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
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.