Moments Preserved: Carol Jerrems Documentary Realism and Seduction by the Disenfranchised

Moments Preserved: Carol Jerrems Documentary Realism and Seduction by the Disenfranchised

‘Any portrait is a combination of something of the subject’s personality and something of the photographer’s. The moment preserved is an exchange’ - Carol Jerrems.

Carol Jerrems insightful, inspiring, and hauntingly emotive photographs are often said to be the result of a photographer who immerses herself in her subjects rather than the result of her subjects themselves. This over the years has caused critics, fellow artists, and her brethren of contemporaries alike, to question whether Jerrem’s photographs are a true example of documentary realism or whether, as filmmaker Kathy Drayton (2005) believes, they are the product of ‘a constructed or directed style of portraiture’. Another possible consideration upon exploration of Jerrems portraits is the amount of truth behind both the stories she’s trying to tell and the suggested persona’s of those who appear. It’s only after studying Jerrems pictures and approach to her work that we can develop our own opinions and an understanding as to why Drayton, among others, question the honesty of her photographs.

Carol Jerrems was a portrait photographer at her prime in the 1970’s and intrigued by its developing subcultures and the disenfranchised, as well as women and the misogyny that remained from years gone by. She was deeply confused about the treatment of women and ‘the woman’s place’ in the 1970’s - a decade which saw advances in female equality in the workplace and The Family Law Act and which celebrated female nudity more than any decade prior. Jerrems was once quoted as saying on misogyny in the 70’s, “the society is sick and I must help change it.” Jerrems felt that as a photographer, it was her role to help do this. In 1974 Jerrems published a series of photographers of “artists, women’s liberationists, Aboriginal spokeswomen, activists, mothers, children and friends” (Dzenis, 2010) entitled A Book About Australian Women.

A second attempt by Jerrems to ‘change society’ or gain a better...

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