­e­ments. Essendon Air­port, be­ing the Mel­bourne base of oper­a­tions for the RFDS, was her first stop, and there she pho­tographed the planes, the hangars, and RFDS crew. Her next point of call was Shep­par­ton, north of Mel­bourne, where she pho­tographed the camels with the aid of a lo­cal in­di­vid­ual who raises and trains these an­i­mals. Her fi­nal stop was Bro­ken Hill, a very iso­lated, her­itage-listed com­mu­nity lo­cated in the far west out­back of New South Wales. It was through trav­el­ling to Bro­ken Hill — at one time home to the world’s largest sil­ver, lead, and zinc mine — that re­ally made Saad aware of just how im­por­tant the RFDS is for re­mote places such as this.

With all the el­e­ments cap­tured, Saad set about com­posit­ing the pho­to­graph. Her aim was to cre­ate a visual link be­tween the ‘old’ Bro­ken Hill and its con­nec­tion to the ‘new’ of Mel­bourne city. Each of the el­e­ments in the im­age re­flects this in­vis­i­ble thread — from the heavy haze of the city to the wan­der­ing camels (rep­re­sent­ing an early means of trans­port) in com­par­i­son to the planes (re­flect­ing free­dom of flight) — all jux­ta­posed with the heav­i­ness of what was once a boom­ing town, windswept un­der the tonal­ity of the Aus­tralian out­back.

Within the series, Saad has used her cam­era as a tool to ex­plore and cap­ture the ur­ban land­scape. Each im­age has its own nar­ra­tive, brought about by an in­ter­pre­ta­tion of her own ex­is­tence and ex­pe­ri­ence within these ur­ban worlds.

The very il­lus­tra­tive style adopted for the series em­pha­sizes the sense of sto­ry­telling and ques­tion­ing. It al­lows us a free­dom to ex­plore through a greater use of our imag­i­na­tion than might have been pos­si­ble if pre­sented as a more ‘re­al­is­tic’ por­trayal of the scenes and el­e­ments, which also adds mys­tique.

While some may ques­tion the strongly il­lus­tra­tive na­ture of the images, Saad has re­ceived wide ac­claim for push­ing the bound­aries of con­tem­po­rary pho­tog­ra­phy and chal­leng­ing us with her vi­sion. How­ever one looks at the images, they are thought­pro­vok­ing, in­trigu­ing, and mas­ter­ful in their cre­ation.

To view more of The Anony­mous Man series, visit lisas­aad.com.

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