Tag Archives: art

Catching up with an old friend…

In Bali last month, I took the time to re-connect with an old friend. I met Nyoman Purpa, an art dealer in Ubud in 1977 and would visit him again and again, whenever I returned. It had been 25 years since I was last in Indonesia and taking a trip there with my daughter during the school holidays, I decided to seek him out. This is Purpa as I knew him in 1977; a laid-back, easy-going seller of paintings, with a few motorbikes for hire, as a sideline:

Nyoman Purpa in his art gallery, Circa 1977. © Rob Walls

Though Ubud had changed almost beyond, recognition, Purpa was not hard to find. His gallery which was once set amongst rice paddies is now part of some of the most expensive commercial real estate in Bali.

He was still the same, smiling, optimistic Purpa of old, though now comparatively wealthy. A dedicated family man, he had helped set up his twin daughters with their own fashion and jewellery business. His son, is a well know rock musician, appearing regularly on Indonesian television.

After filling in the years over a few Bintang beers, we decided to update his image with a new portrait:

Nyoman Purpa with ever-present cigarette, in his gallery, February 2, 2011 © Rob Walls

The years have been kind to my old friend.

Purpa and me. Photo © Cassandra Walls 2011


Filed under Australian, Biography, documentary photography, Photographer, Photography, Photojournalism, portraits, Rob Walls

Random acts of art?

Photographers like myself, from the pre-digital era, will remember the quirky images that would sometimes occur when you burst off the first two or three random frames in winding on a fresh roll of 35mm film. While pictures made without any calculated intent whatever can hardly be called creative, there was an indefinable quality about them that was often appealing. I kind of wish I had kept those fragments of film.

This picture occurred on the end of CF card from a corporate assignment I shot in Melbourne yesterday. Must have bumped the shutter release when I went to get a cab to the airport. Can’t explain why I like it, but I do…

Accidental art?

Accidental art?


Filed under art, Australian, Opinion, Photographer, Photography, Rob Walls, Uncategorized

Photography: is it really art?

Art photography?

Art photography?

There is little argument these days, that photography is an art…but now the slicers and dicers, the nigglers at defintions, like to make a distinction between “high” art, “fine” art, and just plain old ordinary, everyday art. I think these are the same bunch of nit-pickers, who like to make the subtle distinction between documentary photography and photojournalism.

Better writers (and better photographers) than me have wrestled with this for years and have failed to come up with any answers that I find satisfactory. I’ll warn you now, you’ll find no answers here, only more questions? So if you are seeking enlightenment, perhaps this might be the point to take up yoga, or Buddhism.

Whenever this subject comes up, I immediately dive for my adopted manifesto to quote this:

“We can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.

All art is quite useless.”

For those of you with a literary pre-disposition, you might recognise this as the closing lines of the preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Like many statements by “the Divine Oscar”, it was designed to provoke; which is exactly why I like it. I think it has a particular resonance in relation to the photograph, in that some would say that a commercial photograph would fall outside the realm of art. But is that always the case? I don’t think so.

Now a good example of this is the work of the artist/potter. If they make a set of coffee mugs, are they “art”. I’d say sometimes, but very often the utilitarian function gets in the way. Who wants to drink coffee from cups that continually require a heightened appreciation of their value? It should be enough to appreciate the coffee, though I won’t dispute the fact that a beautifully designed container can enhance the experience.

Now a perfect contradiction of Oscar’s statement is Marcel Duchamp’s exhibition of a urinal, which he exhibited in 1917, and titled “Fountain”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fountain_(Duchamp ). It was Duchamp’s recognition of this utilitarian object as art that made it art (art in the eye of the beholder), but it was the context that made it art.

Fountain by Marcel Duchamp

Fountain by Marcel Duchamp

“Fine” art seems to be a pure construct of the academic, a description designed to enhance their status in a similar way that cookery teachers describe their subject as “food technology”, or in former years “domestic science” or even “home economics”. Photographers also use the term to glorify their craft (I use the term deliberately). Not satisfied with being called merely photographer, they choose to describe themselves as “fine art photographers” as though this description was their to bestow on themselves. Insecurity? Probably.

“Fine” art also implies a succumbing to the pretentious limited edition/archival print/gallery circuit where the “artist” is purely reliant on the good will of critics and what the collector decides is fashionable. Being dead is a great career move for the artist…as no more emphatically evidenced by Michael Jackson’s recent departure. Good one, Michael!

I have always been under the impression that to describe yourself as an artist was somewhat presumptious. Maybe I’m wrong but surely this accolade should come from one’s peers and the appreciators of your work after a lengthy period of application to producing a significant body of work. It should not be a term to be self-adopted by the wearer.

If you think you have the answers I’d be delighted to debate them with you…

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Filed under art, Opinion, Photographer, Photography, Rob Walls