Sue Ford was a ground-breaking Australian photographer and filmmaker whose work is now seen as a cornerstone of the 70s feminist photographer movement that included other heroes Nan Goldin and Carol Jerrems. Her work explored gender issues, politics, and Indigenous rights—difficult topics engage people with in Australia at the time.
The National Gallery of Victoria is currently hosting an exhibition of more than 150 photographs, digital prints, collages, and films spanning the five decades of Ford’s career, as well as several unseen pieces she was working on prior to her death in 2009.
As young women living in Australia in 2014, it’s easy to forget the impact Ford and her contemporaries had. Talking about gender issues is still something that makes people uncomfortable, but 40-years-ago it was a conversation that many young women like us were struggling to even get started. Her work not only gave a face to a cause, but also showed other like minded young people that there were people who were thinking bigger than the white middle age men who were trying to lay claim to their bodies, rights, and minds.
The NGV exhibition will also host Ford’s Time Series 1962-74, a collection of black-and- white double portraits of friends and acquaintances taken ten years apart and displayed side-by-side. The series is seen as an iconic moment in modern Australian art history, but also a sensitive insight into the lives of people who were in a similar time of their lives to many readers of this site. Look at it as a glimpse of the person you might of been if you were born a generation earlier.
If you do check it out take a moment to drop into David McDiarmid: When this you see remember me afterwards. McDiarmid was a gay activist artist, working through the 70s, 80s, and 90s. His work was groundbreaking in its efforts to show AIDS as something bigger than a hidden disease that affected society’s fringes. Many of his safe sex poster are now iconic. McDiarmid died of AIDS in the 90s, and the exhibition has been curated by his long time friend and Melbourne art hero Sally Gray. It’s worth taking a couple of hours this weekend to honour the people who started many battles we’re still fighting today, and reflect on where we’d be without cultural and thought pioneers like Sue and David.