My Photography, Personal Story, Photography Story

The Book Launch

I’d helped him move his stock of books in boxes to Canberra’s The Street Theatre earlier in the week, then we transported a final box of pre-sold copies ready signed for each purchaser arriving at his request around 2.30pm on the day of the book launch. He was already there set up at a small table underneath the permanent installation on the wall commemorating the man who the book is about. Nearby, a theatre staff member was ready to start selling copies for him to sign as purchasers brought them to his table.

Joel Swadling at the book signing table © Brian Rope

The book If This Is The Highway, I’ll Take The Dirt Road – the Formidable Encounters of David Branson Esq. was written by my stepson Joel Swadling, hence my involvement – although I also knew the late David Branson, and all his family are also my friends. I’ve written about Branson and Swadling on this blog previously here. My concluding sentence then was “I’m looking forward to the attending both the 20th Anniversary Concert and the book launch, reading/hearing the interviews, reading the reviews – and completing my own reading of the book.”

By the time the launch date arrived I had attended the Concert and read almost to the end of Act One in the book. Both had added to my “looking forward to” mood. My wife and I had been on tenterhooks after having been deemed casual contacts of a grandson who contracted the Covid virus earlier in the launch week’ forcing us to have tests – thankfully negative. A positive result would have prevented us attending both the concert and the launch.

A publicity shot I prepared was displayed on monitors in the foyer/bar area of The Canberra Theatre before, during and after the 20th Anniversary Concert by Mikelangelo & the Black Sea Gentlemen, plus their guest Fred Smith.

My publicity shot on display © Brian Rope

Also displayed were numerous photos of David Branson taken by ‘pling.

From video of ‘pling’s images of David – as used in my publicity shot and on cover of the book © Brian Rope

But here we were at the appointed time on the appointed day, with many people gradually joining the crowd in the theatre foyer, purchasing drinks from the bar, purchasing books, getting them signed by the author and greeting numerous friends – some from other places than Canberra, and some not seen for years. What to do first was the challenge. For me, it was getting my camera out and starting to document the event – book selling, author signing, friends mingling. One of the first images shows Dominic Mico, whom I got to know personally when heading the (ACT) Arts and Recreation Branch way back in 1987. I went to many of Mico’s events at Canberra’s TAU (acronym for Through Arts Unity) Community Theatre. Later, Mico was founding director of the National Multicultural Festival. And here he was getting his copy signed.

Dominic Mico watches Joel sign his copy of the book © Brian Rope

There’s my wife Robyn Swadling speaking with our friend Pauline Everson, who has come along with her neighbour at Goodwin Ainslie Retirement Village.

The sales table – Pauline Everson in green, Robyn Swadling in multiple colours © Brian Rope

And there’s Paul Branson, who will be speaking during the launch – reading his own words about brother David from the book.

Michael Simic (aka Mikelangelo) is here too – ready to perform. He’s talking with Iain Campbell Smith – Australian diplomat, singer/songwriter and comedian. He performs under the stage name Fred Smith in Australia. Smith has been described as ‘Australia’s secret weapon’ in international diplomacy. As a career diplomat, he served for two years in southern Afghanistan. Working alongside Australian soldiers in Uruzgan Province, Fred’s second career as a musician came to the fore, his guitar serving as a bridge not only to the troops, but also to the people and tribal leaders of that war-torn region. His song, ‘Dust of Uruzgan’, captured the hearts of many serving in Afghanistan. And he authored a book with the same title.

Joel Swadling signing a book, Michael Simic, Fred Smith & friend in conversation © Brian Rope

A little after the scheduled time we began moving into the theatre for the launch. I headed in early to get a front row seat where photography would be easy. The woman beside me and I thought we knew each other. It was Kate McNamara – poet, playwright and critical theorist. For almost ten years she worked as a dramaturg with David Branson’s Splinters Theatre of Spectacle. But I probably had met her through her involvement with TAU, alongside Mico.

Seated on stage are David Branson’s sister Liz Bishop and brother Paul Branson, together with Louise Morris (Branson’s partner at the time of his death), and our author Joel Swadling. At one end of the front row are Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen, including the other Branson, Pip (aka Rufino), waiting to perform.

Liz Bishop, Paul Branson, Louise Morris & Joel Swadling © Brian Rope

Elsewhere in the theatre are other members of the Swadling and Branson families. Joel’s father Paul and wife Janet Scott, brother Anthony and partner Sarah Powell, and brother Justin with partner Rache(l) Pettit and their children Jasmine and Riley. That damned pandemic has prevented brother Adam from being present. Margaret Hunt (previously Branson) and her husband David, Paul’s wife Jeanette Watts, Pip’s wife Megan and their children Denholm and Holiday. They are all here.

The doors close. Louise approaches the lectern. She speaks lovingly of David and praises Joel for his dedication and persistence in bringing the book to fruition. Joel replaces her at the lectern, welcomes us all, thanks key people and delivers a short speech, starting:

I’m not going to give a long speech, because the readings I’d like to give are self-explanatory. But I really must thank the management of the Street Theatre, particularly Dean and Carolyn, who’ve so graciously organized this event; as well as Cathy Winters, in helping me to plan the running order. I’d also like to thank my friends, Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen, for agreeing to play for us. I’ve had several compliments on my book’s title. But I can’t take full credit, as they’re cribbed from Michael’s song, “In Carnival Time”: “If this is the high life, I’ll take the dirt path”.

And concluding:

For this book couldn’t have been produced without the direct involvement and support of our entire community. Of course, I want to thank you all for being here today. But I know equally that there are many who wish they could be but aren’t able. I think in particular of Patrick Troy and Peter Wilkins. Also, some who have passed from our number in the time it’s taken me to finish the book: Phillip Crotty, David Unwin, Renald Navilli, and ’pling (whose photographs so graciously accompany my pages). This, of course, is a celebration of the magnetic force of David Branson. But it’s equally a celebration of the upward spiral of the community which he so richly engendered. As David would have said, “Love you, love your work!”. So please, raise your glasses and toast: “Creative Community!”

Louise Morris speaks © Brian Rope

Those in the audience who happened to have a glass of something in their hands raised them as directed. Joel then invited Mikelangelo and friends to sing us a song. They take the stage and perform below a projected poster for the book featuring the image of David Branson. In their inimitable style they entertain us and speak of David. They then take seats at the rear of the stage.

Mikelangelo introduces the Gentlemen © Brian Rope

Next Joel invites Liz, Paul and Louise, each in turn, to join him. He reads his own words from the book, whilst they read words spoken by them years ago when interviewed for the book. Words that Paul later tells me he didn’t remember saying. All of this is well received by the large audience.

Liz Bishop reads, Joel listens © Brian Rope
Paul Branson reads, Joel listens © Brian Rope
Louise Morris reads, Joel listens © Brian Rope

After that it is Fred Smith’s turn, accompanied by Pip. Fred sings his new song about David whilst a video of ‘pling’s images of David plays on the screen above him. Pip plays his violin beautifully to accompany Fred. This is a truly emotional moment for all who were closest to David, indeed for everyone. Then Pip speaks about David and what he meant to him. More emotion!

Pip Branson plays violin whilst Fred Smith sings © Brian Rope
Pip Branson speaks about David © Brian Rope

To bring the actual launch to a close we are treated to more Black Gentlemen, ending with Mikelangelo being unable to resist removing his jacket and throwing it (landing at my feet), waving his arse at us all, then climbing into, over and onto the audience.

Black Sea Gentlemen finale © Brian Rope
Applause as the Gentlemen depart the stage © Brian Rope

Joel thanked everyone and invited all to return to the foyer for refreshments. Later in the foyer a friend confided to me that he thought Mikelangelo took the focus off Joel. I replied – but it is exactly what David would have done when he had such an opportunity.

Thanks, from Joel © Brian Rope

Back in the foyer Joel signed more books, we ate provided food, drank more, laughed, cried and talked until the staff packed up around us and, eventually, closed the doors. All a bit of a blur really!

More book signings by Joel © Brian Rope

Gemma Clare, who plays cello with The Gadflys amongst other groups, is speaking with Louise Morris – and I do believe that is Marc Mowbray, the Piano Guy, with them. Nearby, there’s a smiling Helen Musa, OAM – art journalist and critic, Canberra City News Arts Editor, founder and Convenor of the Canberra Critics Circle, consultant at the Asia Pacific Journalism Centre.

Louise Morris speaks with Marc Mowbray and Gemma Clare with cello – Helen Musa smiling on right edge of frame © Brian Rope

Rev. Dr. Bruce Stevens – founder of Canberra Clinical and Forensic Psychology, currently providing pastoral care to folk from St Margaret’s Uniting Church in Hackett which the Swadlings, Bransons, and Bishops all have connections with – says he enjoyed it immensely. Sue Wilson – who recognised Bruce Stevens and says he saved her life at a difficult time – also had a great time.

Megan – wife of Pip Branson – and their children are having fun. Simon Clarke – lay preacher at St Margaret’s – is in animated conversation with Margaret Hunt.

All a blur – Margaret Hunt speaks with Simon Clarke © Brian Rope

John Goss – chair of the church council at St Margaret’s and Mark Bishop – husband of Liz – are catching up with her and with Rev Paul Swadling who used to be the Minister at St Margaret’s.

John Goss, Mark & Liz Bishop, Paul Swadling © Brian Rope

There’s Fiona Edge – graphic designer (whom I first met when she did design work for the Deafness Forum of Australia when I was its CEO for 10 years) and with personal links to ‘pling (Kevin Prideaux, 1955-2018) who was deeply respected within the arts community for his continued passion, love and support. His photographic legacy is an immense record of the Canberra theatre/music scene from 1970s – 2010s. It is his photographs that feature in Joel’s book and on Fred Smith’s video of his song about David.

Ben Drysdale – actor, director, drama tutor, musician, events coordinator and Creative Producer at Canberra’s Rebus award-winning, mixed-ability Theatre Company in Canberra, which seeks to stimulate social change and healing and with which Joel performs – is enjoying a beer whilst chatting with Fiona Edge and Fred Smith.

Fiona Edge, Fred Smith and Ben Drysdale © Brian Rope

The book launch was over. Joel had much to be pleased about – not the least the large volume of book sales! His family and friends were proud of him. And the launch was a fine celebration of David in a place where he is permanently remembered.

David Branson memorial plaque © Brian Rope
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My Photography, Personal Story, Photography Story

David Branson (aka Señor Handsome)

David Branson was born in Melbourne in 1963 and moved with his parents to Canberra in 1965. He was a regular churchgoer and a church youth group member at St Margaret’s Uniting Church in Hackett, an inner north suburb of Canberra. From 1970 onwards, I knew him (and his family) through the church. He was a good friend to me and my now wife when our previous marriages to others from the church ended.

David has been described as a dynamic thespian and theatre-worker. He worked with community groups, youth theatres, repertory theatre, and groups of his own devising to create innumerable productions. He played the violin in the Canberra Youth Orchestra and in various local bands.

In 1985 David, together with Ross Cameron, John Utans and Patrick Troy, founded Splinters Theatre of Spectacle. The company staged several large productions, sometimes involving hundreds of people, fire sculptures, giant puppets and large moving metal sculptures. Early performances were at a now-demolished weatherboard cottage in the Canberra suburb of Downer, the Causeway Hall at the suburb of Kingston, and backyards in the inner north. They made good use of crowd manipulation. During his time with Splinters, David was involved in more than twenty productions including Cathedral of Flesh (1992) – winner of Best Promenade Theatre Performance Award in the Adelaide Fringe Festival.

After theatre studies in Melbourne, David worked as an actor with many different companies including La Mama, one of Melbourne‘s oldest and most fondly regarded theatres. As a director he staged The Threepenny Opera and Handel’s Ariodante. His Ribbons of Steel used a mix of archival material, interpretive art, sculpture and photographic exhibits, to mark the closure of Newcastle’s BHP steel works. He remained with Splinters until 1996 when he became the Artistic Director of Culturally Innovative Arts, which he founded with Louise Morris.

David remained a Canberra identity, dividing his time largely between Canberra and Melbourne. In Canberra he hosted the Terrace Sessions at the Terrace Bar and the Salons at the Street at the Street Theatre, where many avant-garde performances were staged. He thumbed his nose at the establishment but won a Canberra Critics’ Circle award in 1998. More than once, he was described as the “Mayor of Canberra’s underbelly”.

On 3 March 2001 (coincidentally, my birthday), David performed at the launch of Canberra’s Multicultural Festival in the city’s Civic Square. I was there and managed to squeeze into the large crowd close enough to take some photos of him from the rear.

An upright David Branson performing at the launch of the 2001 Multicultural Festival © Brian Rope
An inverted David Branson performing at the launch of the 2001 Multicultural Festival © Brian Rope

Tragically, later that year on 11 December, David died in a car accident whilst on his way to a last-minute Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen concert rehearsal. Under the pseudonym Señor Handsome, David was a founding member, and violinist, of the cabaret group.

A few days later I was part of an over-capacity crowd of over 200 people attending his funeral at St Margaret’s, spilling outside. And a large crowd performed and attended memorials at the Street Theatre in Canberra (which I also went to) and the Trades Hall in Melbourne. Branson Street in the Canberra suburb of Dunlop in the Belconnen region of Canberra is named after David. A plaque was placed on the ACT Honour Walk to commemorate David as part of the first group of honourees in 2005. And there is also a plaque in the foyer of the Street Theatre.

The Black Sea Gentlemen comprises five stellar performers whose roots run deep in the Canberra music scene – Michael Simic on guitar, Pip Branson (one of David’s younger brothers – who took his place amongst the Gentlemen) on violin, Phil Moriarty on clarinet, Guy Freer on accordion and Sam Martin on double bass. The group has packed houses from the Sydney Opera House to London’s West End, releasing four albums and building a dedicated following in Canberra and around the world. During the Easter 2015 National Folk Festival in Canberra, I photographed them performing to an enthusiastic full house.

Michael Simic (Mikelangelo) performing at the 2015 NFF © Brian Rope
Some of The Black Sea Gentlemen performing at the 2015 NFF,
Left to right: Guido Libido, Rufino (Pip Branson), Mikelangelo © Brian Rope

On 11 December 2011, the 10th anniversary of David’s death, the Black Sea Gentlemen joined with The Street Theatre to hold a tribute afternoon of performances, stories, music and a barbecue in the forecourt. Now, 20 years after David’s death, the band will again pay tribute to their friend, brother and founding member with a very special one-off David Branson 20th Anniversary Concert at the Canberra Theatre Playhouse on Friday 10 December 2021.

The following day (the exact 20th anniversary of David’s death) the Black Sea Gentlemen will perform again in the foyer of the Street Theatre during the launch of a biographical book about David.

The author, Joel Swadling, holds a Graduate Diploma in Writing from the University of Technology Sydney. He is also one of my stepsons. And he was a close personal friend of David Branson, and part of St Margaret’s church. Joel lived for a time in a flat at the home of David’s mother, a place where David himself had previously lived. Whilst there, Joel sorted through boxes of material about David’s involvements in the arts scene, particularly relating to Splinters Theatre of Spectacle. Joel was the archivist on the arrangement and description of those David Branson Papers at the ACT Heritage Library.

Joel’s book about David is titled If This Is The Highway, I’ll Take The Dirt Road – the Formidable Encounters of David Branson Esq. Soft and hard cover versions of the book will, of course, be available for purchase at the launch; also from “all good bookshops” in Canberra and online. There is also an e-Book option online.

My wife Robyn, Joel’s mother, assisted greatly with the book, transcribing all the author’s interviews. I had a modest involvement – assisting Joel to place wonderful photos by the late Canberra performance photographer, Kevin Prideaux; helping to create the cover design; and taking the image of Joel that he used as his author’s photo.

Author Portrait © Brian Rope

Joel dedicated the book to his “two loving mums”, Robyn and Margaret Hunt. He also both of them and myself in his acknowledgments. And it was very special to read mention of Robyn and myself in Joel’s personal reflections on his friend at the front of the book.

“Around the same time, my parents divorced, and my mother formed a relationship with a man from the church community. Confused and angry, I turned to David for advice. ‘He’s a good man. You’ve got nothing to worry about.’

In the early years of their relationship, they were pretty much ostracised from their friends and former church community, but David always greeted them in public with jubilant affection, and this remains my mother’s overriding memory of him.

I have enjoyed a full and rich relationship with my stepfather for close to twenty-five years. I can’t help feeling that David started us on this path to familial fulfilment.”

With the book complete and an initial stock of copies delivered to him, the next task for Joel (and others) has been to organise the launch and promote both it and the book. Posters and postcards have found their way to bookstores, assorted businesses frequented by folk who would have known David, St Margaret’s church, The Street Theatre, notice boards and more.

Joel Swadling pointing to his book poster that he put up on a Dickson wall © Brian Rope

Interviews with Joel have been, or are being, conducted – including by Barbie Robinson for her Living Arts Canberra podcast, and Arne Sjostedt (aka Fealing) for The Canberra Times. Copies of the book are being reviewed by some Canberra arts scene critics who knew, and greatly admired, David.

I’m looking forward to the attending both the 20th Anniversary Concert and the book launch, reading/hearing the interviews, reading the reviews – and completing my own reading of the book.

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My Photography, Photography Story

APS PhotoWalk Day: Environmental Impact – What does it mean to you?

On 25 September 2021 the Australian Photographic Society held its first APS PhotoWalk Day with the theme Environmental Impact – What does it mean to you?

Photography clubs were invited to take images in response to the theme on that day, with each club entering 20 images (no more than 4 per individual member).

Promotional material for the event said “Whether you walk city streets or wander bush trails, you can indulge your imaginative self with club members and individuals from all around Australia. What an amazing opportunity to connect through photography and to interpret the good and the bad of Environmental Impact. Images must be captured on the day and metadata must be included when the images are uploaded for judgement. Individuals do not need to be APS members.”

The winning club is to receive a $500 MOMENTO Pro Photobook voucher (to be divided at that Club’s discretion). All participating clubs will have their images displayed in a gallery on the APS website. All participating clubs will receive a Certificate of participation to place on their website.

There were three judges and each of them scored entries out of 9, with the points being added together. People who were not members of a participating club could enter as individuals and submit 2 images. The individual scoring most points is to receive a $150 MOMENTO Pro Photobook voucher and certificate.

As the club I belong to decided not to participate, I registered as an individual participant. An introductory session was held via Zoom the evening before the event. One of the judges was Lisa Kurtz who teaches Contemporary Photomedia at Central Queensland University and has a passion for encouraging photographers to be open to new ideas. Lisa’s own work explores concepts of memory, place and time. She has been a finalist in the Clayton Utz Art Awards, Head On Photo Awards, Olive Cotton Award for Photographic Portraiture, and the Milburn and Lethbridge Landscape Prizes.

In the introductory Zoom session, Lisa spoke about the topic and gave tips for capturing great images. I found her presentation to be excellent and she inspired me to create images that said something about environmental impacts in a different way.

I created fifteen possible entries in total. The two I selected to enter scored sufficient points for me to take out third place in the section for Individuals. So, no voucher, but an Award certificate.

These are the two images I entered:

Life Re-emerged © Brian Rope

With this image I took a print I had made of a previous image of mine into the natural grasslands near my home and put it in the branches of a dead-looking tree seeking to create a new image that was representative of new life re-emerging after destructive fires. During post-processing I deliberately darkened down the tree trunk and branches to make it look more fire blackened.

Might as well add my waste to this © Brian Rope

Again, with this image, I took a print I had made of a previous image of mine into the natural grasslands near my home and put it in the branches of a dead looking tree seeking to create a new image that was representative of a person throwing his hands up in horror at the appalling behaviour of people who dump, then burn, waste illegally in the grasslands. To emphasise the story, I “dumped” a bag of old slides that I had scanned and have no further use for – in with the existing waste. (I did bring the plastic bag and its contents back home afterwards.)

This second image scored higher than the other one but, my understanding is that the points received for both of them were added together to determine my ranking.

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My Photography, Photo Editing

Editing with ZPS X

In my first blog piece about Zoner Photo Studio X (ZPS X), I started by saying I’d recently installed it and suggested it was likely to take a long time for me to explore all of its features. I finished by saying that I’d best get started on my explorations and that, from time to time as I learned, I would post another piece about it here. Well, it has taken too long, but here is my second piece about it.

Firstly, I quickly learned to create copies of images before I processed any of them, so as to avoid possibly overwriting the originals when I didn’t want to. That, of course, is a smart way to operate regardless of what editing software you are using. Anyway, I set up a folder called Zoner, then copied a few existing folders of RAW images into it giving myself a selection of images to work with. The next thing I learned was that, after doing some editing, I couldn’t overwrite my starting file because the Nikon RAW image format is not supported for saving. No problem though, clicking OK in response to the message telling me that instantly brought up a set of options, including TIF, JPEG, PNG, gif and various other common formats to select from.  I could also choose to save it in Truecolor or in Greyscale. That gave me a new file to continue working on whilst the original RAW file remained in the folder.

I then explored a series of adjustments options, including such things as levels, curves, colour enhancement, sharpening, blurring, and vignetting. Using them was, for me, completely intuitive – and you can preview the results before saving and overwriting your file. Another option is to use a list of effects, including mixing channels, creating oil painting or pencil drawing looks, cartooning, and even turning a high-quality image into a degraded old photo looking as faded, scratched and aged as you wish.

Making use of a selection of the available features mentioned, I quickly created new versions of two of my images. Not once did I need to refer to the online manual. I started with these very ordinary RAW files taken during a recent visit to the small country village of Sutton in New South Wales, Australia:

and created these framed cartoon versions:

Yes, I know there is nothing remarkable about those created images; but making them demonstrated to me that it is quite simple to use ZPS X without needing to refer to the manual. Not that looking at a manual is a problem – I’ve no doubt there will be times when I need to (or should anyway). In addition, there are regular notifications about new articles on Zoner Photo Studio’s ‘Learn Photography’ school, so there is a heap of material that users can source to assist them on their journeys. This school is not just about learning to use ZPS X, it’s about everything – starting from the basics, like beginner’s tips, cheat sheets and mastering your camera.

Using ZPS X, you can convert to or assign an ICC profile, resize your image, adjust the canvas size, overlay text, overlay an image, and much more. And all of this is in the one dropdown menu: Edit. That’s before I even start looking into the other six dropdown menus in the manager module: Acquire, Information, Organize, Create, Publish and View. After I explore all of them, there are 3 more modules to work through – Develop, Editor and Create. I’ve already taken a peek at the Create menu and noticed there is the facility to create photobooks, postcards, calendars, collages, contact sheets, videos and more. What was I saying about how long a thorough exploration would require?

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From audio to video

Last year when COVID restrictions prevented choirs from gathering together, one I belong to persevered practising via Zoom. When we “knew” a particular piece, we each individually recorded ourselves singing our parts on one device (as best we could whilst listening to a backing track through headphones attached to a separate device) and sent our recorded contributions to our musical director. Then they were mixed together to create a finished product. One piece that was handled in that way was God the Sculptor of the Mountains.

Now, in COVID lockdown, the choir is back to Zoom practices again which means a forthcoming service celebrating creation during a Sustainability Festival will almost certainly have to be via Zoom. The organisers wanted to have the choir involved singing an appropriate piece. So that resulted in my being asked to convert the God the Sculptor recording into a video using some of my photographs for the visuals.

I chose images to reflect one word from each line of the song – 23 in all. Here are five of the images and the lines from the song that they illustrate.

I used an image taken at Interlaken in 2006 to illustrate a mountain:

God the sculptor of the mountains

Then it was an image of a stepson playing the role of Pharaoh in a stage musical.

God the nuisance to the Pharaoh

An image from the Barossa Valley in 2009 illustrated a vineyard.

God the dresser of the vineyard

Then one from Delhi in 2008.

we are hungry; feed us now

And a touch of fun with an image taken in Boorowa in July this year.

God the table turning prophet

Then I set about making the video using Microsoft’s Video Editor software. I needed to create some title slides for the beginning of the video, identifying the song by title, crediting the author of the words and music, crediting the musical director of the choir and crediting my own photography. I was able to use one of the 23 images as background in some of those title slides and found suitable images of the church, the musical director and myself to use in others.

After sharing my “finished” product with the musical director and the liturgist putting the service together, I took up a couple of suggestions and revised the video (using the somewhat more sophisticated Movie Maker Video Editor, also by Microsoft) adding fades between most slides plus one additional image at the very end as the music ended.

This was an interesting experience. I learned a lot and I expect this will not be the last video I create.

Interested readers can see all the images by watching the final finished video at https://youtu.be/jwLirAOX1uE and at https://vimeo.com/600743991

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My Photography, Photography Story

World Photo Day 2021

World Photo Day as it is celebrated on 19 August each year was originally started and promoted by an Australian photographer, Korske Ara, in 2009. Korske is these days the proprietor of Lucent Imaging in Canberra which many people use to have high quality fine art prints made; myself included when I need a print larger than I can make at home. There is a World Photo day presence on Facebook here, Instagram here and on Twitter here.

Today, World Photo Day reaches millions of people around the world with big brands, professionals and photography enthusiasts all joining the celebration. Competitions are being conducted by various groups or organisations, including Flickr here.

August 19 celebrates the day when the French government purchased the patent for the daguerreotype process that creates highly detailed images on a sheet of copper plate with a thin coat of silver. According to National Today, the day requires participants to share a photo of their world, which can be anything the photographer chooses.

So, here are some photos of my Canberra world that I am choosing to share to celebrate World Photo Day 2021. They were all taken on previous World Photo Days.


Amaroo Graffiti


Chimneys and roof frame behind tree


Fluoroscent Graffiti


In Henry Rolland Park

Wet day at our place
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Community of People

Earlier this year Photo Access in Canberra conducted three workshops, each spread over several weekly sessions, in which participants explored the idea of Canberra as a community of people, a built environment, and a physical landscape. Sixteen artists created new works responding to three of Canberra’s landmark photographers – Marzena Wasikowska, Edward (Ted) Richards and Ian North – each of whom are featured in Canberra Museum and Gallery’s current exhibition, Seeing Canberra. The result was the Canberra Re-Seen exhibition.

I participated in the workshop about Canberra as a community of people. Inspired by Wasikowska’s interest in capturing the human qualities of Canberra, we explored the idea that a city is best understood through its people. We had the added benefit of Wasikowska herself leading our workshop.

My approach was to make portraits in different styles to anything I had previously done. If I were to Re-see the people of Canberra, I thought that using a different approach (for me) was a way to do it. Instead of seeking to make traditional portraits concentrating on faces, I looked for groups of people interacting with each other whilst out and about in a variety of places – private home gardens, indoor venues, public spaces. I sought images that revealed something of those people from their interactions. Rather than simply show what the subjects look like, I was exploring elements that would provide viewers with facts or clues about each person’s characteristics – what are they interested in, how do they live these parts of their lives. Along the way I photographed individuals and some couples as well, because I saw opportunities. I also tried other approaches, including smart phone selfies so beloved of young folk and the creation of composites.

In June 2021 I reviewed Canberra Re-Seen here. I had two prints in the exhibition but did not show or discuss them in the review as it is not appropriate to review one’s own work. Here are my two works and just a few words about each of them.

Braddon Nightlife © Brian Rope

Braddon Nightlife is a composite combining opposite sides of a young woman using a smart phone near a queue to a popular night-time venue. It suggests to me that she is interested in such venues, in dressing up for a night out and in keeping in contact with at least one other person.

Keeping Clear © Brian Rope

Keeping Clear shows two people who walked in front of my camera and settled down before an emergency exit. It suggests to me that, at that point in time at least, they were simply focussed on what they wanted to do – possibly revealing something of their characters.

There is a possibility of a book being published about the works created by all sixteen workshop participants and it may include other works not shown in the exhibition. If that proceeds three more of my images may be included. Here they are with a few words about each of them.

Enlightened Connections © Brian Rope

Enlightened Connections shows people at the Enlighten Festival. There are several stories intertwined here – the fellow in the centre appears to be photographing a young woman under the rainbow in the bottom right corner, whilst three other young women take an interest in what he is doing. To the left of the frame is another couple, who may or may not be connected to the others. Are they waiting their turn to take a photo under the rainbow? Perhaps all that is revealed about them is that they enjoy a night at Enlighten in casual dress?

Look – up in the sky © Brian Rope

Look – up in the sky shows a large group of people gathered in Kings Park (between the Boundless Playground and Kings Avenue) socialising over drinks one late warm afternoon in February. There are many separate stories – the man in the centre with the beer belly, the trio on the right where one man is playing with his phone, the children exploring in the background where rabbits live, the couple on the left where the man is gesticulating with his hand, and (most strongly) the fellow pointing up towards the sky at something we cannot see (which provides the image title). It shows me how Canberra people dress, interact and enjoy themselves outdoors on a summer day in the 2020s.

Asleep, Awaking, Alive © Brian Rope

Asleep, Awaking, Alive is a composite of nine fun self-portraits purporting to show the transition as I wake from sleep, slowly open my eyes, do some facial stretches, then make myself presentable for the day ahead. What does it reveal about me apart from what I look like, both dishevelled and neat?

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My Photography

My Connections Prints

In June 2021, I reviewed an exhibition Connections here. I had two prints in that exhibition but did not include or mention them, as it is not appropriate to review one’s own work.

The catalogue for the exhibition referred to strange events of recent times having reminded us how important it is to stay connected with each other, family and places. Visitors to the gallery were invited to celebrate the diversity and joy of connections.

Participants were invited to submit as many images as they liked – then a selection panel chose the works to be included in the exhibition. I submitted about 30 possibilities then (just before the panel made its decisions) I was asked to submit another one that a panel member had seen, and thought would be good.

I was somewhat surprised and, yes, disappointed that a number of my submissions did not make the cut as I thought they were good – if not better than the two that were chosen. But so be it.

Amongst those not selected were some making use of words accompanying the images (a connection between the images and the words) – including Spilled Shadow which I’ve previously written about here. There were others where I had sought to show connections between groups of people in them, a connection between an old friend and myself, the connection between a jazz musician and his instrument, connection between my daughter and one of her daughters, and connections between several images put together into composites.

Here are my two selected works and just a few words about each of them.

Burnouts © Brian Rope

Burnouts is the image I was invited to submit at the last moment. It is a composite of 24 images of marks made where rubber had attached itself to the paved surface of a large carpark where one or more vehicles had been doing burnouts, probably at night when there was nobody else around. The marks show something of the physical connections between the vehicles tyres and the carpark paving, and also something of the connections between the driver(s) and their joy of successfully achieving the burnouts “man and machine” if you like.

Using a phone in the NGA © Brian Rope

Using a phone in the NGA is actually quite an old image, made in May 2018. Looking down from an upper level I saw a person seated below making no apparent connection with anyone else or with any of the artworks in the gallery – other than, possibly, on a mobile phone in her hands. There is nobody else on the seating or in the space around her. The original image, made using my phone camera, has some vibrant colour on the seating, but I felt that converting it to monochrome – and cropping it somewhat – made for a much stronger image.

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My Photography

Dusty and Smoky

In May 2021 I reviewed an exhibition Hot/Cold here. I had two prints in the exhibition but did not show or mention them as it is not appropriate to review one’s own work.

The exhibition sought responses to the idea that we have entered a time of extremes – seasonal, climactic and perhaps emotional. So, I simply looked for images that I had created when our area was affected by major bushfires and droughts – not directly, but we saw the smoke and experienced both smoke and dust drifting across us. Those with asthma or other breathing problems were impacted by the poor air quality.

I live close to a hill that has been retained within our suburb for recreational purposes and to protect an endangered species – the Golden Sun Moth. I have previously written about Reservoir Hill and the moth here. Walkers on the hill can enjoy some great views and sunsets and see different types of weather – on the Brindabellas and moving across our city. The two images I selected for the exhibition were both seen and captured on that hill.

Here are my two works and just a few words about each of them.

Dusty © Brian Rope

Dusty is simply that – a photograph of some of the dust blotting out the normal views and revealing itself a little on the drought-dried grasses on the hill. It is not a spectacular image of the dusty conditions experienced on farmlands much further west of Canberra or, indeed, closer to our city. But it does show something of how drought causes dust to form and then be carried by winds for long distances before landing in other places.

Smoky © Brian Rope

Smoky is an image of the skies viewed from Reservoir Hill. On this occasion, the Brindabellas and other parts of the views can barely be made out. The cloud cover appears darker than usual for the time of day – 7.30 AM. The sun is partially visible through the smoke lighting some areas of the clouds. Again, the experience of smoke from bushfires was muted near my home. The far southern areas of our city were much closer to the fires and threatened by them for a time. Images taken from there were much more dramatic.

In March 2020, I used both these images in an exhibition and critique night at the Canberra Photographic Society which had the topic of Drought/Environmental Stress. All images are assessed by an invited judge who is usually an accomplished photographer or artist from outside the Society. Judges award each image a score out of 5, unless requested not to, and they will also select at least one Image of the Night. I was awarded a 4 for Smoky and a 3.5 for Dusty.

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My Photography, Photography Story

To celebrate the 75th Anniversary of Canberra Photographic Society

In August 1945 Mr K. Carnall of Ainslie placed an advertisement in The Canberra Times inviting people interested in forming a camera club to contact him. As a result, on 11 September 1945, a meeting was held in the then 2CA Theatrette in Mort Street, Civic.

The following day the Canberra Times reported that it was “well-attended by photographic enthusiasts, and that it decided to form a club to be known as the Canberra Photographic Society. It was to hold regular meetings, show screenings of different films and discuss photographic matters generally. The chair was taken by Mr. Ewen McKinnon, who explained the advantages of the club and gave details of his experiences in photography over the previous 30 years.

Meetings will be held on the first Tuesday and at the initial meeting a colour film of Canberra, as well as talkies, would be shown. Subscription rates were fixed at £1/1/- for men, 10/6 for ladies and juniors under 21, and 5/ for school students.

  • The following officers were elected:
  • President, Mr. B. W McKinnon
  • Vice-presidents, Mr. D. Downing and Miss Steed
  • Secretary, Mr.K. Carnall
  • Treasurer, Miss Joy Nott
  • Committee, Messrs. Norsa, Stevenson, Dinnerville and Miss D. Cox.

On 3 October 1945, the Canberra Times reported that at the first gathering of the new Canberra Photographic Society (CPS) on Tuesday 2 October “Some excellent landscape studies, prints of child studies and views of the War Memorial floodlit, as well as flares on V.P. night, were exhibited when a coloured picture of Canberra was screened along with views of New Guinea. Arrangements were made for a photographic outing on Sunday week. A suggestion for a series of competitions was considered, and members will be notified of the details. Last night’s exhibits were presented by Mrs Sleed, Joy Nott, Mr Powning, Mr K. Dinnerville and Mr K Carnall.”

The October 1945 issue of Kodak’s Australasian Photo-Review also publicised the formation of CPS, saying We welcome the latest of camera clubs to “arrive”, which is at Canberra, with scheduled meetings for the first Tuesday in each month. Both still and movie adepts will be catered for and the Society will be glad to welcome photographic visitors to the Capitol City.”

A recently published new book “How local art made Australia’s national capital”by Anni Doyle Wawrzynczak states that “from 1927 art was considered integral to establishing a national perception of Canberra as culturally literate. In these early days this was imagined as community-based: As a centre of culture Canberra will be dependent in the early stage on the establishment of its University, but meanwhile art societies and the like may accomplish useful endeavour. The earliest of these societies was the Artists’ Society of Canberra (ASOC), active from 28 June 1927.In recess from July 1934, it re-emerged in August 1945. Also founded in 1945 was the Canberra Photographic Society, followed in 1948 by the Canberra Art Club.”

A footnote in that book records: “Established 11 September 1945, the Canberra Photographic Society met from 1945–51 at 2CA Theatrette, Mort Street, Civic; 1951–52, Institute of Anatomy, Acton; 1952–66, Riverside Centre; 1966–2005, Griffin Centre, Bunda Street, Civic; 2005–, PhotoAccess, Manuka. In the mid-1980s, the society was incorporated as Monaro Camera Club. Data collated from ACT Heritage Library visual arts ephemera collection.”

That footnote is wrong in listing Photo Access as a meeting place from 2005 onwards. When the original Griffin Centre closed, CPS moved into the new Griffin Centre and remains there to this day (except that all meetings have been held via Zoom during the COVID-19 period).

The footnote is also wrong in saying the CPS became known as Monaro Camera Club. In fact, the Monaro Camera Club decided to cease operating and amalgamated with CPS, bringing with it some valuable assets and its remaining 3 or 4 members. The Monaro club had evolved from the Queanbeyan Colour Photography Society, which became the Queanbeyan Leagues Club Camera Club. The Leagues Club paid for some excellent equipment for the club and provided a meeting room until the disastrous fire there. With no home, it became the Monaro Camera Club and met in a variety of venues including a pre-school and members’ homes, but membership quickly fell away leading to the decision to amalgamate with CPS. All but one of the few members who transferred over soon pulled out.

The Australian Photographic Society (APS) was established fourteen years later than CPS. On 15 and 16 August 1959, a meeting was held in Sydney, attended by representatives of various State bodies. The CPS representative (on behalf of the ACT) was Chris Christian, who was later made a Life Member of CPS and who contributed three prints to the exhibition celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the CPS (one of which dated back to 1958). Chris also judged a monthly CPS competition on at least one occasion – in October 1987.

The aim of the meeting in Sydney was to form the Australian Photographic Federation (APF). An interim Council of State delegates was created, and Chris Christian became Chairman of that Council. A principal purpose of the APF was to co-ordinate the activities of camera clubs and societies through existing bodies in the States and “to form an Australian photographic society as an additional and more far-reaching body within five years”.

At its first annual meeting in 1961, Chris Christian became the first President of APF. The Federation moved swiftly and resolved to call for 100 individuals to become Foundation Members of the APS. Quotas were allotted to each State, with the ACT being given five spots. The membership drive finished with 101 (nobody knows why). The ACT’s five Foundation Members of the APS included Chris Christian, Alf Redpath, and Len Leslie, both of whom also later became Life Members of CPS. The other two were Mr K G Houlahan and Mr M A Adhearne.

The Foundation Members brought the APS into being on 12 May 1962. Chris Christian was appointed as one of the first Vice-Presidents. He and all the others appointed to the first Executive Committee of the APS were eminent in the field of amateur photography. Ted Richards of Canberra, who judged for CPS quite a few times, was appointed as the first Public Officer (a position later held for many years by another CPS member Bob Legge, and currently held by a further CPS member Brian Rope).

So, the CPS, particularly through Chris Christian, played a significant role in the early history of the APS. Other CPS members, including Jim Mason, Ian McInnes, Graeme Watson, and Brian Rope have had significant roles with APS in more recent years, continuing the connection between the two Societies.

The Canberra Times continued to report on CPS activities during its early years. In March 1955, it reported “Members of the Canberra Photographic Society met with signal success at exhibitions held at Muswellbrook and Quirindi last week. At Muswellbrook Mr C.L. Leslie gained the silver plaque, the highest award, for his mist scene titled The Magic of the Morning taken between Braidwood and Narooma. Merit certificates were awarded Mr C.S. Christian for his prints Jindabyne Church and Australian Pattern, to Mr A.C. Redpath for Kings Cross and Mr Leslie for his portrait of a young girl. At Quirindi, the Canberra trio won eight out of ten awards made by the judges, Messrs. Henri Mallard and J. Metcalfe, both notable photographers. Mr Leslie was awarded the silver plaque for a print Summit and Sky, a bronze plaque for Harvest Hill and two merit certificates. Two merit certificates each were also won by Messrs, Christian and Redpath.”

In the mid-1970s CPS conducted several National Exhibitions of Photography, receiving hundreds of entries from all over Australia.

On 25 May 1979, The Canberra Times reported “Next Monday the YMCA Corroboree Park Camera Club, Canberra Photographic Society and Monaro Camera Club will meet in a three way competition. The groups have each submitted 10 monochrome prints and 20 color slides for judging by Mr. Col Roach, a photographer with the Photographic Section of the Institute of Aboriginal Studies. Mr. Roach will discuss the entries and announce his decisions at the host club’s meeting rooms. Since the host club this year is the Monaro Camera Club, which is based in Queanbeyan, the venue is the Lambrigg Room of the Tourist Information Centre in Queanbeyan. Any interested people are welcome to attend this evening which begins at 8pm. This is the first time that these three clubs have competed in three-way competition. After many years of two-way competition between the Canberra Photographic Society and Monaro Camera Club in slides only, last year saw the addition of a two-way print competition between Canberra Photographic Society and YMCA Clubs. This year’s event is a natural development from the success of last year.”

In November 1983, the famous British photographer Joan Wakelin presented a lecture jointly for the Monaro Camera Club and CPS in the old Griffin Centre rooms, entitled “The Human Condition”.

Joan Wakelin being interviewed

Joan Wakelin is one of several notable women photographers to have given presentations to CPS over the years. Others are another British photographer Helene Rogers (famed for her gardens photography) and Hedda Morrison (after whom CPS named one of its competitions and for whom it mounted a retrospective of her work).

Hedda Morrison at the opening of her retrospective, speaking with
then Senator Gary Humphries (centre) and a guest

In 1987 CPS accepted responsibility for selecting (within the Canberra region) amateurs’ photographs for use in the Australian Bicentennial Exhibition. Judging for that took place in the Studio Room of the old Griffin Centre. Canberra photographers Garry Raffaele and David Reid, plus Andrew Gibson from Goulburn, were the judges. Some CPS members had images selected, copies of which toured Australia throughout 1988 as the Personal Views element of the Exhibition.

1988 was Australia’s Bicentennial and Canberra’s 75th birthday. CPS was funded to photographically document how Canberrans celebrate the year. About a dozen CPS members covered almost every Bicentennial event that occurred in Canberra and took 6,000 images. The events covered included the opening of the new Parliament House, which was covered by about five or six members, and a visit by the Queen, right through to very modest events. From the 6,000 images, 100 were selected and printed at 20″ by 24″ size for an exhibition. The colour prints, both from transparencies and negatives, were made by Bica, a company which many Canberra photographers would remember. Most of the monochrome prints, however, were made by the authors. March 1989 saw the exhibition titled “Bicentennial celebrations in Canberra” mounted at the Link Gallery, officially opened by John Langmore, MP. This is the exhibition catalogue:

The prints from the exhibition were later handed over for the permanent collection of the Arts area of the ACT government which, subsequently, managed to completely lose them.

Many notable Australian photographers have judged for, or given presentations to, CPS. They include Henri Mallard, Alf Redpath, Attila Kiraly, Heide Smith, Geoff Comfort, Bob Cooper, Helen Ennis, Garry Raffaele, Matt Kelso, Bob Miller, Hillary Wardhaugh, and John Swainston.

One of the regular CPS judges was very fond of saying that any adjustment made to the captured image must add value. There have been other judges who have disapproved of image manipulation for other reasons. Those from a photo journalistic background had been taught that images for publication must never be altered so that they only spoke the truth and showed the reality of what had been photographed.

One such person refused to judge three entries in one of the CPS portfolio competitions on the grounds that the extent of manipulation applied took the end results to a point where they no longer could be considered photographs. Unfortunately, the images in one of the portfolios he declined to judge had not been manipulated in any way by its entrant. Members generally were not impressed. The judge could, of course, have taken the easy way out and simply said he didn’t much like the images and, so, scored them low, but he had the courage to say what he thought. He also decided never to judge for CPS again, a sad loss.

Apart from those already mentioned, others to be awarded Life Membership of CPS include Joan Clark, Alan Clark, Hedda Morrison, Ian McInnes in 2009, and Jim Mason in 2015.

In 1995, to mark the 50th anniversary of CPS, a major retrospective exhibition titled “100 by 50” was organised and displayed in the foyer of the high Court. It presented 100 works produced during the 50 years. Over the years CPS has had a variety of sub-groups. These include a Studio group which used the facilities of a professional studio in Fyshwick, and a Theatre Group which produced front-of-house images for many theatre groups’ opening nights.

In 2001, CPS published an “Achievers Book, 1989 – 2000” containing much more information than presented here. The Website https://www.siep.org.au/General/Canberra.html has an amazing amount of additional detail about CPS covering the period from 1945 to 1992. It has numerous images by early members and links to other webpages, including one with a selection of Chris Christian’s images, and another about a special international salon CPS conducted in conjunction with the Australian Commonwealth Jubilee in 1951.

Twice during its 75 years CPS has gone through turbulent times, with its continued existence threatened by divisions amongst members. However, on each occasion, it survived and became stronger. I am confident that CPS will continue into the distant future. There are other photography clubs in Canberra, including Southside Camera Club, U3A Camera Club, ANBG Friends Photographic Group, and Canberra PhotoConnect. There also are several Canberra-based photography groups on social media. But CPS is the only one with the rich heritage of 75 years.

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