The Guardian Picture Essay on line. This photographic series by…
Centre for Contemporary Photography. Fitzroy 8 June – 15 July 2018
Forty years ago, in 1978, Rod McNicol moved into an old warehouse space on Smith Street, Fitzroy that was being vacated by the then infamous Nightshift Theatre Group. Rod then set about transforming this warehouse theatre into a unique daylight studio home.
Right from his very first introduction to photography several years earlier at Prahran College, Rod had been drawn to a certain genre of photographic portraiture, one that was quiet and very direct to the camera. “I was obsessed by the self-conscious stare back to the camera so evident in 19th century photography.” So the course was set, Rod had bothhis obsession and the perfect studio to use to explore it! The first resulting exhibition, A Portrait, was shown in Melbourne in 1985, then Krakow, Poland in 1986 and finally in Paris in 1987.
For four decades now, Rod –who still lives and works in the same studio – has gone on to produce many differing series of these brazen yet tender portraits, always drawing his subjects from the rich subcultural life around him, in that vibrant inner city area he terms his ‘urban village ‘.
This exhibition includes works both new and old, with a suite of vintage black and white prints from the original series, A Portrait, as well as very recent colour work – Portraits from my Variegated Village.
Born in 1946, Australian photographer Rod McNicol has consistently analysed the passing of time through the evidence of the photographic portrait. At once confronting and tender, McNicol’s portrait photographs are bold and intimate. McNicol founded The Photographers Gallery in South Yarra Melbourne in 1975. He was awarded the National Photographic Portrait Prize 2012 for his portrait of Indigenous actor Jack Charles.