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Rebecca Swan in the Auckland Festival of Photography

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Rebecca Swan's work is predominantly black and white and often explores sexuality and gender. The Exhibition Desire will include some Swan images that seek to show authentically the ideal of same sex…

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Rebecca Swan's work is predominantly black and white and often explores sexuality and gender. The Exhibition Desire will include some Swan images that seek to show authentically the ideal of same sex attraction without conforming to heterosexual views of how that should be presented erotically.

Image: Jen by Rebecca SwanRebecca Swan's work is predominantly black and white and often explores sexuality and gender. The Exhibition Desire will include some Swan images that seek to show authentically the ideal of same sex attraction without conforming to heterosexual views of how that should be presented erotically.

Image: Jen by Rebecca SwanSome of the Swan's Desire images also feature in her forthcoming book, Assume Nothing, due to be published internationally in August. Swan has exhibited in New Zealand, Australia, Germany and Britain, was involved in the internationally recognised M.I.L.K project, and her first book, The Big C, won her fans on both sides of the Tasman.

A large photographic mural, Jen is one of Swan's most striking images in the Desire exhibition. It demonstrates Swan's interest in dispelling the easy categorization in photography of masculine or feminine attributes by combining sensuous 'feminine' curves and a more tense, 'masculine' fist. "The key thing is to have a visual language for women who have sex with women that is erotic and distinctive to their sexuality."

"Jen and much of my work is about the fluidity between the masculine and the feminine imbued in one individual. I'm exploring and challenging generalizations about men and women. As a queer photographer I am interesting in exploring an erotic aesthetic, one that uses the specifics of that sexuality. I want them to be strong, not overly romanticized photographs."

Developing this aesthetic can mean Swan's work is seen as controversial. "It's a hard place to put yourself as an artist," she says, "it can be problematic. I attempted to place these images somewhere other than within existing categories of erotica or pornography but recognize they will be read differently by audiences, depending on their sexuality."
Desire 2/2
Creative Exposure

Fans of Swan's work may understand how photographing the image is just one of her 'tools of the trade'. As a black and white printer, Swan's processing of the image is integral to the finished product. "50% of the creating comes in the dark room. Images are manipulated depending on how one accentuates or plays down certain aspects." This is illustrated by examining Jen, photographed using a large format camera to produce a large negative. "That 4" by 5" size, rather than the conventional 35mm negative, meant I started with a lot of detail. I was concerned with capturing the surface of the subject rather than the surface of the film. Using a larger negative meant when I printed the image at mural size, the grain of the film didn't take over the surface of the image."

Printing also saw the luminosity of the body accentuated. "The skin tones are rendered really light and the background really black. This produced detail and quite a graphic outline while allowing the skin to look almost as if it were illuminated from the inside." Contrast provided depth around the fists, the portion of the photograph Swan expects viewers to look at first. "The focus is literally around the wrists and fists. You get a sense of her clasping herself and setting up a charge that goes through her body."

Swan says the best images remain powerful despite how often they're looked at. "If they're really good, time doesn't decrease that effect. I lived with the Jen image, looked at it every day, and loved it. It never became wallpaper. I'm looking forward to seeing it again on a gallery wall."

The Ardor Gallery's June 19-July 1 show, Desire, features images that explore the theme of desire by photographer Rebecca Swan and painters Mary McIntrye, John Oxburgh and Don Papas.

For more information on Desire, contact Emma Weston, Ardor 09 377-7559

Creative Exposure is an Auckland Festival of Photography Trust project sponsored by Auckland City. Events and exhibitions include:

A Bit Of A Do (Avondale Racecourse, June 12-20)
Images celebrating Aucklanders' celebrations.

Desire (Ardor, June 19-July 1)
Showcasing Rebecca Swan's studies of gender and sexuality.

Dislocated (George Fraser Gallery, June 8-26)
Photographers' explorations of their environment.

Landscape & Memory (Waiheke Art Gallery, June 4-24)
Landscape and images of Auckland.

NZ Idle (BNZ Foyer, Aotea Centre, June 20-27)
Artists' take on cosmopolitan society and media

Nothing is Separate
www.photoforum-nz.orgAn online exhibition of aspects of city life.

The Great Escape (Aotea Gallery, June 7-28)
John McDermott's ethereal AK03 images.

Winter Exhibition (FHE, June-July) Includes works by iconic photographer Marti Friedlander.

Wonder (Artstation, 22 June-3 July)
Five photographers' responses to the idea of wonder.

For more information, contact:
akl.festival.photography@xtra.co.nz

Written by

Arts Work Project

18 Jun 2004

Interests Creative Industries development