Sunday 17 December 2023

Exposing the male form through echoes and whispers (Midsumma Festival)

It was back in high school when Evan Cooper picked up his first camera. His English and Journalism teacher decided to set up an extracurricular group for students that might like to learn photography. 

"In those days it was completely analogue so we learnt not only the basics of taking photos but also how to develop the film and print the images," Cooper recalls. "As someone that can be somewhat shy and content in my company, it became something I could do by myself while creating opportunities of being involved in certain activities like being the photographer at school events. 

Fast forward to 2024 and Cooper's solo exhibition will be held as part of Midsumma Festival.

Echoes and Whispers will be a multiple exposure photographic exploration of the male form. "I started experimenting with different photographic processes as a way of playing with the medium by pushing or pulling the film, blurring, and the effects of different shutter speeds. With multiple exposure I found results that interested me, and I wanted to see where I could take it," he explains.

"All of my multiple exposure work is captured in-camera and since I only see the one image when I take the photo I actually have to use my memory to plan how the image is possibly going to look when all three are taken. There is an element of serendipity with the final image, where some are better or worse than expected," he says. "Even though this work is shot digitally, I limit the editing of the images to what I would do in the dark room if I was developing film. So the things I edit are cropping, exposure, contrast etc. By limiting myself in this way I have to be more aware and present during the taking of the images, as I simply can't "fix it in post". 
Cooper works with his models to capture a moment (or three) they were both happy with. He does, stop short of attempting to capture anything more than that, preferring to allow people to form their own reasoning and thought. "Renior (French artist) is quoted as saying "Art is about emotion, if it has to be explained it is no longer art". This quote means a lot to me so I do not like to lead a viewer to what they should see, or feel, when viewing the work. I believe for something to be called art it has to cause a viewer to have some type of reaction that is either emotional or provokes thought," he tells me. "Even if it is totally different to what I believe the work shows, their reactions remain valid. I would rather a person walk out of the show and tell me what they think the work represents, rather than them just agreeing with my vision.

"I do not give detailed specific directions to the subjects. They enter the pose they are comfortable with and then I move to find the shot that I believe works. As the image is captured in camera, I am able to quickly show them what the images look like, which helps us both find the next pose as we know what is or isn't working."

Due to the nature and effect that multiple exposure photography has, it was quite simple for Cooper to decide the name of his exhibition. “Echoes are the simple repeating of sound bouncing around a space that fades away and due to the way the images I took look, it seems to be the best reflection of that. Whispers are something you hear and you may not hear them clearly, or what one person hears is slightly different to another. Not everyone who looks at these images will "see" the same thing, it will be open to each person's interpretation."


1) My favourite meal is ... I have lots of favourite meals so hard to pick on - but my favourite meal location is definitely Pellegrini's Espresso Bar.

2) A TV show I would like to be cast in is ... since I have a tattoo in honour of it - it has to be Dr Who. (but Call the Midwife is a very close second)

3) A little known skill I have is ... being able to solve a 3 by 3 Rubik’s cube. (but once you know the "secret" it is actually quite easy)

4) My proudest professional moment is ...
 in the years before marriage equality was achieved, where I undertook a photo documentary project called The Commitment Project that documented queer couples that had been in committed relationships longer than the median length of Australian marriages. it was exhibited on on billboards in major train stations and at the Chill Out festival. The messages of support that project received was extremely rewarding

5) Happiness is ... just enjoying the simple things in life.

*Echoes and Whispers is a free event at Wolfhound Gallery (Level 1,386 - 388 Brunswick St, Fitzroy) between 27 Jan - 11 Feb. No bookings required. For more information head to the Midsumma Festival event page.*

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