by Talia Smith

© Katelyn-Jane Dunn from the series ‘Gently, Gently’

Common Ground is three issues in, can you tell me a little about the journal – it’s history, the team behind it etc?

KATELYN-JANE DUNN (KD): Common Ground came to fruition in 2014, and I first started really thinking and planning for the journal a year prior to that. As an emerging artist I became frustrated with the underrepresentation of women photo-media artists and arts workers in contemporary and historical contexts, and the statistics of representation were unacceptable to me. I wanted to create an environment where women identifying and non-binary artists and arts workers could develop supportive relationships, a produce and share their work.

The journal’s team consists of myself as Founding Editor and a fantastic pool of contributing writers, and we’re growing with every issue!

Will you eventually publish Common Ground as a physical journal or is it important to have it free and downloadable on the internet?

KD: Having the journal as accessible as possible has always been a focus when it comes to distribution. For some artists though, there’s a real argument to having their work presented in a printed format, and I think having an annual or regular print edition is definitely on the cards. In the meantime, having the journal available online has been a really positive factor in Common Ground’s growth and international outreach. I’m excited for what the future holds!

© Katelyn-Jane Dunn from the series ‘Sugar’

Your photographic practice examines the female experience within society today, was there any connection between your findings during making work to then establishing Common Ground?

KD: Definitely. I was spending a lot of time reflecting upon and examining ideas of inherited femininities, particularly in terms of regional Queensland and Australia’s post-colonization narratives.

When researching for either my work or consumption, I would find myself starving for women’s perspectives. I would find myself sifting through publications and exhibitions brimming with male artists and writers. The arts traditionally challenge dominant narratives but gendered disadvantage and underrepresentation is still rife in many areas. Being exposed to a wealth of women talent through Common Ground has been a really humbling and enriching experience. A common excuse for the absence of women and non-binary voices is lack of merit, and I think the journal really dismantles that excuse and showcases the diversity of voices out there.

Do you feel within the art world that there can be an unbalance between female and male artists? 

KD: Without a doubt. The blog Countesses crunches the data of representation in the Australian arts community, and the June issue of ARTNews has some great articles that examine the statistics and experiences of women in the arts. There’s so much data andanecdotal evidence out there that the answer can’t be anything but in the affirmative. I think the issue is perhaps not as easy to detect on first glance than retrospectively (things are definitely better than say, 50 years ago), but the bias remains systemic and needs to be challenged.

© Katelyn-Jane Dunn from the series ‘I think I love you’

Your images have a beautiful quietness to them but in such a way that you as the viewer feel comforted and warm. In the series ‘I think I love you’ was it important to use yourself and your partner in the images to create this?

KD: Thank you! I’ve always had an interest in intimate storytelling, so it made sense for me to look inwards for I ‘think I love you’.

At the time my relationship was torn between love and faith, and my partner was in a religion that forbids relationships with women outside of the church. The consequence of being caught in a relationship with a non-believer was to be entirely cut off from friends and family inside. For that reason we began our relationship in secret, and our love for one another was always overshadowed by the fear and risk of that immense loss.

Despite the risks and difficulties that came with documenting our relationship, it felt like the most sincere way to communicate those themes of love and loss.

© Katelyn-Jane Dunn from the series ‘I think I love you’

Can you tell me about the performance element to your work?

KD: Performance is a part of my process where I use the camera as a means of documenting and framing the stage. It’s a mix of intuition, play and responding to sites and objects.

With gender and identity being in themselves a form of social performance, the performative side of my process has become a way by which I can unpack and make sense of the tensions and conflicts that arise in living out feminine identities.

Are there any new projects on the horizon that you can share?

KD: I’m currently working on the fourth issue of Common Ground, and starting to get back into making work after exhibiting at Photo L.A. and Photo Contemporary in Los Angeles. My work is also currently in the exhibition ‘Island - Australia’, presented by the Australian Centre for Photography and PhotoIreland, and curated by Claire Monneraye, at The Copper House Gallery in Dublin. I look forward to sharing more soon!

© Images from Gently, Gently at the Hold Artspace

© Katelyn-Jane Dunn from the series ‘Gently, Gently’

What projects or artists have been inspiring you at the moment?

KD: Photobooks I’m enjoying at the moment include Anne Ferran’s ‘Prison Library’, Pruedence Murphy’s ‘Detective Special’, and Maanantai Collective’s ‘Nine Nameless Mountains’. I’m also really loving the work of Zoe Croggon, Zoe Crosher and Justine Varga, and the exhibition ‘Light, Paper, Process: Reinventing Photography’ currently at the Getty Center.


Katelyn-Jane Dunn