The story of Max Pam’s fascination with photography is one of travel, curiosity and an interest in different cultures. As the artist behind one of the latest photographic additions to the permanent collection, AGWA sat down with Max Pam to hear about his practice, and his experience of the Picturing New York exhibition.
Max was inspired to experiment with photography after fleeing suburban Melbourne in his late teens in favour of international adventure. Wanderlust called, and his true passion for cultures was ignited in a journey from Calcutta to London by car. He then began studies at art school in London, where he learnt how to translate his passion for travel into photography. “It really fine-tuned my ability to work my sensibility for culture into visual media.”
Since then he has travelled for decades, documenting the way he interacts with the world. He says, “My process is driven by a continuum of interest in other people… travel is critical to my creative development. It’s part of the visual stimulation of a new environment and way I react to it.” Max’s first photographic show was held as part of the Arles Photo Festival in 1986, and to him it heralded his arrival in the creative industry.
He says of the Picturing New York exhibition, “It is an incredibly dense collection which maps MoMA’s history.” The exhibition showcases photographers that Max believes to be some of the great modern practitioners of the form. “All of the greats were either from New York, or worked there.”
The exhibition also gave Max the chance to see the work of Diane Arbus, a photographer who shaped his career after he serendipitously discovered her work in the art school library in 1970. “Up until the moment I discovered Arbus, photography was interesting to me but I didn’t know what I was doing. She taught me how to photograph.”
Arbus’ explorations in double portraiture were of particular interest to Max, who does a lot of autobiographical photography himself. Indeed, he is publishing a book entitled Double Portraits in Paris this year, along with another book, Supertourist, which anthologises photography from his travels.
Shadow Series (detail from the series of 26) 1971-1972
silver gelatin photographic prints
State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia
Gift of Dr Jann Marshall, 2002
See Max Pam’s work Shadow Series as part of Your Collection 1960-1980.
Posted by Emma Kroeger