LONDON.- In 2013, Trent Parke set up his camera at a pedestrian crossing at the corner of King Street, Adelaide. As the lights changed and the pedestrians began to move, he took 30 frames in quick succession. He continued this process for nearly a year during evening rush hour, resulting in this series of candid portraits of pedestrians. The Camera is God is on display for the first time in the UK in this exhibition.
In these grainy black and white portraits, the facial features of the pedestrians are blurred and reduced to shadowy contrasts. From a distance, the faces in the portraits are sometimes recognisable but on close inspection, evaporate to a ghostly grain. This relates to the conflicting sense of familiarity and anonymity of the street, the common experience of a physical closeness but an emotional distance to passers-by.
I wanted to represent the transience of the street, where youre there for a split second and then youre gone. Or when you have a dream about someone you dont know, and when you wake up and try to remember them, you cant grasp that hard outline of a persons face. --Trent Parke
The exhibitions title is drawn from a comment, So the camera is actually playing God, by made by a friend of Parkes upon viewing the initial stages of the project. The acknowledgement of the role of happenstance in this work allows Parke to step back from claiming his role as photographer or storyteller, playing with the notions of objectivity in the medium.
The element of chance is part of Parkes practice, working with film and the element of surprise when developing his work. Although The Camera is God is far removed from his background as a sports photographer, his practical experience enables him to anticipate events which are going to, or might happen. There is no digital manipulation to the images but they are sequenced in such a way by Parke to create a certain narrative.
Once they come into my world,
I sequence them in a way that then tells a completely different story and its my story. You can see them as a document or you can see the whole thing as a fiction and thats what I really love its about imagination.
Trent Parke was born in 1971 and raised in Newcastle, New South Wales and began taking pictures when he was around 12 years old. Today, Parke, the only Australian photographer to be represented by Magnum, works primarily as a street photographer.
In 2003, with wife and fellow photographer Narelle Autio, Parke drove almost 90,000 km around Australia. Minutes to Midnight, the photographs from this journey, offer a portrait of 21st Century Australia. Parke was awarded the W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography for this project.
Parke won World Press Photo Awards in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2005, and in 2006 was granted the ABN AMRO Emerging Artist Award. He has published two books, Dream/Life (1999), and The Seventh Wave (2000) with Narelle Autio. His work has been the subject of numerous international exhibitions and in 2006 the National Gallery of Australia acquired Parkes entire Minutes to Midnight exhibition.