Lies, illusion and the phantasm in photography

Images from the Photographic Collection of
the Horsham Regional Art Gallery

4 October - 2 November 2003

The camera would seem to be the most perfect instrument for excising a sample of the passage of light and time across the portion of the world on which we stand. But an extract is not to be mistaken for the essence of the real. So much is missing or excluded, but what is left may be beautiful, intriguing, puzzling or revelatory.

Like a ship embalmed in ice or a tree suspended in the sky, a photograph is an enigma that requires our input. We must be active in our reading; we have to tell ourselves about what we see. The first question so often asked of an image is "What, who or where, is it?"

Phiction includes news photographs, photojournalism and scientific images among fine art images They have in common a concern with the incredible, with the illusionistic, fantastic or hallucinatory, with deceptions, lies or hoaxes, with the apparition or the double-take. These are visions in the sense that they present themselves to us as strange, uncanny, paradoxical or ridiculous. The only way of deciphering them is to ask not just "what is it?" but to construct our own narrative around them.

To prompt this process each image is 'captioned' with text extracts from Australian literature that may contradict or confirm the viewer's reading of the works. The writers, of course, are describing an image to the mind's eye of the viewer where it remains inaccessible to anyone other than the reader themselves. The photographer works from existing 'reality' in the hope of evoking the narrative or conceptual element.

This exhibition celebrates the originality and diversity of Australian vision in image and text.

James McArdle
Exhibition Curator

Chris Barry Puppet 1986


Laurie Wilson Dog Rocks - Victoria 1974


Ian Ward Lift Off 1978