Winner Of W. Eugene Smith Award 2003
Minutes to Midnight
In 2003, photographer Trent Parke and his partner Narelle Autio set off on a journey around Australia. But this was far from a quaint sight-seeing tour. Parke and Autio delved into what Parke describes as “dark country”, the places far from the easy gentility of the major cities. The result is his remarkable photo-essay Minutes to Midnight, now showing at the Australian Centre for Photography in Sydney.
The exhibition is prefaced by a series of rather more conventional travel photographs taken by Autio presenting a kind of logical timeline for the journey itself, before entering Parke’s exhibition proper. The contrast between the sunny foyer where Autio’s mostly colour photographs are displayed and the dark, brooding spaces housing Parke’s black-and-white work is telling.
Minutes to Midnight documents an Australia rarely seen by any one individual. From the glittering cities to brutality of life in the bush; from the shining faces of hopeful children to the trenchant hopelessness of those affected by alcohol and drugs, this is a an excellently constructed exhibition and one that’s also deeply affecting.
From the striking Midnight, self portrait; Menindee, outback NSW in the first room, you know this isn’t going to be a conventional travelogue. The exhibition contains some quite remarkable (and several shocking) images. Parke’s capture of a rally car racing in Western Australia is visually stunning, but it’s his “quieter” pictures that provoke the deepest emotional response. Street scene, Wiluna, WA is one of these, a work capturing a heartbreaking moment with great clarity.
Weather features heavily in Parke’s compositions. From the rain falling on B&S Ball, New Year’s Eve, Gunnedah, NSW to the brooding skies looming over Beauty Queens, Babinda Annual Harvest Festival, Queensland, Parke is acutely aware of the role weather plays in rural areas. Of course, the weather has always played a huge role in Australian life; but Parke manages to capture the essence of it elegantly.
Australian photographer and Magnum nominee, Trent Parke has been recording the daily life in the city of Sydney in his project “Minutes to Midnight.” He will extend his project to “concentrate on the current and changing state of the Australian nation,” traveling “across the continent from beach to bush to document its people and culture to attempt to capture the mood and emotions of a still young and emerging nation before it is significantly changed forever.”