Exposure Pro is a new series looking at the work of Australia's leading professional and artistic photographers.
(Credit: Kate Bernauer)
Name: Kate Bernauer
Biography: Kate is an award-winning artistic photographer from Brisbane. She is a photographic and video artist, who has also worked in the video games industry as a cinematic designer and layout artist.
As well as appearing in the feature film Nim's Island, Kate's work also features in public and private collections across Australia and internationally.
Kate has exhibited her work across the world in solo and group exhibitions. Her most recent work has appeared in the Synchronicity exhibition at Redcliffe City Art Gallery in Brisbane. Kate holds a Bachelor of Photography degree from Griffith University's Queensland College of Art.
2010 Australia Council for the Arts New Work Grant, 2008 finalist in the Churchie National Emerging Art Prize, 2007 Josephine Ulrick & Win Schubert Award Finalist, 2006 Queensland Centre for Photography Award for experimentation and innovation within photo art practice.
My work is embedded with implied narratives that are inspired by dreams, myths and tall stories. The series "I'll be home in time for dinner" explores the ridiculous and often tragic nature of human experience through the staging of people engaged in strange and often futile activities. The use of theatrical lighting and props on location creates a stage where poetic metaphors address the contradictions and absurdities of everyday life.
The series "Long way home" and "Notes on trying to be a fish" depict the Gold Coast and Brisbane night-time cityscapes. Buildings provide familiar backdrops and yet this is not how we usually see these places. "Closer" is a series set within transitional spaces that exist in urban environments such as development sites, empty blocks of land, playing fields and waterways. Ultimately, we struggle to bring ourselves "Closer" to our human hopes and aspirations.
CNET Australia: what inspired you to take up photography?
Kate Bernauer: I first started taking photos when I was very small. My mother taught me how to use her manual SLR when I was about four and I can distinctly remember taking my first roll of film in our garden. I remember the excitement and wonder of framing the world through that small lens and using this weird object; this "camera" that seemed magical and intuitive and yet very technical as well. I have always loved photography, but did not think of making it into a career until much later.
Lighting in your work is more often than not quite measured and controlled, almost cinematic in the mood it evokes. What role does it play in your photographs, and how do you use it to create the desired effect?
The lighting I use is quite theatrical, deliberate and controlled. This lighting isolates the subject within the frame and gives the images a dream-like quality that is appropriate for a lot of my work.
The natural and built environment features fairly prominently in your work. What is the relationship between your subjects and the outside world?
I don't know that I want to have a definite message with the work, rather that I want to share a feeling. Some of the images have a much clearer meaning than others. They are metaphors about our struggles with the everyday absurdities of life. By this I mean there are many aspects to our lives, especially in the "developed" world that are so very absurd. We are so disconnected from our natural environment and we often take so much for granted. These absurdities are at once completely hilarious and also a little tragic. I want people to create their own stories about what they think is happening, and hopefully connect to a feeling that is present in the work.
The square image format seems to be something you use almost exclusively. Is this because you shoot on medium format, and how does it affect the way in which you construct each image?
I usually shoot on medium format and so when I am constructing an image I will take that into consideration. My photos are very planned and I will make drawings and do test shoots to nut out exactly what I want.
What are some of the challenges facing practising artistic photographers in Australia?
I think one of the things facing artists generally in Australia is that there just isn't the market here supporting art that exists in other countries. If people invest in art, they tend to make very conservative choices. Those who invest money in emerging and more cutting edge art in Australia are relatively small in numbers compared to many other countries. So it makes it extremely difficult to make a living out of art alone.
What do you hope people will take from your photographs?
I hope that people can appreciate them in any way really, but I am really thrilled when people feel a personal connection to them — that the images relate directly to them.
More of Kate's work can be viewed on her website, www.katebernauer.net.