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Therapeutic turned artistic photography

08 Sep 2016

Therapeutic turned artistic photography Image

By Sunny Liu

At the age of 68, Photography Studies College (PSC) final-year student Ian Kemp is still relatively new to photography.

He was a school teacher and principal for 40 years, but the death of his wife in 2010 made him realise he needed to make the most of every opportunity that came his way.

“I grieved for a long period of time. Turning to photography was like a desperate attempt to grasp at something to get me out of the loneliness, sadness and grief,” he said.

“My thinking about life and death is much more finely focused through the experience. In some way I’ve had a photographical recovery from grieving. If my wife hadn’t died, I wouldn’t be doing photography.”

The creativity inside of him that was never inspired by the decades of teaching came alive when he bought his first camera.

“I just love the fact that I’m studying again. It’s very diverse and different from anything in my past. Photography has taken me to places I’ve never even dreamed of.”

“I’m in a foreign territory. But I get excited when people get excited about my work. Having to think creatively and conceptually about things are very different from the kind of thinking system I had when I was a principal,” he said.

Mr Kemp expresses the loneliness and pain of space and through his work, featuring the absence of human element and the merging of photography and painting.

“I guess I want to push the notion that photography isn’t just a representational thing you get when you look through the lens of a camera, but something you can work on to create a feel,” he said.

He is having a joint exhibition with three of his classmates at Ballarat’s Backspace Gallery. The exhibition’s name “Four” represents the distinct styles of the four photographers.

Ballarat’s arts scene has come a long way, though the photography course Mr Kemp studied in Ballarat went down with TAFE funding cuts.

Backspace Gallery supports emerging artists by not charging any commission fees and helping them promote their artwork.

“Seeing someone buy my work is the ultimate feedback. It means they really like what I’m doing. It just blows me away,” he said.

His current exhibition features photos from two separate shoots, one of them was on the Mooramong heritage building.

Mr Kemp went on a guided tour of the cottage last year and was hooked to the history and story behind it. The cottage was owned by a wealthy couple with no heir. The house remained empty for several decades and has been a local tourism attraction.

“I shoot images of the loneliness and emptiness of the property since they left. I shoot without models to hint what’s missing,” he said.

His second shoot has an Italian baroque painting theme and the focus is on the human element. It requires great precision with the lighting to make a photo resonant as a baroque painting.

Operating cameras and doing post-production did not come easy for Mr Kemp.

“The first couple of years I was just trying to come to terms with the technical side of it. Now I’ve become more adept with the technology and become more artistic in the expression,” he said.

The Four exhibition runs from September 3 to 18 at Backspace Gallery in Ballarat.

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