I’ve been trying to convince my editor to send me to Fremantle, Western Australia as a special correspondent for this year’s FotoFreo photography festival. Since my editor is, well, me, and since I demonstrated a stunning lack of anticipation in realising this was going to be on in April, all I can do is watch wistfully from the across the continent.
One of the highlights I’ll be sore at missing will be the presence and work of Edward Burtynsky, whose Manufactured Landscapes is a powerful essay that has life both as a photo series and book and an important element in a Jennifer Baichwal’s documentary of the same name. He’s spent many years documenting large-scale industrial effects on the natural landscape, and at FotoFreo he’ll be presenting a new series of work on Australian mines. As a strong admirer of his work, I want to know more, but I also note that the Fremantle exhibition is sponsored by BHP Billiton. Aside from the PR cachet of sponsoring a photographic activist like Burtynsky, I wonder about the specific spin that BHP might put on the series. Does he photograph BHP sites? What is his take on the sponsorship and demands of corporate resposibility that he might have made?
[image: Silver Lake Operations #1, Lake Lefroy,
Western Australia, 2007 © Edward Burtynsky]
Much of Burtynsky’s other work has been shot in China (including in shipyards, coalmines, factories, and the Three Gorges Dam site), and so it’s interesting to see among the Chinese presence at FotoFreo the work of Chen Nong, who constructs his own response to the Three Gorges Dam with subjects dressed as terracota warriors, seemingly enacting a pause in some battle against large mystic forces.
[From the San Xia series by Chen Nong]
These are just two of the many things on offer; I’ll be keeping an eye open for any substantial material on the web that FotoFreo might put out. Meanwhile, if you’re in Freo in April, go have a gaze at some photographs for me.