Vol. 5 Num 874 Sun. November 12, 2006  

In conversation with Trent Parke
A road less travelled

Australian photographer Trent Parke wields a sensitive camera to life around him in his well loved country. One of his works, Minutes to Midnight, targeted for the Chobi Mela IV, is on display at the Bengal Gallery of Fine Arts till November 16. Stark black and white images mark the exhibition, covering the dramatic, apocalyptic and personal.

It was important for Parke to document his own country, beleaguered by drought, widespread fires, plague of interests and an economic crisis. Parke's response? A 90, 000 km journey across Down Under where he came up with a stark, somber look at contemporary Australia. "These images are personal; everything I do is personal and derives from what I am feeling at the time," says Parke.

Most of the works are open to interpretation. For instance, there is a photograph of a glowing building in Sydney which could be interpreted as a reference to September 11. Likewise there is a jelly fish which Parke describes as akin to a nuclear explosion. Then there are the ethereal photographs of his stepmother and father. Other highly personal works are those of his then pregnant photographer partner (and now wife) Narelle Auito and his new-born son Jem emerging from the waters of a birthing pool to take his first gulp of air.

Many of Parke's works have the appearance of a painting. "I try to get a cinematic quality to the images by using harsh, sharp sunlight. The light in Australia is very crisp and sharp. During this trip we didn't see even a single cloud in the outback," says Parke.

Here in Bangladesh, Parke has been hampered by the cloudiness. Also, he says that he leaves it to the Bangladeshi photographers to document their country. However, in the course of his stay he will run workshops where he can interact with Bangladeshi photographers, see their work, introduce them to his workand in the process build an exchange of ideas.

The only Australian to be a member of Magnum Photo Agency, the renowned photographer's cooperative, Parke is widely regarded as one of the premier young photographers of his generation.

An exhibition at Foam Fotografiemuseum, Amsterdam, now marks his move into colour photography, which he says has a greater descriptive power and echoes his current mood.

Australian High Commissioner Douglas Foskett says Parke's sojourn in Bangladesh is a landmark since he is the first Australian to participate in the Chobi Mela festival. Foskett added, "I hope Trente's visit can build on the already significant cultural relationship between Australia and Bangladesh."

Credit must also go to curator Bec Dean of the Australian Centre for Photography for the excellent display.

A photograph titled New Year's Eve by Trent Parke(Left), Parke (C) explains a photograph to the Australian High Commissioner Douglas Foskett(Right)