Harry Culy’s photo series sits very still at the back of Precinct 35. Each image stands alone in a hauntingly beautiful stance. This is The Gap, the place between the horizon and the water, where the unknown meet in a harmonious place. This is Culy’s exhibition that goes deeper than the blue in the photos, past the dusty sunsets and into a space left relatively untouched.
Culy is fidgety, with a kind face and crossed legs. While he might imitate the typical look of an artist, he’s much more than that. His mind is Mary Poppins bag, as we talk, perceptive thoughts tumble from his mouth. Culy’s been in the photography game for almost 10 years now, starting with a fear of memory loss and growing into something even bigger. When I asked where it changed from a method of remembering to this, Culy had a pretty simple answer.
“It’s more of a have to do it, you know, to keep me sane.”
With his old 4x5 camera, Culy is almost intentionally making the process as laborious as possible. Using a camera that takes so much effort and concentration strips back photography to its fundamentals. While he takes a moment to set up the tripod and direct the light, Culy is still fully emerged in his passion. “It forces me to slow down and look at the world, I’ll be constantly aware and looking for things.” This is an artist who truly lives within his work, there’s no images without Culy and no Culy without his images.
The Gap dates back to 2012 when Culy was living in Sydney. The cliffs were a regular part of Culy’s everyday life. It wasn't until he researched the location that the project found conceptual depth, shaping up to be something important. These cliffs stood for so much more than the monstrous beauty of nature. I don’t want to give too much away - as Culy insists, “It’s not all about me or my own feelings in the work.” Though there is something worth a mention.
The Gap, this place of quietness, attracted distressed humans - people looking to cure pain. The dark history in these cliffs sit heavily in the room. Culy mentions ‘The angel of The Gap’, a man who perched in the dark in his home on the cliffs in hope of saving these desperate strangers. Don Ritchie is said to have saved 400 people from temptation; all it took was a cup of tea and kindness. The feeling though, it’s not dark, it’s very hopeful, and while enveloped in the swallowing nature of the colours and sheer size of them, it’s grounding.
Culy is still figuring it out, and though he’s been all over, his obsession is with the Antipodes. “I have connections to both places, plus there’s some weird shit in NZ and Aus.” It’s plain to see that images for Culy sit close to the heart; this is his thing. Oh and books, he loves books. Telling a story, that’s what Culy sets out to do. With his not-for-profit publishing company, Bad News Books, he’s accidentally made this natural community of people genuinely interested in each others works.
It’s all about the process for Culy, taking the time to breathe and remember these everyday moments. This is an artist painfully aware of reality. He lives in this bizarre mix of the past and future, while his photography could take you back to the moment, to the smell and light and the way the face looked exactly at that second, he also insists on thinking long term.
When I ask what his favourite image is, he answers, “I’m still looking for it.” And with that we part ways, Harry Culy is off to shed light on some pretty heavy ideas and I have full faith he will do it in a quietly honest way.
cred: Jake Mein