Kurt Sorensen: upcoming artist-in-residence

Kurt Sorensen is a photographic artist based in Sydney, NSW. He has been a finalist in the Hazelhurst Art on Paper Award, Fisher's Ghost Art Prize and the John Fries Memorial Prize. Sorensen exhibits nationally, most recently at Queensland Centre for Photography and At the Vanishing Point Sydney. Later this year he will be artist-in-residence at Hill End, courtesy Bathurst Regional Gallery

Kurt Sorensen, Port Jackson #2, 2010, photograph

Sorensen's artwork captures ordinary places with a wide focus area and the absence of human figures. By utilising the natural or available light, shade and vivid colour sources he creates scenes with a great air of expectation, which are filled with uncertainty, intensity and an atmosphere of emotional potentiality. Sorensen follows a strict and somewhat traditional photographic process; printing directly from negatives or digitally printing from high resolution scans without digital enhancement.

Kurt Sorensen, Port Jackson #3, 2010, photography

Currently my photographic work takes its inspiration from Colonial history and its relationship to the Australian landscape. I am particularly interested in the effect that landscape can have on human endeavour, specifically the misplaced confidence that Europeans have had in their ability to tame a wild and unfamiliar landscape such as Australia’s. This over confidence often influenced human behaviour towards feats of bold achievement or utter tragedy. 

I recently completed a series of photographs that depicted the wreck of the Dunbar on the cliffs at the entrance to Port Jackson (near the Gap) in 1857, this is still the worst peacetime disaster in Australia's maritime history. The events that surrounded the wreck are shrouded in misplaced confidence, the worst combination of conditions and a hint of the unexplained. The sole survivor was Able Seaman James Johnson. He survived by being washed up onto a cliff ledge by the heavy seas. He was not discovered until 2 days after the wreck as his cries for help were drowned out by the crashing waves. James Johnson went on to become the lighthouse keeper at Newcastle. On the afternoon of the 12th of July, 1866 the steam ship Cawarra with 61 souls aboard wrecked north of Newcastle harbour. Johnson, the only survivor of the Dunbar, was on duty at the lighthouse and remarkably helped to  save the Cawarra's only survivor Frederick Hedges. Hedges was found clutching a copy of the Book of Devotions and carrying on his person a baby's caul. It was believed that seaman carrying these items would never be lost at sea. 

This story would form the basis of a new photographic series that I will work on during my residency at Gunyah, focusing on the area in and around Newcastle and Port Stephens. My new series will also tie in with my larger ambition to publish a book photographically chronicling a selection of events from colonial maritime history.

(Kurt Sorensen, April 2011)

Kurt Sorensen, Port Jackson #4, 2010, photograph

For more information and images of Kurt Sorensen's work please visit 

The space of a studio

"The studio, whether it be in a physical room or lodged in the mind and imagination, is a space to pause and think, a generative space that does not run counter to the world at large, but is positioned at a certain distance and remove from it. It provides a way for an artist to create ... moving beyond gut reaction to a headspace that is more contemplative and insightful." 
(Christopher Y. Lew, 2011)
North Arm Cove, Port Stephens