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Photographer Graham Miller says the impetus for his new series – All That is Solid Melts into Air – initially came from reading Mark Tredinnick’s “The Blue Plateau: A Landscape Memoir”.

“Tredinnick is a poet and his writing is very lyrical combining natural history with his own story of belonging to a place, which in this case is the Blue Mountains,” explains Miller who lives in Western Australia. “The story was so evocative and beautiful that I decided I had to go and experience the mountains for myself.”

For those who don’t know the geography of Australia, Miller’s decision saw him cross time zones and traverse the country from west to east, traveling more than 4100 kilometres – it’s a vast continent.

Miller made two trips to the Blue Mountains, in New South Wales. On his first visit he spent two weeks in the small town of Katoomba, which is literally perched on the edge of a cliff. “I like that metaphor, of people living on the edge,” says Miller.

He continues. “The Blue Mountains is a sublime landscape. I’ve always been interested in the sublime, and am drawn to artists such as Eugene von Guérard, who is perhaps one of the most famous painters in this discipline. He painted in the Blue Mountains in the 1800s and I love the way he captured light and the sense of the landscape, so his work influenced my approach”.

With this body of work Miller’s intention was to “explore the cosmic, and the particular” contrasting photographs of the landscape “with very intimate portraits of the people that live there, to give a sense of the bigger picture. I wanted to also represent how precious the landscape is, to evoke the divine in nature. These images are an ambiguous blending of impression and fact and an attempt to provide delicate evocations of human presence and hope”.

While the landscape proved complex to photograph in terms of the chaotic tangle that is the Australian bush, what Miller describes as “scruffy and messy”, the locals presented a different challenge. “I relied on the chance encounter of meeting people on the street, and watching people go by, trying to recognise that intangible thing in that person that makes you want to take a photo”.

“I don’t usually photograph that way. The young people were easy with it and excited, they thought it was cool that I wanted to take their photograph. Maybe that is because they photograph each other a lot. But the older people were more cautious and found my interest a bit weird,” he laughs.  

After his initial foray Miller returned to his home in Perth. Then in October last year bushfires roared through the very areas that Miller had photographed compelling him to return. This time he found himself reluctant to pry into others’ lives, the devastation too raw and so he turned his attention to the environment creating abstracted views of a landscape ravaged, but already showing signs of rebirth.

For his exhibition “All That is Solid Melts into Air” Miller has hung the works in various groupings to create a “sense of connection and disconnection, to convey a kind of rhythm… I’ve had a really lovely response to the work. Many people have told me it left a lingering impression on them. That’s what you want, to have the work stay in the mind afterwards”.

All That is Solid Melts into Air”
Until 15 March, 2014

Turner Galleries

470 William Street

Northbridge (Perth)


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