History’s best photographers are master manipulators, navigating the space between representation and illusion, inviting us to see the world through their eyes. This month, there are captivating photography exhibitions in Sydney to experience.

Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium
Robert Mapplethorpe may be best known as Patti Smith’s beatnik soulmate as described in her heartbreaking memoir, Just Kids. If you haven’t read it, you should, but if you have you’ll know a little of Mapplethorpe’s mystical and artistic vision of life in New York City.

A collection of Mapplethorpe’s photography, borrowed from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, is on show at the Art Gallery of New South Wales until February. The series covers all four pillars of Mapplethorpe’s oeuvre, including flowers and still lifes; portraits of his famous peers (including Andy Warhol and Debbie Harry); figure studies; and pictures of the fetish and S&M community Mapplethorpe was a part of. There are, of course, a selection of images of an arresting and angular Patti Smith, too, and archival Polaroids and assemblages that chart his vision.

Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium is at the Art Gallery of NSW from October 28 to March 4.

artgallery.nsw.gov.au/exhibitions/robert-mapplethorpe

MASSING
Sydney-based artist Ashleigh Garwood uses both darkroom and digital photography techniques to construct her ethereal images. She’s interested in the layers of the world around us we cannot see – and the unlimited power of photography to affect perception.

Garwood recently spent time with astrophysicists at the University of Idaho. Here she grappled with the lenses they use to see beyond our galaxy and phenomena invisible to the naked eye: radio and gravitational waves; weather patterns; and various mapping inferences, for example. Her latest exhibition, MASSING, is on show at May Space. In the collection of prints, Garwood’s silvery, alien landscapes use geology to reference the erosion of time; layers extrude but also slowly fall away.

Following her solo exhibition at May Space, Garwood’s work will feature in the 2017 NSW Visual Arts Emerging Fellowship exhibition at Artspace in Woolloomooloo from November 9 to December 9.

MASSING is at May Space until November 4.

mayspace.com.au

AND THEN NOTHING TURNED ITSELF INSIDE OUT
Captured in and around the striking Ngozumpa Glacier and Gokyo Lake in the Khumbu region of Nepal in 2016, this series of photographs by Rae Begley is a reminder of natural beauty and fragility. Begley offers a memoir of a vanishing realm. For her, the glacier photographs are historic souvenirs of a fading world, each print an act of artistic conservation.

The exhibition’s title is an excerpt of a quote from jazz composer, philosopher and poet Sun Ra, and the title of a Yo La Tengo album. Alongside Begley’s 35-millimetre photographs of the haunting Himalayan region are video and installation works. An ambient soundscape, compiled in collaboration with local band Erik Omen, uses recordings from her travels to the region.

A percentage of all sales from the exhibition will be donated to The Ice Stupa Project, which funds artificial “ice stupa” glaciers. These are built to address the water shortages being experienced by villages caused by melting glaciers in the Himalayas, which in turn are a result of climate change and local pollution.

AND THEN NOTHING TURNED ITSELF INSIDE OUT is at Commune in Waterloo until Sunday November 5.

thecommune.co/events