Trent Parke – Minutes to Midnight, reviewed by Harry Rose

“Witnesses reported watching a ball of light move across the sky

For up to five minutes at about 5.50 am Saturday.

“It was a perfect spiral of light”, one Redcliffe witness told The Sunday Mail

“I realised soon it was not the moon but that it was shooting like a comet

from the southern sky and off into the northwest.”

Another Brisbane resident said: “There was absolutely no sound in a perfectly

Clear, darkened sky before dawn.”
The weather bureau said there were no weather conditions

which could explain the light.

A defence spokeswoman also said she had no explanation.

 

 – The Sunday Mail, June 5th 2010, Queensland, Australia

 

There are these rare moments in photography where a body of work and photographer invite us into a new world, detached from reality yet placed in a cultural landscape one finds hard to ignore. Trent Parke Minutes to Midnight is one of these moments, a fixed point in time that leads us to the midnight hour. These fleeting moments now realised, manifest into in a photobook, which is in its second edition by Steidl.

The project itself, which took two years to shoot, documents a road trip across Australia. Parke had read in a local paper claiming that half of Australians felt that Australia had lost its innocence and that it had now become a different landscape all together. With this in mind, Parke explores the struggles people are in, from finding their own place and identity to an ever-changing social and ecological landscape. We introduced to groups of people from different cultures, aboriginal communities living in run down and poverty-stricken areas, to the middle class Australian, commuting in the towering buildings of Sydney.

A strong dialogue between the lives of those in the city to that of people struggling in rural Australia from poverty is clear within Minutes to Midnight. We are introduced to the difficulties and troubles in the outback, whilst shown the surrealism to life counterbalanced in a booming city like Sydney.

The photobook begins with a small piece of text, an extract from The Sunday mail in Queensland Australia. Witness accounts of a large ball of light, soaring across the night sky. The ball of light becomes something more within Minutes to Midnight; it embodies this idea of disbelief and lack of faith in something, seeing physical evidence yet still living in a sense of denial.

With the jarring quote at the beginning of the book, with people denying the existence of something un ordinary happening, Parke counterbalances this argument by choosing to photograph his subjects with a bright flash in the night-time, turning evidence of life and happenings into something real and not of the human imagination or trick of the eye. Giving back a sense of innocence to the landscape of Australia. Almost to say that there is life here, to see and understand. Yet where there is life, death also lingers. Images of loss and pain take place within Minutes to Midnight. A continued discussion between the two elements of giving and taking away, from a small premature animal laying dead in the dirt, to a new-born baby being held in a birthing pool with its umbilical cord still attached.

However, what could be unsettling to some, the blunt realities juxtaposed alongside this sense of meditation, certain photographs feel as if they couldn’t possibly exist in our realm, creeping through from another reality, prodding and poking us, adjusting our understanding of what a camera is able to capture in the black of night. In particular, subjects who take on the role of this ball of light, glaring white statues that occupy the night standing and patiently waiting.

What Minutes to Midnight does show us is Australia at a certain point in time, commenting upon the social environment as well the physical surround. Young men joy ride in a beaten up car, beers in hand, one man hanging on to the roof, windswept and embracing the oncoming thrills.  There is a real sense of anxiety felt here, subjects feel as if they are on the edge of something, waiting for a moment to manifest itself before their eyes. What Minutes to Midnight leaves us with is the realisation that perhaps innocence has been lost, yet through Parke’s photographs we are lead towards a new type of identity for Australia, one which is complex and filled with more questions than answers.

Minutes to Midnight by Trent Parke can be purchased here.


Harry Rose is a recent graduate from University of South Wales, where he studied Photographic Art. With a focus on writing about photography more than taking his own photographs, Harry writes for Darwin Magazine which he co founded and has been the content editor of since 2012. With an interest in bringing images off the internet and into print, photobooks and the tangible object in regards to photography interest Harry and has been the main motive behind Darwin Magazine and a recent self published book.

 

Trent Parke - Minutes to Midnight

Trent Parke Minutes to Midnight