Trent Parke, one of Australia’s most renowned and awarded photographers, talks about why he loves the Adelaide light so much and what is still left to achieve in an extraordinary career.
Three minutes with Trent Parke
Genevieve What have you been up to in the past year or two?
Trent I have been working on several long-term projects, one of which has just been published as a book called Monument. It was released recently and sold out in seven hours.
Genevieve What did you exhibit at SALA this year?
Trent Work from a book, which takes in 30 years of photographing street life. The work dates back to 1994 when I first moved to Sydney from Newcastle, right up to this present moment and the work I have continued to shoot on the streets of Adelaide.
Genevieve What themes do these photos explore?
Trent Space and time, light and shadow, life and death, memory; these are the themes that I have lived and worked by. This exhibition examines all these ideas and the state of our very existence.
Genevieve For those who may not have seen your work, can you describe it in a couple of sentences?
Trent I use photography as a way of exploring the questions I have about life. I am interested in ideas and narratives. Each project culminates in the end as a book. However, in my mind, the work I make is a “film” before a book. With every project I have a soundtrack in my head that is influencing the subject matter, the way I shoot, and how the story flows. I use photography to tell stories.
Genevieve What inspires you in and around South Australia?
Trent The sunset. In my exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia (The Black Rose) in 2015, I had a wall of 365 sunsets shot every day over the course of one year. That idea has continued to evolve and I still shoot the sunset almost every day.
Genevieve What do you love about living in South Australia?
Trent After living in Sydney for 10 years, I would say everything! The ease of living, the wide, open streets, but above all I love the light. I love how it sets over the ocean and we get the very last light of the day unobstructed by anything. It’s a unique place to photograph.
Genevieve What do you like to do away from work?
Trent Cricket takes up most of our time in the summer. Our weekends are tied to the sport. I have coached for a long time and my two boys both play the game. I also enjoy fishing for whiting on the beach where we live [Trent’s partner is SA photographer Narelle Autio].
Genevieve How much is photography in the planning, and how much is about being in the right place at the right time?
Trent It depends on the story I am trying to tell, however some of my very best images have come after months or even years of experimentation and continuing to go back to the same place over and over. It’s the commitment to an idea that continues to evolve until everything comes together and you capture something that cannot ever be repeated. Making discoveries is what I live for. Pushing the boundaries of what photography can do. This is how the majority of my images come to be. However, there are also those moments in life which just happen right there in front of you and you have to be ready. Intuition and anticipation have always been important.
Genevieve Do you ever tire of taking photographs?
Trent When I finished The Black Rose exhibition at AGSA (it was seven years’ work) I did have a moment where I thought I had exhausted all possibilities in photography. But I realised after time that I don’t ever tire of telling stories. And to tell stories, I need photography.
Genevieve What is still left to achieve when it comes to your work?
Trent I feel like I am just getting started. One idea leads to the next and the next and then it’s impossible to stop. Life is too short.
This article first appeared in the August 2023 issue of SALIFE magazine.
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