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JOHN ELLIOTT was born in Blackall, Queensland and before he even reached his teenage years, he dominated the family box brownie camera. He explains, "...Photography has always been a really big part of my life...it's almost like breathing...something I do every day." One of those early photos is of his older brother Allan taken in their backyard in 1963 and it is this image that lead off an exhibition of John's work at The King Street Gallery On Burton in Darlinghurst, Sydney during March and which can now be viewed on-line.
Like John's previous exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery entitled Thousand Mile Stare, this showing includes many iconic country music figures captured through his lens; Reg Lindsay in a happy pose, Troy Cassar-Daley looking like (in John's words) "a Hollywood superstar from the fifties", and an always dapper Smoky Dawson. After so many years of shooting images on rolls of film, the prospect of shifting to digital photography was daunting if not downright scary for John and he resisted the change for some time. Eventually he took the plunge and now swears by the technology and doubts he'll ever go back to film. Now he says, "...Digital photography isn't really mysterious, it's just another means of recording an image...it has some good features and some bad...you can take lots and lots of shots to get the good one, but then it takes along time to sort them out afterwards." Indeed, as anyone who deals with storing any type of files on a computer knows, the larger the quantity, the greater the discipline needed to maintain useful archives of information. For more on computer management and other useful personal productivity tips, visit www.43folders.com
Another advantage of new technology is the ability to take and old 35mm negative and blow it up to a print size that would previously been impossible. One such print, a huge limited-edition portrait of Slim Dusty, dominated the space by the entrance door at the gallery. Joy McKean has said of John, "I do believe that when he's been photographing Slim, he's been the only one that really got close to Slim and captured him in so many different moods as well as so many different places." It was for his book On The Road With Slim that John was honoured with the Charlie Lamb Award for Excellence in Country Music Journalism, presented in Nashville. A short time later he travelled to the USA to study photography and photographic archiving after being awarded the Churchill Fellowship. At the same time he got the go-ahead for his book Where Country Is and, with the aid of the internet, worked on it while he was travelling and finally finished it from his New York hotel room. "In years gone by, that would never have been possible", he recalled, extolling the virtues of the internet.
There is a digital portrait in the latest exhibition of one of John's favourite Australian painters, Elisabeth Cummings. While photographing Elisabeth in her home he explained to her his artistic views on the film vs. digital debate; "...It's like people asking you what sort of brush you use. It's irrelevant...it's whatever it takes to put the paint on and it's the same with photography."
Cowboys In Cyberspace was lucky enough to receive a personal guided tour of this latest exhibition from the man himself and you can watch video highlights of that on YouTube.com and here:
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© 2007 Bob Howe - ShowNet