Cover image of the review
Installation view of Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, 2021, Centre for Contemporary Photography. Photo: J Forsyth.

Ruth Maddison, It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

10 Apr 2021
25 Feb - 18 Apr 2021

Ruth Maddison began taking photographs at the same age as I am as I write this review. She was thirty-one. Her housemate Greig Pickhaver lent her a 35mm camera while living in a share house on Rathdowne Street in Carlton North. We see the results of this transaction in First roll of film (1976), a series of candid self-portraits pinned at the entrance of her exhibition, It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, currently on display in Fitzroy at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP).

This major survey exhibition accounts for over forty years of Maddison’s photographic practice, which she began after the long days of her twenties working as a builder’s labourer. Ruth resists both the romantic narratives of a photographer – one who was introduced to it at an early age – and the arc of creativity that is often associated with age, namely that one’s best work is made when one is young. This exhibition, I would argue, illustrates just how versatile and transitional Maddison’s style, subject matter and interests are, making it difficult to pinpoint exactly what her “best” work is and at what stage of her long-withstanding photographic practice this occurred.

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