Monash University students impress at PHOTO 2022 New Photographers exhibition

From series (Dis)connected to Country, Waddi Tree, 2020. Courtesy of the artist Jahkarli Romanis.

Two Monash Art, Design and Architecture (MADA) students have had their work showcased in the PHOTO 2022 New Photographers exhibition.

Isabella Darcy and Jakharli Romanis’ work was exhibited as part of the PHOTO International Festival of Photography.

The students were specially selected for participation in the exhibition by the MADA faculty.

The New Photographers exhibition is Photo Australia’s showcase of Victoria’s most promising emerging photographers. The exhibition displays the work of seven young artists who bring new perspectives to the human experience, photography and visual culture.

The theme of PHOTO 2022  was ‘Being Human’, it invited participants to address the contemporary human condition through the lens of Mortality, Self, Society, Nature and History.

For both artists, participating in the New Photographers exhibition felt like a validation of their creative practice.

“For me to be nominated by the university and the faculty, it was very humbling to know that the work that I've been doing was seen and noticed as well, especially during my honours year,” said Isabella.

“I think when you're just sort of beginning your artistic career, it can be really hard, there's a lot of self criticism. So it's always nice when someone believes in your work and understands the work, and wants to share that with other people,” reflected Jahkarli.

“It was very encouraging.”

As part of the New Photographers program both Isabella and Jakharli were provided with professional development support, including mentorship by an international artist or curator.

Isabella reflected that preparing for the exhibition served as an opportunity to learn about the workings of commercial galleries and the professional art industry.

“I was learning about making work for a commercial gallery, thinking about what sells, which I think it’s an integral part of being an artist,” she said.

“If you want to make your career as an artist, you need to kind of filter yourself into the commercial spaces as well. “

Jahkarli Romanis: ‘(Dis)connected to Country’

Photo: Jahkarli Romanis

Jahkarli Romanis is a proud Pitta Pitta woman based in Narm.

Her practice explores her lived experience as an Indigenous woman and the continuing impacts of colonialism in Australia. Currently she studies as a PhD candidate through the Wominjeka Djeembana Research Lab.

Jahkarli’s PHOTO 2022 submission is a continuation of her ongoing research ‘Disconnected to Country’. The project highlights the connection between Google Earth and the perpetuation of Terra Nullius in Australia through the omission of Indigenous knowledge of place.

“Google Earth is a technology, it's not a neutral scientific tool, there are subjective decisions made about the information that's included in these mapping technologies,” explained Jahkarli.

The project is based within Pitta Pitta Country, a western region of Queensland.

“I’m thinking about my connection personally to that landscape, and the dislocation that's occurred within my family,” she said.

“I wasn't raised on Country, I didn't grow up on Country, so this project really is about exploring how I connect to Country through these different imaging technologies.”

The work features eight screenshots of Pitta Pitta Country taken from the perspective of  Google Earth street view maps.

“With these images it's not very clear what you're looking at a lot of the time because the technology itself is a bit dysfunctional, it glitches, it's unreliable,” said Jahkarli.

“I'm interested in where that technology is degrading, because it highlights that it's dysfunctional and it's also not the truth necessarily.”

The second element of the work centres around a gathering place for the Pitta Pitta people.

It depicts Google Earth’s portrayal of this particular tree, overlaid with pictures of the tree taken by Jahkarli during a visit to Country.

“Within Google Earth, it's sort of been reduced to this sort of blob of pixels essentially… I overlaid that same tree on top of its position within Google Earth, kind of just to acknowledge that it exists.”

“It’s coming back to this idea of truth, like what is truth within photography? What does it look like? Is it even possible to obtain truth within photography?

“Personally, I don't think so."

A prominent theme throughout Jahkarli’s photographic practice is the exploration of her lived experiences, culture and family history.

“My practice is sort of a vehicle that I used to sometimes even emotionally work through these things, because a lot of it is quite heavy, and quite intense."

“Through my practice, and also through studying, this is kind of a way that I've learnt to express myself."

Isabella Darcy: ‘Reworked’

Photo: Isabella Darcy

Isabella Darcy is a Monash Bachelor of Fine Arts alumna and Fine Art Honours student, her screen printing practice engages with themes of materialism, street culture and identity.

Her PHOTO 2022 submission stems from a New York artist’s residency project she started in 2019 called ‘Reworked’. The project examines how individuals inhabit spaces through their clothing and identity.

“The project is linking the ideas of collectivity along with art and fashion, looking at that intersection of art and fashion and how important it is, even through an anthropological lens,” Isabella explained.

Isabella’s submission consists of screen prints and glass mood boards, creating a photo archive of street fashion and online images.

“The images hold these observations of how I view how people dress and how they present themselves within the digital and real space,” she said.

Reworked was inspired by print media from the 90’s and early 2000’s, influencing Isabella’s choice to use screen sprinting as a medium.

“That's why I chose the medium of screen printing, because it has this really low-fi quality to it,” reflected Isabella.

“It reminds me of old print magazines, or like underground magazines where you see these certain displays of street culture and identity being valued.”

The combination of street fashion and images found on the internet reflects the changing consumer trends from physical fashion stores to online marketplaces and Instagram.

“I'm kind of observing this idea of how people are framed, how we change from one space to another, the real space to the digital space,“ Isabella said.

“I think it parallels really well with screen printing, because the process of screen printing is very much moving an image through different forms. It almost seems like you're kind of redacting more and more from the image and it becomes kind of obscure in a way when it becomes a printed image on paper.”

Isabella’s interest in materialism, fashion and identity stems from her cultural upbringing and the impact of class culture.

“I think in some ways, like psychologically, it comes through in my work. It's how I link people together through these kinds of cultural nuances,” she reflected.

“I'm very interested in how consumable items represent who you are and how important they are.”

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