On Photography – Christmas ‘in camera’

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Thursday 11 December 2008
Ron Brownson

Christmas as a thematic subject for artists is in only a few of the works in the Gallery’s collections. 13 works are tagged with Christmas in our catalogue. Two works on paper, by Richard Hamilton and Graham Smith, are fascinating as they reveal another perspective on this festive period.

Richard Hamilton’s 1971 screenprint I'm Dreaming of a Black Christmas (above)has become an emblem of the artist’s career. The image is based on a promotional photographic still from the movie Holiday Inn that shows Bing Crosby walking across the hotel’s lobby. Using the brilliant tonal range of dye transfer as his starting point, Hamilton then reverses the original colours of the film still and then adds haphazard colour shifts, while further adding both collage and wash. Such a painterly response to photography is a characteristic of Hamilton’s work. The mood is one of strange humour.

Chris Killip and Graham Smith collaborated on their important documentary project titled Another Country (above). This is not the tourist view of England but a socially conscious insider’s response to poverty. The two artists have been described as ‘documentary mavericks’. Smith stopped making photographs three years after he made this image of a ‘working class family’ feeling the stress of seven days away from Christmas. As with all great social documentary photography, the human feeling is in preponderance.

Enjoy the festivities (hopefully not too black or stressful). I will return in the New Year with more On Photography.
Click here to read my other posts On Photography.

image credits:

Richard Hamilton born 1922 Great Britain
I’m dreaming of a black Christmas 1971
Screenprint on collotype, with collage and wash
750 x 1010mm
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 1975

Graham Smith born 1947 Great Britain
One Week Before Christmas 1987
From the series: Another Country
Gelatin silver print
407 x 508mm
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 1987