As a teenager Pam found post-war suburban Melbourne grim, oppressive and culturally isolated. He found refuge in the counter-culture of surfing and the imagery of National Geographic and Surfer Magazine and became determined to travel overseas.
Pam left Australia at 20, after accepting a job as a photographer assisting an astrophysicist. Together, the pair drove a Volkswagen from Calcutta to London. This adventure proved inspirational, and travel has remained a crucial and continuous link to his creative and personal development. As Gary Dufour noted in his essay in Indian Ocean Journals (Steidl, 2000): “Each photograph is shaped by incidents experienced as a traveller. His photographs extend upon the tradition of the gazetteer; each photograph a record of an experience, a personal account of an encounter somewhere in the world. Each glimpse is part of an unfolding story rather than simply a record of a place observed. While travel underscores his production Pam’s photographs are not the accidental evidence of a tourist.”
Pam’s work takes the viewer on compelling journeys around the globe, recording observations with an often surrealist intensity, matching the heightened sensory awareness of foreign travel. The work frequently implies an interior, psychic journey, corresponding with the physical journey of travel.
His work in Asian counties is well represented in publications as are his travels in Europe, Australia, and the Indian Ocean Rim cultures including India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Yemen, The Republic of Tanzania, Mauritius, Madagascar, the Cocos and Christmas Islands. The images leave the viewer, as Tim Winton said in Going East (Marval 1992), “grateful for having been taken so mysteriously by surprise and so far and sweetly abroad.”
Pam’s first survey show was held at the Art Gallery of Western Australia in 1986, and was followed by a mid-career retrospective at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1991. He was also the subject of a major exhibition at the Comptoir de la Photographie, Paris in 1990, which covered the work of three decades. He has published several highly acclaimed photographic monographs and 'carnets de voyage', including Going East: Twenty Years of Asian Photography (1992), Max Pam (1999), Ethiopia (1999) and Indian Ocean Journals (2000).
Going East won Europe’s major photo book award the Grand Prix du Livre Photographique in 1992. In the same year he held his largest solo show to date at the Sogo Nara Museum of Art, Nara. He has published work in the leading international journals and is represented in major public and private collections in Australia, Great Britain, France and Japan.
Max Pam is the subject of episode five of the television series Visual Instincts (Artemis International, 1989).
- (1973) University of Melbourne, Melbourne
- (1986) 'Max Pam: 1980-1985', Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth
- (1990) 'Max Pam: 1971-1990', Comptoir de la Photo, Paris
- (1992) 'Max Pam: Retrospective', Nara Sogo Museum of Art, Nara
- (1999) 'Signature Works - 25th Anniversary Exhibition', Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney
- (2002) 'Meridian - Focus on Contemporary Australian Art', Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney
- (2002) 'Red Light', Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney
- (2004) 'stripTEASE - Max Pam', Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney; Australian Embassy, Paris
- (1973) 'Photographs by Max Pam', Creative Camera Magazine
- Max Pam (1986) Max Pam: From Eastern Fluency to Southern Recall: Photographs 1980-1985, Art Gallery of Western Australia
- Max Pam, ed. (1989) Visual Instincts: Contemporary Australian Photography, AGPS Press
- Max Pam (1992) Going East: Two Decades of Asian Photography, Editions Marval
- Max Pam (1992) Human Eye, Sogo
- Max Pam (1999) Max Pam: Collection L'oiseau Rare, Filigranes Editions
- Max Pam (1999) Ethiopia, Les Imaginayres
- Max Pam & Patrick Remy (2000) Max Pam: Indian Ocean Journals, Steidl
- Max Pam (2002) Kailash, Les Imaginayres
- Pablo Ortiz Monasterio (2006) 'Max Pam', in Conversations With Contemporary Photographers, Umbrage Editions
- Max Pam & Stephen Muecke (2009) Atlas Monographs". T&G Publishing “Best Photography Book Prize” (International Category) 2010 at PhotoEspaña in Madrid
- Max Pam "Atlas Monographs" Limited Editions T&G Publishing
- Max Pam (2012) "Ramadan in Yemen", Editions Bessard
- Max Pam - Bob Charles (2012) "Narcolepsy", T&G Publishing
Contingency in Madagascar (with the writer Stephen Muecke) (forthcoming, Intellect, UK)