Exhibition Review, Reviews

CITY COMMISSIONS – PORTRAITS

Photography Exhibition Review

CITY COMMISSIONS – PORTRAITS | SAMMY HAWKER

Tuggeranong Town Centre (on windows of Lakeview House & under the Soward Way Bridge) | Until 4 July 2022

Installation shot – Under Soward Way bridge (supplied)

Sammy Hawker is a visual artist working predominantly on Ngunawal Country. She works predominantly with analogue photography techniques and often works closely with Traditional Custodians, scientists and ecologists.

In 2021 Hawker had two highly successful solo shows as part of a PhotoAccess darkroom residency. She is currently an artist-in-residence with the CORRIDOR project and is also preparing for another solo show before year end.

Over the last six months Hawker worked closely with nine young people from Headspace Tuggeranong exploring ways they could co-create photographic portraits. This was part of a City Commissions project delivered by Contour 556, one of seven artsACT initiatives in the Creative Recovery and Resilience Program.

Headspace is a safe space that welcomes and supports young people aged 12–25, their families, friends and carers, helping them to find the right services. Learning the Headspace motto “clear is kind”, Hawker realised her project was also about finding clarity as a form of self-compassion – shining light on what for many was a particularly dark and confusing time.


Hawker challenges the notion that a photograph constitutes the moment that a shutter is released. She explores ways of making, rather than taking, images. She wanted the project to be empowering – with no right or wrong and where the final photographs celebrated identity and experience beyond just the way her subjects looked in the frame. It was an opportunity to realise we always have some choice whether we repress difficult experiences.

The portraits of the young people were captured on a large format film camera. Commonly, in photographic practice, touch and marks on negatives are to be avoided. But Hawker invited her subjects to handle, manipulate, scratch or even bury negatives in order to introduce something of themselves. The young folk wrangled puppies, dived into rivers, got dressed up, sprinkled bushfire ash on negatives and processed film in the Headspace carpark.

Each participant was invited to use the project to reflect on their experiences of difficult times. Their statements relating to the images reveal resilience and hope.

Chanelle reflected about living in the moment. The negative of her portrait, showing her immersed in the Murrumbidgee River, was processed with water from that river, ocean water and permanent marker.

Chanelle ©Sammy Hawker

Sophie spoke of learning to embrace everything in life. Her portrait’s negative was processed with bushfire ash and the word Embrace scratched into it. The ash creates a frame that embraces her.

Sanjeta really likes her photo with jellyfish manipulations as metaphors for how she now goes with the flow of her life journey. Her expression conveys a “so be it” attitude. The negative was processed with Murrumbidgee water, rainwater, seaweed and chemical stains.

Sanjeta © Sammy Hawker

Ray wanted to keep connected and bring some joy into the lives of others. The portrait’s beaming smile conveys joy. The idea of processing the negative with Whiz Pop Bang bubble mixture and wattle pollen adds to the joy.

Ray’s Statement

Jazzy is photographed with her much loved dog Milo. So, of course, the processing of the negative utilised Milo’s pawprints.

Jazzy Jazzy © Sammy Hawker
Devante © Sammy Hawker
Installation shot – Under Soward Way bridge (supplied)

When I reviewed her Acts of Co-Creation show (for which she received a Canberra Critics Circle Award) in this publication, I wrote of Hawker’s then newly formed relationship with Ngunawal custodian Tyronne Bell who helped her to learn about sites she was working with. For this project, Hawker arranged for Bell to escort her subjects walking Ngunawal Country, providing a healing experience for them.

I strongly recommended readers to visit City Commissions – Portraits – and reflect on your own difficult times.

An edited version of this review was published in The Canberra Times of 28/6/22 on the Capital Life page, and the full version online here. It is also on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.

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Autobiography, Personal Story, Photography Story

Transitioning to adult life

The 3rd National Christian Youth Convention (NCYC) was held in Brisbane in January 1960. A large contingent of Methodist youth from Canberra, including me and some other members of the Reid Methodist Youth Fellowship, went to the convention. Others were from Wattle Park, National Memorial and Queanbeyan Methodist youth groups. The very large majority of the contingent were girls. That was also true of the study group that some of our contingent, including me, were allocated to at the convention. I recognise some of the folk in these photos.

Canberra contingent at 3rd NCYC in Brisbane. Me at far left.
The study group I was in at 3rd NCYC in Brisbane. Me with a hat.

We travelled by train, commencing our journey in Queanbeyan with just a few carriages behind one engine. As we travelled north, additional carriages were added and somewhere an additional engine until the train was very long. Each time we stopped to pick up more delegates, regardless of whether it was a large number in large cities or just one person at a small country town – and regardless of the time of day or night – we opened the windows and welcomed the additional passengers by singing the official Convention hymn.

On arrival at Brisbane South Railway Stations around 26 hours later our carriage being at the rear of the train was a long distance from the platform and we were told to be patient whilst they unloaded the front carriages, then backed the train out to remove the empty cars then return to the station to unload the next lot and so on. We soon decided that would take forever so we clambered down with our luggage and walked alongside the train until we reached the platform!

Arrangements had been made for each of us to be billeted in the homes of local delegates. My host family, including one son John and two daughters were very nice people and looked after me extremely well. I had a great time and discovered the city of Brisbane. Virtually every day whilst in Brisbane brief storms would pour rain on me for as I made my way back to their suburban Norman Park home late in the afternoons and the summer heat always soon dried me out.

Every time another table filled in the dining area for lunch, those sitting at it would sing the grace – trying to use a tune that no other group had used for it. The one that sticks in my mind is “Hernando’s Hideaway”.

My host family’s daughters at 3rd NCYC, Brisbane

During the convention I became friends with a girl called Ethel, who was from Winton. After returning home, I sent her two photos I had taken of her, but she didn’t like them and sent me two others that she thought I might prefer to have. Our plans to stay in touch didn’t come to fruition. I wonder what happened to her.

One of my photos of Ethel
One of the photos Ethel sent me

I also had an opportunity to visit Lone Pine Reserve, with its collection of animals, including a carpet snake that I had my photo taken with.

Me with live carpet snake at Lone Pine Reserve
Animals at Lone Pine Reserve

The return journey was also by train, and I recall us filling the floor space between the two bench seats in our compartment with luggage and covering it with blankets, effectively making one large bedspace where a group of us lay close together trying to sleep.

Mum and dad, Alan and Jill all moved to Canberra in early 1960, as dad’s employer relocated operations from Goulburn to the growing city of Canberra. They purchased a home in Duffy Street, Ainslie at the foot of Mount Ainslie and I moved back home with them. It was the first, and only, home they actually owned.

The Duffy Street home

Everything was different in 1960. Whilst I was, technically, repeating the three failed subjects from the previous year, in reality the content was very different. Canberra University College was no longer associated with the University of Melbourne but, instead, was now the undergraduate school of the Australian National University. What I had studied in first year Economics was now the second-year syllabus, and vice-versa. The same was true of Statistics. So, rather than repeating the material studied in 1959 I had to study new material altogether. I failed all three “repeated” subjects, and my Cadetship was cancelled completely.

A girl whom I had met came to Canberra one weekend to go with me to the University Ball in the Childers Street Hall. She stayed with her brother in a flat behind one of the car yards in Braddon. After the ball ended around 2AM, we walked back to the flat and she changed out of her ball gown. We then walked to mum and dad’s house in Ainslie arriving around 4AM and settled down in the living room. Mum came out of her bedroom and admonished me for keeping the girl up all night and for disturbing the household at that time.

Yvonne Mills from the Reid MYF was my girlfriend for some months, until she dumped me. I was most upset and poured my hurt feelings out to mum, who simply said “there are many more fish in the sea”.

After losing my Cadetship, I remained employed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics as a Base Grade Clerk working in the Mechanical Tabulation Division. We used machines to process statistical information. Punched paper tape was processed through a so-called computer – a Hollerith 1201 – and punched cards were put through various machines. I learned to sort the cards into order by gently inserting a small metal strip into holes until it was blocked by a card without a hole – push too hard and you made a hole where there wasn’t meant to be one!

I well recall Fridays when, at knock-off time of 4.51PM, we would all rush from work in West Block to the back bar at the nearby historic Hotel Canberra to have a drink before 6 o’clock closing. The idea was to consume as many beers as possible in the available time. As a youngster (turning 18 in early March), I wasn’t up for the challenge. After one beer, I would quietly slip away and ride my bike home.

I also recall one very wet day being lent an MGA sports car by a work colleague to drive to university lectures not all that long after gaining my driver’s licence and before buying my own car. I was both terrified and exhilarated at once. I felt like I was practically lying down in the car and, so, not really in control of it, but also felt very special being at the wheel of such a vehicle. Sadly, the owner of that MGA was killed in it later when he ran into the back of a lorry with pipes overhanging its rear end which penetrated the MGA’s windscreen and its driver.

Once I turned 18 in March 1960, Dad taught me to drive in his car but, after failing the test twice, I had a few lessons with a driving school. That was seemingly enough to satisfy the police as I was successful in gaining my licence at my third attempt. The test included reverse parallel parking in between two movable signs near a short piece of gutter that had been constructed in a parking area outside the then police station.

At first, I could only drive dad’s car when he let me borrow it. Alan was usually beside me in the front and, so, experienced my “accidents”. On one occasion I did not notice a cyclist on my right until very late, slamming on the brakes in the nick of time and coming to a stop with the car’s front bumper immediately behind the cyclist’s left foot on his pedal. When we told dad, his response was “you won’t be a good driver until you’ve had a couple of accidents”.

It wasn’t long before I had more passengers – girls from the MYF group were keen to travel with us. One night when three of them were in the back seat going with us to a church dance, I spun the car 360 degrees as I turned left too fast at a corner where there was loose gravel on the bitumen surface. Fortunately, we missed hitting anything else. Further on we broke down because of a blocked fuel line. We were rescued by friends, including Kevin and Noel Wise – brothers who had some mechanical knowledge. Returning the girls to their homes later I managed to “paint” a pinstripe of paint along one side of the car by backing into a driveway too close to a large painted timber mail/bread box whilst showing off to the girls. I had to confess to dad again when we got home. Waking briefly to receive the news, dad gave the same response.

The first car I owned myself was a second-hand white Ford Consul, baby brother to dad’s white Ford Zephyr.

Around this time I had a penfriend, Elaine, who lived in South Africa. She sent me photos of the area around where she lived as well as one of herself. I don’t recall how the penfriend-ship came about and it didn’t last for very long. The photos remain in one of my photo albums. I wonder what ever happened to Elaine.

The photo sent to me by Elaine from South Africa
and her message on the back of the photo

On 20 October 1960, 16-year-old Denise Hawes, arrived in Canberra from Melbourne with her parents. Denise has told me I was the first boy she saw on the church steps when her parents brought her to Reid Methodist church. Her younger sister Rosemary was still in Melbourne staying with Nanna to finish her school year and their even younger sister Lynne was staying with Gran in Tasmania. The family were reunited in Canberra just before Christmas. Denise, and her whole family, was destined to become a large part of my future.

Despite failing my studies and losing my Cadetship, I was enjoying my life. The MYF group was strong and provided many great friends. We went to district gatherings, attended Crusader camps in various places, took day trips to the snow, went regularly to the movies on Saturday evenings, and attended dances/socials at other churches. We played snooker, tennis, table tennis, badminton and other games at the church. We went to church twice on Sundays – to the traditional service with the whole congregation in the mornings and the more informal evening worship preceded by the singing of our favourite hymns. MYF meetings themselves were a great time of socialising. Another group, Christian Endeavour was more focussed on spiritual things than we in the MYF. Its members were generally a little older than us, but I still know people who were involved with one or the other group.

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My Photography, Personal Story, Photography Story

2022 APS PhotoWalk Day: Repair – Recover – Renew

In September 2021 the Australian Photographic Society held its first APS PhotoWalk Day with the theme Environmental Impact – What does it mean to you? I walked as an individual (not a photo club group), entered two images from the Walk and was placed 3rd. I wrote about it here.

On 14 May 2022, the Society held another PhotoWalk Day with the theme Repair – Recover – Renew. I suggested the club I belong to, the Canberra Photographic Society (CPS), participate and enter as a club and it did. But, unfortunately, at the last moment it pulled out because of illness affecting a number of Committee members. So, I quickly registered as an individual again and, on the scheduled day, set off with my camera to walk and find images.

The promotional material for the event said “In a world impacted by significant events through the impact Climate Change, COVID and Natural Disasters, nature and people show an incredible capacity to repair, recover or renew. Wherever you participate in the 2022 APS Photo Walk Day we want you to focus on the positive and capture the optimism of the future: show us how nature and/or people are moving forward so this a wonderful opportunity to capture and showcase the emotions that come with repair, recovery or renewal. Your images may reflect an emergence from the impact of COVID lockdowns and the joy of people rediscovering their lives and livelihoods. You may capture the beauty and strength of nature as it recovers from the ravages of fire or floods or other natural disasters or the efforts of communities to renew what once was. You are not limited by these examples; you are only limited by your imagination. The emotional impact of your image/s are the key to success.”

There were three judges and each of them were to score all entries, with their points being added together. And, again, the individual scoring most points was to receive a $150 MOMENTO Pro Photobook voucher and certificate.

As in 2021, an introductory session was held via Zoom the evening before the event. The surprise speaker was Len Metcalf, an artist, educator, environmentalist, writer and photographer based in Sydney. I very much enjoyed his presentation and he inspired me to create and submit Contemporary images.

Mostly in the Yarramundi Reach area of Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin, but also in the urban area of Braddon, I took a total of 118 photographs – most with a DSLR camera but some with a phone camera using software that enables it to be used in “professional” mode. My challenge then became to create four images from those 118 shots that were suitable to submit to the competition. And, to give them titles that provided clues as to how they fitted my concepts of the theme.

Firstly, I created a montage of six images showing people renewing and repairing themselves by exercising.

Exercising renews the body © Brian Rope

Then I used a completely different image to portray renewal in another way altogether.

New artworks renew rundown streetscape © Brian Rope

My third entry used a Hipstamatic App to create a pinhole style image of a couple of seats and a makeshift table that I came across by the lake. My guess is that a fisherman created this. I sat there resting and enjoying the view for a short time. This one is about recovery.

Pause here to recover © Brian Rope

And my final image was created by overlaying two shots taken from the same position but with the camera pointing in a slightly different direction. The technique I used involved using Photoshop’s feature that merges two or more images to create a High Dynamic Range result. This one is again about renewal – but of the mind rather than the body.

Visualising anew renews the mind © Brian Rope

On 24 June, a Zoom session was held to announce the results of the competition. It was convened by the APS President, Margaret O’Grady and attended by numerous entrants, two of the judges and Libby Jeffery, Marketing Manager of MomentoPro which was again the sponsor of the Photo Walk Day. Libby announced the results of the photo clubs’ section of the competition and then the results of the individual’s section.

To my great surprise and delight I was announced as the winner of the individual contestants’ section. During the opportunity for anyone who wished to speak to do so, I noted that I had only participated as an individual at the last moment and suggested I needed to thank CPS for its unfortunate late withdrawal from the Walk Day. If that had not happened, I would not have competed as an individual and, so, not won the $150 voucher from MomentoPro – received by email from Margaret O’Grady moments after the Zoom session wrapped up!

Hopefully, I’ll be able to participate as part of the CPS in the next PhotoWalk.

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AP Focus, My Photography, Photography Story

My Thematic Photobook

Roughly every four months, I write a piece for the APS Focus page in Australian Photography magazine. This is my latest piece, published in the July 2022 issue now in newsagencies.

At the time of writing, I’m participating in a free workshop spread over 6 two and a half hour long sessions. It’s a program designed to assist folk who are sixty-five or older to do something with their boxes of slides of past travels, their prints falling out of family albums, or even their smartphone snaps. Small groups of participants are learning how to creatively review their photo collections, how to scan slides and prints, and how to manage and process digital files.

With the assistance of experienced tutors, participants are curating selections of mages from their own archives and will use them to tell stories through printed 50-page photobooks. The project is being run by Photo Access in Canberra, the ACT and region’s centre for contemporary photography, film and video and media arts. Like the APS, it is an established non-profit body, and is a friendly creative community making, sharing and investigating photographic culture in the interests of artistic expression, cultural participation and positive social change. This particular project was made possible through private donors plus a Creative Partnerships Australia Plus One matched funding grant.

If you know that I’ve previously made quite a few photobooks and have been on my photographic journey for many years, you might wonder why I am participating in this workshop. Well, I am seeking to improve my curatorial skills, to develop my ability to combine words with images to tell a story, to motivate myself to find special images in my huge collection, to create a new photobook that is more than simply a collection of some of my photos, and to learn new things – because I firmly believe we can always learn more.

So, for the project, I have decided to create a book providing a glimpse of my life as an adult, all of which has seen me living in Canberra. It will look at who I am – my component parts if you like.

Our group’s tutor suggested that I select the images I will use, then place them in the book under various themes rather than in chronological order. She has also suggested I include scans of relevant objects acquired along the way and of newspaper and magazine articles that add to the overall story.

My chosen themes are my family and friends, my employment and volunteering, Canberra events (that I have organised, participated in or photographed), Canberra places (that I have photographed), well-known people (that I have met and/or photographed), and my extensive involvement with photography.

1988.08.12 – Prime Minister Bob Hawke launching Australopedia © Brian Rope

I currently have identified around one hundred images and scans for potential inclusion in the book. That’s probably too many for fifty pages, so I still need to be a little more ruthless in whittling the numbers down.

I very much hope my finished book will be good enough to enter in this year’s APS Photobook Awards? You should be reading this in July – by which time entries for that event will have opened. Entry is free and open to all APS members and camera club members. There is no limit to the size, format, or number of pages. And entries have to be submitted by 7 October 2022. Full details are on the APS website at www.a-p-s.org.au. So, why not participate?

As published in Australian Photography magazine

Footnote: All the photobooks created by participants in the project are to be launched at an event at PhotoAccess scheduled for 6 PM on 21 July 2022.

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Exhibition Review

SPIRITS, PERMEATING ECOLOGY, POISONOUS

Review of Photography, Mixed Media Exhibition

SPIRITS | B-Dam Pictures (NSW)

PERMEATING ECOLOGY | REMI SICILIANO

POISONOUS | ELLIS HUTCH

Photo Access | 26 May – 25 Jun

Over five years, B-Dam Pictures (artists Anthony Sillavan and Stephanie Sheppard) used a motion-sensor camera to obtain a series of what effectively are self-portraits of Australian wildlife. They suggest Spirits is the native animals themselves revealing their habits, pleasures and dangers – about their tenuous life existence and, by extension, our own fragility.

B-Dam Pictures – Self Portrait 6

The sense of motion is more obvious in some images than others. Which is best – a greater or lesser sense of motion? Contemplating that, I realised it was not always obvious what had triggered the camera.

Is that a shadow of a bird in flight that triggered the camera? Another shot has the feeling of being a pinhole camera image, even though I know it was not. And in a third shot, at first glance I thought the featured animal was a log.

One shot of a dam has an animal’s tail disappearing out of the frame. Another shows the same dam with no clear evidence of an animal at all. There is much to see and contemplate in this fine set of images.

Remi Siciliano practices “Ecological Image-Making”, her methodology for embracing and celebrating all the different organisms, materials and forces at play within her work. Collaborative interactions entangle divisions between artist, organism, material, subject, object and landscape. She dissolves these categories as we know them.

In Permeating Ecology, Siciliano has intentionally relinquished technical control in her image making; instead playfully collaborating with other organisms and natural processes to produce her photographs.

Fungal networks have grown through 35mm negatives documenting landscapes, while moisture softened and encouraged the film emulsion to peel. The images reveal meeting points of growth and decomposition.

Remi Siciliano – Plexus, 2021

Although very different to B-Dam Pictures works – large rather than small, and abstract rather than documentary – these artworks also are great.

Remi Siciliano – Image 2

I recently read of the “strange allure” of fungi and how it has always captured the imagination. An ecologist has described fungi as the “third forgotten kingdom” behind flora and fauna and said there is much to be discovered about their vital role in our ecosystems.

By using the playful techniques described above, Siciliano has created “strangely alluring” images. Fungi growing through negatives is the starting point for artworks revealing things we would otherwise have never seen – except, possibly, in our imaginations.

Ellis Hutch combines photography, drawing, animation, sound and projection. This resultant exhibition, Poisonous, investigates the microscopic world of our waterways. Hutch navigates the complexities of the ‘health’ of those waterways.

She questions how people establish social relationships and transform their environments to create inhabitable spaces. Recently, she has been paying close attention to the place she lives and works, unceded Ngunnawal (also spelt Ngunawal) and Ngambri country, investigating the effects of ‘invasive’ humans and other species on the Molonglo River. Here, she has done that by combining large-scale drawing and video projection.

The charcoal drawings by Hutch are, indeed, large and quite arresting – not simply because of their scale. Some might even say “awe and wonder” to describe their reactions when first entering the gallery space through a dark curtain. With a video projecting moving digital images on to the drawings, the works become an installation.

We see glimpses of the molecular structure of minerals and microbes that are both toxic poisons and useful contributors to the ecosystem. This is art, successfully revealing a realm invisible to our eyes – a place critical to our survival.

Ellis Hutch – Blackmtnpeninsulaboatramp

Each artist is curious about the processes that drive the varied eco-systems of our planet. Each has employed a distinctive method to investigate the natural world’s intricacies.

This review was published on page 10 of Panorama in the Canberra Times of 16/6/22 and online here. It is also available on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.

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My Photography, Photography Story

The Queen and Me

Princess Elizabeth was traveling to visit Australia in 1952 when her father King George VI died. She returned to England without visiting. However, Queen Elizabeth II has visited Australia 16 times, usually on important milestones, anniversaries, or celebrations of Australian culture. I favour Australia becoming a republic but, nevertheless, over the years I have seen the Queen on a few occasions during her numerous visits. And her 70 years of service to the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth is certainly quite extraordinary.

On 25 April 1970, I was amongst the crowds when she officially inaugurated the Captain James Cook Memorial which was built to commemorate the Bicentenary of Cook’s first sighting of the east coast of Australia. The memorial includes a water jet located in the central basin and a skeleton globe sculpture at Regatta Point of Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra, showing the paths of Cook’s expeditions.

Captain Cook Memorial Water Jet Opening, 25 April 1970

I was there again the following day, 26 April 1970, when the Queen opened the National Carillon on Aspen Island in Canberra. The carillon has a symbolic value in the link between Britain and Australia. It also has some historic value for its association with the commemoration of the 50th jubilee of the founding of Canberra.

Queen at Carillon, 26 April 1970

When the Queen again visited in 1988, my job saw me responsible for many aspects of all the Bicentennial events in Canberra including the outdoor entertainment for the opening of the new Parliament House on 9 May. Royal “flags”, “designed” by me, were flown from numerous flagpoles during the visit, much to the chagrin of certain officials who objected to “pennants” being flown from flagpoles!

Royal “Flags” flying near new Parliament House, 9 May 1988

As a result of my job responsibilities, I was one of the people invited to attend the Royal race meeting with the Queen on Sunday 8 May. Of course, we were not actually with Her Majesty rather we were all seated several rows in front of her (with an empty space in between) and were instructed not to turn around and look at her.

Photojournalists at the Royal Race meeting, 8 May 1988

The Queen officially opened the new Queen Elizabeth II stand at the racecourse and presented the trophy to the winner of the Queen Elizabeth II Bicentennial Stakes, a weight-for-age event over 2000m carrying prize money of AUD$100,000.

Despite the instructions, various people (myself included) took opportunities to peek and some of us also captured some images albeit from a distance.

Prime Minister Bob Hawke and the Queen at the Royal Race Meeting, 8 May 1988
Queen Elizabeth II – escorted by Dugald Stuart (then Chairman of the ACT Racing Club) – presented trophies to the owner and trainer (Bart Cummings) of Beau Zam which won the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, 8 May 1988

On the evening of the same day, I attended a “dress rehearsal” in the new Parliament House for the following day’s main event. Guests were able to roam through the new building and many took the opportunity to sit in the Speaker’s Chair in the House of Representatives chamber. We experienced the entertainment the Queen was to hear the following day and enjoyed refreshments. I have no photographs of the event – my memory suggests we were not allowed to take any.

I was, of course, outside for the official opening of the new Parliament building, so did not actually see the official party that day, but I was close by and able to photograph the protestors who hung large banners on the outside walls.

Prisoners Action Group protest banner at new Parliament House, 9 May 1988
Protest banners at new Parliament House, 9 May 1988
Indigenous activists’ protest banner at new Parliament House, 9 May 1988

On 20 October 2011, I was on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin when the Queen travelled along it from Government House and many folk waved flags and their hands. The boat was too far from the shore to make out Her Majesty (or anyone else) from where I was looking.

Queen passing by on Royal barge on Lake Burley Griffin, 20 October 2011

Earlier this year, the National Capital Authority put out a call for anyone who had met the Queen to submit photos and their stories for potential inclusion in a planned exhibition celebrating the Platinum Jubilee. The exhibition was to be included in the permanent National Capital Exhibition in the Regatta Point building where Her Majesty had stood to see where the Lake would be once rain fell and filled up the created expanse for it. I decided to submit one of my photos of the Queen from 1988 and the story associated with it.

On 23 May I received an invitation for myself and a guest to attend the opening of The Queen and Me.

So, I accepted for myself and my wife. And, at 4.30PM on 3 June 2022, we arrived at the event and very soon found my image and story had been included.

My image and story in The Queen and Me exhibition, 3 June 2022
The 1988 panel including my story in The Queen and Me exhibition, 3 June 2022

We perused the other parts of the exhibition, listened to some amusing stories told by the organisers, had some light refreshments, took some photos and chatted to one of the organisers and a few other guests.

Organisers of The Queen and Me exhibition sharing stories at the opening, 3 June 2022
The Queen and Me exhibition poster
Part of The Queen and Me exhibition, 3 June 2022

As we left the building around 5.15PM we saw that the nearby Water Jet, along with the Carillon and some other buildings on the lake shore were lit with a purple colour. So I grabbed another photo on my phone. We subsequently learned it was Royal Purple and was part of the celebrations for the Platinum Jubilee.

Water Jet in Lake Burley Griffin illuminated with Royal Purple, 3 June 2022

As part of Australia’s celebration of Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee celebrating her 70 years on the throne, on 4 June 2022, there was a ceremony on the island where the National Carillon stands.

Australia’s new Labor Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, renamed it from Aspen Island to Queen Elizabeth II Island. He described it as a “fitting salute” to the monarch. “Today we celebrate her long life and 70 years of service to Australia and the Commonwealth, including no less than 16 visits to our shores.”

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Exhibition Review, Reviews

Sunkissed

Photography Exhibition Review

SUNKISSED | JANE DUONG

ACT Hub, 14 Spinifex Street, Kingston | Until 25 June 2022

(By appointment or during theatre performances)

The Causeway Hall in Kingston is the oldest hall in Canberra and a listed item on the ACT Heritage Register. It was completed in 1926 with voluntary labour using materials provided by the Federal Capital Commission. The Causeway remains a distinct district within the suburb of Kingston, although now abutted by the foreshore development.

​For some time, the Hall served as Canberra’s principal place of entertainment. It was, variously, a picture theatre, a dance hall, a concert venue and a place where boxing matches were held.

​This year has seen the building transformed and, as ACT HUB, become a venue for independent theatre productions, such as Free Rain’s production of David Williamson’s Emerald City (8 – 25 June). It is also now presenting exhibitions of artworks, with this show by Jane Duong being the first.

Sunkissed is a modest exhibition. Modest in terms of artwork numbers and sizes. Modest in terms of the works being gentle, almost describable as quiet. They do not shout out for attention, but nevertheless encourage visitors in for a closer investigation of their contents. The venue itself is also modest – in terms of capacity and its somewhat understated décor in the particular area where the artworks hang.

Duong is a Canberra-based photographer with a Bachelor of Communications, majoring in photomedia, and a Diploma in Museums and Collections. Her previous photographic projects include Red Brick Road images from another important part of Canberra’s heritage – the Yarralumla Brickworks.

Red Brick Road was an exploration of the Brickworks architecture, landscape and objects and the use of photography to trigger, layer and construct memory. Duong’s works for that show combined film photography with Van Dyke Brown printing, allowing for the study and representation of time and the ephemeral nature of memory.

The heritage listing of the Causeway Hall makes it most appropriate that Duong has again used an old technique to explore and celebrate it and the nearby Jerrabomberra Wetlands. This time, however, the process is Cyanotype which dates back to the dawn of photography and was invented by astronomer Sir John Herschel in 1842. Cyanotype prints are created with the use of a light-sensitive chemical mixture coated on paper, UV (or sun) light and water to develop and fix.

For heritage reasons, it is not possible to attach works directly to the walls as is a common practice today in many galleries. So all the works are framed. They look great hanging – from a “picture rail” – against a wall, the colour of which blends nicely with the frames and shows off the classic blue tones of cyanotypes.

Each one-off print in this exhibition has been handmade by Duong. Some have unique borders, some have been created with a negative contact sheet, while others have been dipped directly into Wetland waterways.

Several of the works show the Hall itself. Duong has created panoramas using her phone, distorting the building a little, and used software to make some adjustments. Then she has used an inkjet printer to create negatives of each finished image on A4-sized film and used those negatives to create her exhibited prints on cotton paper using the Cyanotype process.

Old Causeway Hall II_Jane Duong_2022

Other works show a nearby entrance to, and parts of, the Jerrabomberra Wetlands – which themselves include some important historic relics of early Canberra.

Jerra Wetlands_Jane Duong_2022
Biyaligee Boardwalk_Jane Duong_2022
Waterways_Jane Duong_2022

And then there are two very different works. These were made by placing the paper directly into Wetlands waterways. They are dark and moody images, which seem quite an appropriate way to show an underwater area. The resultant works allow viewers to consider for themselves just what they are seeing.

This review was published in The Canberra Times of 5/6/22 here. It is also on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.

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Exhibition Review

Entanglement

Photomedia Exhibition Review

ENTANGLEMENT | NOELENE LUCAS

Canberra Contemporary Art Space | Until 12 June 2022

Noelene Lucas is a video installation artist with a background in sculpture. Her work addresses our land from ecological and historical perspectives. It has been curated into major exhibitions in Australia, Europe and Asia, awarded three major Australia Council grants, Thailand, Paris and two Australia Council Tokyo residencies, the latter one deeply affecting both her life and art practice.

Birds are disappearing. Common wild birds connect us to nature. The chance of seeing a Kookaburra in SE Australia has halved since 1999. Those are just three of the messages presented on some of the video panels in this thought-provoking exhibition by Lucas.

Noelene Lucas, Bird text, 2022, (detail) multi-screen video

Other panels display slowly moving clouds and ocean waters overlaid with words such as Ozone (O3), Halons (CBrClF2), Halogenated Gases – Fluorine (F2), and Black Carbon (PM2.5). Those words are about a colourless unstable toxic gas with a pungent odour and powerful oxidizing properties, unreactive gaseous compounds of carbon with bromine and other halogens known to damage the ozone layer – including a poisonous pale-yellow gas that causes very severe burns on contact with skin, and a climate-forcing agent contributing to global warming.

Noelene Lucas, Entanglement, 2022, Multi-screen video installation with sound, Dimensions variable_022

I’m no scientist and had to research the meanings of some words when writing this. Nevertheless, the message about environmental changes and damage had been very clear to me whilst actually viewing the works in the gallery.

Another video panel reminds us – if we need any reminder – that “We are dependent for our wellbeing on the wellbeing of the environment.” And yet another informs us that “Filling the Hunter’s existing 23 massive mine voids will cost $25.3 billion but the government holds only $3.3 billion in bonds.”

Noelene Lucas, Entanglement, 2022, Multi-screen video installation with sound, Dimensions variable_008

This well-presented exhibition leaves visitors in no doubt that environmental issues are important and require urgent attention in order to “Save the planet” – words that passed by, overlaid against clouds, on another video panel.

Bird numbers and habitats have dwindled as we have destroyed many forests and wetlands, plus our previously clean air and water. Birds have disappeared as humans have destroyed their life support systems – as well as our own. So, it is most appropriate that there are also several videos of various birds and of water contaminated with drifting litter. The clear message is everywhere as you walk around the exhibition spending time watching the moving imagery.

Noelene Lucas, Galah, 2022, (detail) multi-screen video

Central to Lucas’s work is her investigation of the land from both environmental and historical perspectives. Land, birds and water quality in the light of climate change are key to the environmental research. At the base of all her video work is the exploration of time and fleeting moments.

Noelene Lucas, Entanglement, 2022, Multi-screen video installation with sound, Dimensions variable_011

Every day we hear or read about unprecedented flood or fires, that glaciers are melting faster and faster, that people’s homes and gardens are being inundated by rising sea levels. We are told there’s yet another crisis then, thankfully, that it’s passed.

We only have to consider the recent flood events in NSW and Queensland to appreciate the truth of those words. More crises do keep occurring and many of us now expect that, as a result of climate change inaction, they will only happen more and more frequently – that we are moving towards creating a world that our descendants do not deserve. If any reminder of the problem is needed this exhibition serves that purpose most effectively.

Entanglement highlights so many environmental issues and points to our involvement in the climate change crisis. But it also points to where hope resides – in our contact with other life forms, in seeing and valuing and not being indifferent to the damage that has been done.

This review was published in the Canberra Times of 30.05.22 here. It is also on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.

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My Photography, Photography Story

A small piece of Canberra’s history

One little functional building in Canberra, the Manuka electricity substation (Chamber Substation 69), was built in 1936. It is thought to have been designed by Cuthbert Whitley. It may be the only one of its kind left. It is no longer used for its purpose and, right now in May 2022, Evo Energy wants to demolish it.

A Development Application (DA number 202240055) has been lodged for Block 5, Section 41, Griffith (zoned for community uses), where the building is located. The remainder of the block contains a small parking area and is, otherwise, undeveloped.

Image taken from the DA

There is now a temporary security fence around the building, which is covered with painted “street art”.

Chamber Substation 69 behind a temporary security fence © Brian Rope
Chamber Substation 69 behind a temporary security fence © Brian Rope

Who was Cuthbert Whitley and why is his involvement in any way relevant? An entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography by Roger Pegrum reveals much about  Whitley:

Whitley was an architect and public servant, who was born on 30 July 1886 at Rutherglen, Victoria.

He trained in design and building with the Victorian Public Works Department. In 1912 he joined the Commonwealth Public Service as a draughtsman in the public works branch of the Department of Home Affairs.

In 1920, Whitley was appointed architect in the Department of Works and Railways. Soon after, he was admitted as an associate of the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects and the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Whitley was transferred in 1929 to Canberra, where he worked under the principal designing architect (later chief architect) E. H. Henderson. In 1935, he was promoted to senior architect in the Department of the Interior. His first major project was a new building for the Patent Office on Kings Avenue, for which he chose a formal axial composition with sandstone facings and restrained Art Deco embellishment.

Patent Office on Kings Avenue © Brian Rope

In 1936, Whitley designed Ainslie Public School. His plans were both functional and elegant, with carefully articulated facades and creative treatment of conventional materials internally and externally. Art Deco motifs such as chevrons and vertical flutes suggested a fresh and forward-looking view of education.

Ainslie Public School (now the Ainslie Arts Centre) © Brian Rope

He followed this building with a dramatic design for Canberra High School (1939) at Acton, with a lofty clock tower marking the high ground overlooking the city centre and long symmetrical wings of classrooms terminating in bold semicircular ends. He enlivened the formality of the composition with decorative elements integrated into the overall design. Featuring many technological innovations, it was described at the time as ‘the most modern school in Australia’.

The original Canberra High School (now the ANU School of Art & Design) © Brian Rope

Following Henderson’s death in 1939, Whitley was acting chief architect for some six months. His ambitions for a truly modern Canberra were also realised in smaller projects, including houses, and the city’s first fire station, at Forrest. The flat roofs, crisp steel-framed windows and unrelieved brick walls of these buildings were early expressions in Canberra of the Inter-War Functionalist style.

Whitley travelled only for work and, despite his appreciation of contemporary architectural movements, never went overseas. After suffering the first of several strokes in 1941, he retired on 19 September 1942. He died of a cerebral haemorrhage on 23 October that year in Canberra Community Hospital and was buried in Canberra cemetery.

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Exhibition Review, Reviews

WE BLEED THE SAME

Photography, Documentary & Installations Review

WE BLEED THE SAME | TIM BAUER & LIZ DEEP-JONES

Research School of Social Sciences, ANU | Until September/October 2022

Whilst reporting on conflicts, acclaimed journalist Liz Deep-Jones, was deeply disturbed that they unfolded in the name of religion or racism.  Inspired by a community-led, grassroots initiative ‘Racism Not Welcome’, Deep-Jones joined forces with portrait photographer, Tim Bauer, to present this exhibition ‘We Bleed The Same’.

Deep-Jones grew up in a Lebanese, Arabic-speaking household trying to figure out how she belonged in Australian society where she experienced bigotry. She says the exhibition is “about you, me, humanity!” Bauer is the child of a refugee European father and an Australian mother who taught him to love and respect all human beings.

Thirty-nine women and men from varied backgrounds, religion and race feature in Bauer’s images. And in an accompanying documentary produced by Deep-Jones, they share personal and emotional stories about their diverse cultures and experiences with dangerous and demoralising racism. Like them, we should all be seeking to defeat racism.

As he is a pre-eminent Australian portrait photographer, it is no surprise that Bauer’s diverse images here are simply superb. The people he has wonderfully portrayed include former Race Commissioner Tim Soutphommassane, First Nations Elder Leetona Dungay (whose son David died in custody) and refugee Marcella Kaspar.

Tim Soutphommasane © Tim Bauer
Leetona Dungay © Tim Bauer
Marcella Kaspar © Tim Bauer

Lovemore N’dou, one of the other incredible people featured, had a successful early career in boxing but, due to South Africa’s apartheid policies, was not allowed to compete internationally. He migrated to Australia and continued his boxing career before becoming a lawyer.

Lovemore Ndou © Tim Bauer

There is Australian-born Uyghur woman Subhi Bora, indigenous Torres Strait Islander author and union official Thomas Mayor, and Filipino migrant Brenda Gaddi. Also South Sudanese refugee Deng Adut, proud Australian Muslim woman Maryam El-Kiki, and human rights advocate and refugee activist Thanush Selvarasa.

Maryam El-Kiki © Tim Bauer
Thanush Selvarasa © Tim Bauer

Accompanying each wonderful Bauer portrait are the subjects’ deeply personal stories in words assembled by Deep-Jones – explaining who they are, what their personal racism experiences have been, and how they are involved with seeking to combat bigotry. Those words take the already powerful images even further – they are profoundly moving. It is highly probable that studying the images and reading the words will make most viewers quite emotional.

From Mayor, we learn “Indigenous people experience racism in this country every day. Racism makes me feel less than human, insignificant, like I’m not even there but we need to stand up and be proud of who we are. We are on our country and that can’t be ignored.”

The exhibition also features various installations – including the interactive Kizuna (Japanese  – meaning ties or bonds) in which family photographs submitted by the local community are being hung from a red Hills Hoist using red strings. The threads of photos represent the connectedness between Australians whilst reflecting our diversity. Deep-Jones hopes this exhibition that she has produced will convey that message and spark visitors into ongoing conversations about racism in Australia.

Another installation comprises vials of fake red blood, each labelled with a name of a portrait subject and, so, symbolising them and shouting, ‘We Bleed The Same.’

There are opportunities for visitors to share their personal experiences of, and views about, racism by writing in red alongside images of a “blood-soaked arm.” And a Cedar Tree of Lebanon installation, inspired by Deep-Jones’ family roots, seeks to touch our souls and ignite our hearts to inspire positive action for humanity.

Deep-Jones expects the exhibition will continue until at least October 2022. It is in the foyer and also the first floor of the RSSS building at the ANU. I urge everyone who can to see this important presentation.

For a great interview with Deep-Jones check here.

This review was published by the Canberra Times on 28/05/22. It is also available on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.

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