Anne Ferran, born Sydney 1949, Untitled (blue wedding gown #1), from the series Wedding gowns, 2003, Sydney, gelatin-silver photograph, 92.5 x 258.0 cm (image); Gift of Julian and Stephanie Grose through the Art Gallery of South Australia Contemporary Collectors 2015. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, Courtesy the artist.

Anne Ferran is an Australian artist who has worked with photo-media since the 1980s, examining Australia's colonial past by utilising museum collections and photographic archives. This includes researching the history of sites where women and children were incarcerated. In the mid 1990's Ferran became interested in the representation of women and their absence in historical records. Absence, forgetting and remembering are key themes in Ferran's work, particularly in the series of photographs where she uses garments worn by women and children to create life-size photograms. These ghost-like images are haunting. The viewer can discern trace details of the original garment and imagine the person who once wore it; who they were and what their life was like.

Untitled (blue wedding gown #1) is a photogram, a camera-less image made by placing an object on top of light sensitive paper and exposing the paper to light. As a result, light passes through the object, in this case a wedding dress, creating a somewhat translucent image. This gives an illusion of the dress floating in a black abyss. The flow and fall of the fabric are suggestive of where a human body would normally be, while other areas of the garment lack natural movement such as the sleeves, without a female form to complete it.

  • Using light sensitive paper create your own photogram. You might like to use objects that tell the history of who you are.

Tip: Sunprint is one type of pre-prepared light sensitive paper and is available to purchase online from most art supply stores.

  • Ferran is interested in history and collections. What collections do you have at home? Are there objects that you or your family own that have sentimental value? Take a series of photographs that capture your collections. You may like to digitally alter your photographs by experimenting with hue and saturation to create images that mimic a photogram aesthetic.
  • Ferran is interested in stories about women, in particular their absence from history. Find a lesser known story about a woman in history - it might even be someone in your family. Create a work of art that pays tribute to that person.

Influenced by the expermentations of Man Ray and Lázló Moholy-Nagy, Nalini Malani’s abstract photograms were explorations in the play of light on geometric forms and architectural shapes. They were created by placing paper cut-outs and objects for lengths of time under the enlarger on photosensitive bromide paper. Look at other examples where artists have used photograms, including by those mentioned above. Make a selection of images that you can find online. Can you identify the objects they have used to make their photograms?

Anne Ferran
Scenes on the Death of Nature I and II

In her photographic tableaux, Australian artist Anne Ferran calls to mind the densely populated scenes found in ancient Greek temples. The greatest of these was the Parthenon, constructed on the hill of the Acropolis between 447-432 BC and dedicated to the goddess Athena. While the Parthenon’s pediments depicted stories relating to the gods and goddesses in the Greek pantheon, the temple’s 160-metre-long frieze illustrated a public procession that formed part of the Great Panathenaia, a festival honouring Athena. Ferran’s all-female cast includes the artist’s daughters and her daughter’s friends, all wearing classical dress and assuming the gestures and poses found in classical monuments.

Anne Ferran, born Sydney 1949, Scenes on the Death of Nature I and II, 1986; printed 1989, Sydney, two gelatin-silver photographs, 115.7 x 158.6 cm (left sheet), 115.7 x 136.0 cm (right sheet); South Australian Government Grant 1989, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, Courtesy the artist.

  • Describe Anne Ferran’s work of art as though you are describing it to someone who cannot see the work. Look at it closely and then sketch it from memory.
  • Locate three other works of art that share characteristics with Ferran’s photographs. What did you discover? Discuss your selections with a partner.
  • Anne Ferran often addresses the idea of forgotten female histories in her work. Research one of the following women:
    • Claude Cahun
    • Dame Jean Macnamara
    • Dorothy Lawrence
    • Fanny Cochrane Smith
    • Louisa Margaret Dunkley
    • Marion Mahony Griffin
    • Olive Cotton
    • Rosalind Franklin
  • Ferran’s photographs possess strong formal qualities. Make a list of the dominant elements in this work.
  • Borrow a selection of costumes from your drama department and create a tableau with your classmates. Direct your actors into theatrical positions that consider the formal elements identified earlier. Photograph your scene, paying close attention to composition.