I’m the first to admit that a lot of fine art photography leaves me cold. For every Bill Henson or James Craig Annan, there’s an infinite number of Anne Geddes wannabes (nope, I don’t get wanting to work with babies either) and angsty photography students keen to show you what they can do with an abandoned building and their dad’s old Nikon. Don’t even get me started on Instagram’s effect on the genre. A lot of contemporary photography follows the same old tropes – inanimate objects, black and white, obscured views and shadowy forms. Where the sound of photography was once the rapid click click click of the shutter, now there’s just a vague presence whispering cliché cliché cliché in my ear. But then an artist like Emma Wright emerges from the quagmire, and I’m forced to reconsider all that I thought about the current state of fine art photography.
As a writer, I am in awe of Wright’s ability to do with one photo what I can only do with the luxury of at least a thousand words – weave a complex short story with the barest of explanations. Inspired by notions of place and belonging, Wright’s work is testament to the power of narrative photography to depict descriptive moments in time. Whether disturbing traditional interior design imagery with the inclusion of toilet brushes and granny undies, or capturing the biting ache of an unexpectedly nostalgic moment, Wright is proving herself to be a highly skilled visual storyteller who can tap into and manipulate our rawest emotions.
Having shelved a career in investment banking in order to follow her artistic leanings, Emma Wright is now emerging as one of Queensland’s most exciting fine art photographers. Currently studying at Queensland College of Art, Wright is fast gaining recognition for her quirky, heartfelt explorations of the human condition. Closely aligned to the 1960’s Italian art movement arte povera (art contrived from despised materials), Wright has a way of looking at the world that elevates the mundane to the magical. Her work is contemporary, idiosyncratic and humour-filled, but with a poignancy felt only in the most enduring stories of our culture. Each image invites the viewer to look closer, receive its messages, and find their own story within its frames.
Last Friday, at the launch of The Ambience Store Project in which she is one of the three featured artists, I watched guest after guest gravitate towards her images. Unlike what I have witnessed of photography exhibitions before, viewers feel compelled to return time and time again to the stories she was telling. For a photograph to resonate so strongly and to have so many layers worth exploring, there must surely be something of the philosopher in Wright’s vision, an intuitive and genuine ability to reflect back to us our most private contemplations.
Emma Wright may only be at the beginning of her career, but it is already something special to witness the connection she has with her audience. I’m so pleased to be a part of bringing her to new audiences and see the way her work beguiles them.
Emma Wright’s work is on view as part of The Ambience Store Project until 4 May 2016.
Ambience Store: 52 Doggett Street, Newstead Q 4006
Emma Wright’s website here.