An Architecture of Apprehension

A Photographic Portfolio by Max Bellamy


MAX BELLAMY Achilles Violin 2011
Still from HD video

An artist, photographer and film-maker based in Dunedin, Max Bellamy graduated from the Electronic Arts Department of the Otago Polytechnic/Dunedin School of Art in 2008, and went on to teach there until 2011. As a photographer, he is interested in odd juxtapositions and the incongruous. His images possess the wit and drama of a cinematic eye―that is, things in motion, or else mysteriously arrested. But, as someone who has grown up in the era of multiple communication platforms and manufactured image saturation, he also zeroes in on the particular ‘stillness’ trapped by the photograph, its inherent distortion of time. He is interested in exploring the tension between the handmade authenticity of what is photographed and the aura of the fake inherently attached to it, when every image arrives processed through digital filters.

Great Was the Fall of It (2010) utilises the perspective tilt on a 50-year-old large format sinar camera, which keeps the brick building’s straight lines perfectly straight. Thus this flood control station on the Taieri Plain, held in the frame, is rendered ultra-sharply yet seems odd, out of kilter; this makes it also slightly anxiety-provoking, raised on stilt-like supports as if anticipating a deluge amidst pastoral calm. Testing Bubble Mixture, created in Southland when Max Bellamy held the William Hodges Fellowship, captures the elusive iridescence of a large soap bubble. Evanescent and beautiful, the composition’s alchemy of colour evokes both 1960s psychedelia and an ominous oil-slick. Bellamy states that he was trying to make the bubble last as long as possible: ‘but I couldn’t make one last longer than three days.’

Exploring dystopic moments is an intrinsic Bellamy interest, and Achilles Violin shows a Manapouri power station pylon, photographed from a moving car, compressed into a curious wire spire. The warped, shard-like shape seems to belong to the realm of science fiction, of hovering flying saucers, or to a looming disaster scenario. Likewise, the two buoys in Deep Cove, tethered together high on a lookout, implies some imminent transformation to an otherworldly world of water, while the bicycle in Half Mast, flung up and clinging to a tree, also implies geological or supernatural forces. The eye, arrowing upwards seeks out, or discovers, a dream-like survivalist strategy or else the debris from a tsunami, capturing the moment―which is at once comic and tremulously phobic, with its ubiquitous prosthesis, the prehensile camera lens.

MAX BELLAMY Great Was the Fall Of It 2010
Digital C-Type print on metallic paper, 1010 x 760 mm.

MAX BELLAMY Half Mast 2010
Digital C-Type print on metallic paper, 1010 x 760 mm.

MAX BELLAMY Deep Cove 2009
Digital C-Type print on metallic paper, 250 x 200 mm.

MAX BELLAMY Testing Bubble Mixture During William Hodges Fellowship 2011
Unprinted digital image