Australian Photography since the 1980's

©Werner Hammerstingl, 1999

The Whitlam years will hopefully always be remembered (amongst other reasons) as a time when an Australian Government actually (and willingly) supported Higher education and the arts.
This support paid off in a myriad of ways. Among the very visible benefits are a group of new subjects and media in arts schools. Photography is amongst them. This initiative would naturally take a few years to solidify which is why, the second half of the 1970's turned out to be, in my oppinion, the most influential period in terms of Australian Photography.
The medium began to claim its stake as a valid art-form and integrating itself into the formal art systems and structures of this country.

Read an excellent article by Tony Perry on this subject

The 80's saw the second wave of art-school graduates with diplomas and degrees in photography.Looking back onto this time from the perspective of the late 90's we can see how much influence a few lecturers and a few Gallery staff had on the evolution of the photographic medium in Australia.

There are some other factors to consider too: Australians, especially young Australians travelled a great deal and that meant quite often a return to Australia with a secret ....
A secret of an idea, glimpsed, perhaps partly understood , forreign and most probably not known or likely to be recognized here. A concept not excactly unusual when we consider local innovation against imported cultural frameworks.
Before you start to collect the timber so that I might be burned at the stake for my heresy I'd like you to note that this importing of external cultural memes can have many positive aspects.

Three major themes emerge since the 80's :

Political work which focusses on minority politics:

Art for arts sake - informed by (often complex and often "French") theory and completely"unreadable" by the general public.

The"tried and true" school