One of the things about this festival in Fremantle that sets it apart from many others I have been to is the genuine, exuberant spirit it possesses of enjoying photography, for photography’s sake.
Festival Director Bob Hewitt says in his program notes that he has taken as his model for FotoFreo the Rencontres Arles festival in France. In ambition and desire to have the best works and create a standard for others to follow he has definitely achieved this but I feel he has done something much more than Arles and many others like it. Bob has created a retreat for photographers, big on names but short on egos. The result is the most enjoyable and sincere gathering I have ever been to of photographers, editors and people who come because they just love it all.
With this buzz of photographic pleasure running through my veins, I ventured out with my town map to find David Dare Parker’s exhibition of photographs from six of Fremantle’s social clubs. David’s work is the result of the 2010 FotoFreo commission, completed in the run up to the festival. Appropriately, the exhibition of these photographs has been hung in the bar room of the main social club in town. (click images to enlarge)
Like many of its kind, this clubhouse is now closed and no longer in use - talk about capturing an end of an era. David was there during the last days and the room in which his pictures hang still resonates to the happy sounds of people talking, laughing and making merry together. I suppose it is no different to many other social clubs in communities across the world in its eventual capitulation to the inevitable pull of the next generation’s chrome-plated, sports bars and clubs complete with their impossibly big flat screen televisions and, of course, cheap cocktails and banging tunes.
The building which houses the Fremantle Club has seen better days, that is clear. A massive lightning storm, which passed overhead the night before has left one of the walls rain damaged and the floor partially sodden. As a result David’s images have been moved and now sit along the benches and lean against the walls, stacked up out of harm’s way. I think this is part of the charm of this show, that the people who once thronged this space have come to once again crowd around, mingle and occupy the room together, as members of the club out for a good time. It is, as described in the festival program, as a show that speaks of “the days of wharf workers, staunch unionism and mateship” made all the more so by the warmth and celebration of life exhibited in Dare Parker’s photographs of people of all ages.
Amongst the references to work, leisure, memory and the social life of a community that are present in these photographs there is a marked absence of nostalgic longing. There is no sense that the photographer is trying to subvert our view of modernity or the inevitable changing of the guard as dictated by the march of time. Instead, David Dare Parker presents a portrayal of life in Fremantle which is full of vitality and warmth for his subject. He shows us "what once was" and therefore also "what no longer is", yet he does this with a feeling of levity that welcomes me into this community. As I will see later in the week, whether it is the Social Club in Fremantle or a military conflict in South East Asia, David Dare Parker is a photographer who tells it like it is with integrity, personal knowledge and an unwavering reverence for humanity.
The Clubs by David Dare Parker
Exhibition: 20 March – 18 April
The Fremantle Club, 15 Bannister Street, Fremantle, W Australia.
The Clubs is the FotoFreo 2010 Commission Project
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