Karamel reviews comedic photography exhibition ‘Face Me’ by Abigail Varney, as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
By Elise Paynter
For most photography jokes you need a strong gag reflex (pun definitely not intended). There are only so many times you can hear that old photographers never die, they just keep developing. However, Melbourne-based creative photographer Abigail Varney has managed to combine giggles and photography in a way that avoids all puns, tired lines and clichés.
In the 1960s photographer Diane Arbus took her now iconic pictures of New York’s transvestites, drug addicts and misfits. She described the power and mystery of photography by saying that “a photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know.”
The subjects of Varney’s portrait exhibition “Face Me” were not the dark characters of an Arbus portrait – on the contrary, they were the bright shiny and hilarious stars of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Nonetheless, the same power and mystery found in Arbus’ photographs is present in Varney’s images –perhaps the ‘secret’ behind these pictures is the punch line that dances around their edges.
Each portrait was rich with mischief and humour – one subject’s nose is wrinkled in laughter she emerges, headfirst and Lycra-clad, from a tumble dryer. Another, dressed in a royal blue velvet tux, raises one eyebrow as he sips Dr. Pepper, perched in a vinyl diner booth the exact shade of his suit.
Through thoughtful composition, Varney has instilled each portrait with wit and warmth, and has captured on film not only a glimpse at the person behind the performer, but also the twinkle in their eye.
The deliciously funny show was definitely one of the highlights of the MICF making Varney definitely one to watch.