Carol Jerrems 1975 silver gelatin print Vale Street sold for $122,000

Carol Jerrems 1975 silver gelatin print Vale Street sold for $122,000

Vale Street – most valuable Australian photograph ever sold.

Nick Miller in the Sydney Morning Herald reports that Carol Jerrems Vale Street has sold at Sotheby’s Australia auction for $122,000 making this photograph Australia’s most valuable photograph ever sold.

Carol Jerrems died in 1980 aged thirty. There are only nine prints of Vale Street know to exist. A copy of Vale Street sold at Brummels Gallery in Melbourne in 1976 for $45.

Vale Street 1975 National Gallery of Australia Silver gelatin print 20.2 x 30.3 cm on sheet 40.5 x 50.4 cm

‘I try to reveal something about people, because they are so separate, so isolated, maybe it’s a way of bringing people together I don’t want to exploit people. I care about them.’
Carol Jerrems, 1977

‘Carol Jerrems became prominent in the 1970s as part of a new wave of young photographers. Influenced by the counter-culture values of the 1960s, they used art to comment on social issues and engender social change. Jerrems photographed associates, actors and musicians, always collaborating with her subjects, thereby declaring her presence as the photographer. Vale Street raises interesting questions about what is artifice and what is real in photography. She deliberately set up this image, employing her aspiring actress friend and two young men from her art classes at Heidelberg Technical School. Vale Street has achieved an iconic status in Australian photography; the depiction of a confident young woman taking on the world is an unforgettable one. It is an intimate group portrait that is at once bold and vulnerable. In 1975 it was thought to be an affirmation of free love and sexual licence. The image also appears to be about liberation from society’s norms and taboos — ‘we are all three bare-chested, we have tattoos and so what?’

The implication that this scene is perfectly natural is reinforced by locating the figures in a landscape. The young woman is strong and unafraid of the judgement of the viewer. The necklace around her neck is an ankh — a symbol of the new spiritualty of the Age of Aquarius and a re-affirmation of the ancient powers of women’. National Gallery of Australia.

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This article was written by
David Tatnall

David Tatnall is a Melbourne based fine art photographer.

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