Page 1


STEPHEN DUPONT White Sheet Series


Excerpt from Art Guide Australia Issue 104 Nov/Dec 2016

In Stephen Dupont’s White Sheet Series it is the curious bystanders who captivate, writes Steve Dow.

Background Actors At first blush, the concept of Dupont’s latest exhibition, White Sheet Series, sounds like a throwback to the earliest days of photography, and all its colonial baggage: capture a person in front of a plain backdrop, thereby rendering the subject with little distraction and supposed objectivity. Ethnographers, of course, often historically used this approach to inveigle colonised Indigenous peoples into racially loaded, bogus scientific schemes of noble savagery. In Kabul in Afghanistan in 2006, Dupont explains, he had begun photographing 100 people on Polaroids in an afternoon for portraits, with a borrowed backdrop, in a prelude to the series that became Axe Me Biggie. Dupont’s assistant would tell curious locals who were gathering to see the photography taking place to move away. “It got to the point where we couldn’t control the crowd any longer,” he recalls, “and I just took the pictures anyway.” Peeling away the Polaroids was a revelation: “I started to understand, ’Shit, I’m doing the wrong thing; I should just let things happen. I shouldn’t try to push people away.’ When people came into frame, it was producing these wonderful, magical images.”


Awarded a Gardner Fellowship in 2010 at Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Dupont looked at 19th-century photographic studies by anthropologists in Africa. “They were quite crude and racist, really, in a lot of ways, those early pictures. They were photographing ’savages’ and the ’other.’ I found the photos very confronting. I wanted to explore something around that style, but in a more modern context.” Dupont took to carrying a single white sheet as a portrait backdrop with him on assignments and photographic expeditions, allowing the sheet to become wrinkled and grubby, and even showing its edges within the image frame. In each location, he would ask local people to hold the sheet up, and spontaneously include the audience in the background. “The photographs honoured not only the subject, but also everything going on around them,” says Dupont, pleased at this melding of portraiture with documentary photography, which has always been the heart of his art. “For me, it feels like the ultimate environmental portrait.”


The White Sheet Series exhibition will include portraits taken in New Guinea, India, Cuba and – at the time of this interview, still to be taken – racegoers at Sydney’s Randwick, with all their feathers and finery likely to oddly echo the tribal dresses of the Indigenous Melanesians of our Pacific neighbourhood. Dupont is acutely aware that his white gaze Australia carries its own cultural baggage.

from

affluent

“You can’t get away from that; there is still an acknowledgment you are this ’outsider’, and they are the ’other’, but what is honest and respectful is that you have the collaboration with your subject,” he says. “With all my photographs, I’m not ’stealing’ some- thing; I’m actually working with the subjects to make these photographs. But I’m also, in a secret sort of way, establishing what’s going on in the background, where people aren’t so aware of being photographed.


LIST OF WORKS Front cover Untitled #01, Havana, Cuba, 2013 silver gelatin, 60.96 x 50.8cm edition of 8 + 2AP, $2750 Goroka Sing-Sing #07, PNG, 2011 silver gelatin, 60.96 x 50.8cm edition of 8 + 2AP, $2750 Goroka Sing-Sing #06, PNG, 2011 silver gelatin triptych, 60.96 x 152.4cm edition of 8 + 2AP, $10,450 Urista Korimbun and baby Bono Korimbun, Govermas Village, Middle Sepik, PNG, 2011 silver gelatin, 60.96 x 50.8cm edition of 8 + 2AP, $2750 Goroka Sing-Sing #01, PNG, 2011 silver gelatin, 60.96 x 50.8cm edition of 8 + 2AP, $2750 Goroka Sing-Sing #03, PNG, 2011 silver gelatin, 60.96 x 50.8cm edition of 8 + 2AP, $2750 Untitled #03, Havana, Cuba, 2013 silver gelatin, 60.96 x 50.8cm edition of 8 + 2AP, $2750 Untitled #02, Havana, Cuba, 2013 silver gelatin, 60.96 x 50.8cm edition of 8 + 2AP, $2750 Untitled #09, Havana, Cuba, 2013 silver gelatin, 60.96 x 50.8cm edition of 8 + 2AP, $2750 Untitled #18, India Kumbh Mela, 2010 silver gelatin with unique hand stamped ink border, 40.64 x 50.8cm edition of 5 + 1AP, $3850 Untitled #01, India Kumbh Mela, 2010 silver gelatin with unique hand stamped ink border, 40.64 x 50.8cm edition of 5 + 1AP, $3850 Untitled #05, India Kumbh Mela, 2010 silver gelatin with unique hand stamped ink border, 40.64 x 50.8cm edition of 5 + 1AP, $3850 Untitled #03, India Kumbh Mela, 2010 silver gelatin with unique hand stamped ink border, 40.64 x 50.8cm edition of 5 + 1AP, $3850 Randwick Races #2, 2016 Randwick Races #1, 2016 Back cover Randwick Races #3, 2016 triptych of pigment prints on rag paper edition of 3 + 1AP, $7150 Prices are for unframed works and include GST. Prices are subject to change.


STEPHEN DUPONT  

White Sheet Series online exhibition catalogue

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you