Interview with Esther Gyorki - June 2013
Firstly, explain how you came to be a photographer.
It might sound simplistic, but I have always found a pencil elusive.
A photograph is easier. Mysterious, frustrating, annoying, intangible.
Maddeningly elusive - but still easier.
I was born in Brazil and was lucky to have had a childhood surrounded by natural beauty.
When I was 5 my sister let me borrow her camera, which our brother had let her borrow.
My father was kind enough to take this film off somewhere to be processed.
It came back sometime later as a set of black & white miniatures with wide borders
and deckle edges.
They seemed to me like large postage stamps, but I had a strange realization
that I had had a part in their creation.
Nothing much happened until I was 16 when I met the extraordinary Brazilian photographer
Otto Stupakoff. He was 28 and decades ahead of his time. He showed me some of the possibilities
and pointed me toward Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles.
I was there for two and a half years, before going to London, where I eventually managed a job with Adrian Flowers - an eccentric genius
who resembled Rasputin and held a contagious fascination for light. - He taught me to question.
Eventually I came to Australia and set up a small studio in South Melbourne in 1979.
Tell us about your series at BIFB'13.
For around 30 years I photographed work by some of the best artists in Victoria. Potters, Weavers, Glass Blowers, Painters, Silversmiths and Woodworkers.
All these photographs were of things. What really intrigued me though were the people who made them.
Extraordinary individuals who evolve & create extraordinary work in a painfully undernourishing society.
So I started to photograph some of them. That led me on to try and distill the beauty within us all.
This intangible Enigma that we are.
How do you see your work in a broader context, beyond BIFB'13.
We are a myriad of gestures hidden under many a façade. I find it heartening that many of those I have photographed have quite liked the person I have seen.
What do you hope is the lasting image or feeling that a viewer will experience after seeing your work?
I am always amazed by what others see in photographs. We all trundle around with a mound of baggage. All photographs will trigger memories good and bad.
I just search for elegance beneath a human cloak.
Who or what inspires you and influences your work?
My father gave me curiosity.
Otto Stupakoff & Adrian Flowers who I had the good fortune to meet.
Generosity who, like a Muse, comes knocking at my door when I least expect it.
Your work Enigma from 2012 is a really powerful and striking work.
Describe this work and what it means to you.
I have spoken at length about Enigma, Façade, Identity & Mystery.
I search for iconic qualities. I think this photograph might be getting close.
It clutches at many moods and sensual symbols.
It is a mask yes, but totally revealing - a vulnerable façade that shows confident strength.
Androgynous, yet the epitome of femininity.
Above all it personifies the enigma within gamine.
It allows us to identify, recognize & acknowledge.
You have said in the past that you "see a photograph as merely a trigger to our memory of substitution, where we perceive far more than we see".
Can you explain this concept further?
If I put it into context, it might explain things better -
Part of the fascination of photography is that it is such an unpredictable lie.
We can only interpret based on personal experience
and that experience is so subjective, so momentary,
that a strong photograph will produce
strong emotions that transcend the mere document.
As such it will always be the better for what is left out.
This is why I see a photograph as merely a trigger to our memory of substitution,
where we perceive far more than we see.
The feet and calves of Terence Bogue’s black and white photographs Penumbra I and II are,
in their dusty graphite shadows, also somewhat reminiscent of the life drawing class.
If they share a certain classical austerity with Albinus’s slender 18th century models it is a hairy-legged classicism.
Bogue shows us scars and hollows, rivers of veins and tectonic movements of skin and muscle.
The Anatomy Lesson
Other photographers identify something stunningly beautiful.
Terence Bogue captures it with mastery.
His images of a woman's shoulder blades and hand remind me of the classics of American photography.
But his tender marble-like pictures also have an austere touch of Canova, silky but statuesque, sensual but chaste.
Under the title The Itch, the sense of anecdote and perhaps erotic temptation arrives at iconic tranquillity.
We stand for two hours when we first meet, the conversation strung between Terence and the portraits on the wall. As we talk, he moves closer to one photograph or another and then back again, waves of memory and anecdote lapping at their toes like the water of a receding tide. His proximity to them promotes the primacy of portraits over portrait maker and serves to physically include them in the dialogue. But he doesn't speak on their behalf. The subjects are not to be pinned down like so many dead specimens, captured and shot and captioned for posterity.
There is no neat chronology to our conversation and I take scant note of any names, dates and occupations he might mention. The facts of the portraits become irrelevant amid Bogue's meandering reflection on the process of their creation. His comments well and recede as he ranges over memories of the portrait sessions, the decisions demanded by the proof sheets, his tendency to avoid the darkroom and then be seduced into printing on into the night.
Most of the sessions take a number of hours. Bogue does not contrive to direct a preconceived performance. Photographer and subject might drink and talk. Bogue "peers" and waits, attentive to the subtle, shifting dynamic between photographer, subject and camera. He is not looking for any objective reality. Rather, he seeks to clarify an intuition; to photograph the subject at a moment when he sees in them the "figment" of his imaginings that his intuition has inspired.
He peers and waits until there is "something weird that happens…perhaps a pause in the façade we all wear…a moment of privilege and trust." In one of the ironies of the process, the photographer must immediately relinquish this moment to the camera then let darkness retrieve it. Even then, the negative remains raw material yet to be refined.
The Photographs, the end result of the process, are with us all the while. There is a calmness and sense of resolution about them that belies the intractability of their genesis.
The uniformity of the square format and dark background minimizes distractions and provides a superficial consistency that highlights the uniqueness of each face and gives the portraits a strong visual impact. I am teased by curiosity about the relationship between photographer and subject, that mysterious almost tangible thread of connection between portrait and portrait maker. There is no hint of the sensationalized tabloid moment or any sense of complicity with a keyhole voyeur. I think of trust and integrity, contemplation, focus and humour. They trigger my thoughts about the interactions of people; what it is that attracts or repels, intrigues or annoys and, especially, what it is that connects.
Friends & Other Dancers
© Terence Bogue 2011 ~ 2015