A SERIES OF BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOGRAPHS EXPLORING CULTURAL JUXTAPOSITIONS BETWEEN COUNTRIES AT VARYING STAGES OF DEVELOPMENT – CULTURALLY, POLITICALLY, AND ECONOMICALLY.
THE PROJECT SPANS NINE COUNTRIES AND WAS BORN FROM A DESIRE TO VISUALLY RESPOND TO WITNESSED CULTURAL INTOLERANCES. THE MEDIUM OF DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHY HAS BEEN ADOPTED TO EXPLORE SIMILARITIES BETWEEN CULTURES AND ENCAPSULATE THE SIMILARITIES OF THE HUMAN CONDITION. THE AIM IS TO ENCOURAGE AN END TO SEGREGATING PEOPLE FROM ONE CULTURE TO ANOTHER, NO MATTER WHERE THEY CHOOSE TO LIVE.
The catalyst for producing this photographic documentary was the growing sense of xenophobia photographer Louise Grayson witnessed in Australia during the federal election of 2001. It was a time when issues surrounding illegal immigrants attempting to enter Australia had become news. The events were dramatic; there were people who dressed differently from the majority of Australians; they were trying to enter the country using rickety old boats; the events occurred during a federal election campaign; and their public face was contentious news photography.
Many researchers and political observers have argued the then Prime Minister John Howard used these events to play on popular fears of immigration and multiculturalism (Jupp, 2002; Klocker and Dunn, 2003; Wilkinson and Mares, 2002; Marr, 2003). According to Jupp (2002: 198), they marked the revival of racist and xenophobic popular attitudes. Each day brought some new plot development – a ship captain refusing to leave refugees, SAS troops being deployed, children floating in the sea, a government lying over information being received, and so on.
Today the issues surrounding illegal immigrants arriving in Australia remain at the forefront of the Australian political landscape. During the 2010 Australian federal election political commentators stated that boat arrivals remained a “red-hot issue” and that the sentiment was “ugly, hostile and deep-seated” (Paul Kelly, The Australian Newspaper, May 29, 2010).
Yet another decade on and still the issues are highly contentious within the Australian political climate.
In response to this asylum seekers debate Louise has conducted research into cultural differences across nations and the intolerance shown by various groups towards one another. The resulting body of work examines contrasting social structures around the world in order to exemplify the similarities between cultures and, in turn, encourage a more tolerant attitude between people.
The photographic works span several continents including South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. This eclectic mix offered the potential to explore some interesting cultural and economic juxtapositions. While Peru still embraces its traditional cultural values, Hong Kong embodies an economically frenetic society – possibly at the expense of heritage. Photographs from a small village in France portray people carrying out their daily rituals and explores the close links between them and the spaces in which they find themselves. The photographs capture complex societies that are rapidly changing, while proudly clinging to their heritage and history.
Throughout “Streets Apart” it becomes apparent that, regardless of skin colour, or the outer appearance of people from one continent to another, a consistency remains in values, dreams and everyday existence. For all their differences, these photographs show people getting on with the business of living in remarkably similar ways. Although they are physically ‘streets apart’, these cultures do in fact share many similarities. The resulting photographs reflect a cultural mix anchored in likeness.