Student reflection: Fertile Ground for inspiring photography

On Wednesday 4 August, the Year 11 Studio Art class had the opportunity to go to the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP) in Fitzroy. Currently investigating and exploring the importance of cultural symbolism and expression in art, we were able to see a range of photography which showcased food as a symbolic representative of environmental and political issues as well as cultural exchange. The exhibition, Fertile Ground, brings nine artists together to showcase their ethnic backgrounds and how it connects with their beliefs and values in society.

A series of work particularly impactful to me was a collection of photographs by Cambodian artist Neak Sophal titled Rice Pot. The 2013 print series features numerous women from South-eastern Asia holding various types of cooking pots to illustrate and draw attention to the struggles and society expectations of the woman's role to care for and look after their family and village. Sophal uses the women to express the voices of those who work in communal kitchen stoves, honouring their role and responsibility in society. It was inspiring how Sophal was able to capture such powerful emotions of strength through her still photos by focussing on their firm facial expressions, which created a sense of dominance and strength.

We finished our day by going to South of Johnston café in Collingwood for lunch to discuss our thoughts and perspectives after seeing the exhibition first-hand, a very beneficial experience to share our personal experiences and ways which it connected to the theme of Fertile Ground.

The excursion was both an impactful and inspiring experience for the class, allowing us to deepen our understanding of modern-day photography and witness how it can be expressed in ways to symbolise important issues in society today, such as the environment and cultural acceptance.

Tara, Year 11

CCP provides a platform for contemporary Australian photography and video through exhibitions, education, and publishing. The gallery has assisted the development of public engagement with photography, as well as supporting young aspiring artists by providing educational experiences, exhibition opportunities and much more.

For us young aspiring artists, it was extremely inspiring to see the wide range of talent showcased in CCP’s Fertile Ground exhibition. The purpose of our visit to the exhibition was to gain inspiration for cultural narrative photography and to expand our understanding of how photographers present such ideas in their work.

An artist whose work I particularly connected with was Lauren Dunn, who, for this exhibition, inquires about the politics and ethics surrounding food consumption trends and the power structures amongst the romanticism of foods. Lauren expressed her work by playing with the conventions of commercial photography and presented her unique ideas in a thought-provoking manner. This was a similar message to the other artists who were displayed in the exhibition as they discuss a cultural narrative in extremely unique yet powerful ways.

It is particularly important for us, as Art and Design students, to experience professional work and to connect with the practice by going on excursions. This not only inspires us, but also encourages us to consider the messages being portrayed in the work we encounter – making us more socially, culturally and politically aware. Everyone had an incredible day exploring the exhibition and we enjoyed a discussion about the work at lunch afterwards. I encourage anyone who has the chance to check out the Fertile Ground exhibition as well as future exhibitions CCP!

Elise, Year 11

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