The Anti-Sublime: Wilderness, Portraiture and the Grotesque           

Colour Digital Self-Portraits within the Tasmanian Wilderness

JJ Voss           Artist’s Statement October 2004



Over twenty-five years of photographing people other than myself I have gained insights into aspects of celebrity, fame and infamy. Issues regarding power relations and photographic ethics recurred.


Intrusiveness and objectification are claimed to be inherent in unposed photography of people. Via disrupting subjects’ idealised self-images I discovered such photographic practice was often an inadvertent trigger for suffering subjects’ indignation, or worse. Self-portraiture, then, seemed like a perfect way to ‘level’ the process of ‘objectification’ - in a subjective manner! The camera, now turned back to front, became a vehicle to exercise the same process of critical enquiry on myself.


I began to think an anti-iconic form of mythology could take shape - an ethos far removed from the cult of celebrity. Images of non-celebrities might operate on a much deeper psychological and emotional level for viewers than ‘star shots’.


Then, after reflecting on self-portrait works by Moffatt, Coplans, Parr and Sherman, and Sobieszek’s Camera I essay, it became apparent that self-portraiture - overtly person-specific, even self-centred - could often strike surprisingly broad chords of recognition. That’s a delicious tension: coexisting alongside tenets of camera intrusion and personal idiosyncrasy.


This series also partly articulates my experiences as an outsider. Formerly an outsider photographing others - paparazzo artist and photo-phalanxer of the Media, now, one who is neither logger, tourist nor radical conservationist and one who is, in some degree, outside himself.


Another central interest in the series is the relationship between the subject and the natural environment. Many now regard non-urban and non-bucolic domains to be no longer threatening or limitless. The extreme of that philosophy is demonstrated by an attitude of reverence - almost guilt - for one’s simple presence in wilderness. It seems some wish to ‘disappear’ or at least be ‘transparent’ in their presence. Commercial co-opting of images of the wilderness provides an interesting corroboration - in such images one usually sees majestic vistas, in sunny detail, perhaps sparingly dotted with small-scaled humans who are there to pay, look and then leave.


This series is irreverent, after the works of Tasmanian wilderness photographers such as Truchanas, Dombrovskis and Bell. Despite deeply appreciating images by those and other photographers, I’m very cautious about sweeping assumptions that either lie behind or are brought to such imagery. It’s often just too close to National Geographic’s brand of upbeat naēve photoidealism. Idealised paragons of wilderness imagery are just that, and often don’t convey senses of factual realities of those locations - such as poor weather or the physical trials of getting there, or, don’t adequately convey personal, psychological or emotional aspects of being there.


Humour and incongruity are also elements used, which seek to question the way both ‘natural’ locations and middle-aged less-than-glamorous persons tend to be regarded by an image-preoccupied and evaluative Public.


In his conflated occupation of the picture frame the human subject demonstrates arcane and romantic aspects of middle-aged Australiana maleness including: a gauche self-reliance, laconic grotesqueness and a hint larrikinism. Perhaps his unfashionable, slightly eccentric looming over the scene might provoke further thoughts about the dynamic between humans and the land.


This series is not so much ‘environmental portraiture’, but where portraiture ruptures landscape and the person depicted predominates over landscape. Here, self-scrutiny doesn’t simply serve as a departure point for anthropological or sociological conjecture; it also calls into question the conventions and politics of wilderness imagery. It’s a contemporary heresy where 'famous', 'timeless' and 'natural' locations act merely as pictorial stage sets, and the human subject obscures half the view. It’s a bit like relegating the wilderness to scenic art backdrop status, as evidenced in early Hollywood film productions And, I contend, it’s close to the opposite of the Nineteenth Century conception of sublimeness experienced within the wilderness.






John (J.J.) Voss, PhD                           CURRICULUM VITAE



BORN: 1955, Sydney, N.S.W., Australia


CURRENTLY:    based in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia


Photographic artist, photojournalist, photomedia educator, image analyst and consultant




Telephone: +61 3 6223 6538 bus & a hrs (with message machine)

Mobile: 0411560052  (note, no full messagebank service)

E-mail:           alt e-mail:




2003     Doctor of Philosophy, University of Tasmania, Hobart

1996     Australian Postgraduate Award, Australian Government

1991     Master of Fine Art, School of Art, University of Tasmania, Hobart

1990     Arts Tasmania Travel Grant, Tasmanian Government

1989     Commonwealth Postgraduate Award, Australian Government

1988     Bachelor of Fine Art, School of Art, University of Tasmania, Hobart

1985     Associate Diploma of Art, Craft and Design, School of Art, University of Tasmania




2004     TWENTY-ONE Albury Regional Art Gallery, Albury

1999     Inaugural PhD (Fine Art) Candidature Exhibition, Plimsoll Gallery,

University of Tasmania, Hobart

1996     Ratio Decedendi III, Albury Regional Art Gallery, Albury

1996     Ratio Decedendi III, Entrepot Gallery, Centre for the Arts, Hobart

1995     Ratio Decedendi II, Horsham Art Gallery, Horsham

1993     Ratio Decedendi, University of Tasmania Gallery, Launceston

1992     Photophobia II (Parties), Roches Restaurant (opposite Parliament House), Hobart

1990     Photophobia, The Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney

            Photophobia, Chameleon Contemporary Artspace, Hobart



2005     About Face, S.H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney

2004     Ulrick & Schubert Photography Award, Gold Coast City Art Gallery, Surfers Paradise

2004     Surface Tension: The Artist in the Image, Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney

2004-03 The Self-Portrait Show, Artholes Mirrorframes Gallery, Gertrude St., Melbourne

2003     Launceston City Art Prize (selected section) Academy Gallery, SVPA, Launceston

2003     National Photographic Purchase Award, Albury Regional Art Gallery, Albury

2003     Travelling the Roundabout, School of Visual and Performing Arts, Launceston

2003     The Hobart City Art Prize, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart

2003-02 There, Plimsoll Gallery, University of Tasmania, Hobart

2002     Hats Off to Rainlover, Academy Gallery, School of Visual and Perf. Arts, Launceston

2002     Spur, Academy Gallery, School of Visual and Performing Arts, Launceston

2002     Summer Salon, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

2001     National Photographic Purchase Award, Albury Regional Art Gallery

1999     Me (The Self-Portrait) Fine Arts Gallery, UTas at Hobart, and Artspace, Sydney

1997-95 Superfictions 4&2, Australian national and then international tour

1995     Summer Salon, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

1994     Agfa National Invitation Photographic Award, Albury Regional Art Centre

1994-93 Kodak Acquisition Fund 10th Anniversary Show, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

1992     Pivot, Despard Gallery, Hobart

Postcard Exchange Exhibition, Queensland College of Art, Griffith University

1990     Recent Acquisitions, The Australian National Gallery, Canberra

1989     UTas School of Art (Hobart) Promotional Show, South East Asia Tour

1988     Wilderness 88, Long Gallery, Hobart; Landfall, Chameleon Gallery, Hobart

1987     Child Sponsorship Show, Savage River, Tasmania

1987-6   ETC, The Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney, then national tour

1986     One Offs, Freeform Gallery, Hobart; Adult Education Exhibition, Long Gallery, Hobart




The National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (119059-119061 inclusive, 177731, 179114)

The Albury Regional Art Gallery

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Hobart

The Office of Ms Judy Jackson, MHA, Tasmania

The University of Tasmania

Professional Radio Engineers' Institute of Australia, Sydney

Devonport Art Gallery (1984-056 & 057)



Photofile, No.75 Summer 2005, page 25

The Advocate 26 Jul 2004, page 5

The Mercury April 30 - July 7 2004 Real Estate Guides & various advertorial features

The Weekend Australian, 14-15 February 2004, Review, page 13

The Bulletin, 15 August 2000, page 30

The Advocate, 4 August 2000, page 4 & 2 August 2000, page 4

The Canberra Times, 2 August 2000, pages 1 and 5 & 1 August 2000, page 5

The Maritime Workers’ Journal, July/August 2000, cover & pages 4-5

The Advocate, 29 March 2000, pages 4 and 5

The Launceston Examiner, 29 March 2000, page 3

Photofile, No. 58, December 1999, page 23

The Launceston Examiner, 22 January 1998 pages 1,3,8 & 21 Jan 98 pp 4 & 5

New Idea, 17 January 1998, pages 13 and 95

Photofile, March 1996, No. 47, pages 36, 37, 38

The Sunday Tasmanian, 17 March 1996, page 15

The Launceston Examiner, 15 October 1995, pages 2 and 6

The Bulletin, 26 September 1995, page 46

Art Monthly Australia, August 1995, No. 82, page 23

The Independent Monthly, April 1993, page 15, (ISSN 1033-9957)

The Bulletin, 9 February 1993, page 16

The Bulletin, 19 January - 2 February 1993, pages 84, 85 and 97

Correct Exposure, November 1992, page 29

The Bulletin, 1 September 1992, page 22

Press Press - Spring 1992, pg 1; Winter 1992, pg 1; March 1992, pp. 22-3 (ISSN 0819-1565)

The Launceston Examiner, 9 June 1992, pages 1 and 3

The Bulletin, 18 February 1992, page 19

Eyeline, Spring/Summer 1990, No.13, page 4 (ISSN 0818-8734)

ANG Association News, July/August, 1990, page 14

On The Streets, Nos. 479 and 480 pp. 3 and 15 respectively (NBF 5978)

Simply Living, Vol. 4, No. 3, pp. 100, 104 (ISSN 314-3155)

The Newcastle Herald, 12 May 1989

Salamanca Arts Festival Program 1988, pp. 4,5&7

National Association for Visual Arts Newsletter, March 1988, page 3 (NGB 7726)

National Clearing House for Youth Studies, V.5 No.3, pp. 7,25,26,33,41,59 (ISSN 0817-4733)



2003-01           Full-time Head of Printmedia Studio, School of Visual and Performing Arts,

UTas, Launceston

1999               Full-time Head of Printmedia Studio, School of Visual and Performing Arts, University of Tasmania, Launceston (Semester Two)

1997-95           Part-time Lecturer, School of Art, University of Tasmania, Hobart

1994               Full-time Lecturer, School of Art and Cultural Heritage,

Charles Sturt University, Albury

1993               Full-time Lecturer, School of Creative Arts, Charles Sturt University, Albury




1998-95           Part-time Tutor, Adult Education, Tasmanian Government, Hobart

                      Part-time Lecturer, Department of Urban Design, UTas, Hobart,

1994               Relief Teaching, Riverina Institute of TAFE, Albury Campus

1992               Part-time Lecturer, School of Art, University of Tasmania, Launceston

Part-time Lecturer, Department of Urban Design, UTas, Hobart

Part-time Lecturer, Riawunna Aboriginal Education Centre, Launceston

1992-85           Part-time Tutor, Adult Education, Tasmanian Government, Hobart

1991               Part-time Lecturer, Department of Urban Design, UTas, Hobart

1990               Part-time Lecturer, School of Art, University of Tasmania, Hobart

1990-88           Part-time Tutor, Tasmanian State Institute of Technology, Hobart Study Centre

1988               Relief Teaching, School of Art, University of Tasmania, Hobart




2004                The Hobart Mercury (relieving principal real estate photographer f/t 9 wks & editorial casual)

2004                Defence Housing Authority, Canberra

2004-94            Front Page Photography, Hobart

2002-01           University of Tasmania

2001-00           Australian Associated Press

2000               The Bulletin

1999               New Idea

1998               The Launceston Examiner

1995-92           The Bulletin

1995               G3 Advertising; Conference Photographer, A.C.U.A.D.S., Hobart

1995 & 1992    The Launceston Examiner

1992               Conference Photographer, A. I. A. E. 12th National Conference, Hobart

1991               Agence France-Presse; Community Aid Abroad

1990               Conference Photographer, Art in Working Life, Melbourne

1990-85           University of Tasmania, Hobart

1989               The Australian Newspaper; National Parks and Wildlife Service, Tasmania

1989-88           Australian Associated Press

1988               The International Papermakers' Conference, Hawaii

1988 & 1987    Salamanca Arts Festival, Festival Photographer


BIBLIOGRAPHY: (Articles & reviews mentioning self)


Photofile No. 58 ‘Voiceprints: Surfacing’ page 13 - Sandy Edwards

and Artist’s Statement, page 23 - J.J. Voss (written by self)

Periphery Nos. 40-1, Spring/Summer 1999-2000, page 28, (ISSN 1034-0580)

‘A Decade of the Arts in Tasmania’- Issues and Highlights - Diana Klaosen

Photofile May 1999, No. 56, page 60 ‘Rising Stars in Tasmanian Photography’, - Diana Klaosen

The Mercury April 1996 page 8, ‘Politicians Are His Photographic Fascination’, - John Briggs

The Saturday Mercury, 30 Mar 96 p 38, ‘Poses Not Always Politically Correct’ - Joerg Andersch

JJ Voss, Bibliography contd.


Photofile, March 1996, # 47, pp. 36-8 inclusive ‘J.J. Voss: Seizing Power’- Edward Colless

The Wimmera Mail-Times, 5 May 1995, page 9, ‘A Different View of Politicians’

The Age, 7 January 1994, page 13, 'A Snapshot of Photography', - Greg Neville

The Border Mail, 26 March 1993, 'Peering Beneath the Image', - Maria Galinovic

Press Press, Winter 1992, page 3, 'But Is It Art?’ - Rex Direen, (ISSN 0819-1565)

The Mercury, 25 July 1992, page 21, 'Personal Images in Photo Works'- Kate Larby

Press Press, March 1992, pp. 22-5 inclusive, 'Sean Kelly and John Voss'

- Sean Kelly and Tony Ryan

The Southern Star, 10 January 1992, 'Voss Images Remain While Time Goes By'

The Mercury, 14 December 1991, 'Pollie Watching via Voss' Lens' - Sean Kelly

The Mercury, 23 November 1991, 'Alternative View on Exhibition', - Rex Direen

Eyeline, No. 13, Spring/Summer 1990, pp. 42-3, 'J.J. Voss - Photophobia'

- Heather Curnow, (ISSN 0818-8734)

ANG Association News, July/August 1990, 'Photography: Recent Acquisitions' - Helen Ennis

On The Streets, No.480, page 15, 'Photophobia', - Paul Canning. (NBF 5987)

The Sydney Morning Herald, 23 March 1990, page 20, 'Galleries' - Christopher Allen

The Sunday Tasmanian, 20 September 1987, p.33, 'A Real Touch of Class', Margaretta Pos





Prime TV News, 24 February 2004, works from TWENTY-ONE shown

Southern Cross TV News, 20 March 2003, ‘Arts Wrap,’ image in Hobart Art Prize shown

ABC TV, ‘Stateline,’ 22 March 1996, interview and ‘Ratio Decedendi’ shown

Radio 2 REM-FM, 20 December 1994, interview by Jennifer Hunt

Prime TV Channel 7 News, 15 June 1994, work from 'Ratio Decedendi' shown

ABC Radio 7ZR, 11 December 1991, 'North & South', interview by Patty Lucas

ABC Radio JJJ, 6 December 1991, interview by David Chalmers

ABC TV - ‘7.30 Report,’ 22 November 1991, 'Photophobia II' shown

TAS-TVT 6 News, 19 November 1991, 'Photophobia II' shown

ABC Radio 7ZR, 17 February 1990, 'In Tempo' - review on 'Photophobia' by

Lindsay Broughton and Sandy McCutcheon





2003        Sub-Dean (Art); Chair, SVPA Research Committee; Member, Management Committee;

School of Visual and Performing Arts, UTas at Launceston

2002        Graduate and Postgraduate Exhibition Curator, SVPA, University of Tasmania at Launceston

1999        Acting Honours and Postgraduate Co-Ordinator (Art) SVPA, UTas, Launceston

Judge: Amnesty International Photographic Competition, Hobart

1997     Photography with Canberra Press Gallery (Federal Parliament) and in NSW Parliament

1996     Accredited Clinton Visit Photographer; Guest Lecturer, School of Art, UTas, Launceston

1995     Course Development Consultancy, Gippsland School of Art, Monash University

1994     MA (Visual and Performing Arts), Supervisor, Charles Sturt University

1994-93 MA (Visual and Performing Arts), Selection Committee, Charles Sturt University

1992     Speaker: Showing and Selling Seminar, School of Art, UTas, Launceston

1992     Part-time study in Law Faculty, University of Tasmania, Hobart

1991     Discussion Group Leader (Visual Arts), Arts Industry Conference, Hobart

1991     Honorary Research Associate, Photography Studio, School of Art, UTas, Hobart