The Camera is God (2013) by award-winning Australian photographer Trent Parke features a series of anonymous portraits taken on the streets of Adelaide. For almost a year, Parke stood on the same street corner, at the same time of day, and captured images of the masses using a rapid shutter release. In executing the final prints, Parke isolates single figures amongst the crowds and enlarges them to the point where the subject is unrecognisable. While he works with documentary photography, he sees himself as a storyteller. In each of his series’, Parke has pushed himself to explore the boundaries and potentials of the medium and of the street. One of his greatest strengths as an artist is that desire to see anew, to create anew, to push so far that he makes mistakes and discoveries and to follow the journey those discoveries take him on – technically, conceptually and emotionally. From his earliest foray into photography, Parke has prowled the streets and found there, amongst the people, the buildings, the patterns of light and darkness, not only a complex and shifting picture of contemporary Australian life, but also an expression of the inner journeys he has taken.
It is almost hard to believe that The Camera is God (street portrait series) comprises a series of photographs of anonymous people standing on street corners. They seem to contain so much more than that. Parke’s subjects hum with spirit. They emerge with different levels of clarity. From far away, some are recognizable, only to evaporate into a pattern of grain close up. Others have faces, which have echoed and slipped away from their body. Parke’s camera is all-seeing, non-judgmental, indiscriminate. If you stand before it, unwittingly, it will see you. If the timing is right, it might capture you. Within this sequence of images, a beautiful alchemy takes place – a combination of life and chance, light and photographic chemicals. The resulting body of work allows us to see anew and to find ourselves amongst the crowd. In installation, around the gallery walls, the portraits are encompassing, turning the tables on who in the gallery might be the viewers and the viewed.
Parke is the only Australian photographer in the renowned Magnum Photo Agency and has received numerous awards including the inaugural Prudential Eye Award for Photography in Singapore, Gold Lenses from the International Olympic Committee, World Press Photo Awards, and the prestigious W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography. Parke self-published his first two books, Dream/Life in 1999, and The Seventh Wave (with Narelle Autio) in 2000. In 2013, Steidl released two hardback publications of Parke’s work, Minutes to Midnight and The Christmas Tree Bucket. 2013 also saw Parke win the Olive Cotton Award for excellence in photographic portraiture for his work Candid Portrait of a Woman on a Street Corner from the Camera is God series currently on show at Two Rooms. In 2015, Parke had a solo exhibition of unprecedented scale in the Art Gallery of South Australia, titled The Black Rose. His work is held in numerous public and private collections.
Courtesy of Stills Gallery, Sydney and Hugo Michell Gallery Adelaide