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Jeff Carter Retrospective (Book Review)

Jeff Carter Retrospective

Jeff Carter (1928-2010) left behind an archive of around 55,000 film negatives that spanned a 50 year career as he worked and travelled through the back-lots of Australia. His photographs are of ordinary working class Australians from the cities to the country and along the coastline. Jeff Carter’s letterhead read “photographer for the poor and unknown”, wrote Robert McFarlane in a Sydney Morning Herald obituary on November 6, 2010.

Jeff Carter was a writer and photojournalist with contributions to leading magazines like Women’s Weekly, Pix, People and National Geographic. For a time he was the editor of Outdoors and Fishing. He was also Australia’s best documentary photographer of his generation although there are more simple truths secreted in his photographs than mere cultural records of the day. There is humour, compassion and a hell of a lot of plain and ordinary beauty.

When you read Jeff Carter Retrospective from New Holland Publishers it’s hard not to think of that later iconic Australian with a camera, Rennie Ellis (1940-2003). Although it seems Carter chose the low road and Ellis the high; Carter the ordinary rural Australian and Ellis the contemporary rock stars and urban subcultures of his era. Yet for their differences in social surroundings the photography shows a shared Australian documentary genus that seems to link them. Rennie Ellis’ No Standing Only Dancing reflects the bright lights and aspirations of another facet of Australian history and is well worth a read if you can find a copy.

Jeff Carter Retrospective includes a selection of photographs spanning from 1960 over the next 50 years and is split into five sections. ‘The Big Smoke’ looks at Australian urban life transitioning out of the 1950s into the 1960s. ‘Beach Culture’ records our cultural relationship with the expansive Australian coastline. ‘Properly True’ moves inland to the expansive hard country and the people who made it their home through the 1950s to the present day. ‘Men and Women of Australia’ are deceptively simple portraits of ordinary and extraordinary Australians. And ‘The Next Wave’ includes a selection of Australia’s children.

This book, first published in 2005, was republished for the Beach Bush and Battlers exhibition at State Library of New South Wales that was held in early 2011.

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Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark and I live in the Derwent Valley in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a mazer & a yeast farmer (making beer, fruit wine and mead as by-products of continuous improvement in my farming practices). I'm a photographer, although my film cameras are currently silent. I do not tolerate idiots. I do not tolerate bigotry. I do not tolerate excuses. Let's be clear, if you sit with my enemies you my are my enemy for life.

Blogger. Thinker. Brewer. Drinker. Life partner to the amazing and incredible Megan.

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