Black and White Photography, Pinhole, Cyanotype

About John Austin

About John Austin

"John Austin's black and white photographs are a means of showing his world as clearly as possible. The apparent simplicity of John's images belie the depth and meditative awareness that illuminates his work, qualities that are best revealed by viewing original silver gelatine prints

To achieve the sensuous quality of his prints John Austin uses the largest format cameras practical in any situation. His use of large negatives is combined with his mastery of silver gelatin printing, still the finest archival black and white photographic print medium.  John is now the only Western Australian professional landscape and portrait photographer working exclusively with large format silver based black and white photography in a real darkroom

John Austin's black & white photographs are in many collections, including the National Portrait Gallery; the Art Gallery of Western Australia; the Australian National Library; Curtin University; Bunbury Regional Art Gallery; Murdoch University Art Collection; Western Australian Department of Justice and private collections in Australia, Singapore, the USA, South America and England.

Rae Starr, Quinninup, July 2012


John Barrett-Lennard on the photography of John Austin, August 1993

"The photographs of John Austin are sharp, clear and deep... At times stark they are still pleasing, sensuous objects which invite a long, slow look. Deliberately unclouded by colour, and without the distractions of the clutter of everyday life, the use al the techniques of a modernist ‘straight’ photography, including a simplicity of tone, volume and form, to concentrate on that which lies before the camera, before the photographer’s eye and in turn that which now lies before the viewer. There is clearly a desire to focus on the essential qualities of the photographer’s subject, to distil something fundamental and to excise a moment of time for later . . ."

John Barrett-Lennard, JOHN AUSTIN, PHOTOGRAPHY 1970 – 1993, Catalogue essay August 1993
Pub UWA ISBN 0 86422 277 7


Dr Diana McGurr on the photography of John Austin, August 2017

" . . . Whilst Austin's black and white photographyt continues to capture such images with sensitivity, he will continue to remind us what has been, what is happening now in a particular part of the world, what this means for the future of humanity and the planet."

Dr Diana McGurr, JOHN AUSTIN - SURVEY II, Catalogue essay August 2017
Pub Bunbury Regional Art Gallery, ISBN 978-0-9953569-2-4

About Technique

John Austin's photographs are sold as archivally-processed selenium-toned fibre-based silver-gelatine black & white prints.

"Silver gelatine" is the traditional black & white photographic print medium. Silver is the metal used to form a permanent image in the gelatine coating on the paper. Fibre based means the print substrate is paper, not plastic, and is made acid free by the final print processes. Selenium toned, and for some prints gold-toned, refers to the layer of selenium or gold coated on each crystal of silver to protect the image from city or industrial pollution. Archival processing means the print has been treated with care and all acid and sulphur compounds from fixing the image have been removed.

Rag board mats are the board backing and board frame supporting the print, which are Crescent Rag-Mat 1613, The print is held in the mat by two acid-free paper hinges, which allow the print to move when changes in humidity occur, such as when a print is taken from a gallery to a house. This movement is caused by the changes in humidity affecting the layers of the print at different rates. The print will settle flat again in a few days or so.

Austin only uses the very best enlargers and modern German enlarging lenses. While it can be fun to work with old or odd camera lenses it is crucial that the most modern and efficient German enlarging lenses are used in the best available enlargers. The enlarging lens in the means by which his images are made visible.

Cameras, Obscura Objects of Desire

Every so often I still hear the phrase "The camera makes no difference etc. . .". Try selling this idea to a concert pianist, or a cabinet maker, or painter, or car mechanic. The properties of tools do affect the the nature of a work, so a pianist might choose a broken piano for specific effects or a photographer use a pinhole camera because of its particular properties.  The cameras and darkroom equipment chosen do affect the work produced and must be chosen with care