The New England Regional Art Museum is inviting country music lovers to catch up with some old friends in the new exhibition Gifted Country: Portraits by John Elliott which will be opening on Friday 15 December 2017 with a special celebration featuring a performance by emerging Aboriginal country music singer Quarralia Knox.
Photographer and writer John Elliott has been taking portraits of Australian country music artists for over 30 years and this exhibition brings together a selection of his iconic images of stars such as Slim Dusty, Lee Kernaghan, Kasey Chambers and many others.
“Country music and photography are two passions that drive my life,” said artist John Elliott. “Photographing country artists is my way of saying ‘thank you’ to the singers for the music that sustains me. All great country music has a respect for the past and I hope my photographs help young artists connect with what came before.”
“I am as passionate about photography today as I was when I started clicking away in the 1960s,” he said. “Taking pictures is a bit like breathing; it’s something I do every day.”
“Photography is another tool in the storytelling process and the longer I keep learning about photography the better I get at it. My work depends a lot on my ability to get close to my subjects. I spend more time developing that close working relationship with the subject than I do on the photography.”
“Producing the images in this exhibition was never a job to me. It is my way of saying ‘thank you’ to the songwriters for making music that matters”.
The exhibition will feature large-scale prints, memorabilia, moving images, data projection, performances, photography workshops and talks by John Elliott.
“This will be a great opportunity for our audience to discover the work of one of the outback’s great social documentary photographers,” said Robert Heather, Art Museum Director. “Winton based artist John Elliott is an incredibly accomplished and passionate photographer who has been making images of the bush and portraits of country music icons and stars for decades.”
“Elliott has worked closely with every significant Australian country music performer, especially Slim Dusty with whom over many years he developed a creative rapport which is seen in his photographs and the many projects that they did together including the Slim Dusty Living Legend Stamp Series, multiple publications and books as well as a number of album covers.”
“This will also be an opportunity for visitors to the 2018 Tamworth Country Music Festival to make a detour through Armidale and discover the collections here at the New England Regional Art Museum and our beautiful city.”
John Elliott has been a writer, photographer and documentary maker who is mainly concerned with Australian culture, the bush and music.
His work is published regularly in magazines and newspapers and he has authored fourteen books including the best-selling On The Road With Slim (Harper Collins, 2002) and Where Country Is, a pictorial history of the past 25 years of Australian Country Music (Rural Press, 2005).
John Elliott received a Churchill Fellowship in 2005 to study social documentary photography and publishing and has exhibited in galleries around Australia, his exhibition 1000 Mile Stare was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery in 2004.
Gifted Country: Portraits by John Elliott will be his first exhibition at the New England Regional Art Museum and will be on display from 15 December 2017 until Sunday 18 March 2018.
The exhibition will be officially opened by Cr Col Murray, Mayor of Tamworth Regional Council and will be an official event of the 2018 Tamworth Country Music Festival.
John Elliott, Slim Dusty and Dame Edna Everage, Carlton Hill Station, WA, 10 July 1993 (detail) 1993, gelatin silver photograph