Living in the age of social media, when the majority of people have access to a camera in their pocket at any given time, there has been a rise of selfie culture. This is of course by no means an original observation – but within this idea, there is certainly room for further exploration, and that’s exactly what ‘Echo Chambers: Art and Endless Reflections’ is doing.
Curated by James Lynch, the ambitious exhibition features contemporary Australian artists who work with mirrors, mirrored surfaces and reflections, and so seeks to engage with the audience’s increasing desire to see images of themselves, while also exploring how contemporary culture and social media, often mirrors, duplicates and doubles itself.
Key historical examples frame the exhibition, inviting the viewer to speculate on what they see and how our experiences of representation have changed over time.
Among the talent being featured is Melbourne artist and book designer Yanni Florence.
It is a pretty special experience for the artist, whose focus up until now has been creating books of photography – exhibitions of sorts, as he sees it, just ones that sit on your shelf as opposed to mounted on a wall.
The curator came across Florence’s work on Instagram, and it was so taken by the public now has the chance to see his work for the first time as physical prints. Beautifully printed by master printer Sandra Barnard, the feedback has been positive.
“It’s a strange feeling to see my photographs that have existed in their own world, now sit alongside the works of other artists. It’s a whole lot of worlds coming together,” Florence told Neos Kosmos.
The Greek Australian’s featured pieces are from his Tram Window series; portraits of people captured as they appear through the darkened tram windows in moments of introspection.
He revealed the initial inspiration came from a famous photograph by Robert Frank of people looking out of a trolley car in New Orleans.
“I wanted to explore some ideas I saw in that photograph,” he says.
“I took a few photographs of people looking out of tram windows and tried to get as close as possible to make portraits. The passengers sit there, mostly passively waiting for their journey’s end, looking out, watching the world go by. There is a very open, unguarded and accepting look they have that I tried to show.”
Using a Nikon 750 with a long lens to get as close as possible to his subjects, Florence captures them through often badly scratched and opaque glass – acting as a real world filter.
“When we look, we often just look through to what we are focusing on and don’t notice what’s in the periphery or in the way of what we are looking at. That’s the idea of glass; it’s a window that you look through,” he explains.
“The idea of these photographs is to capture what you look through, as well as what you are looking at. These photographs make the dirt and scratches on the glass more visible than what you would normally notice with the naked eye. It’s a real world filter to the portraits of the people in the photographs.”
Asked what his take is on people increasingly wanting to see photos of themselves, say in the form of selfies, the artist sees it as a potential positive – a means even, for self-reflection.
“Maybe at some point all the selfies will provide access to greater self-awareness? I would be very grateful to see such images of my ancestors, so I can only think of it as a gift to future generations.”
Born to an Anglo Australian mother and Greek father, Florence’s paternal ancestors hail from Ithaca. He revealed that his surname, originally Florias, was anglicised by his grandfather at the turn of the 19th century. Growing up in 70’s Melbourne, he admits he spent a great deal of time explaining the origins of his name Yanni, but his late father’s love of classical Greece has instilled a desire in him to visit his ancestral homeland.
First off the bucket list, Florence will be having his first solo exhibition at the Reading Room in August.
Featuring more photographs from his Tram Window series, it will give the viewer a chance to see and appreciate the detail in his work.
“These Tram Window photographs have a lot of detail in them, so for me, the exhibition will be a greater realisation of the ideas in the photographs than would not be possible in a book alone.”
Coincidentally, the Reading Room gallery space is located almost directly opposite the tram stop on Swanston Street where most of the photographs were taken by Florence, giving the art a new dimension.
“You will be able to look out of the widow of the gallery and see where it all happened.”
‘Echo Chambers: Art and Endless Reflections’ is on show now until 29 March, 2019 across three separate gallery spaces at Deakin University.