‘Fixed Images, Unfixed Meanings’

Photography - Real and Imagined, Thames & Hudson, Australia and New Zealand, 2023


Photography – Real and Imagined interrogates the proposition that photographs are either grounded in reality – a record, a document, a reflection of the world – or the product of imagination, storytelling and illusion. On occasion, they can be both. In this publication, 295 photographs from the National Gallery of Victoria, by Australian and international photographers, are richly illustrated and explored through 21 themes, including light, movement, narrative, conflict, work, play, and death. Spanning the 1840s to the current day, the works in Photography: Real and Imagined are an exploration of the past, present and future of photography, and a celebration of more than five decades of collecting photography at a major art museum. The photos, selected from the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries, are divided into thematic groupings such as: environment; arrival and departure; built; science and the archive; war, protest and propaganda; work and recreation; selling the dream; storytelling and narrative; Surrealism; sensuality; Identity; and death. Photographs are uniquely examined in short texts by NGV curators Susan van Wyk and Maggie Finch and local and international authors Kyla McFarlane, Astrida Neimanis, Charmaine Toh, Robert Zeller, Patrick Pound, Sophia Cai, Claire G. Coleman, Jennifer HIggie, Elsa deCourcy and Helen Ennis. The book also includes three major essays including an introductory essay by Susan van Wyk; a text by Susan Bright examining the idea of the photograph as a document of the ‘real’; and a piece by David Campany, ‘Fixed Images, Unfixed Meanings’, exploring the imaginative capacity of photography.

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