Get Ur Hands On Prints From Aussie Photogs And Support Covid-19 Relief

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Photography: Darren McDonald

Through this pandemic, creatives have had to get, well, creative, when it comes to supporting each other and showcasing their work. While some photographers have turned to FaceTime as an outlet (and a way to stay #togetherapart), others have spent time exploring their personal archives and thinking about how they can continue to add value to society right now — as the arts always have.

Photographer Pierre Toussaint and producer Chris Hemmings, through their Contact Gallery, have launched ART RELIEF — a print sale featuring work by some of Australia’s best (and some of our fav!) photographers, with all proceeds going to support Covid-19 relief work by Foodbank in Australian communities. AKA — great art and an even better cause 🙏

On sale from now until 20 May 2020, each print is in an 11″ x 14″ format and costs only AU$150, with work by artists including Derek Henderson, Anna Pogossova, Darren McDonald, Jonathan Zawada, Margaret Zhang, James Bailey, Jesse Lizotte, Bart Celestino and many more. 

The idea for a group show had been brewing for a while, but on why now and why this cause, the duo explained to us that as we don’t have a shortage of PPE equipment in Australia “it made more sense to focus on an organisation that supplies essential support of another kind.” Foodbank describes itself as “the pantry to the charity sector” and helps some of the most vulnerable people in society, by aiding in the distribution of funds and food to help feed those experiencing extreme economic hardship — people for whom the act of feeding themselves or their family has become especially challenging during this time of economic turndown. 

The project is yet another reminder of how diverse and powerful art can be, especially in times of crisis and when we’re stuck in one place for way too long… I mean, just look at Tiger King — Carole Baskin killing her husband is the one (and only) thing the entire internet can agree on rn. But perhaps most importantly, art distracts us, even if it’s only for a moment, and these works sure have the ability to transport us, comfort us, challenge us and connect us.

Art Relief’s collection of images span everywhere from Venice Beach to South Island thanks to Bailey and Henderson, and all the way from Tokyo to Brooklyn behind the lens with Zhang, and capture everything from intimate portraits by McDonald to an abstract take on the domestic by Pogossova. Looking at Lizotte’s photos, you’re instantly projected to the streets of East LA, watching as hydraulic cars bumping KDAY cruise by. With Zawada’s photos, you feel like you’re inside a brightly coloured fantasy — one that’s almost real, yet unburdened by the darkness of our current lives. 

Read on to see some of the prints that are available and to hear from the photographers about the stories behind their images, how they are coping with iso, and how we can all continue to support the arts.

James Bailey

Photography: James Bailey @yimmyayo

Where are you now and is that different from where you are usually?

At my apartment in LA, instead of my studio where I usually am.

Tell us about your image. 

I was on a shoot in Venice Beach a few years ago for Outdoor Voices, and while things were still getting set up I took a walk to get some pictures of the courts from White Men Can’t Jump that I grew up idolizing.

How are you staying positive at the moment? 

Staying in touch with friends as much as possible and any form of exercise I can get.

Are there parts of this new normal that you hope will continue into the future?  

Making coffee at home and blocking work and personal time properly. I’m definitely never cooking again.

We love that this initiative is supporting those in serious need — but how can we can all also support the arts during this time? 

I think ‘the arts’ will be fine. It’s more important right now to focus on those in serious need.

Derek Henderson

Photography: Derek Henderson

Where are you now and is that different from where you are usually? 

Currently at home in Bondi.

Tell us about your image.

The image is of wilding pines in NZ. They are a pest in that they are destroying the natural habitat, mainly in the South Island. So, even though they look beautiful, they are not so good for the environment. Images can have double meanings and be deceptive.

How are you staying positive at this time?

I’m hanging with my kids more than I ever have, which is a great thing. I also have the freedom to spend time on projects I would otherwise have put aside to make time for commercial work.

Are there parts of this new normal that you hope will continue into the future?



Yes. I like the calmness and not always being in a rush to do or be somewhere. It’s nice just to hang with the family. And spending less money on things we don’t need.

We love that this initiative is supporting those in serious need — but how can we all also support the arts during this time? 



I think the government should sponsor artists as they did in the Depression-era in America — an organisation called the Federal Writers Project was set up to support writers by paying them a wage, which was the equivalent of going to work. The program was extremely successful and many of the writers who took part became well-known novelists and journalist in later years.

Jesse Lizotte

Photography: Jesse Lizotte
Photography: Jesse Lizotte

Where are you now and is that different from where you are usually? 


Usually in NYC, but currently laying low in Sydney with family. 



Tell us the story behind your images.



Both photos were shot sometime around 2014 at a lowrider meet in LA. Chicano culture has had such an impact on me from a young age. The culture is so ingrained in the landscape, it’s part of the ‘mystique’ of LA — there is not one without the other. It’s amazing how the cars, bikes and fashion have inspired and affected generations around the world. What was once considered taboo is now cool street style. What I love about photography is that it reminds us who the original taste makers are. To me, I feel it’s important to document.



How are you staying positive at the moment? 



By thinking about all the places I want to travel once this craziness blows over. I’m also practicing gratitude for all the extra time I get to spend with my family. 



Are there parts of this new normal that you hope will continue into the future?



During this pandemic people have realised that the virus does not discriminate. The world has gotten smaller and more connected because, in order to save lives and end the spread of the virus, everyone has had to work together. I hope the knowledge of our interconnectedness and reminder of the thread of humanity that connects us will continue [even when this is over]. 



We love that this initiative is supporting those in serious need — but how can we all also support the arts during this time? 



The arts have kept people sane during this time. Music, television and photography are just a few of those things. I think buying pieces of art, prints and donating to dance companies are just a few ways you can support right now. Most importantly, people need to compensate artists properly and not ask for discounts. The hours of perfecting their crafts and years of hard work is what people are paying for. Paying artists properly and supporting their work is a huge step. 

Margaret Zhang

Photography: Margaret Zhang

Where are you now and is that different from where you are usually? 

I usually split my time between New York and Shanghai, but I’m at my apartment in Greenwich Village [in NYC] at the moment.

Tell us the story behind your images.

Capsule was taken while I was in Tokyo last year, shooting the opening scene of my short film I’ve Been Thinking About What You Look Like. Capsule hotels are culturally known to be these cheap places for budget travelers and businessmen to crash, but I’m so fascinated by how futuristic and efficient they are. Everything from their physical design and layout, to the services and cleaning clockwork — it’s your baseline. This is what you need as a human being: shelter, food, running water, all packaged up in these little spaceship squares. I often think about how this model could be applied outside of hospitality.

VAN C was taken on a job in Brooklyn in mid-2019. I’ve always found it so strange how production will circle around one superstar name (whether that’s a model or a photographer, or maybe even a producer) and then everything (or everyone) else is reduced to building blocks — nameless, faceless bodies that need to be moved from A to B at x time. And yet, the most memorable parts of the job were very clearly attached to people’s identities, however they choose to qualify themselves.
 
How are you staying positive at the moment?

I think our natural inclination is to look inward. Self-care is floating around a lot. This is important — we cannot help others if we don’t first help ourselves. But there is much greater fulfillment to be gained from reaching out to and helping others. Step one is to stay home. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but we know that. Then, small gestures like checking in on your physical neighbours. I live in a building with a high proportion of elderly residents who live alone, many of whom don’t have family or even smartphones around, and I have been helping a few with their groceries and/or cooking and knowing that they know there is somebody they can call should they need anything helps me sleep easier. Also, reaching out to friends and colleagues to have real conversations about how they’re feeling — not what they’re watching, or cooking, or working on. If you’re in a position to, give to those outside your immediate circles in great need. I know small contributions feel inconsequential, but they’re not.

I also count myself very fortunate to be able to watch my family, friends and peers in China aggressively innovate, evolve their businesses, careers and life outlooks, laying down the foundations and ground rules of their new normal as they make up for lost time. They’ve proven to be so adaptable and unshackled by infrastructure — it really gives me perspective and, in many ways, see into the future, even if that may be quite a while off in the US.

Are there parts of this new normal that you hope will continue into the future?

When you have this prolonged silence and you allow the dust settle, it becomes very clear which parts of your work, lifestyle, personal relationships and self-actualisation are the good and necessary, and which are just excess noise. Most of the time, you’ve subconsciously known all along, but made excuses or turned a blind eye because confrontation is a difficult thing for human beings. You become so aware of the web of processes and human hands that go into everything you consume, and as a result, you gain so much clarity on the power that we hold as consumers to vote on principle with our purchasing decisions. These are things that we need to retain as we come out of the woods on this wild ride.

We love that this initiative is supporting those in serious need — but how can we can all also support the arts during this time? 

Artists (no matter the medium) have always been the best historians — more than news media, more than academia, more than purported “facts” or statistics that later turn out to be very subjective indeed. The best thing we can do, either as consumers or institutions, is to give artists a platform to express whatever social, political, psychological perspective they’re capturing at this pivotal moment in our way of being. Hear them out. Share your opinions on their work, whether you agree or disagree, and really think about your interpretation. Open, nuanced discourse is the only productive way to have difficult conversations in 2020.

Jonathan Zawada

Photography: Jonathan Zawada

Where are you now and is that different from where you are usually? 

I’m on the deck in front of the little office/studio building at my home in Tuckombil, norther NSW. I’m normally inside the office, but occasionally I get up to expose my skin to some light.

Tell us the story behind your images.

Both images are from collaborations with musicians from several years ago. The first is an imagined landscape intervention from artwork I made for Mark Pritchard’s Under the Sun. This series played with ideas of geometric and natural forms and, in general, were sort of monuments in imagined worlds. There’s a sorrowfulness to Mark’s music combined with a purity of energy which is hard to put into words, but hopefully comes across in the imagery. The second is an unused version of a cover for a song by the musician Flume from his album Skin. This was an almost entirely aesthetic exercise at the time, exploring ideas of natural beauty and form through reimagining colour and materiality.

How are you staying positive at the moment? 

I’m a fairly pessimistic person at the best of times so, to be perfectly honest, my perception of the world and general outlook hasn’t changed much. Making things is one of the only places I find I sense of positivity — there is an inbuilt potential in ideas that haven’t be realized that is free from my pessimism.

Are there parts of this new normal that you hope will continue into the future? 

We already live in a fairly socially distanced spot — it’s surrounded by bush and doesn’t see too many people at the best of times — so I haven’t made too many personal changes. On a broader level, I think the obvious answer is the general slowing of pace of the world, that we take a bit more of an introspective and personal view of our lives rather than the outward view that had us seeing ourselves as a reflection of the image of our lives that we were putting into the world.

We love that this initiative is supporting those in serious need — but how can we can all also support the arts during this time? 

To me this [Art Relief initiative] is the perfect example of how good artists are at supporting themselves. At the heart of the arts is a sense of creativity, and that’s really about adaptation and problem solving. Foregoing stability and surety is part of the deal in pursuing an arts career. There are so many parts of the community that have been blindsided by this crisis who weren’t in a position to be so adaptable and I think they’re the ones who really need our help at this time – artists will create their way out of it, just like they always do 😊

Anna Pogossova

Photography: Anna Pogossova

Where are you now and is that different from where you are usually? 

In VR, at home in Sydney. I’m usually at my studio.

Tell us the story behind your image.

It’s a little play on the domestic. I like to transform ordinary objects.

How are you staying positive at the moment? 

I try and see this a kind of mental reset; a time to pause, or to work on things which make me happy.

Are there parts of this new normal that you hope will continue into the future? 

I hope we can retain the flexibility and openness to working remotely, especially for people with different abilities and needs. Why don’t we do this all the time and make workplaces more inclusive?

We love that this initiative is supporting those in serious need — but how can we can all also support the arts during this time? 

Please continue to engage with us; read, laugh, view, dance, enjoy, and start conversations. These exchanges don’t have to be monetary to be beneficial to us. Right now it’s so important to send a message to our government that our contributions are valuable.

Bartolomeo Celestino

Photography: Bartolomeo Celestino

Where are you now and is that different from where you are usually? 

The Southern Highlands in New South Wales. Usually, at this time of year, I’d be between London and LA.

Tell us the story behind your images? 

These are images I made in Puglia, Italy, retracing my parents’ emigration to Australia in the ’50s.

How are you staying positive at the moment? 

I’m creating a lot of personal work, home-schooling my daughter, and playing music. I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much time at home without travelling to Sydney, let alone overseas. It’s a privilege to be able to be so safe here.

Are there parts of this new normal that you hope will continue into the future?

I have never seen so many people walking and riding bikes in the Highlands, we’re all talking to our neighbours over the fence, working out who needs help and who needs essential items. We were just recovering from a horrible bushfire season here, so this combination of unprecedented events has made us all think about self-sufficiency more. I hope this sense of a larger community that helps those in need starts to spread and we maintain the momentum towards creating a greater good for our society.

I’m super passionate about a lot of things but living rurally has shown me that if we are serious about bringing back industries and manufacturing to this country that we have outsourced with globalization — which in so many ways is a true failure, and set up to only benefit the few — we need new ideas and we need to bring people together. Environmentalists, our elected representatives, unions, industrialists and the corporate world need to work out their differences, find common ground and put our country, our first nations people, and our society as a whole first.

I’d also love to see us protect our wilderness resources and support that industry with better technologies and management of the resources we do have. Progress is inevitable, so rather than fighting one another, we need to find the balance that benefits us all. That’s how we are going to move forward. Enough with the separate agendas — we need one direction that includes everyone.

We love that this initiative is supporting those in serious need — but how can we can all also support the arts during this time?

I think if you’re in a position to support the arts financially, you should. Any small way helps, but to be honest, we need more billionaires being more generous with their huge fortunes, particularly in rural areas. We’re trying to build a regional art gallery here in the Southern Highlands — Ben Quilty is the real champion of this campaign — until I lived regionally, I wasn’t aware that a lot of communities outside the large cities have zero access to the arts. None! Unless you’re prepared to put your kid’s in a car for 3 or 4 hrs on some very dangerous roads. If you live in Sydney or Melbourne, it’s a real privilege you take for granted and probably never even think about. So, I’d love to see the distribution of private and government funding to more areas — these regional art galleries would create real long-term jobs in those areas and at the same time bring much-needed arts programs to communities that have none.

Images courtesy of the artists and Contact Gallery.

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