To add another dimension to my visit to the ‘Air’ exhibition at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art, I decided to take my camera along. The gallery environment provided plenty of interesting shapes, light and dark environments, colour, contrast, reflections, and the artwork itself. These images feature the hanging spheres from artist Tomás Saraceno, Dora Budor’s volcano-littered scenes inside brightly lit glass cases, Yhonnie Scarce’s Cloud Chamber, Ron Mueck’s remarkable “In bed” sculpture, and Carlos Amorales’ thousands of butterflies and moths, cut from black paper and fixed to the gallery walls. Also on display at the exhibition, and of particular interest for photographers, are Rachel Mounsey’s evocative images of the Black Summer fires in 2019.

I only have a few cameras, and I use my Nikon FM almost exclusively for film photography. It’s manual everything, but simple and intuitive, and faithfully reliable. In most situations I prefer SLR control of depth of field and exposure.

I brought a few different rolls of film, keeping my options open. After a look around I decided to load Ilford HP5+, mainly because I felt black and white would help bring continuity to a series of shots in differently coloured environments. I also really enjoy the grain structure and exposure latitude. I pushed two stops for stronger contrast and grain, and some more low-light firepower.

My composition process was to seek out combinations of interesting subjects and light, and then look for perspective or layers to add depth. There were many opportunities for visual interplay between artwork, building and people. In some of the shots I used a shallow depth of field to render individuals unidentifiable and simplify an untidy background.

I brought two lenses. My plan was to make an initial circuit of the exhibition with the Nikkor 28mm f/2.8 AiS lens, and then a second pass with the Voigtlander 58mm f/1.4. But the 28mm just seemed to feel right for the space and I happily burned through all 36 exposures without changing.

Being not too far from the centre of Brisbane, I made a beeline for the film lab (DigiDirect in Adelaide Street) and handed over the roll straight out of the back of the camera. The scans arrived that very afternoon — as always, the guys had done a marvellous job.

There were eight shots I considered keepers – my favorite five of which are shown above. Of the unsuccessful photographs, the main lesson for me was that the subject was too far away and too small, which I can put down to a lack of experience composing at 28mm. There were also several shots taken in dark spaces that were badly underexposed, and a few where the concept just didn’t work as intended.

I would like to photograph more galleries and exhibitions, hopefully improving progressively. Perhaps in the long term it could develop into a larger body of work. I’ll experiment with different film stocks and focal lengths, and maybe post to 5 Frames again if successful.

The Air exhibition is located at the Gallery of Modern Art in South Brisbane, and runs until April 23, 2023. Thanks for reading. More of my work can be found on Flickr at[email protected]/

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