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Exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria Presents Creative Responses to the Experience of Water
Peter Henry Emerson (English 1856–1936), Rowing home the schoof-stuff (1886) plate 21 from Life and Landscape on the Norfolk Broads, published by Sampson Low, Marston, Searle and Rivington, London, 1886, platinum photograph, 13.8 x 27.9 cm. Felton Bequest, 1977.

MELBOURNE.- On 4 April, the National Gallery of Victoria opened Deep Water, an exhibition that presents creative responses to the experience of water in the landscape and at sea.

Drawn entirely from the NGV’s Photography Collection, Deep Water comprises 38 photographs presented in two sections, fresh water and salt water, and illustrates the cyclical path of water from the source to the sea.

Dr Gerard Vaughan, Director, NGV said: “This is a particularly fascinating exhibition for our 150th anniversary year. Through an immensely powerful selection of photographs, Deep Water reminds us how beautiful and fragile the world around us is. It seems appropriate for an island continent historically short of fresh water.”

Susan van Wyk, Curator of Photography, NGV said: “Water is vital for life but in contemplating its many forms, the photographers included in this exhibition are not drawn to its prosaic applications.

“In contemporary Australia we have a heightened awareness of the value and significance of water. As the recent floods reminded us, water is a fundamental element that enables and sustains all life on earth but also possesses a deadly and destructive power. Since the nineteenth century, water in all its forms has been a subject of fascination for photographers.” said Ms van Wyk.

In this exhibition fresh water is shown in the tradition of the sublime, waterfalls are pictured tumbling dramatically over great precipices and rivers surge along their courses, cutting vast swathes through the landscape. Lakes and pools appear as perfect silver mirrors, reflecting the surrounding beauty of nature in Arcadian gardens.

The sea is shown as a place of danger and delight. Images of Antarctica evoke the wonder and adventure of the age of exploration. Seaside resorts and pleasure ports, the places where we experience the heady pleasures of bathing, are joyfully presented. But the sea is also shown as a place of mystic contemplation. The ocean, with its constant flux, is the perfect vehicle to express inner turmoil or restless enquiry.

Dr Vaughan said that visitors to Deep Water will be fascinated to learn of the extraordinary expeditions many of these photographers undertook to create these remarkable images.

The exhibition showcases works by Australian and international photographers including Frank Hurley, Ansel Adams, Peter Henry Emerson, Jacques Henri Lartigue, Max Dupain, Andre Kertesz, Narelle Autio and others.

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