Some history around my entering this world

On 3 March 1942, temperatures stayed below freezing over much of the Midlands and Southern England.

My birth certificate indicates that I began my life outside of the womb on 3 March 1942 at Matlock.

Birth Certificate

In fact, I was born at Willersley Castle in Cromford, a few miles down the road from Matlock, the births registration centre sub-district which takes in Cromford. This is in the county of Derbyshire in England, on the edge of what is known as the Peak District.

My birth certificate records that my dad, James William Rope, was Gunner 1076690 Royal Artillery (Laundryman) at that time. My mother was Eileen Elsie (nee Davey). So, the first days of my life were spent in Willersley Castle. Dad was in the army at that time but not overseas, so was able to obtain leave to come and visit mum and meet me.

Of course, at the same time as I emerged into the world, another far more significant event was happening – World War II. On the day I was born, a supplement to the London Gazette announced “The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the following awards: — Distinguished Flying Cross. Wing Commander Henry Neville Gynes RAMSBOTTOM-ISHERWOOD, A.F.C. (29116). Squadron Leader Anthony Garforth MILLER (90088), Auxiliary Air Force, No. 134 Squadron. Acting Squadron Leader Anthony Hartwell ROOK (90071), Auxiliary Air Force, No. 81 Squadron. The above awards are for gallantry and devotion to duty in the execution of air operations.”

3 March 1942 was also the night of a major RAF raid on the Renault works in Paris.

RAF raid on Renault Paris

Image above and words immediately below sourced from

Annotated vertical taken during night raid on the Renault works at Boulogne-Billancourt, west of the centre of Paris. The largest number of RAF aircraft sent to a single target at that point in the war – 235 – were despatched, dropping a record tonnage of bombs. A significant development was the mass use of flares to illuminate the target (‘1’ and ‘2’). Smoke and flame from exploding bombs can be seen on the factory (‘3’), and also on the Ile St Germain (‘4’ and ‘5’). Only one aircraft, a Vickers Wellington, was lost during the raid, which was judged to be a great success.

Another event on 3 March 1942, but on the other side of the world in a country that was to become my future home, saw Japanese fighter aircraft, fresh from their victories in the then Dutch East Indies, attack Broome in Western Australia. Nine Japanese Zero planes strafed the town, planning to destroy the aerodrome and American planes. With no notice, the townsfolk could only put up minimal opposition and in an attack that lasted only an hour, almost one hundred men, women and children lost their lives. Not a single operational aircraft remained in Broome. The town itself was reduced to ruins. The full story of this has been told in “The Ghosts of Roebuck bay” by Ian W. Shaw, a Canberra writer.

Broome 3.3.42

Plaque in Broome, 2010 © Brian Rope

So, I was born a “pommy” and, later, became an “aussie”. To start at the beginning and explain why I was born in a castle, it is necessary to provide some relevant history.

Once upon a time there was a famous Mothers’ Hospital in London. It traces its origins to the work for unmarried mothers begun in the earliest days of the Salvation Army. ‘Refuge Homes’ for poor and destitute women were provided in private houses in various parts of London. As part of this scheme the Salvation Army established a home at Ivy House, Mare Street, Hackney in 1884. Many of the women seeking shelter there were pregnant, and in 1888 the Salvation Army decided to dedicate Ivy House to the confinement of unmarried mothers.

Although maternity hospitals had existed in Britain since the eighteenth century, these were almost entirely reserved for married mothers only. This was the first time that maternity hospital facilities had been combined with a ‘Home of Refuge’.

The hospital trained its first student midwife in 1889 and more than 250 pupil midwives graduated from the school during its eighteen year’s existence at Ivy House. During this period, the hospital continued to expand, and more buildings were bought.

One of the later developments was a mother-and-baby home called Cotland, based at 11 Springfield Road, Upper Clapton. It existed between 1912 and 1920, and many of the women mentioned in the records of the Mothers’ Hospital gave Cotland as an address.

Finally, the Salvation Army purchased land in Lower Clapton Road, London E5 in order to build a hospital dedicated to unmarried mothers. In 1912, the foundation stone for the new Mothers’ Hospital was laid by Princess Louise, daughter to Queen Victoria, and the Hospital was officially opened in 1913. Designed for 600 births per year, it soon outgrew its facilities and various extensions were made over the years.

The new hospital continued to uphold the teaching tradition of Ivy House and midwives were trained to the standards of the London Obstetrical Society and of the Central Midwives Board (CMB). Pupils attended classes for Parts I and II of the examinations of the CMB and gained experience both on the wards and in District work.

The First World War meant that the hospital opened its doors to both married and unmarried women. Soldiers could not always send enough money to their families and the loss of many lives often caused acute poverty. Therefore, it was decided that the hospital would be allowed to admit married women whose husbands were in the Army or Navy or had been killed. So, then the hospital began to accept both married and unmarried mothers.

Between the two World Wars, many improvements and additions were made. In 1921, the new Nurses’ Home and Theatre were opened by Queen Mary. By the 1930s, the number of births had risen to 2,000 per annum. The hospital suffered damage during the Second World War, but fortunately there was no great loss of life.

Although the hospital remained in service throughout the war for those who did not leave London, arrangements were made for evacuations to Willersley Castle in Matlock, Derbyshire and to Bragborough Hall, Northamptonshire.

Off to Willersley

Women off to Willersley Castle during the Second World War, c.1941 © Salvation Army Heritage Centre

Willersley Castle itself has a most interesting history. Its construction began in 1790, commissioned by Sir Richard Arkwright, the great industrialist who developed the Water Frame which revolutionised the cotton milling industry in this country and all around the world. In 1791 a fire broke out causing severe damage to part of the interior of the castle, a major setback in construction. The damage was repaired, but sadly Arkwright died in 1792 before completion of the building. His son, also named Richard, moved into Willersley Castle with his family in 1796 and the family continued to live there until 1922.

Willersley Castle

Sourced from Internet – author unknown

In 1927 a group of Methodist businessmen bought Willersley Castle as a Methodist Guild Holiday Centre and opened its doors on the 5th May 1928. It became a popular location for young Methodists, with its tennis courts, bowling green, games field and organised excursions in the Peak District proving a real success.

As I’ve already described, during the Second World War the Castle was used as a Maternity Hospital by the Salvation Army. Over four thousand babies were born at Willersley between 1940 and 1946.

Many of the original features could still be seen when I visited Willersley Castle in 1978 and, again, in 2006. In 1978 it was a place where young underprivileged girls were given holidays. I chanced to visit on an Open Day and managed to sneak in through the gate without an invitation ticket but could not get inside the building.

I had better luck in 2006, by when it had become part of a chain of temperance hotels operated by Christian Guild (a trading name for Methodist Guild Holidays). It was, and still is, a popular hotel. In addition to providing holidays, it also catered for residential conferences, day conferences, coach parties and group meals.

It is now possible to visit without staying there. Willersley is open every day, 365 days a year, for coffee and lunch and afternoon tea. Management says that l inks with the past are never far away: a special break every year sees the return and reunion of Willersley Babies – those like me who were born there when it was a maternity hospital.

‘People kept visiting and saying, “I’ve come here because it’s on my birth certificate”. So, we investigated a bit and put it out there and said, why not invite them? Some come just once, some come every year. It’s lovely.’

I did not stay there but did go inside and have a look around and speak with staff about having been one of the 4,000 babies born there.

Brian at Willersley - by Robyn

Me outside the castle entrance, 2006 © Robyn Swadling

The most striking feature is the Well Gallery, an oval gallery with a glass dome situated in the centre of the building, with cantilevered galleries on the first and second floors. An Adams archway leads through the building towards the Well Gallery, whilst the Music Room, Drawing Room and Dining Rooms all contain their original Adams fireplaces.

Willersley-Cotswolds 012

The Well Gallery, 2006 © Brian Rope

Willersley-Cotswolds 018 corrected &cropped small

The reception corridor 2006 © Brian Rope

So, there it is, a little about how I entered this world and some history associated with it.



The Salon

Photography Review: THE SALON

Members’ Exhibition: PhotoAccess Online Gallery

16 April – 16 May 2020

The Salon is an opportunity for PhotoAccess to showcase recent work of its diverse membership. The aim is to celebrate the breadth and diversity of the community’s creative and technical practice. Work in, or incorporating, any photographic medium (including digital and darkroom prints, video, photo-sculpture and installation) was welcome for submission.

This year, for reasons that need no explanation, the exhibits are on the brand new online gallery space: Photo Access hopes viewers enjoy the new format, and the works of their brave members willing to take a leap of faith into the unknown!

In her catalogue essay, Virginia Rigney reminds us that “The salon hang – instituted in the high-ceilinged drawing rooms and art academies of Europe to be an annual open gathering of the latest works made by their members – was traditionally the place to test response and their social attention rivalled sporting events. An exhibitor at these 19th century Salons would look anxiously to see where their work had been hung. At eye line was a sure sign of favoured status – too high or too low might consign the work to the fate of forgettability.  But for the impartial spectator, the pictures seemed to jostle next to each other in spirited companionship. To witness a crowd gathered around a work – debating its merits – would be a measure of its currency.” Sadly, we are not able to do that on this occasion. We have instead to view the salon in the intimacy of our own digital screens.

​Whilst many images in the exhibition reflect on the recent and current disasters, many others do not. There are numerous photographs taken at other places far away that might remind us of opportunities we hope to take in the future.

Helen McFadden’s Ndutu Lions, 2019 shows us two male lions still resting in the shrubbery as the sun came up over Ndutu at the southern edge of the Serengeti plains. The bleached silver vegetation makes this image different to so many other shots of lions that we have all seen. Andree Lawrey’s Hokkaido Winter is simply a delicious artwork.

Still overseas, Kleber Osorio has contributed a very strong monochrome image utilising the hard light and shadows he saw at the Tate Modern to reveal the silhouettes of visitors.

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Kleber Osorio, Shades of Tate, 2018, Inkjet Print

Eva Van Gorsel takes us away from Canberra too, beautifully showing us an iconic Australian outback scene.


Eva Van Gorsel, Nightfall, 2020, inkjet print, 25 x 44cm

Also away from Canberra, but in a very different place, Amanda Pratt tempts viewers to consider why she might have chosen to take such a photograph. It clearly shows us that good and interesting images can be found and created anywhere.


Amanda Pratt, Candelo Blue Pegs, 2020

In works by Leeanne Mason we see our own part of the world in a beautiful way. Her landscapes were taken during the recent bushfires but reveal the wonderful beauty to be found in this place.


Leeanne Mason, Snowy Mountains Kangaroo, 2020

Judy Parker has let us into the private intimacy of her own world showing just one of a current body of work where she has embedded poems expressing her thoughts into the image itself. The image alone is a thing of delicate beauty. The added poetry only enhances it.


Judy Parker, Brocaded Lace, 2020, inkjet print

​Brian MacAlister is also showing part of a larger body of work, looking at spaces and at human behaviours, both intentional and accidental. I particularly like his Untitled (1), 2020.

Andrew Babington also shows us part of a series which he says is a reflection on humanity’s selfishly driven attempt to overcome the natural world. It is a timely reminder that, after the pandemic is overcome, there will still be environmental issues to overcome.


Andrew Babington, Dreaming of The Murrumbidgee, I, 2020, inkjet print, 30 x 40cm, 1/50

With his Mount Ainslie, Jamie Hladky provides the one exhibit that is not a straight-forward still image. Like a GIF it flickers in something of the way that we expect of a campfire. It is great to see an artwork that is one step beyond a simple capture. It should remind us all that we need to explore and experiment with our creations to further our art.

Robert Jack has also explored and successfully shows us what his own accompanying words say “There is no reality. There is only abstraction. The camera always lies.” He is right.


Robert Jack, Echo o, 2020, Type C Print

Joe Slater’s extremely dark image is, perhaps, the most arresting one in the exhibition. It needs time absorbing it before we can adequately see what is in it. Slater notes that times are dark and that his work reflects that. As Rigney reminds us, the act of picking up a camera is reassuringly normal behaviour in these strange days and instantly a way to comprehend what is going on.

Joe_Slater_Stairs Falling

Joe Slater, Stairs, Falling, 2020

I could go on mentioning every one of the more than fifty artworks in the exhibition, but I’ll leave it there and simply encourage you to look at every work for yourself. In addition to the actual exhibition and catalogue, there is an excellent exhibition essay by Virginia Rigney, audio and video recordings from members about their artworks, and a full list of works and their prices. If you wish to become a member of PhotoAccess yourself, head here to sign up! Some of these works are for sale, please contact for any enquiries.

Footnote: I probably should mention that there are two of my own images in this exhibition.



Photography Review | SLOW | Greg Stoodley

PhotoAccess Online Gallery 16 April – 16 May 2020

After having to close its physical gallery, PhotoAccess has moved its scheduled exhibitions to a new online gallery space: and expressed the hope that viewers enjoy the new format, and the works of their exhibitors who have been willing to take a leap of faith into the unknown!

The online gallery space introduces Slow, by Greg Stoodley, by saying his exhibition ‘reflects a personal take on the modernist portraits of Irving Penn. The artist has used principles and foundations he’s noticed in Penn’s portraits to create engaging, meaningful portraits of his own. These works strike one as timeless and classical, yet moreover relevant and recognisable as a contemporary photo-media practice. Stoodley is a dedicated member of PhotoAccess, and a master in the ways of platinum palladium darkroom printing, and we’re honoured he chose us to host this exhibition.’

Stoodley graduated from the Canberra Institute of Technology with an Advanced Diploma of Photography in 2014. Then he was offered a position at the Royal Australian Mint to photograph the National Coin Collection. He is currently continuing his studies at the ANU School of Art, whilst maintaining a commercial photography practice as a freelance photographer. He also has been an instructor at Photo Access, teaching short courses in Studio Photography and Art Documentation.

For any readers who do not know the work of Penn, he was one of the twentieth century’s great photographers. Despite being celebrated as one of Vogue magazine’s top photographers for more than sixty years, Penn was an intensely private man. Known for striking images and first-rate prints, he pursued his work with quiet and unfailing commitment, approaching his photography with an artist’s eye and expanding the creative prospects of the medium.

Penn was among the first photographers to pose subjects against a simple grey or white backdrop and he effectively used its simplicity. Expanding his austere studio surroundings, he constructed a set of upright angled backdrops, to form a stark, acute corner. Stoodley has utilised similar backgrounds.

When he submitted his exhibition proposal to Photo Access, Stoodley’s concept envisaged a “slowing down” using traditional techniques, studio setups, medium format cameras, black and white film, and platinum printing processes. This exhibition invites us to carefully examine the choices made by photographers today.

So, against that background, how well has Stoodley done? My answer is that, overall, he has done very well.

This exhibition comprises 18 portraits, all bar one being monochrome. For me the standouts include Waist Coat, Arnett, and Michael; all shot in a corner and all of men. Penn famously photographed the Duchess of Windsor standing in much the same type of corner.


Waist Coat © Greg Stoodley

Plaubel Makina 67, Minus

Arnett © Greg Stoodley

Canberra, 2020, Neutral Scan

Michael © Greg Stoodley


Saskia is photographed in the same corner setting but, otherwise, does not relate to the other images already mentioned. This is the one nude included in Stoodley’s exhibition. It is a fine image but does not, for me, compare with Penn’s best-known nudes which are of fleshy models, whereas Stoodley has a much slimmer subject.


Canberra, 2019, Neutral Scan

Saskia © Greg Stoodley


Likewise, there is just a single colour image in Slow and I found myself asking why it was included. Penn did shoot in colour, but his strength is in his black and white work. The exhibition would have been equally strong without Dixie.



Dixie © Greg Stoodley


The catalogue essay Learning from slowness by Kate Warren, a Lecturer of Art History and Curatorship at the Australian National University, is well worth reading and there is some additional interesting behind the scenes background to the exhibition on Woodley’s own blog He shows some of the prints in the wash bath, drying and laid out for observation, as well as shots of his final print products.


All artworks are for sale, in multiple editions. Some works are available as inkjet, platinum palladium prints, or silver gelatin prints. Contact for details.


Narellan House

I arrived in Canberra on 2 March 1959, along with others in the first ever group of Statistics Cadets selected by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.


The first group of Cadet (Statistics) March 1959, I’m standing on the far left. Official photo, photographer unknown.

I was meant to move into the new wing of Narellan House in Reid, but it wasn’t quite ready. So, we were put into the Hotel Kurrajong on the southern side of the Molonglo River which flowed through the sheep paddocks between the northern and southern suburbs of Canberra.

Heavy rains soon flooded the paddocks, rising so close to the deck of the original Commonwealth Avenue bridge that it was closed for safety reasons. The only route from our new digs to the Canberra University College where we were to partake of Orientation Week activities was via Queanbeyan. But none of us had cars or even bikes, so we could go no further than the swollen river and look across to the northern side.

A week later, our rooms in the brand-new wing of Narellan House were ready and our first tertiary education lectures commenced as we embarked on our quest to gain Bachelor of Commerce degrees from the University of Melbourne.

But this story is more about Narellan House.

On 11 March 1947, Federal Cabinet approved a program to construct 3500 homes in Canberra over the next five to seven years, with an annual allocation of £1 million. Nevertheless, between 1946 and 1950 only 1147 houses were built.

In the meantime, the government resorted to other measures. It built a series of guest houses and hotels to accommodate public servants and enlarged some existing facilities. New facilities included Lawley House and Turner Hostel. Lawley House was located at Barton and opened in 1949 (it is now a training college for the Australian Federal Police). Turner Hostel, located at Acton, also opened in 1949 (it has since been demolished). Later facilities included Reid House (1950) and Havelock House (1951).

The government also recycled former defence facilities. The first was Mulwala House, built in 1947 from Air Force materials relocated from Mulwala in the Riverina district of New South Wales. Eastlake Hostel, which also opened in 1947, was a former Air Force camp near the present railway station. Narellan House, located at Reid, opened in 1949. It was built using defence materials relocated from Narellan, south-west of Sydney. Riverside Hostel, located at Barton, was also built from former Narellan materials.90

The buildings initially used for Narellan House started life as part of a vast military camp near Camden during the days of the Second World War. Narellan Military Camp was built beside State Route No.69, the Northern Road, running from Narellan, NSW, to Richmond. It was established at the turn-off to Cobbitty.

At the end of the war, the army huts of Narellan were a blot on good dairy grazing land. The Chifley Federal Government brought the huts, asbestos and all, on five semi-trailers for storage in Canberra.

Narellan House, on Coranderrk Street in Reid, became one of the Government Hostels in Canberra, housing 49 guests and a staff of 8. At Narellan it was ladies in the north wing and gents in the south. It survived all the other hostels and, with the addition of a new wing in 1959, became a residence for tertiary students, including me.

Narellan House

Front entrance of Narellan House showing the part of the original buildings, March 1959 © Brian Rope

On a personal note, one of the people I became closest to during my year at Narellan was another Cadet (Statistics), Derrick Low Choy. His room was directly opposite mine.

Derrick - at Narellan House

Derrick Low Choy in the grounds of Narellan House, March 1959 – © Brian Rope

Derrick and I spent a lot of time in my room listening to my newly acquired pink mantel radio and devouring massive quantities of delicious potato crisps that his mother made and sent to him on a regular basis from her home in Queensland. We listened to the 2SM Sydney Top 30 hit parade broadcast weekly by 2XL Cooma trying to win a prize for accurately predicting which songs would fill which positions the next week.

My Radio

My pink radio in my room at Narellan House, March 1959 – © Brian Rope

Having stood in its tranquil setting in Reid in a tranquil setting, just across from Glebe Park, since 1949, Narellan was demolished in May 1992. The last historic link with Narellan Military Camp near Sydney was severed. The site was redeveloped as an apartment complex, now Monterey apartments.



Photography Review | Close | Ian Skinner and Karen Coombes

PhotoAccess Online Gallery | 16 April – 16 May 2020

Karen Coombes and Ian Skinner first met while participating in the PhotoAccess personal photography project in 2015-16. They found they shared a love of spontaneous, observational photography, inspired by natural subjects. In their original exhibition application to PhotoAccess they said “Close will include around fifteen large-scale inkjet prints. The works will be up to A1 size in both landscape and portrait orientation. These will be unframed either pinned directly to wall or matted and double-sided taped, allowing viewers to engage with the works quite directly. Works will be monochrome photography however if during the creation process some colour images present themselves, these could be included in a way that enhances the exhibition experience rather than introducing discord. The installation will feel clean, spacious, and cohesive.”

Sadly, we are not able to see any A1, or other size, prints on a real wall. Having to close its physical gallery, PhotoAccess has moved its scheduled exhibitions to a new online gallery space:

The essay for the exhibition catalogue includes this accurate observation “Digital delivery is a very different vehicle of course. Each platform has unique qualities and the differences in presentation and aesthetic between digital and physical spaces will affect how viewers respond to these images. Digital and physical worlds offer different types of experiences of the same world. The opportunities offered here allow for a closer and visceral examination of the content and an opportunity to reflect on the aims of both photographers – to take time to indulge in an intimate study, a close analysis of parts, identifying the different ways they work and finally the patience to take a long, slow look at what is being revealed.”

Coombes has been exploring the world through the lens since age 11. She has studied art and photography, and creates intimate works inspired by nature, mood and light, and that celebrate wonder.

Skinner was given his first camera for his tenth birthday. Even then he sensed that photographic image making had a purpose beyond being a documentary tool. He has been described as an observational photographer, one who moves through various landscapes and situations forever seeking visual opportunities to fix with the framed eye.

Both artists share a love of spontaneous, observational photography, inspired by natural subjects. They are fascinated with detail, texture, movement, light and form, and chose to present 47 black and white images arranged in groups to explore and contrast these qualities.

The approaches of the two photographers are different, but each intimately, and successfully, examines the details in their chosen subjects. They invite us to enjoy their careful compositions, inspecting the finer aspects of nature we often pass by.

Like the works he showed in “Coast” at the Queanbeyan Hive in 2019, some of Skinner’s images here were created during his visits to the NSW south coast. His group of four images comprising close studies of elements of Macrozamia – a genus of around forty species of cycads endemic to Australia – are both detailed and beautiful.


Ian Skinner,   Macrozamia 04, 2019, Matt fine art archival inkjet print, 33 x 48 cm

His Rocks series reveal another side to the art of nature. From those, Rocks_02, 2019 is my favourite.

FILE: 20190119_Guerilla_Bay_074

Ian Skinner, Rocks_02, 2019, Matt fine art archival inkjet print, 33 x 48 cm


Another set, Rocks and Maculata, show us quite extraordinary patterns leaving us in no doubt whatsoever that nature is an artist.


FILE: 20190316_Guerilla_Bay_031_MONO

Ian Skinner, Rocks & Maculata_04, 2019,

Matt fine art archival inkjet print, 33 x 48 cm


His final set of seven images, featuring plants and sand, include one featuring an exquisite tracery across a frond background.


FILE: 20190425_Arboretum_w_Ian_009_MONO_CROP

Ian Skinner, Plant & Sand_01, 2019, Matt fine art archival inkjet print, 48 x 33 cm


The works by Coombes are equally beautiful. The soft-focus areas in her set titled Semblance make the images exquisite.



Karen Coombes, Semblance 01, 2019, fine art archival inkjet print, 33cm x 48cm


Karen Coombes, Semblance 03, 2019, fine art archival inkjet print, 33cm x 48cm


Another set, Redolent, includes a delicious image created from a very close view of a small part of a single plant.



Karen Coombes, Redolent 02, 2019, fine art archival inkjet print, 48cm x 33cm


The works in the series Lineation reveal how art can be created, primarily from twigs before out of focus backgrounds.



Karen Coombes, Lineation 01, 2019, fine art archival inkjet print, 33cm x 48cm

There are some surprises as we explore the groups of images. For example, Skinner has included a close focus beach scene amongst a grouping of sea ground rocks and pebbles. He tells me their ideas evolved to the point where large individual works were replaced by similarly large scale works each comprised of multiple images. The intention was that each work would become more than the sum of its parts. Through that process of responding in a purely visual manner some subjects were included in works (in his case at least) that in terms of the source subject, were not common with the other component images. Something else worth thinking about when you view the exhibition!

All artworks are for sale. To support these local artists and PhotoAccess, view the exhibition, select the print you want to own, then contact to purchase.


What can enthusiast photographers do during the COVID-19 restrictions?

Those for whom their photography is a passion are limited to some extent by the COVID-19 restrictions, but many are finding plenty of ways to keep their interest alive.

As time has permitted (in between housekeeping, cooking meals, contacting family and friends, participating in Zoom meetups and much more) I have been doing some Photographic things. I’ve even taken photos during Zoom meetings as a record of them.


Catchup with friends via Zoom on my phone

whilst waiting for my flu shot

I have started scanning some old family photos taken by my mother and other family members.


1950 Life Boy brothers me (left) and Alan

– photo by mum, Eileen Rope


      December 1950 – dad ready for his first day of work in Australia on Bundoran farm, Western Districts, Victoria – photo by mum

I’ve also been scanning some old colour slides of my own.

Mall Shapes

Belconnen Mall Shapes

Coloured Metal

Coloured Metal

Outback Tree

Outback Tree

I know of other photographers working on similar scanning projects. And I’ve enjoyed seeing some of the results on their social media posts.

I’ve created and submitted entries for the forthcoming Photo Access members’ online exhibition, The Salon. You could enter it too. I’ve also entered the 2020 Mullins Australian Conceptual Photography Prize. If you are an Australian, you could enter it to and, potentially, win $10,000. I’m not sharing my entries to these two events here or anywhere else yet, but I will show you an image with a concept statement that I haven’t submitted anywhere.

Message Scrap Mystery

Message Scrap Mystery

“I often photograph scraps of paper signs that have been damaged by the weather after periods of exposure. They pose questions in my mind when much of their original messages have gone. In this case I saw a fragment, a snippet, a wisp, a piece – call it what you wish – but the message was a complete mystery. It may be clear to some, but not to me as I have zero knowledge of the language it uses. That lack of knowledge creates boundaries limiting my understanding.”

I’ve also selected and submitted two images for the Canberra Photographic Society’s first ever virtual exhibition and critique night, which was a huge success utilising Zoom. Judge Doug Hall, a Canberra wedding photographer out of work because of COVID-19 did a great job, even if he didn’t rate my Set Subject (Red) entries highly.

A_Set_Poles and Cover_BrianR - 2.5

 A_Set_Building Highlights_BrianR - 2.5

Here is how I watched and listened to the critiquing of the entries:

CPS Zoom_006

I’m very much looking forward to future CPS nights of online workshops, presentation nights and more exhibition/critique nights. You can join in if you become a member.

As this demonstrates, I’ve found time to add a piece to my blog. Like most of you, I expect, I follow some other photographers and writers about photography who also have put new articles on their blogs. They include:

I also find time to follow a podcast about photography –

I haven’t written one myself for a while, but I know various people who have written, or are writing, articles for Australian Photography + Digital magazine, and various Australian Photographic Society (APS) magazines such as Monitor. I have, as its Editor, produced one issue of another APS magazine – Contemporary Group’s monthly online magazine during the period of physical isolation. You can read it (and past issues) here

Annotation 2020-04-13 105540

No doubt others, like me, receive and read regular issues of newsletters about photography, such as Inside Imaging and Better Photography’s Almost Weekly Photo.

I also know that many are spending time processing images they already have on their computers or creating new photographic artworks on their tablets. How do I know? I’ve seen some results posted on social media and read that people are doing those things.

Did you know you can turn your own photographs into jigsaw puzzles that you can make using a touch screen (phone, tablet, computer monitor) or by using your mouse if you don’t have a touch screen? My friend Joe Cali has made a number of these jigsaws and put them online here. There are various sites, such as Jigsaw Explorer that enable you to do it and you can share them with your friends who want something to do. After learning about this from Joe, I created one which is here.

Talking about social media, the APS has invited members of its Friends group on Facebook to post images every day, firstly photos taken in countries beginning with each letter of the alphabet, then from places with names staring with each letter of the alphabet. Various individuals have invited their friends to post images containing nominated colours, or to post the 7th or 23rd or whatever image on their camera roll regardless of what it is. All this, of course, is about taking our minds off the situation we are in and, also, strengthening our contacts with each other.

There are numerous opportunities to spend time improving our knowledge and skills by undertaking private tuition online. These include seminars being offered by the Australian Centre for Photography.

Of course, I’ve also been exercising – mostly by walking in my suburb. And that exercise has included exercising my shutter finger, primarily on my iPhone using the free Lightroom App. There are plenty of other Apps for various smart phones or you can just use the built-in camera as provided without an App. Here are a few shots taken on recent walks.

On the walking path after the rain

On the walking path after rain

Stalled Construction

Stalled Construction


Dancing Colours

Cobweb just out of reach

Cobwebs just out of reach?

You too can maintain or develop your passion for photography whilst the pandemic prevents you doing other things. I’d love to hear what you are doing. I invite you to Leave a Comment.



The Hairy Panic

Photography Review: The Hairy Panic. Sophie Dumaresq. Nishi Gallery.

Was scheduled to run until 4 April but, sadly, the physical exhibition has now been taken down and the gallery closed because of COVID-19. A virtual version is going to be put on the Art, Not Apart website. In the meantime, you can view some of the images here or at

Sophie Dumaresq’s body of work “The Hairy Panic” comprises a series of photographs of a land art installation on the windswept grasslands surrounding Lake George, plus her pink tumbleweed sculptures that feature in the images. This work is a significant part of the “Today I, Tomorrow You” exhibition which, in turn, was part of the recent “Art, Not Apart” Festival. There are also half a dozen other photographers’ images to see.

Small - Hairy Panic, Untitled #4

Hairy Panic, Untitled #4

Each tumbleweed was made by Dumaresq’s own hands from chemically processed and hand-dyed human hair and painted pink steel. The pink colour references harmful pesticides. They took something of a battering when exposed to the elements for the photography, but still look great. I’m told that Dumaresq has been regularly and lovingly combing the hair.

Small - Hairy Panic, Untitled #6

Hairy Panic, Untitled #6

A Canberran, Dumaresq is an artist working in photo media, in addition to large and small-scale sculptural installation. In 2009 she attended a student internship program at Questacon. She completed her Diploma in Photography (Honours) at Spéos School for Photography (Paris and London) and has participated in group exhibitions in Australia, France, Greece and Germany. She is currently studying at The Australian National University’s Sculpture and Spatial Practices Workshop.

“Pancium effuse” (commonly known as Hairy Panic), is a species of grass native to inland Australia that, in dry and windy conditions combined with soil toxicity levels, can thrive and become a tumbleweed.

Naming the project after the tumbleweeds was done to share a narrative with viewers, causing us to reflect on past and present-day treatment and documentation of the land and its inhabitants.

Small - Hairy Panic, Untitled #10

Hairy Panic, Untitled #10

What consequences will our present-day treatment practices have for the future? What do our patterns of consumption, destruction and creation demonstrate? How do we relate, show empathy for and evolve with and within our surrounding environment?


Production principles also highlight the power to both shape and be shaped by landscapes, past, future and present. The use of photographs reflects on the arguably violent legacy of the medium, through documentation within both the sciences and social sciences, towards women, indigenous communities, other minority groups and all those who have historically fallen outside of the Western definition of what is human.

Viewing the work allows us to seriously consider the intersection of humans and material culture. Human hair was chosen due to its nitrogen bonds, that can be used as fertiliser absorbed by both the soil and the crops we then consume. The hair was collected from women to draw attention to the connection of that of the female body and that of livestock, agricultural and sexual means of production and reproduction.

Using art to reflect is a common and important practice. Here the reflecting is on the history and politics behind the aesthetics of landscape documentation – as both a means of production and a means of aesthetic communication of what it is to be alien.

Small - Hairy Panic, Untitled #13

 Hairy Panic, Untitled #13

In addition to being works to contemplate, the images consider “how our present-day treatment of the land will not only have consequences in the future but are already happening and are here.”  They explore symbiotic cycles of consumption, destruction and creation demonstrating how as a species we relate, show empathy and evolve with and within our surrounding environment.

Small - Hairy Panic, Untitled #15

Hairy Panic, Untitled #15

Photographically, the pink (of the tumbleweeds) works particularly well in the sunlit landscapes, particularly when the overhead clouds are similarly coloured by the light. The pink sculptures also contrast with smoky skies in those images reminding us of the recent fires, very possibly caused by our treatment of the land.

Small - Hairy Panic, Untitled #8

   Hairy Panic, Untitled #8

Sadly, the physical exhibition has now been taken down and the gallery closed because of COVID-19. A virtual version is going to be put on the Art, Not Apart website. In the meantime, you can view some of the images at