Andrew Merry: Museum of Sydney

March 4, 2011
Entrance to the Boomburbs exhibition

Andrew Merry
Museum of Sydney
Saturday 16 October, buy more about 2010 — Sunday 13 February, 2011

Andrew Merry’s photographs in the recent Boomburbs exhibition look hyper-real. From a distance they look computer generated or coloured-in – which is what makes them so fascinating. On closer examination it’s clear these images haven’t been manipulated on Photoshop. Instead, the collision of the blazing Australian sunshine with man-made materials (all photographed from above) make Sydney’s suburbs appear rendered in plastic.

Edgewood no. 24

There is a growing body of work being made today by artist/photographers who are constructing miniature worlds from models, before taking meticulously arranged photographs of them. Andrew Merry has achieved an analogous look – but by photographing the real thing and making it look like a model. The project developed after one of his neighbours took him for a spin in his helicopter and I’m guessing that part of the ‘look’ of the photos was helped by flying quite low-level. The images are far-away enough to show sections of the ‘burb, but close enough to create a creepy, voyeuristic view not too dissimilar from surveillance cameras. (see the bottom of this post for some examples of constructed photography)

Edgewood no. 7

The original project ‘Edgewood’ (named after the neighbourhood Andrew Merry photographed) was renamed Boomburb’s for the Museum of Sydney exhibition. The Australian suburban sprawl, with its McMansions and bedroom communities, looks identical to greenfield developments in the States: the far-west suburbs of Chicago, Northern Virginia, and just about all of Los Angeles. It seems the developed world can’t help itself from catching whatever trend America sets.

Edgewood no. 1

In Australia they have the space to follow in America’s footsteps and carve up farmland to provide bloated, oversized homes with postage stamp sized gardens.

Installation view of 'Boomburbs'

The images are beautifully executed and the show itself was a first-class installation. All credit to the curators at the museum for showing an exhibition that gave a harsh critique of contemporary Sydney life.

The Museum of Sydney

The Museum of Sydney is a lovely building with intriguing permanent exhibits. To compliment Andrew Merry’s contemporary work the museum had an exhibition of historical photographs by Arthur Wigram Allen called An Edwardian Summer, which gave a fascinating insight to turn-of-the-century life in Sydney.

Museum of Sydney Viewing Platform

For examples of work by photographers who create constructed realities take a look at:
Thomas Demand
Graeme Webb
Lori Nix