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Sean Davey May 12, 2014

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Papua New Guinea.
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Bride Price ceremony in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea 2010

Sean Davey (b.1979, Australia) studied photography throughout high school, where he developed a keen interest in documentary photography. From 2000-03 Sean worked as a newspaper photographer with Fairfax Media in Sydney, after which he spent a year in Europe and America photographing solely for himself. During this time Sean made the pictures that would become his recently self-published book Dog Food & Oysters (2013). Since 2005 Sean has been working in Papua New Guinea, where he has collaborated on, and taught art education workshops to residents in Port Moresby. Sean’s photographs are centered around his own personal experiences; small stories that co-exist as chapters in his continuing exploration of the medium. In 2011 Sean opened The Photography Room, a gallery that promotes and represents selected contemporary photographers in Australia. Sean balances his time teaching, photographing on commission and pursuing his own practice.

About the Photograph:

“My photography in Papua New Guinea is mostly focused on time spent there with my friends. I have made 15 trips to PNG since 2005 and every time I go, my work gets closer, more representative and more honest to my own personal experiences of being there. This photograph was made in Port Moresby during a Bride Price ceremony. When a couple are to be married in PNG, the groom and his family must make a big celebration for the family of his bride. It is very customary to have a Bride Price ceremony in contemporary Papua New Guinean society, and they are most often held in the family home. Extended family members of the groom dutifully bring gifts that are presented to the bride’s family. They are signs of how much she is valued as a new member of their family. The nature and value of the gifts also show the wealth of the groom’s family, which is assurance that the bride will be well looked after.

In this photo are my friends Jude, Sharon, Fiona and Kelly. We were all at Uncle E.K’s place as it was his daughter Elsie who was to be married. I photographed the party and the ceremonial presentation of gifts to Elsie’s family. There must have been over a hundred people in attendance. Most of the afternoon and evening was spent eating, drinking, dancing, telling stories and listening to music. The party went on well into the night. What I love about visiting PNG and photographing there is that it has really taught me to be patient and aware of what is right in front of me. There was nothing much of note happening when I made this photo. We were all simply hanging out together. Sharon is inspecting Kelly’s hair for lice, a common practice while Fiona looks directly at me. Jude can be seen in the bottom left corner of the photo, in mid conversation with her cousins.

I love that my photography from PNG comes from genuine moments of personal experience, moments that I spend with family and friends who I have very strong relationships with. I have no interest in photographing people in traditional costumes in far flung parts of PNG. Most of my work there centers in and around the capital Port Moresby.  I’m often  asked what parts of PNG I have traveled to, and the reaction is often one of surprise when I mention a few places but then say that I really only visit Port Moresby. I have never traveled anywhere in PNG without an invitation, and at the end of the day it wouldn’t bother me if I didn’t go any further than the capital. I am not out to show Papua New Guinea to anyone in my photos. The act of photographing is purely a personal instinctual one that has become part of who I am and how I experience the world. The biggest compliment I can get for my work is satisfaction from my friends when I give them pictures of themselves and their family on subsequent trips.”

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