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Vale Street Theme: Encounters

Artist: Carol JERREMS
Birth/Death: 1949–1980

Title: Vale Street

Credit Line: Gift of the Philip Morris Arts Grant 1982 National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.

‘I try to reveal something about people, because they are so separate, so isolated, maybe it’s a way of bringing people together I don’t want to exploit people. I care about them.’
Carol Jerrems, 1977

Carol Jerrems became prominent in the 1970s as part of a new wave of young photographers. Influenced by the counter-culture values of the 1960s, they used art to comment on social issues and engender social change. Jerrems photographed associates, actors and musicians, always collaborating with her subjects, thereby declaring her presence as the photographer. Vale Street raises interesting questions about what is artifice and what is real in photography. She deliberately set up this image, employing her aspiring actress friend and two young men from her art classes at Heidelberg Technical School. Vale Street has achieved an iconic status in Australian photography; the depiction of a confident young woman taking on the world is an unforgettable one. It is an intimate group portrait that is at once bold and vulnerable. In 1975 it was thought to be an affirmation of free love and sexual licence. The image also appears to be about liberation from society’s norms and taboos — ‘we are all three bare-chested, we have tattoos and so what?’

The implication that this scene is perfectly natural is reinforced by locating the figures in a landscape. The young woman is strong and unafraid of the judgement of the viewer. The necklace around her neck is an ankh — a symbol of the new spiritualty of the Age of Aquarius and a re-affirmation of the ancient powers of women.



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