“Beyond the Frontier: The Photography of Peter Eve”


gallery Just like the United States, Australia lives with a messy history of contact between its Aboriginal people and the Europeans who arrived later. When this relationship erupts into art, if anything, more questions arise—as with Peter Eve’s photographs of the Kimberley region, paired with paintings by Aboriginal artists from that area.

Bold portraits like "Rammey Ramsey" make for a stark contrast to lush landscape shots in Peter Eve’s photography exhibit.

Eve presents two types of images here: sumptuous nature photographs, as aloof and violently colorful as anything in a Sierra Club calendar, and black-and-white portraits of Aboriginal people, shot in a hard-nosed journalistic style. The viewer veers between admiring the exotic hue of cliffs in the Carr Boyd Range (like our own red clay, but turned up a thousand notches) and intimately encountering Paddy Bedford, a white-haired man sitting in a pickup truck with a shepherd dog in the bed.

It’s certainly a finely made image. You can almost smell the sun on his skin, feel the road’s dust, breathe the smoke from his cigarette. The truck’s window makes a second frame around man and dog, increasing the sense of their being distanced from the viewer. Indeed, a social context for Bedford, and the other people in the photos, is hard to grasp. Does Eve see them as stewards of this stunning place? As victims? Artists (which many are)? Sometimes they’re shown entwined with the landscape (Peggy Patrick stands within a fallen tree branch, its shadows crossing her face); sometimes they look more like visitors (Rusty Peters sits tentatively on a rock near Black Rock Pool, wearing jeans and sport sandals, holding a pack
of cigarettes).

The dualities—between the portraits and landscapes, between Eve’s photos and the paintings that fill the rest of the museum—are troubling, if we imagine that Eve is not confronting them. The show is too small, and too thinly curated, to know for sure.