Thursday, May 17, 2012

Trent Parke. Minutes to Midnight or Moments of a Genius?

Trent Parke was born in 1971 and raised in Newcastle, New South Wales. Using his mother's Pentax Spotmatic and the family laundry as a darkroom, he began taking pictures when he was around 12 years old. Today, Parke, the only Australian photographer to be represented by Magnum, works primarily as a street photographer.

Trent Parke, the first Australian to become a Full Member of the renowned photographers' cooperative Magnum Photo Agency, is considered one of the most innovative and challenging young photographers of his generation. He is also member of street photography collective of In-Public

In 2003, with wife and fellow photographer Narelle Autio, Parke drove almost 90,000 km (56,000 miles) around Australia. He had been saving for five years to make a road trip, but finally set off after noticing a newspaper survey that claimed most Australians thought their country had come to the end of an era. Parke says it was then he decided that the time had come to find out what his country had become. Minutes to Midnight, the collection of photographs from this journey, offers a sometimes disturbing portrait of twenty-first century Australia, from the desiccated outback to the chaotic, melancholic vitality of life in remote Aboriginal towns. For this project Parke was awarded the W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography.

The project of  Minutes to Midnight is a highly personal and elemental kind: events, people and places as they are chanced upon and as they appear, not in the face of a looming deadline, but in the perma-glare of the outback.. Like many of Parke’s photographs it is beyond news. It looks as if it could have been taken the day after tomorrow, in the aftermath of history.

Trent Parke's intense black and white photographs present a vision of this country that is desolate, dark, and hauntingly beautiful. He went looking for Australia and found not a dead heart, but a heart of darkness. He found a harsh country still dealing with its brutal colonial past, unsure of its future and where it is going. But Parke finishes the exhibition on a cautiously hopeful note. The final image records the birth of his son. Presented on a glowing light box, the next generation arrives slippery wet, limply white and with his eyes wide open.

Parke won World Press Photo Awards in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2005, and in 2006 was granted the ABN AMRO Emerging Artist Award. He was selected to be part of the World Press Photo Masterclass in 1999. Parke has published two books, Dream/Life in 1999, and The Seventh Wave with Narelle Autio in 2000. His work has been exhibited widely. In 2006 the National Gallery of Australia acquired Parke's entire Minutes to Midnight exhibition.

                                                          All photos ©Trent Parke

Trent Parke's quote: "I am forever chasing light. Light turns the ordinary into the magical."