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A photograph of Wendy Saddington taken by feminist photographer Carol Jerrems, to whom Indecent Exposures is dedicated.
Two decades of feminist frames
INDECENT EXPOSURES. Twenty Years of Australian Feminist Photography. Catriona Moore. Allen & Unwin, 1994. 206pp.
Reviewer: HELEN ENNIS
IT.IS widely recognised that women have
played a leading role in Australian pho
tographic practice since the 1970s. Indecent Exposures is dedicated to the memory of Carol Jerrems, one of the leading photo graphers of her generation.
This is the first book to examine femi nist photography in Australia of the past 20 years. It is based on Catriona Moore's research for her doctorate at the University of Sydney.
The author is a regular commentator on feminist art practice and a teacher at the University of Sydney.
Moore's work moves on from the ex haustive documentation that necessarily dominated earlier feminist histories to con struct an argument linked to other areas of feminist cultural politics. Sher addresses
three main themes: the subject, the social^
and the sexual.
Throughout her analysis'Moore rightly.' reminds the reader that feminist photo graphy is an ethical practice, not merely an art practice that can be considered in isola tion and judged according to art historical conventions. She aims to create what she describes as a tactically useful history of feminist photographic strategies.
Understandably, the focus is on work by contemporary feminist photographers; how ever, it is surprising that no attention is given to older women photographers who were rediscovered in this period and who often proved to be an inspiration to young feminists. The recovery of practitioners like Olive Cotton-was an important part of a feminist project. See, for example, the pio neering book Australian Women Pliotogra
pliers 1S50-1949 by Barbara Hall and Jenni
Other biases are evident and are perhaps inevitable. This is an essentially city-based, east-coast story, one in which some artists seem disproportionately represented. Syd ney, photographer-filmmaker Helen Grace is referred to more often than any other practitioner, while Adelaide artist Fiona Hall is not mentioned. Hall's omission is puzzling given her involvement in feminist politics.
But my greatest problem with the book is its tone. Catriona Moore speaks in the voice of institutionalised feminism and with all the authority of the academic. While her writing is clear and concise, it is not a pleasure to read. This is largely because of its' political censoriousness. A more relaxed approach would not have detracted from what is a very useful examination of Aus tralian feminist photography. Indecent Ex posures will take its place alongside a num ber of other recent publications on different aspects of feminist art practice. Together they will help ensure that the work of feminist artists remains in full view.