To celebrate the 75th Anniversary of Canberra Photographic Society

In August 1945 Mr K. Carnall of Ainslie placed an advertisement in The Canberra Times inviting people interested in forming a camera club to contact him. As a result, on 11 September 1945, a meeting was held in the then 2CA Theatrette in Mort Street, Civic.

The following day the Canberra Times reported that it was “well-attended by photographic enthusiasts, and that it decided to form a club to be known as the Canberra Photographic Society. It was to hold regular meetings, show screenings of different films and discuss photographic matters generally. The chair was taken by Mr. Ewen McKinnon, who explained the advantages of the club and gave details of his experiences in photography over the previous 30 years.

Meetings will be held on the first Tuesday and at the initial meeting a colour film of Canberra, as well as talkies, would be shown. Subscription rates were fixed at £1/1/- for men, 10/6 for ladies and juniors under 21, and 5/ for school students.

  • The following officers were elected:
  • President, Mr. B. W McKinnon
  • Vice-presidents, Mr. D. Downing and Miss Steed
  • Secretary, Mr.K. Carnall
  • Treasurer, Miss Joy Nott
  • Committee, Messrs. Norsa, Stevenson, Dinnerville and Miss D. Cox.

On 3 October 1945, the Canberra Times reported that at the first gathering of the new Canberra Photographic Society (CPS) on Tuesday 2 October “Some excellent landscape studies, prints of child studies and views of the War Memorial floodlit, as well as flares on V.P. night, were exhibited when a coloured picture of Canberra was screened along with views of New Guinea. Arrangements were made for a photographic outing on Sunday week. A suggestion for a series of competitions was considered, and members will be notified of the details. Last night’s exhibits were presented by Mrs Sleed, Joy Nott, Mr Powning, Mr K. Dinnerville and Mr K Carnall.”

The October 1945 issue of Kodak’s Australasian Photo-Review also publicised the formation of CPS, saying We welcome the latest of camera clubs to “arrive”, which is at Canberra, with scheduled meetings for the first Tuesday in each month. Both still and movie adepts will be catered for and the Society will be glad to welcome photographic visitors to the Capitol City.”

A recently published new book “How local art made Australia’s national capital”by Anni Doyle Wawrzynczak states that “from 1927 art was considered integral to establishing a national perception of Canberra as culturally literate. In these early days this was imagined as community-based: As a centre of culture Canberra will be dependent in the early stage on the establishment of its University, but meanwhile art societies and the like may accomplish useful endeavour. The earliest of these societies was the Artists’ Society of Canberra (ASOC), active from 28 June 1927.In recess from July 1934, it re-emerged in August 1945. Also founded in 1945 was the Canberra Photographic Society, followed in 1948 by the Canberra Art Club.”

A footnote in that book records: “Established 11 September 1945, the Canberra Photographic Society met from 1945–51 at 2CA Theatrette, Mort Street, Civic; 1951–52, Institute of Anatomy, Acton; 1952–66, Riverside Centre; 1966–2005, Griffin Centre, Bunda Street, Civic; 2005–, PhotoAccess, Manuka. In the mid-1980s, the society was incorporated as Monaro Camera Club. Data collated from ACT Heritage Library visual arts ephemera collection.”

That footnote is wrong in listing Photo Access as a meeting place from 2005 onwards. When the original Griffin Centre closed, CPS moved into the new Griffin Centre and remains there to this day (except that all meetings have been held via Zoom during the COVID-19 period).

The footnote is also wrong in saying the CPS became known as Monaro Camera Club. In fact, the Monaro Camera Club decided to cease operating and amalgamated with CPS, bringing with it some valuable assets and its remaining 3 or 4 members. The Monaro club had evolved from the Queanbeyan Colour Photography Society, which became the Queanbeyan Leagues Club Camera Club. The Leagues Club paid for some excellent equipment for the club and provided a meeting room until the disastrous fire there. With no home, it became the Monaro Camera Club and met in a variety of venues including a pre-school and members’ homes, but membership quickly fell away leading to the decision to amalgamate with CPS. All but one of the few members who transferred over soon pulled out.

The Australian Photographic Society (APS) was established fourteen years later than CPS. On 15 and 16 August 1959, a meeting was held in Sydney, attended by representatives of various State bodies. The CPS representative (on behalf of the ACT) was Chris Christian, who was later made a Life Member of CPS and who contributed three prints to the exhibition celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the CPS (one of which dated back to 1958). Chris also judged a monthly CPS competition on at least one occasion – in October 1987.

The aim of the meeting in Sydney was to form the Australian Photographic Federation (APF). An interim Council of State delegates was created, and Chris Christian became Chairman of that Council. A principal purpose of the APF was to co-ordinate the activities of camera clubs and societies through existing bodies in the States and “to form an Australian photographic society as an additional and more far-reaching body within five years”.

At its first annual meeting in 1961, Chris Christian became the first President of APF. The Federation moved swiftly and resolved to call for 100 individuals to become Foundation Members of the APS. Quotas were allotted to each State, with the ACT being given five spots. The membership drive finished with 101 (nobody knows why). The ACT’s five Foundation Members of the APS included Chris Christian, Alf Redpath, and Len Leslie, both of whom also later became Life Members of CPS. The other two were Mr K G Houlahan and Mr M A Adhearne.

The Foundation Members brought the APS into being on 12 May 1962. Chris Christian was appointed as one of the first Vice-Presidents. He and all the others appointed to the first Executive Committee of the APS were eminent in the field of amateur photography. Ted Richards of Canberra, who judged for CPS quite a few times, was appointed as the first Public Officer (a position later held for many years by another CPS member Bob Legge, and currently held by a further CPS member Brian Rope).

So, the CPS, particularly through Chris Christian, played a significant role in the early history of the APS. Other CPS members, including Jim Mason, Ian McInnes, Graeme Watson, and Brian Rope have had significant roles with APS in more recent years, continuing the connection between the two Societies.

The Canberra Times continued to report on CPS activities during its early years. In March 1955, it reported “Members of the Canberra Photographic Society met with signal success at exhibitions held at Muswellbrook and Quirindi last week. At Muswellbrook Mr C.L. Leslie gained the silver plaque, the highest award, for his mist scene titled The Magic of the Morning taken between Braidwood and Narooma. Merit certificates were awarded Mr C.S. Christian for his prints Jindabyne Church and Australian Pattern, to Mr A.C. Redpath for Kings Cross and Mr Leslie for his portrait of a young girl. At Quirindi, the Canberra trio won eight out of ten awards made by the judges, Messrs. Henri Mallard and J. Metcalfe, both notable photographers. Mr Leslie was awarded the silver plaque for a print Summit and Sky, a bronze plaque for Harvest Hill and two merit certificates. Two merit certificates each were also won by Messrs, Christian and Redpath.”

In the mid-1970s CPS conducted several National Exhibitions of Photography, receiving hundreds of entries from all over Australia.

On 25 May 1979, The Canberra Times reported “Next Monday the YMCA Corroboree Park Camera Club, Canberra Photographic Society and Monaro Camera Club will meet in a three way competition. The groups have each submitted 10 monochrome prints and 20 color slides for judging by Mr. Col Roach, a photographer with the Photographic Section of the Institute of Aboriginal Studies. Mr. Roach will discuss the entries and announce his decisions at the host club’s meeting rooms. Since the host club this year is the Monaro Camera Club, which is based in Queanbeyan, the venue is the Lambrigg Room of the Tourist Information Centre in Queanbeyan. Any interested people are welcome to attend this evening which begins at 8pm. This is the first time that these three clubs have competed in three-way competition. After many years of two-way competition between the Canberra Photographic Society and Monaro Camera Club in slides only, last year saw the addition of a two-way print competition between Canberra Photographic Society and YMCA Clubs. This year’s event is a natural development from the success of last year.”

In November 1983, the famous British photographer Joan Wakelin presented a lecture jointly for the Monaro Camera Club and CPS in the old Griffin Centre rooms, entitled “The Human Condition”.

Joan Wakelin being interviewed

Joan Wakelin is one of several notable women photographers to have given presentations to CPS over the years. Others are another British photographer Helene Rogers (famed for her gardens photography) and Hedda Morrison (after whom CPS named one of its competitions and for whom it mounted a retrospective of her work).

Hedda Morrison at the opening of her retrospective, speaking with
then Senator Gary Humphries (centre) and a guest

In 1987 CPS accepted responsibility for selecting (within the Canberra region) amateurs’ photographs for use in the Australian Bicentennial Exhibition. Judging for that took place in the Studio Room of the old Griffin Centre. Canberra photographers Garry Raffaele and David Reid, plus Andrew Gibson from Goulburn, were the judges. Some CPS members had images selected, copies of which toured Australia throughout 1988 as the Personal Views element of the Exhibition.

1988 was Australia’s Bicentennial and Canberra’s 75th birthday. CPS was funded to photographically document how Canberrans celebrate the year. About a dozen CPS members covered almost every Bicentennial event that occurred in Canberra and took 6,000 images. The events covered included the opening of the new Parliament House, which was covered by about five or six members, and a visit by the Queen, right through to very modest events. From the 6,000 images, 100 were selected and printed at 20″ by 24″ size for an exhibition. The colour prints, both from transparencies and negatives, were made by Bica, a company which many Canberra photographers would remember. Most of the monochrome prints, however, were made by the authors. March 1989 saw the exhibition titled “Bicentennial celebrations in Canberra” mounted at the Link Gallery, officially opened by John Langmore, MP. This is the exhibition catalogue:

The prints from the exhibition were later handed over for the permanent collection of the Arts area of the ACT government which, subsequently, managed to completely lose them.

Many notable Australian photographers have judged for, or given presentations to, CPS. They include Henri Mallard, Alf Redpath, Attila Kiraly, Heide Smith, Geoff Comfort, Bob Cooper, Helen Ennis, Garry Raffaele, Matt Kelso, Bob Miller, Hillary Wardhaugh, and John Swainston.

One of the regular CPS judges was very fond of saying that any adjustment made to the captured image must add value. There have been other judges who have disapproved of image manipulation for other reasons. Those from a photo journalistic background had been taught that images for publication must never be altered so that they only spoke the truth and showed the reality of what had been photographed.

One such person refused to judge three entries in one of the CPS portfolio competitions on the grounds that the extent of manipulation applied took the end results to a point where they no longer could be considered photographs. Unfortunately, the images in one of the portfolios he declined to judge had not been manipulated in any way by its entrant. Members generally were not impressed. The judge could, of course, have taken the easy way out and simply said he didn’t much like the images and, so, scored them low, but he had the courage to say what he thought. He also decided never to judge for CPS again, a sad loss.

Apart from those already mentioned, others to be awarded Life Membership of CPS include Joan Clark, Alan Clark, Hedda Morrison, Ian McInnes in 2009, and Jim Mason in 2015.

In 1995, to mark the 50th anniversary of CPS, a major retrospective exhibition titled “100 by 50” was organised and displayed in the foyer of the high Court. It presented 100 works produced during the 50 years. Over the years CPS has had a variety of sub-groups. These include a Studio group which used the facilities of a professional studio in Fyshwick, and a Theatre Group which produced front-of-house images for many theatre groups’ opening nights.

In 2001, CPS published an “Achievers Book, 1989 – 2000” containing much more information than presented here. The Website has an amazing amount of additional detail about CPS covering the period from 1945 to 1992. It has numerous images by early members and links to other webpages, including one with a selection of Chris Christian’s images, and another about a special international salon CPS conducted in conjunction with the Australian Commonwealth Jubilee in 1951.

Twice during its 75 years CPS has gone through turbulent times, with its continued existence threatened by divisions amongst members. However, on each occasion, it survived and became stronger. I am confident that CPS will continue into the distant future. There are other photography clubs in Canberra, including Southside Camera Club, U3A Camera Club, ANBG Friends Photographic Group, and Canberra PhotoConnect. There also are several Canberra-based photography groups on social media. But CPS is the only one with the rich heritage of 75 years.


Water Walks

Photography Review

Various Artists | Water Walks
Photo Access Gardens | Until 6 September 2020

and online at

On the first three Saturdays during August, Water Walks were held as an event in RISE Canberra’s festival, the Where You Are Festival, funded by the ACT Government. Two walks were undertaken after and during heavy rains. On the fifth Saturday of August an exhibition of photographs taken during those walks went on display in the gardens at Photo Access and a splendid book of the exhibition went on sale. That must be some kind of record for bringing an exhibition together! Everyone who had endured the inclement weather of the walks was rewarded by a beautifully sunny and warm afternoon.

Water Walks brought participants together to explore, document and share experiences of three creeks. Each group was accompanied by a lead photographer, and a local ecologist, historian or urban planner. They spent four hours exploring, learning about and photographing a waterway. In advance, and as they first walked, they learned about the environment, history and cultural significance. Then, walking back, they created photographic records. Local writer Cameron Muir recorded observations along the way; from which came a delightful “field notes” essay to accompany the virtual exhibition and for inclusion in the book.

Image of a walk in action! – supplied by PhotoAccess

Participants learned that thousands of pieces of evidence of Ngunnawal ways of life and ownership are located along Weston Creek. Nearby reserves support patches of the original grassy woodland and the threatened native bird species. Now it has been re-made, including becoming part of Canberra’s first sewerage treatment works – much of its 5 Km goes underground or through a concrete stormwater drain.

​Ngunnawal people named it Girimbombery or Giridombera, this ceremonial pathway guiding visitors from the south to the central corroboree ground on the floodplain that some of us remember – now under Lake Burley Griffin. Where this Jerrabomberra Creek joins the Molonglo, wetlands provide a globally significant habitat for migratory birds. But most of the creek’s reaches remain out of sight in the urban fringes immediately adjacent to them. Widespread clearing has significantly degraded the ecology.

Sullivan’s Creek flows through grassy woodlands, former grazing land, tunnels, drains and constructed wetlands. Aboriginal people experienced extreme environmental changes in this landscape, including the Last Glacial Maximum about 20,000 years ago when freezing temperatures on the catchment’s mountains shattered rocks, some of which tumbled down and lie still on the lower slopes.

​Walk participants listened to natural music, were reminded that water flows into irrigation channels to grow food we purchase, explored a subterranean tunnel’s wet surfaces, and parted wild fennel’s feathery leaves like they were walking among shoulder-high carrot tops. They also created images that show beauty, acknowledge some history of Ngunnawal life, and celebrate practices of care. Their images tell stories of people and water in our city.

The exhibited images are mounted on metal stakes embedded into the ground of the gardens outside the gallery premises and visitors walk amongst them. The stakes can, and no doubt will, be used again for more garden exhibitions in the future.

High Tide © Sari Sutton

Whilst many might be described as documentary, other images in the exhibition are very much artworks. I particularly enjoyed two works by Noel Hamey: Life in Stagnant Waters and Valley of Stone.

Life in Stagnant Waters © Noel Hamey

Pond with Poles by Sarah Ryan​ is the best of several delightful reflections. Christine Pearson’s Power of Water and Bob Gardiner’s delightfully titled Early Qbnian Dyathinkesaurus Fossil are both splendid. Latent by Thomas Edmondson is a fine Contemporary image.

Holder Wetlands © Eddie O’Brien
Riverbed © Emily Bull

I commend everyone involved in creating this exhibition and its informative accompanying book.

This review originally published in The Canberra Times of 5/9/20 here.

It has also been published on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.


Kosciuszko Summit Walk

The challenge of walking

9 km from Charlotte Pass snow resort

an altitude of 1840 metres

to the highest point of our land

altitude 2228 metres

and return

Irresistible but…




sugar snacks

bottled water

seemed sufficient

at the time

Autumn sun shining

late April

off we go

noting landmarks

Snowy River

Seaman’s Hut

Taking photos

patches of snow

sun on golden grasses

cloud in the valleys

obliterating views

Narrow dirt tracks

red tops on poles

mark road edges

when snow is deep

In the wetness

tyre tracks


vehicles were here


of the mountains

change quickly

delight or dismay


our destination

Mt Kosciuszko summit

Temperature falling


rolling in

time to head back

Should have

descended sooner

ice forming on

eyebrows and moustache

cold penetrating

to our bones


concerned about

getting lost

in the mist, the fog,

the cloud

Growing weary

can’t stop

must press

on downhill

nobody knows where we went

Legs aching

knees hurting

companion managing

better than me

worry increasing

Stupid to have

set out at all

will we perish

in the wilderness

as have back country skiers

Seaman – well-travelled


and Hayes –

country boy

both died August ’28

succumbing to icy blizzard


there’s Seamans Hut

(why no Hayes Hut?)

we’ll make it


the lodge


hot drinks

knees still screaming

Early to bed

next day

walking excruciating


all I can manage

challenge completed

lessons learned

Later, images created

on watercolour paper

matted for display

twenty-one years later

memories rediscovered



Users of social media today are familiar with the various symbols allowing them to Like, Love, Laugh at, say Wow to, Cry about and be Angry with words and images their friends and followers post on their sites.

It is easy to Like every photo that our Facebook and Instagram friends post and most of us seem to do so most of the time. So, when someone who is more selective in making use of these easy responses Likes – or even Loves – my images I am particularly pleased. When that person adds a comment that is even better.

When the person responding positively to my image is a successful photographer, whose work I admire and opinions I respect, I am even more pleased. Unknown to him, for some time I kept a record of which of my images he Liked and/or commented about. I’m not naïve enough to think that his reason for indicating approval of any image was always because he thought it was good photography. No doubt he sometimes Liked one of my images for some other reason.

Anyway, in January 2020 I put together a photobook containing a collection of some of my black and white images that Roger (Roj) Skinner had Liked or Loved or commented about. I spent a lot to get a good quality lay-flat book and was pleased with the outcome. The book’s title is “Liked”.

The Australian Photographic Society (APS) conducts an annual photobook competition with cash prizes of $500. APS and Australian camera club members are eligible to enter. Momento Pro is the major sponsor of the competition, providing $1,400 in voucher prizes. The competition includes a Storytelling and Portfolio category, and has no limit on the book subject, size or print method. You must enter a physical book.

I had never previously entered; but decided to submit “Liked” in the Portfolio category. Some weeks later I received a phone call from the co-ordinator, Anne Pappalardo, advising me that I had won second prize in the Category and requesting information and a photo for use in publicity.

Publicity photo of me and the book © Robyn Swadling

Soon after I learned who the other winners were and saw that another Canberran, Helen McFadden, had won second prize in the Storytelling category. We all had to keep the news secret until the six winners were announced on 1 September, but Helen contacted me and asked me to make a “copy” of the pages of my book available for the Canberra PhotoConnect website.

Judging took place on 22 August at the Art at Heart studio in Bellbowrie. Sue Gordon (President of the Photographic Society of Queensland) and Warren Vievers (accredited judge for the Photographic Society of Queensland) reviewed the books physically, while Libby Jeffery (co-founder at Momento Pro) Zoomed in from NSW. To allow Libby to judge remotely, the coordinators presented each book to multiple video cameras, describing their physical characteristics, reading out essential text, and flicking through every page.

With five previous years of coordinating the competition under her belt, Yvonne Hill confirmed that, “the standard of winning entries continues to improve year after year and 2020’s entries were no exception.” Libby Jeffery stated that, “all the winning books showed an appreciation for white space, symmetry and consistent alignment, and many of the books made good use of text and extra graphics to enhance the story behind the photos. We hope the process of reviewing, editing and sequencing photos into a book layout helped the entrants develop new skills, and inspired them to work on more creative photo series or projects in the future.”

After five hours of review, the judges’ scores were analysed, and the six winners were chosen. The judges awarded the winning books for their excellence and fitness for purpose in photography, sequencing of images, design, layout, and typography. An article about the competition and all the winners is on pages 8-19 of the latest issue of the Society’s magazine Monitor. And here’s the official announcement.

A screenshot from the official announcement of the winners.

As the screenshot above advises, you can even watch a video of the book here.

The judges said Liked “presented an engaging series of abstract black and white images and it made us laugh. The image selection was unique and contemporary, as only photos that received a ‘Like’ from a photography peer were chosen. Including the social post text and comments, in the Facebook font, also added to the context and humour. It’s a great creative collaboration.”

A screenshot of one of the double page spreads in the book

Liked is also available to preview (or even purchase) here.

I may produce another similar book of colour photos with my MomentoPro voucher.


Perfect (20/20) Vision in the year 2020

Photography Review

Thirteen Artists: Perfect (20/20) Vision in the year 2020

Gallery of Small Things: Until 6 September 2020

Also online at and

The Gallery of Small Things (GOST) is the tiniest gallery in Canberra. Visitors usually see a variety of artworks in a space less than 6 metres square which, in the 1960s, was an outside laundry!

GOST conducts an annual group show showcasing a different visual arts sector. This year it is photography and the exhibition has been worked up in collaboration with Photo Access which invited proposals responding to the theme of 20/20 vision with artworks 20 x 20 cm in size, in the year 2020. Applications were assessed by a panel, comprised of GOST and PhotoAccess staff.

In total, the thirteen selected artists created 50 small works, which makes for a rather crowded gallery – despite a few not being displayed in it. Gallery owner and operator, Anne Masters, had a challenging choice to make when curating this show.

Rowena Yates has four images framed in deep set black boxes. There is much to see in each of these works if we spend adequate time looking into them. Yates says “This series explores the political and environmental consequences of climate change for farming families of the Ungarie district … and seeks to complicate stereotyping of primary producers as stoic ‘battlers’, particularly as these play out in popular constructions of national identity …’.

Brian MacAlister has created five works titled ‘not known to self’. In each work there are fascinating juxtapositions. He has used a combination of digital photography and photographic collage to give these works a contemporary edge.

Not known to self #2, inkjet prints, combination of digital photography and photographic collage © Brian MacAlister

Yvette Perine has created I-Type Polaroids documenting bushfire smoke, affected land, and regrowth. Appropriately, they are displayed close to Ian Skinner’s images of the bushfire aftermath at Cadgee. I was pleased to see a print of an image that was a finalist for Skinner in the recent Mullins Australian Conceptual Photography Prize – albeit a small cropped version.

Tessa Ivison has created lovely digital images on glass in a series titled “Liminal landscapes”, reflecting her view that 2020 has been a liminal year of despair and hope.

Liminal Landscapes – Sonder, digital image on glass © Tessa Iveson

Jason McDonald’s contribution is three exquisite works in solid oak box frames. The subject matter first seen is wildflowers, but closer inspection reveals small creatures, such as geckos, lizards, frogs, and hoverflies, among the flowers.

Bluebells, Golden Weather Grass, Lizards & Grass Hoppers, photograph on cotton rag paper, solid oak box frame with Ultra Vue glass © Jason McDonald

Sammy Hawker contributes some wonderful art with a set of Multigrade FB prints, made from 120 film developed with XTol and ocean water collected on site at Broulee. They each show great textures and details. I loved “Broulee detail 1”.

Thomas Edmondson is showing works created using medium format colour negative film. They show us varied observed urban subjects within 100km of his home.

Emily Bull pays homage to the acclaimed American photographer Vivian Maier’s self-portraits, with two inkjet prints reflecting a search for inner clarity.

Reflection (after Vivian Maier), 2020, Inkjet on cotton rag, framed © Emily Bull

David Lindesay’s Polaroid titled “Corrupted Touch” very much conveys a sense of touch despite his having altered and deformed his image by applying heat to the film.

Corrupted Touch, 2020, Polaroids, © David Lindsey

Sari Sutton has a series of framed digital inkjet prints. One of them “Orbital (brain)storm” is a great representation of what my brain must be like during times when my thoughts are all over the place.

Blankistan, framed digital Inkjet print on fine art cotton rag paper © Sari Sutton

Damien Laing contributes five digital prints of flying foxes. They are amusingly displayed directly above Sinead Alison’s five images documenting cats through windows. She is ‘inspired by Lee Friedlander’s ‘Mannequin’ and Herbert List’s ‘Monograph’. This body of work has allowed her to explore the light and play with reflection in all conditions … to capture a unique composition of these subjects in a surrealist yet documentary manner.

The cat pondered if it was inside or outside, May 2020, 35mm film negative hand developed and hand printed on Pearl Lustre Photo paper, crafted wooden glass frame  © Sinead Allison

This review was also published on 29 August 2020 by the Canberra Times (initially under Ron Cerabona’s name but later corrected to mine):

and on the Canberra Critics Circle blog:


Split, Abberation and Ghost Light

Photomedia Review

Three Artists: Split, Abberation and Ghost Light

Photo Access: Until 29 August 2020

Also online at

Staying at home during the COVID-19 lockdown, Chris Bowes turned his attention to live streams from CCTV cameras. Using footage sourced from a surveillance device in New York’s Times Square, he created Split, an imagined narrative.

It is a virtual certainty that those of us who have visited Times Square in New York City have seen the Naked Cowboy, one of many colourful characters who frequent the area daily entertaining the cheering crowds. I saw him in 2013. Bowes shows him walking the empty streets at the same time each day, always the same moves. He is stuck in a loop, playing guitar for pigeons, seemingly oblivious to the changed world – with no crowds of tourists smiling, laughing, capturing photos. He stills wears little – white cowboy hat and boots, and white briefs with a guitar strategically placed to give the illusion of nudity. And now a white face mask! The street is strangely empty beneath the billboards, in its own lockdown but revealing all the lines of road markings. Is the cowboy performing for us?

The Cowboy, 2020, Still from Split video installation
© Chris Bowes

​Jacinta Giles’ work, Abberation, also emerged during lockdown’s departure from normal. It came about partly as a result of consuming large amounts of media broadcasts about the coronavirus, despite her previously being an avid non-watcher.

Giles’ process explores how we store and recollect memories. She recorded many broadcasts then applied “memory-based processes” to create images and, for the moving image part, montaged many of them together. A photo of blue tape marking a spot for social distancing in a supermarket is used throughout as a means of holding the montage.

Aberration 1, 2020, Still from video installation
© Jacinta Giles

She also shows us four large stand-alone images, printed on an adhesive polyester fabric which can be removed and reused multiple times without any alteration or damage to the surface.

Left to Right: Concealed, Evidence, Spectre, Teetering, 2020,
photographic archival pigment prints, each 84.1 cm x 118.9 cm
© Jacinta Giles

Our third exhibitor is Victoria Wareham. She contributes Ghost Light, a two-channel video installation. Wareham and Giles have worked alongside each other for the past three years. In a recorded conversation between them on the Photo Access website, we hear them agree there are synergies in the way they approach the screen-based image as a trace.

Ghost Light is a two-channel, screen-based work that uses digitally altered 16mm film footage to highlight the relationship between touch and the screen-based image. Much of the time, we flick through screen images by swiping and scrolling, only lingering over a few. This work attempts to draw us in and communicate with us as images move across our screens.

The catalogue tells us that, for Wareham, screens are like ghosts. “We can manifest them, they are transparent, ephemeral, and surround us in a passive and unknowing way. We can choose to acknowledge and become aware of them by activating the images that lie dormant behind their glassy surfaces.” 

​Wareham’s own audio introduction to her work on the website is well worth listening to. She notes that, over the past few months, most of us have been living through our screens. She suggests there is a screen space just slightly out of time from our world. She is aware of that as an invisible zone between our world and the image world, seeing the screen-based image as a type of ghost. She seeks to bring the ghosts to the surface and encourage them to reach out and touch back. She digitally applied a blue overlay to elevate and draw attention to the screen itself, to highlight its presence as an invisible barrier and a forgotten horizon between the viewer and the screen-based image.

Ghost Light, 2019, Still from two-channel video installation
© Victoria Wareham

This review was also published on 15 August 2020 by the Canberra Times: and on the Canberra Critics Circle blog:


Where I Stand

Photography Review

Six Artists: Where I Stand

Exhibition Avenue, Australian National University, 31 October 2020

Exhibition Avenue is an exciting new initiative of Kambri at ANU, intended to provide an ever-changing ‘walk of art’ featuring indigenous artists, streets artists and emerging artists.

This initial, visually stunning exhibition, Where I Stand, is a selection from six iconic Australian photographers – Michael Cook, Dr. Judith Nangala Crispin, Sarah Ducker, Murray Fredericks, Aunty Barbara McGrady, and Michael Jalaru Torres. The images can be viewed at any time as they are lit throughout the night.

Each artist (most of them indigenous) shows four huge prints on the sides of steel cubes, each strengthened internally with water tanks. Twenty-four visual tales, each captured simply but powerfully, in single frames, connecting us to people, place and culture.

Cook is an award-winning photographer driven by a desire to explore issues of identity; his own life affected by adoption. He brings together the historical with the imaginary, and the political with the personal – referencing the Stolen Generation and his own adoption. We are shown images of an Aboriginal mother always alone, her baby absent, to interpret for ourselves. I appreciated the images for themselves, but also for the challenge of the messages in them.

© Michael Cook

Crispin is a local, Wamboin-based, visual artist. Her work includes themes of displacement and identity loss, a reflection on her own lost Aboriginal ancestry, but is primarily centred on the connection with Country. Here she has created beautiful portraits from images of roadkill. Her process involves exposing dark room paper to light, using chemicals to create detail, and glass painting – with layers of various materials to etch on any final details. They are exceptional artworks.

© Judith Nangala Crispin

Ducker’s creative life has moved through various media, before finding its current fluent and persuasive expression in photography. Every one of her images reveals the lyricism of the poetic in nature. Her first photographic exhibition captured small moments of life on the ground and natural world things of short-lived beauty, a theme that has become the core motif of her work. Here, she finds the tiny pulses of new life in growth from previously dormant buds on trees devastated by fire. I particularly enjoyed viewing these burnt landscapes against a background of living trees on the campus.

© Sarah Ducker

Traveling in the Middle East and the Himalayas provided the basis for Fredericks’ essentially self-taught photography. He views culture as something that cannot be wholly accounted for through social construct; his images attempt to represent the experience when we temporarily allow our minds to suspend our thoughts and face other things. His images here can only be described as spectacular. An image of fire and salt is one of the standouts in this exhibition.

© Murray Fredericks

McGrady is a passionate advocate for telling the true stories of contemporary Aboriginal life, documenting her mob’s achievements, humanity, and beauty through a unique black lens. She has previously documented the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sportspeople with great care and perseverance. Her exceptional imagery clearly defines the implications of the disconnect in her dual roles as observer and protagonist. Here she shows us Aboriginal dancers and smoking ceremonies in urban settings.

© Barbara McGrady

Torres is an indigenous fine art photographer who draws on his personal history and explores contemporary social and political issues facing indigenous people. Much of his work involves conceptual portraiture and abstract landscapes. He wants to encourage us to seek out more truth in our own ways, whilst encouraging us to feel connected to country. Here he gives us closeups of heads, embraces and a seaside baptism. The richness of the colours in these images is striking, almost mesmerising.

© Michael Jalaru Torres

This review was also published on 15 August 2020 by the Canberra Times:

and on the Canberra Critics Circle blog:


First Response

Martin Ollman, Marissa McDowell, Anna Georgia: First Response. Tuggeranong Arts Centre. Until September 19, 2020.

First Response comprises four works commissioned to document Canberra’s initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This review looks at the three photography, film and video works in the exhibition. The fourth work was a live dance response choreographed by Shannon Hanrahan, seeking to explore the way that dance artists can work around, and even be inspired, by spatial limitations.

Photographer Martin Ollman is a freelancer based in Canberra. He has had more than 2000 of his images published around the world and has been awarded two national photographic awards. During the initial stages of Canberra’s pandemic response, he was granted access to frontline health services, political figures, and major institutions, including the Australian parliamentary Senate inquiry into it.

Ollman’s work in the exhibition, Plagued, comprises eight large monochrome digital prints on aluminium and a huge digital print on vinyl. The latter is the first thing to attract attention when you walk into the gallery. It is a collage of many images, including portraits of health workers, members of the arts and tertiary education communities and politicians, and it fills two walls. Whilst having impact for its sheer size and vibrant colours, I enjoyed his other works more. Seven of the eight are traditional portraits. Of those, the image of Nigel McRae and Beth Tully revealed something of the importance of companionship, whilst one of Peter Barclay spoke about mateship.

Martin Ollman 2020 Nigel and Beth Smith's Alternative

Nigel and Beth, Smith’s Alternative © Martin Ollman, 2020

Martin Ollman 2020 Peter Barclay

Peter Barclay © Martin Ollman, 2020

The eighth print portrays several frontline health workers by showing some of their personal protective equipment hanging on hooks with their names.

Martin Ollman, 2020. First Response, 2020

First Response, 2020 © Martin Ollman, 2020

Marissa McDowell is a Wiradjuri woman with Irish and English ancestry who has worked with Indigenous communities telling their stories through documentary film making, photography, and writing.

McDowell’s work here, Isolation, is a short documentary film exploring the COVID-19 experience of Canberra’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, including their unique fears and hopes for the community’s future.

The film features personal accounts from a broad range of community members, including Elders Aunty Matilda House and Uncle Warren Daley, artists Brenda Croft and Dale Huddleston, and local students, offering insights into how they felt about these new and unfamiliar circumstances, how it has affected their families, businesses and education and their thoughts about the future.

The audio can be listened to through headphones, but I found it better to read the captions across the bottom of the video screen. The film is well made and very interesting. I was particularly struck by the fact that many of the issues identified by the indigenous community members were the same as I have heard identified by others, myself included.

Anna Georgia completed a Bachelor of Arts (History, Philosophy, Film Studies), then pursued a Masters of Visual Anthropology in the Granada Centre of Visual Anthropology at the University of Manchester. This quasi-artistic field values the contributions that audio-visual mediums have to offer in the ethnographic description of human experience.

Georgia’s work here, Notes on Canberra Lockdown (A Non-Travelogue), draws on her training in ethnographic filmmaking and investigates many aspects of the lives of individuals during the restrictions and the economic downturn; including everyday circumstances and states of mind, digital engagement, and material spaces.

This film is, for me, the highlight of the overall show. Sitting watching the material on two side by side monitors I was drawn into the story being told and by the high-quality imagery I was viewing. The soundtrack did not appeal as much, perhaps because I found the volume unnecessarily loud. Indeed, it was why I found it easier to read the captions on Isolation which is showing in the same gallery space.

Still from Notes on Canberra Lockdown (A Non-Travelogue) by Anna Georgia

Still from Notes on Canberra Lockdown (A Non-Travelogue) © Anna Georgia

This review was also published in The Canberra Times at and on the Canberra Critics Circle blog at, both on 8 August 2020.


The Body Electric

Photography Review

Various artists: The Body Electric

National Gallery of Australia | Until 26 January 2021

The Body Electric presents works by 25 woman-identifying artists, pioneers with respect to recent photography and video. It is about sex, pleasure, and desire; celebrates women’s erotic experiences; explores stories of domestic intimacy and love; examines how women’s sexuality has historically been represented; and shows sex, love, and loss as an animating part of human experience.

On the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) website, Curator Anne O’Hehir highlights one of the artists, Nan Goldin. O’Hehir notes that, historically, photography has played a pivotal role in the way sex and sexuality are seen in society; images of women by heterosexual men for heterosexual men dominating. This exhibition reveals a different view to us. O’Hehir’s piece is well worth reading before visiting.

A tender image by Pixy Liao used on the NGA website to represent the exhibition on its listing of current exhibitions clearly illustrates intimacy. Her other works shown are sexy and surreal.


Pixy Liao – Some words are just between us from Experimental relationship 2010
chromogenic photograph, 40.6 cm x 50.8 cm
image courtesy of the artist

Australian Polly Borland is also represented. Others have said her artistic work tends to marry the infantile with a sexual interest in parts of the body other than the sexual organs. The examples here are consistent with that view.


Polly Borland – MORPH 9 2018
pigment inkjet print, 200 cm x 162.5 cm
image courtesy of the artist and Murray White Room, Melbourne
© Polly Borland

A 1976 work by Jo Ann Callis portrays an anonymous woman seated, holding a flashlight in one hand. Decide for yourself what her purpose is but, almost certainly, we are meant to think about masturbation.


Jo Ann Callis – Untitled (woman with flashlight) c 1976
pigment inkjet print, 40.6 cm x 50.8 cm
image courtesy of ROSEGALLERY, © the artist

Christine Godden shows us her own umbilicus in a simple selfie. The title of this work is Self. Sunny day in winter 1974. An alternate title used for this image is Jeans and jumper. Both titles are simple descriptions of things in the image, leaving the interpretation of it open to us as viewers. Many of Godden’s works are intended to show ‘how women see and how women think’.


Christine Godden – Self. Sunny day in winter 1974
gelatin silver photograph, 14.9 cm x 22.6 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
gift of the artist 1987, © the artist

Works by Nan Goldin are much more powerful. Again, titles are simple, but there is strong material in these images.


Nan Goldin – Nan and Brian in bed, NYC 1983
dye destruction photograph, 39 (h) x 59.9 (w) cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
purchased 1994, © the artist

Likewise, to the casual observer, a beautiful backlit transparency by Petrina Hicks might be seen simply as a photo of a woman hiding her face behind a rather lovely conch shell. However, the shape of the shell immediately speaks of the pleasure and desire this exhibition is about.


Petrina Hicks – Venus from the series The Shadows 2013
backlit transparent archival film (lightbox), 118.5 cm x 118.5 cm
image courtesy the artist and Michael Reid Sydney + Berlin

Fiona Pardington rephotographed found erotic 1950s images of women. Intended for publication in men’s magazines as pornographic fodder, they fit neatly into her thinking that photography is deeply sexy.

Collier Schorr challenges binary notions of gender and sexuality, reflecting both her queerness and desire. She asserts that her photographs of men and boys are of ‘women’.

Francesca Woodman plays hide and seek with her own body, producing intense yet witty and playful images.

Claire Lambe contributes a provocative red image that allows viewers to muse extensively as to what she is seeking to say to us.


Claire Lambe – Untitled (red Emily) 2017
chromogenic photograph, 94 cm x 140 cm
image courtesy of the artist and Sarah Scout Presents

An exhibition such as this must include work by Cindy Sherman. Here is a disturbingly explicit view of a female doll crouched on knees with a ready plastic orifice.


Cindy Sherman – Untitled #255 2018
chromogenic photograph, 114.9 cm x 173.4 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
purchased 1997, chromogenic print, © the artist

I invited my wife to accompany me to the exhibition so that I might witness her reactions and discuss the works. I also observed other visitors, mostly older women. But none of them, of whatever age or gender, revealed their thoughts to me.

Another of the included photographers, Annie Sprinkle, is quoted as saying “I want to tell women that they are sexually powerful beings, but they often don’t get in touch with it because they are socialised to please men.” Is that still true today? Each of us will have our own thoughts.

This review was originally commissioned by the Canberra Times but not used by them. I have also published it on the Canberra Critics Circle’s blog today here.


2020 Mullins Australian Conceptual Photography Prize

Photography Review

Various artists | 2020 Mullins Australian Conceptual Photography Prize

Magnet Galleries, Docklands, Melbourne | Until 1 August 2020

The annual Mullins Australian Conceptual Photography Prize (MACPP) is conducted by the Australian Photographic Society. The 2020 winners were announced on 9 July during an onsite exhibition opening in the Magnet Galleries, simultaneously livestreamed to a broader audience nationwide via Zoom. Sadly, the physical exhibition is closed to visitors because of the Melbourne lockdown. However, the gallery has created a wonderful virtual gallery which allows us to explore all the images. There is a link on their Website

Of 34 finalist images selected by the judges, an extraordinary 9 of them are by Canberra artists – Sophie Dumaresq, Ian Skinner, Lyndall Gerlach, Mark Van Veen, Judy Parker, Jim McKenna, and me. So, it was not altogether surprising when one of them, Judy Parker, was announced as the winner of the major prize of $10,000 cash for one of her two finalist images.

Dumpster Sketchbook- Waterside - by Judy Parker

Dumpster Sketchbook: Waterside © Judy Parker

Parker’s concept statement for the image read: Recently I took a series of photographs of the side panels of a large open container at a local recycling centre. The markings had a wonderfully strong graphic quality, red rust-lines on a silver-painted surface: a calligraphy of wear and tear. When I processed my images, I was intrigued by the way sections of the random patterns suggested a series of semi-abstract coastal landscapes, each quite different. I modified three of these to reinforce the reference and combined them as a triptych. Our minds are not limited to the literal. They can equally re-identify and re-imagine.

Parker’s second finalist image quickly brought a smile to my face for its creation of a human emotion in an inanimate object.

Delighted Vertebra - by Judy Parker

Delighted Vertebrae © Judy Parker

Other prize winners were Louise Alexander from Western Australia and Anne O’Connor from Launceston, both of whom entered excellent works. Alexander’s image about wanting to hide and not be seen was a standout for me. O’Connor’s work features red hand stitching representing the blood of humanity and the land in their struggle for survival.

014 Beige Chair

Beige Chair © Louise Alexander

055 The Price of Water

The Price of Water © Anne O’Connor

Amongst the other Canberran finalists, one of the works that I most enjoyed was The Hairy Panic, Untitled 15 by another Canberran, Sophie Dumaresq.

The Hairy Panic, Unitled #15 - by Sophie Dumaresq

The Hairy Panic, Untitled 15 © Sophie Dumaresq

It is part of Dumaresq’s series of photographs of a Land Art Installation that took place out in the windswept grasslands surrounding Lake George. That full series was exhibited in Canberra’s Nishi Gallery in March/April 2020. Another image from the series was a finalist in the 2020 Goulburn Art Prize.

Ian Skinner’s two finalist images wonderfully tell their sad stories of loss by his friends because of the New Year’s Eve bushfires at Cadgee.

Aftermath Cadgee 2020 No.1 - by Ian Skinner

Aftermath Cadgee 2020 No.1 © Ian Skinner

Aftermath Cadgee 2020 No.3 - by Ian Skinner

Aftermath Cadgee 2020 No.3 © Ian Skinner

Lyndall Gerlach features with an evocative creation titled Skinbark, from her “Textures of Life” series exploring age and ageing both emotionally and visually.

Skinbark (Textures of Life Series) - by Lyndall Gerlach

Skinbark ©Lyndall Gerlach

Mark Van Veen also brought us an image from an ongoing series, “Point of Return”, exploring reflections in our urban environment and how they alter our view of the world.

Blue Kimono Takamatsu 2019 7626 - by Mark Van Veen

Blue Kimono Takamatsu 2019 7626 © Mark Van Veen

Jim McKenna (technically no longer a Canberran as he has moved to the Bega Valley, but still a participating member of the Canberra Photographic Society) tells a powerful story about life’s journey.

Lifes Journey

Life’s Journey © James McKenna

And the final featured Canberran is me with an image seeking to show that there is nothing to fear.

The Black Crow - by Brian Rope

The Black Crow © Brian Rope

I could discuss every other image in this fine exhibition, but I’ll leave that to you to explore them for yourself via the virtual gallery mentioned in the opening paragraph of this. After exploring them you can vote for the People’s Choice Award. I haven’t decided yet but am leaning towards giving my personal vote to an image about the need for good to triumph over despair.

185 Helena and Florek

Helena and Florek © Sue Joy