Interview with Dianna Wells, Meat Market
3 January 2017
You recently completed a wonderful collaborative project with writer Sophie Cunningham, can you tell us a bit more about the project and what you discovered?
The ‘Boundaries’ project was an exploration of the City of Melbourne’s current boundary, produced with the assistance of a City of Melbourne arts grant. The writer Sophie Cunningham researched and wrote an essay reflecting on the geographic, social, indigenous and political history of those boundaries. As the photographer, I worked in tandem with Sophie as I walked, drove, sailed and rode around the boundary. I was interested in capturing intersections and boundary markers within this urban landscape that were unusual and not necessarily obvious in the everyday sense, I also photographed places with historical significance resonating with stories in the essay. The essay and photographs came together into a printed publication. The most exciting part of the project was becoming aware of where water flowed in pre-European Melbourne, indicating the boundaries of where indigenous territories originally lay. Melbourne, pre-white settlement, was a combination of swampland, grasslands and forest. Creeks and rivers within the boundary also determined harder boundaries that grew up in the wake of white settlement.
How long have you been in your studio and what do you love about it?
I have been in my studio at the Meat Market in North Melbourne for three years. I love the space because it’s light and airy with a great view down to Blackwood Street from the 1st floor. I have interesting neighbours I can chat to who are writers, artists, filmmakers and arts administrators. It’s close to my home in Brunswick so I can ride my bike in every day and it’s close to the village atmosphere of the North Melbourne shopping precinct.
Tell us a bit about your studio space and what a typical day in the studio looks like for you.
I spend my time thinking and researching ideas for creative projects. These projects are usually bodies of fine art photomedia works. Scanned negatives captured on my Hasselblad camera are edited on a computer in my studio and prepared for printing. I have a large table that I use for spreading work out to look at and a bookcase with art books and reference material. I also use the studio for graphic design projects, producing marketing materials such as publications and websites for clients within the creative industries. Recent projects include Lovelocks for Craft Victoria and promotional material for The Australian Chamber Choir 2017 International Tour.
How important is collaboration and partnership to you when it comes to creative projects?
Collaboration was very important for the Boundaries project. The research and written material conducted by Sophie informed the photographic works for the publication that I designed for the project. We walked and traveled together along parts of the boundary, exchanging thoughts and information about sites we had seen independently. Working collaboratively breaks up the isolation of working alone and I found that the project came to fruition quickly. I work collaboratively with other creative professionals on design projects such as commercial photographers, stylists, and writers to assemble products together as a whole. Concepts and briefs are usually created in tandem with the client.
What are some of the key elements of a ‘creative space’ in your mind?
A place that is removed from the distractions of daily life, where there is space, light and quiet.
What projects do you have on the horizon now that you’ve completed a major piece of work?
I am working on a series of black and white hand printed photographic works exploring the aesthetic and moral complexities of introduced plants and seeds growing wild in Australian National Parks and bushland environments. There is a debate that interests me in the scientific world arising from my research on this topic. For fifty years conservationists have been battling to keep the ‘aliens’ out, describing introduced species as the second biggest threat to nature after habitat loss. Other ecologists maintain that our involvement in moving species around the world is as long as our own migrations and efforts to keep foreign invaders out of ecosystems might often be counter-productive, weakening nature rather than strengthening it. I’m aiming to engage viewers with this debate and the concept of ‘the new wild’.
All photos by Dianna Wells.
Moonee Ponds Creek, North Melbourne
The Back Gate, Kensington Stock Route
Upfield Railway Line, Park Street, Parkville
Westgate Park, Fisherman’s Bend
Pacific National, Dynon Road, Footscray, Maribyrnong River boundary
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