Peter Doyle’s new book and seminar

The Big Whatever

Associate Professor Peter Doyle, part-time curator and full-time writer, will be releasing his new book, The Big Whatever, in July, 2015. With an introduction by Luc Sante, the book sees the reappearance of Doyle’s protagonist Billy Glasheen, previously seen in Get Rich Quick, The Devil’s Jump, and Amaze Your Friends. Below is a description of the book:

When it comes to sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll, Billy Glasheen’s always been in the vanguard, but as the swinging 60s turn into the 70s, he’s living a quiet life. He has kids now, and he’s in debt to the mob, so he keeps his head down, driving a cab, running some low-level rackets. He may as well have gone straight, it’s so boring. Then one day everything changes. He finds a trashy paperback in his cab whose plot seems weirdly familiar. Billy himself seems to be a major character in it. He can’t think who could’ve written it other than Max, his old partner in crime who double-crossed him and left him in the mess he’s in. Only Max is dead. He went up in flames, along with lots of cash, after a bank heist. But if Max is alive, Billy has a score to settle. And if he didn’t get fried to a crisp, maybe the money didn’t either. Billy has to find out, by following clues planted in that strange little book. He soon discovers he’s not the only one on Max’s trail, and has to deal with enemies old and new in his strangest adventure yet.

On Wednesday, May 6, 2015, Peter will also be giving a talk on forensic photography called ‘Ways of looking, limits of seeing: displaying the forensic photograph​’. Here is the description: ​

The Forensic Photography Archive (FPA) held at the Justice & Police Museum, Sydney comprises around 130,000 negatives produced by Sydney police between 1912 and 1964. Selected material from that collection – crime scenes, mugshots, interiors etc – has been exhibited and published over the past twenty years, to the great interest of the general public, as well as international scholarly, art and design communities.

In the period since FPA material was first exhibited (1999), various regulatory systems, including privacy legislation, victim protection legislation, evidence law, state archiving laws, FOI provisions, departmental guidelines and policies and so on have become considerably more complex. Over that same time the rapid transmission of digital media has become a commonplace, and a number of FPA images have been the subject of near-viral on-line sharing in which process, typically the carefully researched narrations, captioning and spoken interlocutions which accompanied the original museum installation or book publication are omitted.

Previous public expositions of FPA material have focussed largely on older holdings, mostly photographs taken before 1945. When attempting to exhibit forensic material from the 1950s and 60s however, in cases where participants in the events – victims, perpetrators, witnesses etc – may still be living, often conflicting codes and constraints come into play. Some of those codes are regulatory, and thus explicit. But others, although strongly felt, are much less articulated. At the same time the material is of high value as public heritage, as visual artefact, and according to some, as “art”.

For the current book project — Suburban Noir (2016) – I am mindful that I will likely be required to make a case to FPA custodians for the inclusion of a number of “difficult” but particularly rich photographs. This has obliged me to reconsider the complex networks of prohibitions, both explicit and covert, as well as opportunities and benefits resident in this volatile cache. This paper will examine a selection of specific images in order to outline some possible strategies of display, narration and interlocution.

The talk will take place at 3pm, in the Drama Studio, Y3A at Macquarie University. All are welcome.


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