Current Issue #488

Rooms with a view

Rooms with a view

Known for his noir-inspired street photography and portraits of Adelaide’s less fortunate, Alex Frayne’s striking depictions of urban and rural scenes will take pride of place in an unexpected new setting through a major acquisition by North Terrace’s Playford Hotel.

Through his published collections Adelaide Noir and Theatre of Life, filmmaker turned photographer Alex Frayne has developed a celebrated body of work capturing sides of urban or rural environments rarely celebrated for their aesthetic appeal. His 2018 series Overseers of the Street in particular compiled a series of empathetic portraits of the city’s homeless population. Ironically, it was this very project that led to Frayne’s work appearing in one of the city’s boutique hotels.

“The hotel hasn’t acquired any photos of homeless people, but the fact I’ve been shooting in the city means I’m running into people who own businesses in the city,” he says. “Which is how this acquisition happened – I ran into Dianne Sparr. She showed the work to her son Daniel who booked and hung the work.”

Alex Frayne, Orange In Fog

Daniel Sparr’s embrace of Frayne’s work follows his father and The Playford founder Bill Sparr’s support of local artists – it was Bill who first filled the hotel with works by then-South Australian based artist David Bromley. With the hotel currently undergoing a wider process of renovation and renewal, it was time to find a new visual identity for its rooms.

“Daniel took a month to choose the images, he was very particular about what he wanted,” Frayne explains. As Sparr’s shortlist filled out, Frayne could see a preference for his more cinematic works inspired by film noir and science fiction emerge. “People know my pedigree is in cinema, I was in the film business before I did stills, so a lot of my work has that quality – what you might call ‘establishing shots’ of a scene.

“The images he chose are really tied together by a filmic sensibility,” he says. “There’s far north landscapes, images of industrial work which relate to my Adelaide Noir series, and there’s work that comes through a more science fiction vein such as the UFO which is on the road out to Port Wakefield.”

Alex Frayne, Jetty Nocturne VIII

With 120 works to be spread across 60 rooms, it’s the single largest acquisition of Frayne’s work to date. “There was a woman at Somerton park who owned 40 of my pieces… the hotel has totally blitzed that,” he says. “Without the collectors there’s no new work; I shoot analogue, not digital, which requires money because it’s expensive to shoot – the cameras and the film processing costs all add up.”

But while the choice of filling a South Australian hotel with images that showcase an interesting perspective of the state makes sense, Frayne is more interested in what these settings reveal about his own interior world.

“The aesthetic that I am interested in is an arts aesthetic, a fine arts aesthetic – it’s not tourism or propaganda,” he says. “Whilst I see myself as a South Australian or Australian artist, really it’s more to do with me as a human being and how I see the world around me. In the end what I see in the world around me is an attempt to understand myself.”

Header image:
Alex Frayne, Somewhere Out There

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