Australian Fine Artist

May Art Chat

Venue: McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Park

Speaker: Sonia Payes

Topic: Photography Practice Overview

Sonia Payes is one of Australia’s leading portrait and thematic photographers. She gained attention with her early portraits both captured and defined her subjects, culminating in her photographic essay of 60 significant australian artists in their studios which was published in UNTITLED: Portraits of Australian Artists by McMillan Publishing in 2007. More recently Sonia’s work has veered towards the surreal with haunting portraits and landscapes that captivate the viewer with things that are obscured and left unseen. Her Iceman Series in in the gallery at present. Sonia studied Arts and Photography at Melbourne Art School in 1987, Arts and Communication at the Australian College of Photography in 1991 and became master Photographer at the Australian Institute of Professional Photography in 2001, she was also granted the Australia China Art Foundation Residency in Beijing in 2012.
(Courtesy McClelland Gallery)

Sonia has a current exhibition in Melbourne and is an engaging speaker. She has a wealth of experience behind her and her skill with the camera comes through win her prints. Today she presented a Keynote presentation of her works spanning her career. She has a great interest in the human figure as it fits into the landscape and the contradictions of the natural world and the impact that human development has on it.

Many of the photographs have the face of her daughter, who she has used in both her composite images and 3D modelling works. Sonia has done very well in China, even given their way of working which means that once they have made up their minds to go ahead with a project – it all happens very quickly and you need to be prepared and ready to work hard.

Everywhere that Sonia goes she is taking photographs. She has a huge library of reference pics going back to her youth, she is willing to pull out anything from any stage of her life and use it with current images to get the look she is after. An interesting point her is that she does not use Photoshop but only the camera for her effects. How this is done with images that are in her library on the computer I am not sure. Making up your image with just the camera however, show how much understanding she has of how it can be manipulated and pushed these days for creative output.

Many of Sonia’s more recent series’ are aimed at the use and misuse of the land by human industry. She spoke about the changes in China in particular, and how the land is being having all its nutrients taken out by over-farming and then built over. This is a problem in a lot of countries, as the demand for fast food production gets higher. We can see the land being built over in our own state, where good fertile soil is being covered up by housing estates and industrial parks.

The textures, the atmosphere and the human impact are all intermingled in sonia’s photographs to tell stories about the state of humanity. She is not a crusader, just showing her views of things. In her latest series, not yet published, she intends to show the results of our direction. Humans morphed and evolved to cope with living in a more hostile environment of our own creation. Again these will not be confrontational, but rather, thought provoking. Many photos are representational, and the overlays of 3D shapes with lighting effects and textures to guide the viewer into making up a narrative for themselves. Her interest in 3D printing for future creativity is something that I have thought would be great to investigate, as probably other artists have as well. It will be interesting to see where it goes as these printers become more affordable.

Another thing that was interesting is that work such as short animations, and other work completed via the printer or computer are done in co-ordination with artists working in China. There are a lot available to get this done very quickly and at a price she can afford rather than trying to do everything herself. Many of us push ourselves to try to do everything, and it is a good lesson to see that working in a group or in co-opertaion with other artists and associated industries for the arts is a good use of our time.

I am not intending to be a professional photographer, but do use the camera in conjunction with my creative process for researching subjects, reference material etc so it was an interesting talk on several levels for me. As always you take away from these chats as much as you are willing to get out of them with a little imaginative thinking.

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