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Photographer Peter Solness established his career as a photojournalist and later developed a reputation as a landscape photographer specialising in night time photography. Born in the eastern Sydney suburb of Waverley in 1958, the young Solness bore the surname of his grandfather who had emigrated from Finland in 1925. Solness spent his early childhood in nearby Bondi then Blakehurst in southern Sydney. After leaving high school, he enrolled in four-year Photography Certificate IV at Sydney TAFE. He subsequently worked in editorial and corporate photography, on freelance assignments for leading magazines and newspapers both in Australia and overseas, the latter including the London Independent, Conde Naste Traveller, German GEO, Forbes and the Hong Kong Post. He also worked on photographic assignment for many corporate clients such as Qantas Airlines, the National Roads and Motorists Association (NRMA), the Commonwealth Bank, Australian Gas Light Company (AGL) and Channel 7.
Solness’ interest in photography began in 1974 at the age of sixteen. His first subjects were of friends and surfing. Bruce Channon, Surfing World editor, was the first to publish Solness’s photographic work, in March 1975. Over the next four years Solness’s pictures were regularly featured in Surfing World and Tracks, the major surfing titles in Australia. The photographer focused on the form of the wave and used black and white film because he was more interested in aesthetics than competitions or personalities. During this time he 'discovered’ Ansel Adams and the Zone System, a photographic technique for determining optimal film exposure and development. He also experimented with exotic darkroom techniques for black and white film, whereas most surfing photographers chose to work in colour.
Between 1980 and 1982 Solness travelled by motorcycle in order to document the interior of his country. The two sojourns marked a watershed in his creative development, and he kept an extensive visual diary of the terrain. His resulting photographic essay published in Australian GEO became a stepping stone to his gaining employment at the Fairfax Press. Between 1983 and 1988 his work was featured in the Sydney Morning Herald and the National Times newspapers. Solness published photo essays on the aftermath of atomic bomb tests at Maralinga (South Australia) in National Times in 1984, and on the Philippines revolution in Sydney Morning Herald and National Times in 1986.
In 1988, Solness quit the newspaper to pursue a mix of corporate and editorial assignments. From 1994 he began to regularly exhibit his work, some of which was collected by the National Library in Canberra, the State Library of New South Wales, the Museum of Sydney and the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery. In late 1999 his most ambitious project, Tree Stories, was completed after a four-year period. His project was published by Australian Geographic and he held an exhibition of key images at Stills Galley, Paddington, Sydney. The book is about the relationship between the environment and humans: in addition to the portraits, it includes interviews with and insights from people (poets, farmers, scientists, schoolchildren and Aboriginal elders) all over Australia. In this project, Solness tried to explore the underlying sentiments Australians have about their trees, and to relate these stories to environmental and human rights issues.
In early 2000, Solness published in the Sydney Morning Herald's Good Weekend Magazine a four page photo essay, Songs in the Key of Life, on the advantages of singing. He also worked as principal photographer for the book Slow Food (2002) by David and Gerda Foster. Between 2001 and 2003, Solness completed long term assignments for the Murray Darling Basin Commission, researching and documenting problems associated with Australia’s inland river system and dwindling freshwater supplies. Over the following three years (2004-07) he freelanced in Darwin, where he also conducted workshops on Photojournalism at the Charles Darwin University. Whilst there he held a solo exhibition titled 'Shadowplay’, at the University’s gallery. He also undertook assignments for The Bulletin, TIME Magazine, Lonely Planet Publications, various news and photo agencies as well as Fairfax Publications.
Solness returned to Sydney in 2007 and embarked on an ambitious and large project to express the beauty of landscape. Illuminated Landscape captures the Australian environment at night through the use of selective lighting, such as a small torch. An ongoing project since 2008, Illuminated Landscape illustrates his connection to the unique landscape of the Australian bush.
Over the past decade, Solness has been a finalist in several photojournalism awards including The Eureka Award (Australian Science’s most prestigious photojournalism award) in both 2005 and 2007, Head On Portrait Awards (April 2007), Moran Contemporary Photography Awards (March 13, 2007), and Olive Cotton Award (August 15, 2009). In addition, he received the inaugural New South Wales Parliamentary Plein Air Photographic Prize in September 9, 2010.