Inside this issue
In 2012 I paused by my local river and everything changed. I’ve moved away from what many expect photographs to be: my images deconstruct the literal and reimagine the subjective, reflecting the curiosity that water has inspired in my practice. Water has been my conduit: it has sharpened my vision, given me permission to experiment and continues to introduce me to new ways of seeing.
Janet Tavener is a Sydney based artist who works predominately with photography & sculpture.
It’s important to remember that landscape is a construct. ‘Landscape photography’ tends to major on the ‘natural’ though our interpretation of this is effectively a construct too. We may carefully ignore the parts that we find less aesthetic or overlook the fact that nearly all of what we see has been shaped by man’s activities, some visible, some over time and in ignorance of what ‘went before’ less so. We continue to change our planet: land, sea and atmosphere, not just directly but by our reliance on trade from afar and the way that consumerism has shifted our understanding of resources and seasonality. And even in our attempts to archive the Earth’s resources, we may be tripped up by what has already been set in motion.
I was drawn to Janet’s images by their fluid beauty but they may challenge you to think about your own definition of photographic genre, for all that we do is interconnected and our path into revelation may be our own life experiences.
Would you like to start by telling readers a little about yourself – where you grew up, what your early interests were, and what you went on to do?
I grew up as the middle child of a working-class family living in Marrickville, a suburb of Sydney; we moved to Maroubra in the 1970s. Marrickville was, back in the 1960s, a working-class suburb with a high immigrant population. It was known as ‘Little Athens’.
I don’t remember when I started my interest in art, and I’m not sure where it came from. I grew up in a household where sport was the centre of the universe and creativity was far from encouraged. After I finished school, I enrolled in the local TAFE college to study art. This started a lifelong love of making, teaching and studying art.
How did photography come into your life, and what were your early images of or about?
Photography was one of the subjects in my Fine Art course at the TAFE college. I really enjoyed the medium but gave it up after seeing a Diane Arbus publication. I thought that it was the most amazing photography that I had ever seen. I felt that if I couldn’t take photographs like Diane Arbus I should not even try. It was a couple of years later, whilst doing my BA in Visual Arts, that I returned to photography. I found myself drawn in by the medium and settled into documentary style portraiture.
The major shift in my photographic practice happened after I had my three daughters. I called this period my ‘Pink Pause’, where teaching and motherhood dominated my life. During this time, two of my three children were diagnosed with Coeliac Disease and food allergies. This may not seem significant, but it started my obsession to understand our food chain, sustainability and the environment.