Vale Street
Up Close: Carol Jerrems with Larry Clark, Nan Goldin and William Yang ed Natalie King Heide Museum of Modern Art 2010

Vale Street was made after Jerrems had put together the photographs for A Book about Australian Women. This important document was published in 1974 and included a large number of remarkable portraits, many of which appear to be more spontaneous than Vale Street, while others are coloured by the same subtlety and enigmatic qualities. The compelling aspect always is the empathy between photographer and subject and how this translates into the picture and then to us. It is known from Jerrems’s statements that this is something she understood to be important and constantly worked toward, for example in 1977 she wrote: ‘I don’t want to exploit people. I care about them; I’d like to help them if I could, through my photographs…’ 1

While an engagement may appear to occur more easily in single portraits such as Caroline Slade and Wendy Saddington, both of 1973, Jerrems was just as capable of capturing the perfect moment with two or more people together. Not as harsh as Diane Arbus, nor as objective as August Sander, Jerrems could create the conditions for even a reluctant subject to move into synchronicity with her and her camera. This is clearly evident in Vale Street where there is no reason at all for these three to be together looking out at us and commanding our attention other than Jerrems made it so.

Excerpt from Vale Street, Up close pp 128-135
© artist’s estate & publisher

book design John Warwicker, tomato

1. See Living in the 70s: photographs by Carol Jerrems Australian National Gallery 1990 unpaginated