Cooran artist Ian Richter at his latest exhibition, A Negative Look at Dying.
Cooran artist Ian Richter at his latest exhibition, A Negative Look at Dying.

Unique exhibition raises funds for special cause

COORAN artist Ian Richter has spent a lifetime searching for the positive in darkness.

Having suffered depression since the age of 20, it has been a constant battle to stay alive.

His latest exhibition builds on that experience, using the art of negative photography to encourage people to see things in a different light.

A Negative Look at Dying, on show at The Art Hub, Cooroy, reveals the beauty in dying matter.

In negative shots, dark areas become light and intricate details are exposed which are sometimes not apparent, such as the veins in drying leaves.

The concept is in keeping with his desire to encourage people who suffer mental illness to look at things differently.

"My hope is that people like myself who suffer mental illness will get help," he said.

"When things are turned around it can look very different, making light of the dark and a positive look at living."

Mr Richter spent 40 years working as a scenic artist, painting backdrops for movies before picking up a camera.

He travelled the world and collaborated with famous actors and directors, creating works for Moulin Rouge, Anna and the King, Rapanui and Singularity.

But in 2013 he lost his ability to paint after a suicide attempt left him with terrible injuries. That was when he turned his artistic skills to photography.

These days, Mr Richter goes nowhere without his digital Cannon camera.

His inspiration is all around him - the backyard, down the street, on the side of the road or even at the local beer garden.

"I photograph everything I think will work in negative. It doesn't always work but when it does, it is amazing," he said.

His subjects include dried leaves, hollow logs, shells and decaying flowers.

"Even in my own garden there are a lot of plants that have become dead and for that reason they look so good in negative."

The beauty of life in reverse means Mr Richter's A Negative Look at Dying exhibition is also a positive look at living.

In his own personal battle, he has been sober now for three years and even though he is a "work in progress" he has been making headway.

"When I feel my best is when I have a camera in my hand," he said.

'A Negative Look at Dying' is a collection of about 30 photos at The Art Hub in Cooroy.

Half of the proceeds from sales will be donated to organisations supporting mental illness including Lifeline and Beyond Blue.

The exhibition continues until December 22.