Max Pam

Max Pam (b. Melbourne 1949) is a contemporary Australian photographer. He left Australia at 20, working as a photographer for an astrophysicist. Together, the pair drove a Volkswagen from Calcutta to London. This adventure proved inspirational, and travel has remained a crucial and continuous link to his creative and personal development.

Max Pam’s work takes the viewer on compelling journeys around the globe, recording observations with an often surrealist intensity matching the heightened sensory awareness of foreign travel. The work frequently implies an interior, psychic journey, corresponding with the physical journey of travel.

Although he has been recognised foremost as a photographer of the process of travel, less attention has been given to the structures and techniques of his work. In the up-front photographic aspect of his work he combines an interest in a certain kind of representation – the snapshot and the pseudo-documentary “decisive moment” – with other modes of documentation that can include images of small mementos, drawings and written diaristic accounts. Like Japanese photographer Araki Noboyoshi, Max Pam’s autobiography-through-imagery is excessive, sometimes provocative and often fascinated an abject glamour. Yet in his work there remains, distinguishing his work from much photography in the contemporary art world, a constant sensitivity to the face-to-face encounter.

His books Going East: Twenty Years of Asian and Ramadan In Yemen are included in Phaidon’s History of the Photobook Volume 2in 2006 and Volume 3 in 2013. His prints are in national and private collections in Australia, France, Great Britain, Italy and Japan. Some of the published books on Max Pam’s work include: Max Pam (1999), Ethiopia (1999) and Indian Ocean Journals (2000). But it was the first one Going East: Twenty Years of Asian Photography (1992) that won the most prestigious European book award, French Prix du livre. His book Atlas Monographs (2009) won the International Photo Book Prize at Photoespana in Madrid in 2010. In 2010 he was awarded a Harkness Fellowship to secure a residency at the International Studio Curatorial Programme in New York.

Max Pam’s piece as a finalist for the John Stringer Prize in 2017, is a still life image of a consumable usually including packaging and labeling used to extoll product allure, meaning and potential for pleasure. The PACKSHOT LIFE ensemble originated as a series of black and white photographs that decades later Max Pam hand coloured with oil paint. These old images have been re animated in the process to flex towards magic realist and science fiction readings of a more mundane world. The ensemble is arranged as line of 23 head shots matched to a line of 23 discursive images creating 46 oppositional – be careful what you wish for in the age of consumerism – narratives.

Date: July 1, 2020
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