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.

AP Focus, My Photography, Photography Story

Keeping it Personal

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 March 2022 issue now in newsagencies.

As published:

One of the things we all should do is set ourselves personal projects to work on. In recent years, I have identified various projects I thought might lead to the production of photobooks or even exhibitions.

Creating photobooks is quite straight forward really. The cost of a particular size book is known ahead of time, so you can decide what to make and be aware of exactly how much money you need before proceeding. And if you do make a good one, you could always enter it in the annual APS Photobook competition – either in the portfolio category or the storytelling category. And there are also other photobook competitions you might decide to enter.

The projects I have embarked on in recent times have been diverse, despite the pandemic restrictions. Walking, cycling or driving around your close neighbourhood is all you need to do when searching for shots. I found the roadside littered with many more than usual corflute signs when it was election time here. See. Stop. Photograph. Repeat. The end result was 54 images – plenty for a photobook.

Then I found Love. Well sort of. Someone was, and still is, painting graffiti all over the place and, most particularly, around the suburbs closest to where I live. Every artwork primarily consists of images of a dinosaur/worm/alien, often accompanied by a heart and messages. I’ve completed a book Expressing Love in Canberra featuring many of those artworks that I photographed. If nothing else, I have a documentary record of those since removed or painted over! And, I’m adding to my collection every time I see a new work. I’d actually like to acquire one work that is painted on an electrical box door so I could display it along with my photos and the photobook at an exhibition.

Love 041 – © Brian Rope

When I first saw some Say Less graffiti on buildings in two suburbs on opposite sides of a major entrance road to our city, I had no idea what it was about. However, I quickly thought about the old saying that one picture is worth a thousand words, and the concept for a book about saying less with words and more with images started to take shape in my mind. Again, I’ve made a photobook.

Cover of Say Less photobook © Brian Rope

Say Less is also about graffiti (or street art if you prefer) and explores various meanings of the term.

Lyneham Flats 004 © Brian Rope

My possible exhibition could explore Love, Say Less, Corflutes and, maybe, also E-Scooters – the method of transport that has made a relatively recent appearance here, welcomed by many but irritating others because of perceived misuse as the scooters litter our streets.

Having an exhibition is more difficult to achieve. Firstly, there is the difficulty of getting a timeslot in a gallery. Getting into most of our local galleries is a real challenge. You have to compete with many graduating students keen to emerge and establish their names, as well as numerous already established photo artists from other parts of the country and even overseas.

I ask myself if older folk like me who have been in numerous group exhibitions over the years but never had their own solo show, can now emerge and be lauded as photo artists? I don’t know, but I’ll keep pursuing a solo exhibition and, in the meantime, will make more photobooks. What was the closing date for that competition I read about?

AP Focus

Not a Travel Shot

Roughly every quarter, I write a piece for the APS Focus page in Australian Photography magazine. This is my latest piece, published in the July 2021 issue now in newsagencies.

‘Experts’ often advise us to research as much as possible before visiting any new destination, so that we have some idea of the best locations and times to get photos. They say to capture images that tell viewers about the places, rather than just showing what they looked like.

A few days before writing this, I attended a presentation at my local photographic society entitled ‘Travel Photography with a Focus’. The speaker explained how he identifies a number of themes before traveling, with a view to taking images that fit each of those themes. He acknowledged that it doesn’t always work out; but illustrated how successful it is possible to be.

I’ve had the good fortune to visit numerous places in Australia and overseas, usually arranging my own itinerary. Even on two group trips to India I was with mostly enthusiast photographers from the Australian Photographic Society – and I organised the tours myself directly with a company that had considerable experience taking enthusiast photographers around. We made it clear to our guides that, when anyone wanted to stop for a photo opportunity, that is what would happen – even if it meant arriving at our next destination well behind schedule. We were also able to determine the times of day we would visit particular locations and how long we would spend at them.

However, when I travelled to China it was as part of a group tour organised by a company I’d not previously dealt with – and probably won’t again. So, I had no control over where and when I would visit places, nor over how long I would be at any one place. I had to wing it and really not think about it as a travel photography opportunity, but just as a glimpse of parts of China during which I would be able to get some images to remind me of where I had been. With around forty participants, I couldn’t always get a window seat on the coach and the windows didn’t open so were quite unsuitable for shooting through anyway.

When we visited the inevitable ‘factories’ to be exhorted to spend money on pearls, jade, silk and even Chinese medicines there were some photo opportunities, but I was always itching to get outside and find other subjects. When we went to the 88th floor of a tower in Shanghai, I was more interested in finding interesting shapes to photograph than in the views.

When we went to some superb indoor performances – Chinese musical theatre, Kung Fu and acrobatics – I was delighted that photography was always permitted. It was especially great when I was seated in one theatre’s second row and had terrific opportunities to shoot the action.

Red Performers

Inevitably, I captured plenty of typical tourist shots and some of cute kids in the streets. I was also a subject myself several times when Chinese men wanted their wives to photograph me posing with them! However, I was determined to get some images that would not be taken by any of the non-enthusiast photographers in the tour group. Looking again through all the images I brought home, I’m quite pleased with a number of them.

As published in Australian Photography magazine
AP Focus

Self Reflection

Roughly every quarter, I write a piece for the APS Focus page in Australian Photography magazine. This is a modified version of my latest piece, published in the March 2021 issue now in newsagencies. A few words in the final two paragraphs have been varied following rule changes relating to the MCPP.

As published:

I first joined a photographic club in 1977 and the APS in 1986 and have learned an enormous amount about photography during the years since. Most importantly, I am still learning – as I believe we all should. In recent years I have been closely involved with two areas within APS – the Contemporary Group (CG) and the Mullins Conceptual Photography Prize (MCPP).

I chair the CG, edit its monthly online magazine and administer its Friends group on Facebook. I learn from each and every image I see, and from the discussions that take place about them on social media. Recently we have conducted some Zoom sessions for interested CG members and, just last night, we shared a few images in such a session and had interesting conversations about them. The newest CG members learned from that – so too did those who have been involved for many years.

The MCPP is now in its third year. Again, I have learned a lot from seeing which entries were selected as finalists in 2019 and 2020, and which were not. Of course, different judges might select different finalists and winners. Anyone who has ever attended a club judging or entered an international competition knows that. More importantly, if they listen to judges’ comments, or read adjudicators remarks, or carefully read available artist statements and study individual works, they will have learned.

A requirement to submit a concept statement with each entry in the MCPP challenges some photographers, but we should all see it as another way of learning. If we cannot describe what we were seeking to reveal through our image, then how did we manage to create an image relating to our concept?

So, are you entering in 2021? I hope you are and that you have some great images and words illustrating some excellent concepts to submit. I also hope you will be amongst the finalists and, maybe, even take home the $10,000 prizemoney. Most importantly, I hope you learn something from developing concepts, creating images to illustrate them and writing your associated concept statements.

I managed to have one of my entries selected as a finalist in 2020. As I prepare my entries for other such competitions (not the MCPP as management of it have been ruled ineligible now) I will look again at works previously entered and others of mine that haven’t made the cut. I will also look more at other past entries, such as the one by Roger Skinner below. I will be seeking to learn again.

20190918 Roos Songlines © Roger Skinner

Those of who become finalists in the 2021 MCPP will have their prints displayed for seven weeks during July and August at the Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre (MRAC). This is a significant move to an art gallery within the Museums and Galleries of NSW network, allowing scope for interaction with other galleries in that network. The acquired annual MCPP winners will go into this regional gallery’s permanent collection, adding a great deal of prestige for the winning artists.

Entries close on Friday 23 April at 11PM AEST via https://www.a-p-s.org.au/ or https://myphotoclub.com.au/.

AP Focus

The Mullins Legacy (or Benefits from APS Membership)

My latest contribution to the Australian Photographic Society pages in Australian Photography magazine appears in the April 2020 issue under the title The Mullins Legacy. Here it is as published:


And here it is as submitted:

Benefits from APS Membership

Twelve months ago, I wrote a piece for this page about the then new Australian Conceptual Photography Prize (ACPP). It is happening again and has had a small, but significant, name change. It is now known as the Mullins Australian Conceptual Prize (MACPP). This is because a significant bequest bearing the Mullins name has now been directed into the Prize.

During 2009, Barbara Mullins provided the APS with a bequest in memory of her husband, the late Doug Mullins, President of the Society 1964-1966. This bequest was part of the proceeds from the sale of Mullins Gallery, the former headquarters of the South Australian Photographic Federation of which Doug was Patron.

Initially, the bequest was used to support the publication of two APS books of members’ work. In 2011 the first edition of APS Gallery was published. In 2012, when the APS celebrated its 50th anniversary, a second book was published. Since that time the balance of the bequest has grown considerably through interest earned.

Seeking to ensure the long-term future of the ACPP, last year the Society approached the Mullins family with a proposal that would satisfy the intent of honouring both Doug’s and Barbara’s significant contributions to the APS. There was much synergy in the proposal with the style of Doug’s exhibition photography in the Prize, and in Doug and Barbara’s generous support of the arts and the Art Gallery of SA.

In early December 2019, approval was received to apply the balance of the bequest funds to the Prize. The Society has, therefore, retitled the prize as the Mullins Australian Conceptual Photography prize (MACPP) and it will be a permanent reminder of Barbara and Doug Mullins.

So, by entering the MACPP you would, in effect, be paying a tribute to Doug and Barbara and all they did for photography during their lives. In addition, you might have your work selected as a finalist for exhibition at Magnet Gallery in Docklands, Melbourne. You might even win the major prize of $10,000 or another prize.

Even if you are not one of the entrants to make the short list, the challenge of entering competitions like this can inspire us and lead to significant improvements in our imagery. Thinking about what we want to say through our images and writing a 100 words description of our concepts all helps us to develop and advance with our photography.

You can still enter the 2020 MACPP. Please log onto the APS Website www.a-p-s.org.au and follow the links to the Prize. Or go direct to the Prize competition portal at https://apsacpp.myphotoclub.com.au/. You’ll need to hurry though as entries close at 11 PM AEST on 1 May 2020.

The MACPP is just one of numerous things the APS offers to assist its members to create better images. There are other competitions, folios that allow members to share their work with other members and learn from each other, the opportunity to represent Australia in exhibitions such as the 2020 FIAP Nature Biennial, and the opportunity to create your own online image gallery. Members can also subscribe to magazines from Yaffa Publishing (such as this one) for discounted rates.

When the son becomes a father by Anne Pappalardo

When the son becomes a father – by Anne Pappalardo – a winner in the 2019 ACPP.

AP Focus

Using Social Media

My latest contribution to the Australian Photographic Society pages in Australian Photography magazine appears in the October 2019 issue under the title Using Social Media. Here it is as published:                                    EPSON MFP image

And here it is as submitted:

Using Social Media

I’m not an expert at using social media, but I have learned a little about using hashtags to attract more viewers of my images. Why do I want to? My principal reason is to share some of my images with people, because letting other people see my shots is a big part of my passion. Why take photos if nobody gets to see them?

A while ago I received an email from a lapsed APS member suggesting that much more use of Facebook could be used. The Society’s President is keen to see APS and more of its members making use of social media; not just Facebook, but Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, 500px, Flickr and many more. Choose your own.

To justify the time and effort involved in using social media sites, we need to learn how to do it well. For example, we need to think about the best time of day to post to sites such as Facebook and Instagram. Many people are addicted to the former and check it first thing in the morning and last thing at night every day because that’s when they have the most time. So, to maximise the prospects of our friends and followers seeing our photo posts we need to post at times to coincide with the majority of those people being on Facebook.

Instagram is very much a photo-driven site. Again, early morning posting is a good approach. So too is early evening. But don’t forget that your followers may well check new posts when they are on their lunch breaks.

Now, let me talk about hashtags. Firstly, what is a hashtag? The dictionary tells us “A word or phrase preceded by a hash mark (#), used within a message to identify a keyword or topic of interest and facilitate a search for it. Whenever a user adds a hashtag to their post, it’s able to be indexed by the social network and becomes searchable/discoverable by other users.”

OK, now we know what they are, how do we decide which hashtags to use? One approach might be to look at the tags used by people who have lots of followers and use the same ones. But if one of those tags is used by a million other people then your post is going to get lost amongst all of the others using the same tag. So, we need to find appropriate tags that give our images an improved prospect of staying at the top of posts for longer.

Let me reiterate that; if a particular hashtag is used by huge numbers of people that doesn’t mean it is the right fit for you to gain followers and Likes. The only thing it ensures is that your image will disappear into the deep crevices of social media. Out of sight! I read somewhere that the hashtag #photography is used on 252 million Instagram posts every second. Apparently that means an image with that tag will disappear within 30 seconds.

There are various tags I always use in order that those who follow three photography organisations of which I am a member will see my photos. I urge all members of the APS to tag their photos with #australianphotographicsociety to help promote our Society.

I also regularly use tags like #canberraphotographer, #brianropephotography and #igerscanberra (that means Instagrammers of Canberra).

For my image on this page, I would use only some of the following tags – #beijing, #beijingbuildings, #1in36, #squares, #windows, #grid, #architecture, #onewhite,  #onewhitewindow, and #3dimensional.  I leave it to you to consider which of them might be good tags for the image.

Hole in One - by Brian Rope

Hole in One

We need to be up to speed with relevant hashtags and current trending topics. And, if you haven’t realised already, you can simply make up your own hashtags – if you are clever enough to think of one nobody else has ever used. Oh, and please ensure you spell your tags correctly! For me #monochrone doesn’t cut it.

If you want to follow my personal Instagram account it is  https://www.instagram.com/brianrope/. If I follow you in return, we can learn more about social media together whilst seeing each other’s imagery.

To find Websites that explore this subject in more detail, just do a Google search for something like “using social media to promote photography”.

AP Focus

Conceptual Photography

My contributions to the Australian Photographic Society pages in Australian Photography magazine are now only twice a year. My latest piece appears in the April 2019 issue under the title A New Concept.EPSON MFP image



Here it is as submitted:

During the Australian Photographic Society’s annual convention in 2018, there were some speakers who discussed conceptual photography. Marian Drew, one of Australia’s most influential and significant photo-media artists, gave a presentation. And there was a panel (Phillipa Frederiksen, Julie Powell and Lisa Kurtz) discussion about conceptual art – with Greg Mc Millan as Moderator.

The panel discussion elicited considerable discussion revealing a lot of interest in conceptual photography. When the new Management Committee of the Society met for the first time following the AGM, it resolved to establish this new initiative and charged me with the responsibility of managing it.

So, what is Conceptual Photography? Some readers may not be certain. If so, like me, they might find the material at these Website pages helpful:




The image illustrating this article is, in my view, conceptual. Let me attempt to justify that claim. There is an organisation based in Melbourne that has embarked on an ongoing project called ‘Unit of Measure’. For their initial project, participants measured parts of the built environment in Collingwood using something other than the usual units of measure, such as feet and metres. Instead they used standard-sized basketballs as their unusual unit of measure, and took photographs showing, e.g., how many such basketballs fitted into a door opening.

When some of that project’s people came to my home city to conduct a Unit of Measure Photowalk, I enrolled and found myself measuring parts of the urban environment using Coca Cola cans. So, the concept was to use those cans as a different unit of measure and find things in the urban environment that we explored which were exactly so many Coca Cola can diameters wide or exactly so many Coca Cola can lengths high and so on. The concept was to measure the urban environment using something different to the normal as our Units of Measure. And, of course, to create images of what we did. Conceptual photography? You be the judge.

New Acton UoM 0058 Cropped

Just under four months after I was given the challenge, the Society announced what it considers to be a stunning new initiative – a very special new photographic Prize, unlike any previously seen in Australia, providing the opportunity for Conceptual photographers to be recognised as the best in Australia – and to win significant prize money. You may have seen an ad about it in the March issue of this magazine. Have you entered yet?

The main challenge in establishing the event was identifying a suitable partner with premises for displaying the winners and other finalists, and to acquire the winning print. I was absolutely delighted when the Magnet Galleries in Melbourne agreed to join us. The winners of the Australian Conceptual Photography Prize (ACPP) 2019 and the best entry by an APS Member will be announced on Thursday 4 July 2019 at the 6.30 PM AEST opening of the exhibition of the finalists’ prints at Magnet Galleries’ Melbourne Docklands Gallery. Will I see you there?

The winner of ACPP 2019 will be awarded $8,000 cash. The winner of the best entry by an APS Member will receive $2,000 cash. If the winner of ACPP 2019 is an APS Member then that entrant will receive both cash amounts – totalling $10,000. Other prizes may be added as sponsors are announced.

Because the ACPP is acquisitive, the printed winning framed artwork that is awarded the Prize immediately becomes the property of Magnet Galleries.

Each entry must be a still work that has been substantially produced by photographic means, including analogue and digital photography, collage and mixed media.

Each entry must be accompanied by an Artist’s Concept Statement, of no more than 100 words. This may well prove to be a challenge for photographers not used to explaining the concepts, if any, behind their images. However, I see that challenge as a most useful learning exercise for people wishing to enter the Prize, and something that should improve their future photography as a result.

There are, of course, other entry terms and conditions. Each entry must not have been previously selected as a finalist in a Prize or exhibited at a major public institution. There also is a specification that a maximum of four entries may be submitted by any one entrant. And, entries must have been created in the twelve months preceding the closing date for entries (3 May 2019).

To read full details about the Conditions of Entry, about Submission of entries and Entry fees, about Exhibition prints and about Judging, and to Enter the prize, visit the APS Website: https://www.a-p-s.org.au/ or scan the QR code below.

qr code - jpg


AP Focus

A Photographic Biography

Every quarter I have been writing a piece for the APS Focus page in Australian Photography magazine. This is my latest piece, published in the September 2018 issue now in newsagencies.

As published:                EPSON MFP image

A Photographic Biography

A traditional portrait essentially only shows what we look like at the moment in time when it was taken. An environmental portrait reveals more because it includes something of the environment in which we live or work. The more skilled and imaginative the photographer the more interesting a portrait will be for the viewer to study.

However, what if we want to show the viewer of a portrait much more? I asked myself this question when I began thinking about how I might portray myself in the context of a visual autobiography. A what?

Well, why is it that biographies must be in the form of the written word, perhaps illustrated by a small number of relevant family photos? Why can’t it be reversed so that the photographic medium becomes the principal information, perhaps “illustrated” with a small number of relevant words?

As my thought processes took some shape, it occurred to me that I could identify some key points throughout my life (or someone else’s) from its starting point through to the present (a little like chapters in a written biography). Each key point could then be illustrated in a series of photo montages.

The next question was how to structure each montage. I have always thought of peoples’ lives as journeys and, since most journeys involve traveling along roads, I had the idea of using an image of a section of a road as the background to each montage. Of course, journeys can also be taken by train or plane or boat – so images of railway lines or sky or oceans could also be used as the backgrounds.

The next step was to consider how to lay out other images to form the montages. To develop this concept for my own autobiography, the answer for me was easy. Because my surname is Rope, I could photograph pieces of rope to superimpose somewhere on the road background and then add other images relevant to each identified point on my life journey.

Since this is the reverse of the traditional approach, I would also need to write a few words to go with each composite image. Perhaps the real challenge for we visual artists?

The viewer who studies the composite images when completed will see places where I have lived, schools I have attended, people who have been a significant part of my life at various times, images revealing things that have been important to me, items that I have made and photographs of significance for me.

The composite images would need to be available in a sufficiently large size for “readers” to adequately see all the elements within them, including any text that was superimposed.

Printing each “chapter” at, say, A2 would certainly help. That would mean creating a very large photo book for the coffee table or holding an exhibition of the completed biography or decorating all the walls of your home with the large prints. Alternatively, the biography could be “read” on a sufficiently large monitor.

I have only just commenced my autobiography project but have “drafted” a small number of composites which, as with the chapters of a written biography, may be re-worked to get them right.

The limited space on this page does not lend itself to reproducing a detailed composite. However, it should be sufficient to show the basic elements of a montage about my voyage to Australia as a child migrant. It has an English beach at the top, an Australian one at the bottom and ocean in between. It shows a statue of children stepping ashore at Fremantle where I first set foot on Australian soil, and the year when I did.

Across the Seas Basic Elements - by Brian Rope

The complete composite also includes the ship on which I travelled, its name, a newspaper report about the gale when docking in Melbourne, and some rope. The draft accompanying words read:

10-pound Poms to a country with boundless plains to share

Vomiting all the way through Bay of Biscay

Via Gibraltar, the Suez Canal – going the wrong way

shout those who couldn’t hack the new life, and Colombo

Sharing a cabin with dad and five other men

Bread and jam for children passed on to parents

Bus from Fremantle to Perth on a stinking hot Sunday

No shops open and many annoying flies

Gale force winds in Melbourne break tug ropes as we try to dock

Then a road journey to Western Districts and a new home

My long and close involvement with the Australian Photographic Society and other areas of photography is certainly worthy of inclusion in my autobiography, but I’ve yet to work on it. Perhaps the Society’s annual convention at the Gold Coast this September might provide another image for inclusion? Will I see you there?


AP Focus

Back Stories

Every quarter I write a piece for the APS Focus page in Australian Photography magazine. This is my latest piece, published in the June 2018 issue now in newsagencies.

As published: EPSON MFP image

How well a photograph tells a story is something many of us look for in our own imagery and in other images that we view. Those of you who subject your images to critique by judges will often have heard them speak about the story it tells them. At my local photographic society a few nights ago, the judge told us he thought an image was powerfully showing the pain of a woman with cancer wondering whether she would survive to see the child her daughter was carrying. I have no idea whether his interpretation was correct, but it resonated with me.

In recent times I have begun exploring the stories behind some of the places that I photograph. For example, near to my home in a new suburb there is a hill that, when climbed, provides great views of the surrounding area – especially at sunset. They used to do hang gliding from the top. I recall seeing them often as I drove past.

Near the lower end of the path to the hilltop, there is a playground enjoyed by many neighbourhood children and their parents. Some elements of the playground are very useful for framing images of the hill. Others make interesting subjects in themselves because of their vibrant colours and angular shapes. Of course, images of your children or grandchildren enjoying the play equipment can also be captured.

As I make your way up the hill, camera in hand, I pass by four installed large rocks into which have been set the verses of Henry Lawson’s poem, Rain in the Mountains. Depending on the weather and time of day when I go for a walk, I can photograph images on and around the hill reflecting phrases in that poem. Misty cloud. Frowning mountains. Leaden grey sky. Night coming early. Rain passing. Golden afternoons.

Towards the top of the hill is a lone tree which makes a great focal point for images against the changing cloudscapes and moods of the sky. At the very top of the hill is a historic trig station as well as recently installed features, pointing to the various high points in the surrounding landscape and providing artworks for contemplation.

From the slopes of the hill you can see an historic building in the surrounding paddocks that have not yet been developed with townhouses and apartments. In the right late light, the building glows golden.

Along the paths that go around the hill as well as up it, there are information boards providing knowledge regarding some of these things, such as the trig station. Others share information about something I have never seen and previously knew nothing about. For the parkland slopes of this hill are the habitat of the critically endangered Golden Sun Moth (GSM).

When I put together illustrated articles for my occasional blog, I seek to learn more about things that I have photographed. I search the Internet. Working on articles about the trig station and the hill in general, I got quite a surprise. A biologist and environmental consultant that I know, Alison Rowell, has undertaken monitoring of the GSM and its habitat in this area during the very short lifespan of the adult GSM. Sadly, I am most unlikely to ever photograph a GSM. Adults are only seen under suitable weather conditions during a few weeks in spring and early summer. The males fly low and rapidly over the grassland searching for the females, which sit in areas of short grass.

However, I have learned what I think of as the back stories – about the hill, the trig station, and the historic building in the paddock. Reservoir Hill was so named because it once was the site of a reservoir – no surprise there.

The trig station was part of the national network of triangulation pillars providing reference points for measuring distance and direction and assisting in the creation of maps. A trig point typically consists of a black disc on top of four metal legs or concrete pillar, resembling a navigation beacon. It is also accompanied by a metal disc, which is located directly below the centre point of the tripod or on top of the pillar itself. This one is no exception.

The building in the paddock was part of Bells – the most powerful naval wireless base in the British empire and the largest naval or commercial station in the southern hemisphere.

Members of the APS often tell stories about their images – such as when they are putting together a series of images for a Conceptual Art Portfolio Award, when they are posting on the Friends of APS Contemporary Group Facebook group, or when they are presenting a talk at the annual convention.

Reservoir Hill Trig Station - by Brian Rope

Reservoir Hill Trig Station

Late light on Reservoir Hill - by Brian Rope

Late Light on Reservoir Hill


AP Focus

Contemporary Photography

Every quarter I write a piece for the APS Focus page in Australian Photography magazine. This is my latest piece, published in the March 2018 issue now in newsagencies.

As published:EPSON MFP image

What is Contemporary photography?

That is the question that I get asked more than any other in my role as Chair of the APS Contemporary Group.

There is no simple answer. Indeed, it generates an incredible amount of discussion amongst the Group’s members and, particularly, amongst members of the Friends of APS Contemporary Group Facebook group. The debate flares up again seemingly every time we get a new participant in that Facebook group who asks for advice. The discussion that ensued following the announcement of the 2017 Olive Cotton Award was incredibly vigorous, but most worthwhile because it opened a needed conversation.

Roger Skinner was behind the creation of Contemporary Group in 1993 and he was its inaugural Chair. His idea was that the new group would extend beyond the realms of art photography and promote the appreciation of photography as a communication medium. In his 2002 annual report, Skinner wrote “The group are quite happy with the definition of Contemporary as basically anything they don’t see in Image magazine.” Image was then the Society’s monthly magazine.

In her preamble to the Contemporary Group presentation at APSCON 2003, the next Chair, Kay Mack, said “It is difficult to find a neat phrase to cover the subject as Contemporary photography encompasses such a wide range of photographic media and concepts. If you visit any of the Contemporary photographic galleries in our major cities you will see anything from photograms, to images made with a pinhole or toy camera, to the older processes like cyanotype, to huge digitally-produced prints, to video clips and interactive computer-based programs. You will find straight documentary work, often supported by the written word, abstracts, collage, and illustrations of concepts as far “way out” as you might imagine. You won’t be alone if you admit to understanding and appreciating only some of what you see. But that’s always been the way with contemporary or modern art of any era. There has to be someone breaking new ground who is out in front of public taste. Some of the work will survive. Some of it won’t.”

Responding in 2017 to a query by a new member of the Friends Facebook group, Mack said “For me the image … or preferably the group of images … need(s) to be an expression of an idea or a concept that is important to the photographer. This could be something of purely personal significance or of something that has global attention. The way in which the concept is expressed is secondary. The photographer is free to use any techniques in his/her repertoire. This includes titling and accompanying words to support the concept.”

This year, the Group’s members have been invited to submit works for an exhibition of Contemporary faceless self-portraits. It will be held during the 2018 annual convention of the APS at the Gold Coast Arts Centre from 11-16 September. At the time of writing twenty-one members have expressed interest in participating and most have commenced developing their ideas. The task, of course, is to reveal something of themselves. Responding to one query by a participant I said “the idea ….. was intended to make us all think about how we might represent ourselves in a self-portrait. My face, indeed my physical appearance generally, doesn’t tell anyone much about who I am. The clothes I’m wearing might say a bit – but what do I do, what do I believe, what are my opinions, etc.”

A selection panel will be set up to choose which of the submitted works will be included in the exhibition. I am looking forward to seeing an eclectic group of 2 and, maybe, 3 dimensional images and installations on display. No doubt some of the traditionalists attending the convention will be bemused or even think some participants have created very strange works. However, I am also hopeful that some more converts will join Contemporary Group and start working in the fascinating and challenging field of Contemporary photography.

I am planning to lodge one or more works for consideration for the exhibition, but right now have only just commenced thinking about what I might create. The image accompanying this article is not a self-portrait; it is a portrayal of the sense of crowdedness I felt at an exhibition opening.

Readers who would be interested in seeing the exhibition or joining the APS Contemporary Group can find more information about both on the APS Website. Those interested in joining the Friends of APS Contemporary Group Facebook group need to be registered on Facebook themselves then search for the group and lodge a request to join.

A Crowded Opening by Brian Rope

A Crowded Opening