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Parting Shots

What I wrote for Anna

Photographer Anna Brown commissioned me to write the foreward for her book Parting Shots: The Last Nights of the Arthouse in Mugshots. Published in August 2014, the portraits in this book are not of the idolised rock stars that dedicated followers throng to see, but the audience themselves resulting in a warm study of hardcore rock fans. The book was short-listed in the Australian Book Designers Association for Best Designed Fully-illustrated Book Over $50 and for Best Designed Independent Publication in 2015.

Details

Client Anna Brown
When 2014
Media Print
Tasks Writing

The Brief

Anna approached me to provide an artistic context for her documentary photographic project. The foreword was to place the work in a contemporary setting while referencing influences of the former student of the School of Art at the Australian National University.

Foreward in full

Rock stars are typically subjects for industry photographers but Anna Brown’s focus in Parting Shots: The Last Nights of the Arthouse in Mugshots sits squarely on the audience. Parting Shots was undertaken over nine nights in the last days of Melbourne’s iconic Arthouse, home to a generation of hardcore music fans linked by their adoration for their favourite musical genres and icons.

Many of us are captured by the charms of music, be it classical, rock, jazz, dance or, in the case of Anna’s beguiling portraits, a punkier, harder, edgier sound in metal, hardcore and more. No matter what we like, we fall prey to music’s potential to remove us from reality, to transport our minds to more enthralling places. The faces of these pub punters, some 1,400 plus in all, emerge from inky depths, their character hinted at via various hairstyles, piercings and tattoos.

To the keen observer, sub-sets emerge from the typological approach adopted by the photographer, a method with a history nearly as long as photography itself harking back to 19th century mugshots through to August Sander’s seminal People of the Twentieth Century and on to Bernd and Hilla Becher’s architectural typologies. Parting Shots follows this ever enthralling path, with clear references to Neil Selkirk’s tome 1000 on 42nd Street. Both catalogue the faces of select group of people encouraging the viewer to consider the identities spread before them and the stories hidden beneath.

With Parting Shots, different bands have different fans with different styles reflected in the portraits; though it should be said that black is sartorially supreme, generally. And for guys, a more impressive array of dark t-shirts would be hard to find. As with Shoichi Aoki’s Fruits, an iconic fanzine turned book documenting Japanese street fashion, it is face and fashion that excites the viewer in Parting Shots. Diehard fans impart individuality, but also align with the overarching visual identities of the punk and metal scenes. Similarities and differences are called to attention, an identity both individual and connected to a group.

Image-based catalogues depicting sub-cultures rarely disappoint, and so it is with Parting Shots. In them we engage our innate desire to contrast and compare, to hone in on and project character. Anna’s compelling portraits are going to make a generation happy. Whether you were there or not, there’s an energy hard to deny. The seriousness of some fans is contrasted against humorous images of others. Memories will flood back of thrashing good nights, and for the rest of us we get to an insiders insight into a scene we’ll never get to experience.

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