Sunday, April 7, 2013

Photography - issues - Robert Rooney's photographs

I think that Robert Rooney's black and white photographs of young boys taken between 1956 and 1958 with his Box Brownie camera and currently being shown at the Centre for Contemporary Photography in Melbourne are exquisitely beautiful in the way that he draws the viewer's eye to minute movements of the body that we don't generally see. Time is slowed in these somewhat languid depictions of school boys in their usual day to day interactions with each other. I was absolutely fixated on that slight movement of the boys left hand and right leg, caught so precisely and the almost slipping shoulder bag on the boy in the middle of the photograph whose back faces us in this first photograph below. This image also acutely depicts the intimacy of the group and the loneliness of the boy who is walking past them.

Some of the photographs, like two above, appeared magnificently choreographed; a strange dance of uniformed figures. If we walk into this exhibition with sinister thoughts about pedophiles and school boys, molestation and school uniform pedophiles then we broach these photographs in a manner not intended by the photographer who was himself at that time, a student at Swinburne Technical College in Melbourne. Fascinated by childhood and repetition Rooney has also included in this exhibition beautiful images of young boys playing in the local Rubbish Tip and/or just hanging out in the street - usual behavior for children at that time in Melbourne. Going to the rubbish tip was certainly a memory of mine, since many 'still good' objects could be found at the tip and made new again.
I showed these photographs here (they are Rooney's photographs rephotographed by me when I saw the exhibition last Saturday) to contribute to the conversation being raised by Steven Middleton in his previous post. On Photography - In Trouble. I truly believe that the intent of the photographer is paramount and we as viewers should not make assumptions based solely on the content.

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