The Power Institute Foundation for Art and Visual Culture

The Language of Light and Dark


By Melissa Miles

Myths of a distinctly Australian light have shaped national identity and belonging, and the notion that photography is a language of light has particular significance for the country’s photographic works. In this lucid, beautifully illustrated study, Melissa Miles reveals how myths of light and place have been reinvented, renewed, and challenged. She explores how approaches to darkness and light have been affected by debates about colonisation, the landscape, urban development, and contemporary patterns of global and environmental change.

An extensive selection of pictures from photographers including Norman Deck, Harold Cazneaux, Max Dupain, Olive Cotton, Mark Strizic, John Cato, Jane Burton, and Bill Henson shows the range and diversity of photography in Australia and how it links to – and diverges from – international movements and styles. Addressing topics from Indigenous histories to the iconography of national discourse, and from evolving photographic techniques to light therapy, The Language of Light and Dark: Light and Place in Australian Photography offers a new approach to the visual history of a nation and a continent.

About the author

Melissa Miles is Associate Professor in photography history at Monash University, and the author of The Burning Mirror: Photography in an Ambivalent Light (Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2008).

392 pages, hardback, 157 colour images, 25.4 (h) x 20.3 (w) cm.

Co-published with McGill Queens University Press, Montreal.

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