A Horse Called Cow

After years of listening to other people talk about it, I eventually went to New Zealand. It was a long time ago and it was during one summer. I was there for twenty four days altogether and saw a great deal of both the main islands. I’ve returned to the South Island since and seen places I missed on my first trip. But I’m sure I could return to the Land of the Long White Cloud for as long again and still not have seen anything like all of it. Most of you who have been to New Zealand would, I’m sure, agree.

Which was your favourite island – the North or the South? That question has been asked by so many, seemingly wanting confirmation of their own views. I find it difficult to answer. The South Island has its wonderful mountains and rain forests. The North Island has its magnificent thermal areas. And yes, both had their disappointments for me, because expectations had been built too high by some of my friends. You probably already have your own favourite parts of New Zealand, perhaps even if you haven’t been there in person!

So, let me tell you something which you may not have seen or heard about. It is almost certainly not still there, because so many years have passed since I saw it. It was a horse named cow. On one side anyway!

Along the stunningly beautiful road to Milford, where the rain forest makes you drool, there is a great deal to see. Water cascades down its twisting and turning and plunging courses, through chasms and gullies, over rocks, sometimes meandering more slowly along more tranquil landscapes. Mountain peaks soar high above, today piercing fluffy white clouds, tomorrow shrouded in forbidding grey swirls of precipitation which makes the fungi, lichens and tree ferns shine with life. A cheeky and inquisitive Kea bird in a roadside car park uses its unbelievably strong beak to vigorously attack a plastic grocery store bag which a thoughtless tourist has left hanging from a tree.

Along this magical route there is a turn-off. Eleven kilometres after emerging from the one-in-ten gradient downward run through the solid rock 1.2Km long Homer tunnel, there is another road leading into the Hollyford River. It took me to Gunn’s Camp five hundred metres above sea level with its old cabins and signpost proclaiming “NZ’s MOST IMPORTANT PROJECT – HOLLYWOOD-WESTLAND ROAD 80K”.

This was a political message far away from the eyes of New Zealand’s then leaders in Wellington. And, since they tend to stick to the major routes, it was also a message unseen by most tourists travelling to or from Milford. Not everyone would have shared the view that a road should be constructed through from here to the Westland region, and it was a somewhat surprising message to find at a place where trampers – hikers, walkers, trekkers, bushwalkers if you prefer – could camp. But, no doubt, the proponents had expressed their message in other ways as well as on this little seen signpost.

But I hadn’t come to see this signpost, or to consider the merits of a new road. I had come looking for a horse, supposedly called “cow”. I had read a throwaway comment in my 1991 Lonely Planet Guidebook and thought I may as well take a look, as I was so close. And there it was. Not close enough to get a decent photo and, seemingly, camera shy as it kept moving and hiding each time I pointed my camera lens in its direction. But I did get one image which proves the key part of my story to be true. Painted on one side was the word “COW”. On the other side, of which I did not manage to get a photo, it read “HORSE”.


Why? The answer was simple. The horse’s owner, one Murray Gunn, was worried that shooters aiming at “anything brown that moved” might mistake his horse for a deer, unless he labelled it. After painting “HORSE” in large white letters on one side of his favourite horse, he just decided to paint “COW” on the other side! Apparently if you walk the Hollyford Track from Gunn’s Camp, your guides might also tell you that this Fiordland character said “city slickers wouldn’t know the difference and sometimes he needed the milk”.

The horse called cow was just one of the many tourist attractions in New Zealand when I first visited. Not as famous as many others, but interesting nevertheless.

By way of a postscript, Murray Gunn is also famous for having presented New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Helen Clark, with a memento after she decided that, perhaps, free trade in nuclear arms with the USA may not be the most beneficial thing for her country after all. Murray Gunn died in 2014 at the age of 89.

– Brian Rope


Clubmen Characters

Clubmen Characters

No, this is not an article about those odd people who frequent sporting or licensed clubs playing sports or the poker machines, propping up the bar or feeding in the bistro. It is actually about some of the men who have been members of the Canberra Photographic Society (CPS) over the years – some are still members. Yes, photographic clubs have clubmen characters too!

Take Murray for starters. Now there is a real character. Murray hails from New Zealand. That makes him different for a start. He used to own and use a CAP 40 colour print processor and go bushwalking with a view camera. When he was CPS President he used to deliver delightful Presidential reports at annual meetings whilst stroking his long beard. He wore John Lennon glasses when he lost his contact lenses. And took pictures with a Widelux. Definitely a character.

EPSON MFP imageMurray Foote

I think this image of Murray and all the others below were taken by either Alan Chapple or Jim Mason on one CPS meeting night. Jim is 90% sure they were all taken by Alan.

What about Orlando? We were amused when he first showed us a picture and told us the exposure time was “two cups of coffee”. Who else would put their camera on the still warm bonnet of their car to photograph a tree lit by a street light when the temperature was close to freezing? We used to wonder if he realised cameras worked by daylight too. He became a complete expert on night imagery, had a one man exhibition of night photos and could even make night shots look like they were taken in daylight. Another bearded character he was.

EPSON MFP imageOrlando Luminere

Keith was the one who was most likely to enter into debate with the judges. When you’ve been involved with photography as long as he had, why shouldn’t you take the judges to task? “I know Mr Kodak has made it possible to record every colour of the rainbow, but do we have to have them all in the one image?” Keith was a most suitable subject for photographic character studies – grey hair and beard, glasses, pipe smoker, and a well-rounded figure. A good place to capture him was at the arts and crafts market at Gorman house when he was selling his own black and white prints. There was no such thing as colour in Keith’s photographic world!

EPSON MFP imageKeith Bogg

Fred was another bespectacled and bearded character who had been around the game for a long time. He really liked to stir up judges too. Montages of numerous postcard-sized commercial prints joined together to create an overall impression of a place. Or why not a laser copy print rather than one produced using an enlarger? Anything for a stir.

EPSON MFP imageFred Doutch (I think that’s right)

Ian, on the other hand to Keith, was a colour worker only. Didn’t sport a beard either. Graduated tobacco filters warmed his cool skies. Speed filters made static objects move. Trees and people were known to grow during Ian’s exposures. Statues of athletes began to perform like the real persons they represented. Bold black shadows created patterns over colourful flower beds when Ian’s camera or enlargers worked their montage magic!

EPSON MFP imageIan McInnes

Maurie managed to capture his images in both colour and monochrome. He loved the high country, especially when it was covered by snow. And he didn’t mind whether it was in Australia, Switzerland, France or wherever. He loved it and that love showed in his photographs of it. Told us he was working on a ten year project to document the Kosciusko National park region in all of its seasons. Hoped to publish a book about it one day. Lectured for us occasionally – quite esoteric and moved well. Wore a beard too!

EPSON MFP imageMaurie Weidemann

Bob’s main claim to fame was that he was the shortest, bearded member of the club. In terms of physical height that is. For some curious reason he was also interested in the Society’s history and was able to provide, or extract, odd snippets of information from our archives from time to time. Bob didn’t take as many photos as some of us and the unkind were known to make sarcastic remarks when a placing in the monthly competition revealed his camera had been used.

EPSON MFP imageBob Legge

Denis was a lawyer so I must be very, very careful with what I say about him. He didn’t have a beard, loved cats, had raced bicycles and had a habit of putting captions under some of his prints. Once he even did a photo series illustrating the adventures of a toy exploring parts of Canberra. Reminds me a little of that other member who photographs a spoon in odd places. I hope I’ve avoided a lawsuit.

EPSON MFP imageDenis Jessop

Trevor was another member, with a touch of what one might call rotundity. He liked to photograph cars and planes. Fast cars, fast planes. On display and static. Or doing their thing. Trevor only ever sported a moustache. Does anyone remember his surname?

EPSON MFP imageTrevor

Colin was a dentist. Not that that has anything to do with his photography. Except that he had been known to photograph the shadows of his dental equipment on the wall of his surgery. Actually Colin was quite keen on photographing shadows generally. Perhaps it came from having x-rayed shadows in teeth? Another clean shaven member.

EPSON MFP imageColin Rickard

I could go on for ever. There was another Peter and a couple more Johns. There was Ross, Bruce, Brendan and yours truly. I don’t know all the names to go with the images, so if you can help with identifying someone please let me know.

EPSON MFP imagePeter Dawson

EPSON MFP imageJohn Coen

EPSON MFP imageJohn (Jack) Clarke

EPSON MFP imageRoss Yarnold?

EPSON MFP imageWho was this?

EPSON MFP imageAnd who was this?

EPSON MFP imageYours truly Brian Rope

As you can see all these men made quite good character studies when cameras are trained on them by other members. And, yes, I know we have women members too in the club – and none of them have beards. But, as they say, that’s another story.

– Brian Rope


The Great Bicentenary Photography Project

All around Australia in 1988 people celebrated in thousands of different ways. The images were there for the taking.

To help Aussies celebrate Australia’s Bicentenary our various levels of government poured many of our tax and rates dollars into a myriad of projects and events. Through one arrangement, known as the Local Government Initiative Grants Scheme. A group of Canberra Photographic Society (CPS) photographers were given an opportunity to record our city’s celebrations.

The Australian Bicentennial Authority and the ACT Administration funded the CPS project. Members of the CPS photographed as many as possible of the Bicentennial events in Canberra. The ACT Administration bought the film and paid for all processing. The CPS members shot the film and did much of the processing. They were not paid, except for the processing costs. But retained unencumbered rights to use and market their own pictures.

There were something like 500 endorsed or funded Bicentennial events and projects, and many other private celebrations, in Canberra.

At the small event end of the scale we had a lady who painted a fire hydrant outside her home in green and gold – only to become the immediate target of some protestors opposing the Bicentenary and some neighbours who didn’t like the end result. The major event, perhaps, was the visit by her majesty Queen Elizabeth II, to officially open our stunning new Parliament house. In between, there was everything from the establishment of a heritage trail around Lake Burley Griffin to a massed display of one million flowering bulbs and annuals in Commonwealth Park from 17 September to 9 October – the inaugural Floriade. There was even a photography convention, APSCON’88, conducted by the Australian Photographic Society.

Events photographed by the CPS members included the Street Machine Summernats, a Friendship Cycle Ride, several festivals, a visit by cadets of the Japanese Tall Ship (the Nippon Maru) and the unveiling of an enormous three part painting. Over 4000 images had been produced by early May 1988. Some had been published, some had been sold, copies had been requested by and given to politicians, and some had been entered with success in CPS competitions.

The major objective was for the ACT Administration to mount an exhibition of 100 prints in early 1989, at first in Canberra but, hopefully, to then go on a tour throughout Australia and, even, overseas.

By the end of 1988, six thousand images had been created by seventeen different CPS members during seventy different Bicentennial events, with some events covered by more than one of the photographers. Only one of the photographed events took place outside of Canberra. That was a voyage on the Young Endeavour sail training ship in Sydney harbour by a group of young Canberra people with disabilities or terminal illnesses.

One hundred of the images were selected for the exhibition, sixty seven in colour (half from negatives and half from transparencies) and thirty three in black and white. Forty of the images were printed for the exhibition by the photographers themselves. The others were printed by a professional laboratory. There was a concentration in the images on the people of Canberra participating in the celebrations, which happened to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the City of Canberra.

Of the seventeen CPS members who participated just one was not represented in the exhibition, which took place at the then Link Gallery in the Canberra Theatre Centre in March 1989.

Keith Bogg took 900 photographs at fifteen events. These included a senior Citizens Garden Party and Concert, the Australia Day Shooting Championships, the Multicultural Australia Day Jazz Festival, the launch of the History of Canberra and Lifeline’s Book Fair.

Jack Clarke took 324 photographs at 13 events, including Australia Day in the National Capital, the National Food and Wine Frolic and the recommissioning of the Paddle Steamer “Enterprise”. John Coen took 36 photos at just one event. Peter Dawson took 144 photos at the Royal Race Meeting. Fred Doutch took 360 photos at 10 events, including Lunch and All That Jazz, and the Official Opening of New Parliament House.

Murray Foote took 252 photos at five events, including the Canberra Festival and Versailles in Canberra. Murray was also involved in the Bicentenary in other ways. He produced colour images for the Bicentennial History of Australian Lighthouses “From Dusk to Dawn” and an exhibition of his prints from that project appeared at the Link Gallery (1988) and Parliament house (1989).

Trevor Gilbert and Denis Jessop each took 144 photos at two events. Bruce Harriott captured 360 images at four events. Bob Legge produced 72 images at the Great Australian Balloon Gathering. Ian McInnes captured 288 photos at three events, including Anzac Day and the Australian National Eisteddfod.

Brendan Mulhall took 360 photos at the National Capital Motathlon and the family fun run. Peter Paseka took 756 at nine events, Colin Rickard 72 at two events, Maurie Weidemann 432 at six events and Ross Yarnold 144 at four events.

I took more images than anyone – 1040 images at twenty eight events, including the Young Endeavour voyage on Sydney harbour on a wet and windy December day. Just a few of them are included below.  I was also involved in the Bicentennial in other ways; one being that I co-ordinated the community photography project “Personal Views” for the Australian Bicentennial Exhibition – and some of my own works were included in that touring exhibition.

1988.08.12 - Bob Hawke and. Cutting the Australopedia Cake

Cutting the cake at Launch of Australopedia by PM Hawke

1988.12.17 - Young Endeavour 2 - small

Young Canberrans with disabilities hauling on the rope on board the Young Endeavour on Sydney Harbour

1988.12.17 - Young Endeavour 3 - small

Proudly displaying his certificate of participation on the Young Endeavour voyage

1988 - Royal Flags 1 - small

Royal Visit “Flags” on display. (The “flags” were designed by yours truly and not well received. The protocol people strongly objected to pennants being flown from flagpoles, and some people thought they looked like the silks worn by jockeys! One of them was presented to me at my farewell from the public service!)

1988 - National Gathering 1 - small

Cross at National Gathering (of Christians)

1988 - Royal Race Meeting 1 - small

Media photographers lined up at the Royal Race Meeting

1988 - Royal Race Meeting 2 - cropped small

The Queen being escorted into the enclosure to present a trophy at the Royal Race Meeting

Our group of seventeen photographers were given a great opportunity to document the whole year of celebrations in our own city. CPS demonstrated the skills of its members when the 100 selected images were displayed in the Link Gallery exhibition, “Bicentennial celebrations in Canberra” in March 1989.


Cover of program for “Bicentennial celebrations in Canberra”

After the exhibition concluded the 100 prints were placed in safe storage by the ACT Administration. The hoped for touring exhibition did not eventuate, but it was intended that appropriate prints from the collection would be put on display again at appropriate future times and events. That has never happened. Even worse, enquiries suggest that the collection of prints has disappeared; certainly nobody within the ACT Administration seems able to ascertain what happened to them. At least I have my own negatives and transparencies.


– Brian Rope