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06.14.2019 Kevin Cooper

Personal Best vol.26 | Kevin Cooper

Kevin Cooper

Born in the United Kingdom and now living in Australia, Kevin Cooper has spent over thirty-five years as a photography practitioner. His formative years in photography involved professionally processing film in England. Leaving the lab for the field he worked for the noted Magazine American wildlife on assignment throughout India. Journeying to Australia, Kevin printed for Australian and international photographic luminaries Max Dupain and David Moore printing their iconic images and curating exhibitions that received local and international acclaim.Kevin cuts a leading figure upon the landscape of photography in Australia and further afield. His creative philanthropy has been the catalyst for multiple visionary photographic projects connecting Fujifilm Australia with a diversity of people and cultures including Australia’s indigenous inhabitants white Australia. Cooper’s ethos is rooted in social documentary photography and being a storyteller. His ongoing documentary photography involves interacting closely in other people’s lives; firstly to tell their stories on a micro level, and then to provide a conduit for communication between different cultures on a macro level. He is the recipient of several of photography’s significant awards and was awarded the status of Master Photographer from Australia’s AIPP (Australian Institute of Professional Photography) organisation. Kevin holds a MA in Documentary Photography from the United Kingdom’s London College of Communication.

Gears

  • FUJIFILM X-Pro2
  • XF23mmF1.4 R

Story – The Journey

A human body takes a quarter of a tonne of wood to burn. The skull is usually the first to go. It makes a similar noise to an old car engine exploding. The rest is all pretty straightforward, there’s nothing too spectacular after that — only the faint crackle of fire eating its way through flesh and bone.

The FUJIFILM X-Pro2 with the XF23mmF1.4 lens allows for contemplative and sensitively introspective photography, The Journey explores and documents the enigmatic Pashupatinath Temple in Nepal, located on the banks of the languid Bagmati River in Kathmandu. Recorded over a period of five years, the work reveals a subtle and psychological matrix of life and death. Each image reveals its own, discreet story, yet all are interwoven by a common history, location, routine and lifestyle. The images guide us along this complex narrative, a privileged journey through an exotic culture.

Loha Nangadi das, Naked sadhu warms himself by the fire (right) as Ram Narayan dashas, early morning conversation.

While the story of death can be confronting in many societies, through these Photographs I hope to allow the viewer to discover compassion, love and inevitability.

And the Temple’s own inevitability.

Chandan Giri sits in meditation in the smoked filed room as others sip tea.

The impact of the cremations on the environment means that now Pashupatinath itself exists between the ebb and flow of memory and reality, making the photographs even more relevant and poignant.

Saud and three younger boys from the Vedvidhyashram, reading the daily news.

The Journey alludes to the inevitable shifts in tradition. All the people documented in this story will eventually embark on the same journey, their ashes scattered to the waters of the Bagmati River, along with the thousands of others before them. It is a tradition that is as old as time itself, but it is changing. Today, only metres away from the temple, an electronic crematorium is being built to offer a cheaper and more environmentally friendly solution. In exchange, it spells the loss of a community’s culture.

Chamsuri (local nickname) appears to be suffering from a form mental health.

With a strong interest in the history and integrity of place these images bear witness to a passing reality. However, within this story, I attempt to not only be a witness, but I have become innately part of it. Endeavouring for no voyeurism in my photographs, no fiction, no mise en scene and no artifice in the observations. My subjects maintain a reverent stillness coupled with a sense of impermanence, a metaphor of human existence.

Elderly women finds a sleeping place that allows for comfort, Briddashram home for the elderly.

Although I shun the idea of stage setting, It’s important to capture an unmistakable aesthetic within these photographs. I respond intuitively to the environment work my way through the story’s landscape. People, settings and situations are the strength of these photographs, but critically, they are real and do not present an interpreted narrative.

Shivananda Gir, Enjoys a cup of tea in the early morning

I hope to apply the essence of documentary photographic practice to the work; the work will evolve with The Ultimate tools that Fujifilm produce gives the flexibility and creativity to capture meaningful images.

The Journey is a carefully and beautifully crafted record of a passing culture.

Women washes her face early morning at Briddhashram home for the elderly

Satyaram raj Joshi, Originally from a remote area of Dolpa Nepal .

Electric crematorium, costing Rs 3,000 and 45 minutes to cremate compared to 300kg of timber and Rs7, 000 and 3-4 hours, 300m east of Pashupatinath, Pingalasthan, Nepal

SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS:

  • Old Sad Mad, FotoFreo, 2013
  • Old Sad and Mad Head On 2013

AWARDS:

  • NSW AIPP Landscape Photographer of the Year, 2008
  • AIPP Master of Photography, 2009
  • M.A. Photojournalism and Documentary Photograph, 2013
  • Fujifilm X Ambassador, 2014

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