Dr Ella Dreyfus
Watt Space Gallery, University of Newcastle
Under Twenty-Seven is the third in a series of photographic portraits following a group of young men every seven years, observing them as they evolve from childhood into early adulthood and beyond. This is a new chapter that stems from a project that began with the series Under Twelve and Under Twenty.
The black and white images depict the development of the boys into young men in a remarkably poignant manner, addressing concepts of masculinity and representation, and make a unique contribution to photographic portraiture in Australia. The boys were team-mates in a local soccer club and Dr Ella Dreyfus is the mother of one of them. She acknowledges her privileged position as a witness to the subtle and sensitive changes they are undergoing throughout their lives. Under Twelves was created at a key moment of transition, when the team of boys were leaving primary school and hovering on the cusp of childhood and adolescence, traversing both the masculine and feminine worlds.
Under Twenty-Seven provides a unique opportunity for audiences to see boys and young men depicted in ways beyond the narrow ideals of masculinity that are propagated by mass media and advertising. The photographs offer a respectful portrayal of male beauty with sensitivity and intimacy. The exhibition will inspire audiences to contemplate questions about envisioning masculinity in contemporary culture and will generate curiosity, debate and hopefully, some answers about this complex and timely question, promoting an exchange of ideas. Under Twenty-Seven honours the experiences of males, who start their lives as innocent beings, yet by adolescence, have been indoctrinated into cultural practices that demand certain masculine looks, attitudes and behaviours. As grown-ups, they often repress aspects of humanity often attributed to women, tenderness, empathy and other expressive emotions. This series is unashamedly a celebration of an often hidden side of masculinity.
Dr Ella Dreyfus has a thirty-year career as a contemporary visual artist and is well-known for her exhibitions which engage with representations of the body. She holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Fine Arts from the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales. In 2015, she won the inaugural Olive Cotton Award for Photographic Portraiture and her photographic exhibitions at Stills Gallery in Sydney, Australia - The Body Pregnant, Age and Consent, Transman and Under Twelve, Under Twenty, embraced the ordinary, striking a rich source of humanity, compassion and emotional resonance. Dreyfus is currently a Senior Lecturer in Photography and Head of Public Programs at the National Art School in Sydney, Australia.
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