Morganna Mageeextraordinary experiences
I had spent most of my career making images that served to communicate a story. My job as a photographer was to make photos that had clear narratives, I needed my audience to understand who I had photographed and why. Most of my work was portraiture and I always found it a thrill to watch someone drop their guard around my camera. When you photograph a person, you need to present the best version of yourself. You need to be patient, kind, and accommodating, or the intrusion of being photographed is palpable in the final image. It's not that a photographer needs to be fake in a duplicitous sense, but we perform this best version of self in order to get the best photo.
In 2020 when I took this image it was after a year in which the ability to perform this best version of myself was stripped. I was at the tail end of one of the longest depressive episodes of my life. I was grieving and raw and angry. Photographing was the only part of my identity that didn't feel bruised, with the camera on me I could retain some semblance of purpose. And so, on this day, I stumbled clumsily into the field where these captive deer live, camera in one hand, bag of food in another. It's a strange feeling when animals who are by nature scared of humans seek us out to feed, they do so quickly and with panic out of some sort of ancestral mistrust that warns them never to get too close. These animals could care less about my camera and its intrusion, they only want to get what they need from me as safely as possible.
I photographed ravenously, bad photos between the soft licks and pushes of ribs against my legs. I turned and saw this fawn, and her neck looked so vulnerable, so sad but so calm. She didn’t flinch when I came near her, instead she presented herself turning her chin up towards me as I photographed then slowly walked off. This image was the first I had ever made that felt like a translation, an emotional response made with a camera instead of a narration of what I saw in front of me. I felt it when I took it, a shift in my image making and an empowerment in the way I want to tell stories.
Morganna Magee is based in Naarm (Melbourne, Australia) living and working on the land of the Wurundjeri, Bunurong and Boon Wurrung people, the foothills of the Dandenong ranges. Her practice sits between storytelling and expanded documentary, creating work that pulls from an emotional response to the world whilst still being based in the documentary tradition. Her two-decade-long practice as a photographer encompasses commercial, editorial, and fine art. Her work has been awarded and exhibited both nationally and internationally, recognised by institutions such as The National Portrait gallery Australia and Miami Art week. She is a founding member of Lumina Collective an Australian collective of award-winning women and non-binary photographic artists breaking ground in visual storytelling and dissemination. She regularly is commissioned for editorial and large-scale community arts projects.
Her images have appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Age, Art and Australia magazine amongst others