I have always loved trees, from hiding then climbing in them as a child to my first photographs. "Survivors" continues my long-term exploration of that quintessential Australian tree genus, Eucalyptus. We are only recently learning some of the many secrets of the arboreal world, with its complex networks and hidden ecosystems. These tree portraits are memorials to survivors and victims of bruising encounters with the human species. Whether dead or clinging to life amidst the onslaughts of fire, drought, over-grazing, logging and hydroelectric drowning, the trees offer testimony to perseverance and endurance over long lives.
After working mostly with digital photography over the past ten years, I have gone back to the folding wooden field camera and 5" x 7" black and white film used in my earliest work - a camera not unlike those of 19th century exploratory photographers. I like the way it slows down my photography, encouraging me look more carefully before taking the time to make a picture. With the view camera on a tripod, it is rare for me to expose more than four or five images during a day in the field. Like my 2001-02 Skeletons series, I have "solarised" the film during development by briefly flashing it with light, causing a partial reversal of the photographic tonalities - perhaps an echo of the environmental trauma depicted. In the digital pigment prints, I try to express an accurate rendition of the developed film's tonalities and colours, which remind me of the albumen and salt prints of early photography with its colonial histories.
David Stephenson, 20221
David Stephenson was born in 1955, and studied at the University of Colorado and then the University of New Mexico, completing an MFA in 1982. He moved to Australia that same year to take up a position teaching photography at the University of Tasmania School of Art, where he completed a PhD in Fine Art in 2001. A fascination for the vast in space and time has led him to travel and photograph extensively around the world, with journeys to Europe, the Himalayas, and both the Arctic and Antarctic.
Stephenson’s photographs have been exhibited extensively internationally, including solo exhibitions at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (1993), the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (1994), the Paisley Museum and Art Gallery, Scotland (1995), the National Gallery of Victoria, (1998), the Cleveland Museum of Art (2001), and the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (2001). His work is represented in many public and private collections including the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Art Gallery of South Australia, the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria, the Queensland Art Gallery, the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, the International Museum of Photography and Film at George Eastman House, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Stephenson was the winner of the 2021 Hadley's Art Prize.