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 https://www.siep.org.au/General/Canberra.html 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.

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Water Walks

Photography Review

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

and online at http://www.gallery.photoaccess.org.au/water-walks

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.

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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…

inexperienced

ill-prepared

Backpack

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

surprise

vehicles were here

Moods

of the mountains

change quickly

delight or dismay

Eventually

our destination

Mt Kosciuszko summit

Temperature falling

mist

rolling in

time to head back

Should have

descended sooner

ice forming on

eyebrows and moustache

cold penetrating

to our bones

Worried

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

photojournalist

and Hayes –

country boy

both died August ’28

succumbing to icy blizzard

Wait

there’s Seamans Hut

(why no Hayes Hut?)

we’ll make it

Finally

the lodge

warmth

hot drinks

knees still screaming

Early to bed

next day

walking excruciating

nearby

all I can manage

challenge completed

lessons learned

Later, images created

on watercolour paper

matted for display

twenty-one years later

memories rediscovered

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Liked

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.

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