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Isobel Crombie

Isobel Crombie

Isobel Crombie has worked as a Curator of Photography since 1979. She began her career at the National Gallery of Australia and, since 1988, has been Senior Curator, Photography, National Gallery of Victoria. She regularly curates exhibitions on the history of Australian and International photography and has published widely on aspects of the medium. Recent publications include, Body Culture: Max Dupain, Photography and Australian Culture, 1919-1939 (2004); Light Sensitive: Contemporary Australian Photography from the Loti Smorgon Fund (2006); Body Language: Contemporary Chinese Photography (2008); Re-view: 170 years of photography (2009); and Fred Kruger: Intimate Landscapes (2012).

Isobel Crombie reviews ‘An Eye For Photography: The camera in Australia’ by Alan Davies

March 2005, no. 269 01 March 2005
For nearly 100 years before any public art gallery entered the field, the main institutional collectors of Australian photography were state libraries. Primarily, they bought photographs for their informational value; the maker of the image was of relatively little concern to them. What mattered was the subject: what the photograph told the interested viewer about the people, places, and events of ... (read more)

Isobel Crombie reviews ‘Faces of the Living Dead: The belief in spirit photography’ by Martyn Jolly

November 2006, no. 286 01 November 2006
Photography has always had a close relationship with death, indeed one of the more poignant catch cries of early portrait photography exhorted clients to ‘secure the shadow, before the substance fade’. An intriguing part of this emotionally charged territory is spirit photography – a sub-culture of photographs from the mid-nineteenth to early twentieth centuries that purport to show ectoplas ... (read more)

Isobel Crombie reviews ‘Twelve Australian Photo Artists’ by Blair French and Daniel Palmer

September 2009, no. 314 01 September 2009
Of all art forms, photography has probably had the most contentious and complex reception. Graduating from the ‘bastard child left on the doorstep of art’ in the 1840s to the darling of the art world for some 170 years, the critical understanding of this quintessentially modern medium is in a constant state of flux. These thoughts occurred to me as I read this lavishly produced hardcover book ... (read more)

'The National Gallery of Victoria – A New Partnership with ABR' by Dr Isobel Crombie

April 2001, no. 229 01 April 2001
This issue marks the start of a new feature for ABR, with covers reproducing some of the finest Australian photographs held by The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). ABR is a journal that critically engages with a broad range of creativity, so it seems fitting that it should also highlight photography, a medium that is not only one of the leading art forms of the modern era but also an area in wh ... (read more)

Isobel Crombie reviews 'Ghost Nation: Imagined Space and Australian Visual Culture 1901–1939' by Laurie Duggan

June 2001, no. 231 01 June 2021
Laurie Duggan’s study of ‘imagined space’ in Australian visual culture arrived on my desk, with a certain synchronicity, the day after I saw the film Memento. In their distinctive ways, both these works seem indicative of our age, offering unstable and fractured accounts of space and time at a moment when virtual reality seems to be untying our formerly fixed Western notions of these concept ... (read more)

Isobel Crombie reviews 'Reveries: Photography and mortality' by Helen Ennis

November 2007, no. 296 01 November 2007
Helen Ennis’s book Reveries: Photography and mortality, published by the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra to accompany her recent exhibition, is a fascinating choice of subject for an institution that deals with portraiture. As the author notes, ‘In the face of mortality the touchstones of portraiture are gently nudged aside … to encompass the possibility of dissolution or dispersal of ... (read more)

Isobel Crombie reviews 'Beautiful Ugly: The Architectural Photography of John Gollings' by Joe Rollo

July–August 2012, no. 343 09 July 2012
What makes a good architectural photograph? In an ideal world, it is the product of a dialogue between the architect’s intentions for his or her building; the built form and its synergy with its environment; and the photographer’s ability to interpret these elements in a creative and dynamic way. A successful photograph should offer a clear visual representation of a building, but it should al ... (read more)