Narellan House

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


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

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

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

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

But this story is more about Narellan House.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Narellan House

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

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

Derrick - at Narellan House

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

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

My Radio

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

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



Photography Review | Close | Ian Skinner and Karen Coombes

PhotoAccess Online Gallery | 16 April – 16 May 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

FILE: 20190119_Guerilla_Bay_074

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


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


FILE: 20190316_Guerilla_Bay_031_MONO

Ian Skinner, Rocks & Maculata_04, 2019,

Matt fine art archival inkjet print, 33 x 48 cm


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


FILE: 20190425_Arboretum_w_Ian_009_MONO_CROP

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


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



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


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


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



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


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



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

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

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


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

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

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


Catchup with friends via Zoom on my phone

whilst waiting for my flu shot

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


1950 Life Boy brothers me (left) and Alan

– photo by mum, Eileen Rope


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

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

Mall Shapes

Belconnen Mall Shapes

Coloured Metal

Coloured Metal

Outback Tree

Outback Tree

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

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

Message Scrap Mystery

Message Scrap Mystery

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

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

A_Set_Poles and Cover_BrianR - 2.5

 A_Set_Building Highlights_BrianR - 2.5

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

CPS Zoom_006

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

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

I also find time to follow a podcast about photography –

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

Annotation 2020-04-13 105540

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the walking path after the rain

On the walking path after rain

Stalled Construction

Stalled Construction


Dancing Colours

Cobweb just out of reach

Cobwebs just out of reach?

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



The Hairy Panic

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

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

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

Small - Hairy Panic, Untitled #4

Hairy Panic, Untitled #4

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

Small - Hairy Panic, Untitled #6

Hairy Panic, Untitled #6

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

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

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

Small - Hairy Panic, Untitled #10

Hairy Panic, Untitled #10

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


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

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

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

Small - Hairy Panic, Untitled #13

 Hairy Panic, Untitled #13

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

Small - Hairy Panic, Untitled #15

Hairy Panic, Untitled #15

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

Small - Hairy Panic, Untitled #8

   Hairy Panic, Untitled #8

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



Photography Review: Burnout

Imogen Wall, Belconnen Community Gallery

Was scheduled to run until 3 April, but the gallery has been closed because of the imposed COVID-19 restrictions. Not the same, but next best, Wall’s images can be viewed online at

This vibrantly colourful exhibition is in the modest light-filled gallery space inside Belconnen Community Service. Often using bright colours in my own photography, I was immediately drawn in. Studying the works and starting to consider what they were saying to me only added to my enjoyment of the show.

Imogen Wall is a long-term Belconnen resident who creates in many mediums in addition to photography. Song, dance, poetry, collage, painting and drawing are also part of her explorations. She exhibited at Belconnen Community Gallery in 2018 (‘Journeys’ for Reconciliation Week) and 2009 (‘Dreamscapes’) and has designed many sets for local theatre. She is currently completing a multi-disciplinary Master’s degree at ANU.

Small - Skyline II © Imogen Wall

Skyline II © Imogen Wall

The concept for this show started with the rather unglamorous story of a stolen car dumped at suburban McKellar oval and then incinerated. Before the car’s remains were towed away, Wall captured a series of photographs of the colours and textures that had emerged during the burning. She felt these represented a sort of beauty rising out of the destructive act, salvaging something of what the car had been. In many ways she was responding to a personal feeling of burnout.

Small - Murano III © Imogen WalI

Murano III © Imogen Wall

By happy chance, a neighbour, Jack Crittle, had photographed the car before it was burnt, providing a ‘before/after’ narrative anchor for the exhibition’s themes of burnout and resurrection. Since then, our summer bushfires have given the show – with its focus on the miracle of regeneration that can appear after burning – an additional resonance.

Small - Pintara © Imogen Wall

Pintara © Imogen Wall

Words on promotional material for the show provide an excellent starting point for our response to what we see: Beauty can rise from ashes just as hearts can regenerate after burnout. The exhibition handout tells us “The burnt car was an alien presence, sparking conversation among locals walking their dogs, making it a portal between worlds of crime and civility. In the summer sunsets the burnt duco was iridescent. Exotic colours and textures emerged from paint and metal alchemically transformed by burning – rusted, charred and oxidised – the patterns evoking points of transition (sunrises, shorelines) and strange worlds (industrial dystopias, gleaming estuaries). This beauty, rising mysteriously from destruction suggests the potential for life that is latent in burnout.”

Small - Terra © Imogen Wall

Terra © Imogen Wall

Wall considers the heart to be central to our physical and spiritual being, the seat of life, emotion and spirit. That has long been a focus in her work. She likes to play with interactions between conceptual, intuitive, and emotive layers, aiming to evoke a feeling or mood and capture that passage of time which enables us to move beyond the present.

Small - Titan II © Imogen Wall

Titan II © Imogen Wall

Burnout brings together a stimulating variety of artistic reflections on that title’s many aspects of meaning: photographs, mixed media paintings and a range of sculptural pieces made from car parts, animal skin and found objects. The photographic works are the central core, but the additional artworks by Fabio Fabbo and Rena Swamy express a dynamism and boldness, add to and help bind the entire show together. The depth of colour and directness of statement throughout is resurrecting. It renews our spirits.

Small - Titan IV © Imogen Wall

Titan IV © Imogen Wall

Canberra film expert, Andrew Pike, was to have added even more, lending further coherence to this conceptually harmonised show – by speaking at the cancelled opening, on post-traumatic growth.

Whilst not the same as visiting the exhibition in the gallery to see the photos printed on metal (thus enhancing the effect), as a next best option Wall’s images can be viewed online at




Photography Review: Re-Generations

Photo Access.

Was scheduled to run until 4 April, but the gallery had to be closed because of the imposed COVID-19 restrictions. Photo Access has now created an online version of the exhibition which can be seen at until 16 May 2020.

Loud & Luminous is an annual celebration of Australian women photographers. It includes a symposium, this exhibition, the launch of the Loud & Luminous book for 2020 and artist talks.

Re-Generations, curated by Canberra’s Hilary Wardhaugh, features five contemporary female artist photographers. It is about experiences of personal growth and change. It exposes inherited trauma, family relationships and the stories to be learned from inter-generational memories. It reveals some subtle shades of meaning relating to the possibilities of female lives today.

Addressing issues relating to women’s opportunities for personal growth and to the traumas associated with domestic violence through quality photographic art adds greatly to the messages to which we all must respond. Like many women before them, these photographers have recognised a deep responsibility to influence the conversation and make impact. All of us, but particularly men, must take note.

Helga Salwe tells us that time spent in the mountains and deserts of Morocco during a period of radical change in her personal life allowed her painful feelings to emerge and heal. We are blessed to be able to view her fine monochrome prints and reflect on how we might have felt in the same place with similar feelings. Her image Sandstorm particularly speaks to me, telling about a person’s life in this desert place. Equally, Home of the Earth is remarkable for how the depicted home seemingly merges into the earth around it.Sandstorm in the Sahara DesertHelga Salwe, Sandstorm, 2019, archival pigment ink on portfolio rag, 30x 42cm

Tamara Whyte, an indigenous artist from far North Queensland, has contributed three short documentary video works, extending her photographic and video practice. They focus on the survival of Aboriginal people; their resilience and resistance whilst adapting to change. Buffalo Horns with its insistent but gentle tap, tap, tap sound is at once both mesmerising and educational.

Tamara Whyte, Still from Bonescape, 2020, single channel digital video, 16.5 seconds

Tamara Whyte, Bonescape, 2020, single channel digital video, 16.5 seconds

Suellen Cook describes herself as “a photographer of the imagination” who likes “to tell stories through images that mysteriously bubble into my consciousness”. Her stunning conceptual images shown here reveal emotions she has experienced during her life journey, when adversity or life-changing events have initially knocked her down. Reading the words accompanying each print we can follow how Cook responded, rose from the ashes and made her choices to become more resilient and stronger. Whilst the set of powerful prints together tells a fuller story, each large print successfully stands on its own.

Suellen Cook, THE PHOENIX, 2020, photographic inkjet print, 75 x 75cm

Suellen Cook, THE PHOENIX, 2020, photographic inkjet print, 75 x 75cm

Elise Searson, who works as a photojournalist in Batemans Bay, also draws on her personal narrative, sharing with us some of her own intense experience of motherhood. In the exhibition catalogue, she tells us that becoming a mother makes one imagine their past and, especially, how we all begin life; and that it can trigger questions because of generational trauma. The words written directly on the gallery wall to accompany her image After Innocence made me smile as well as think.

Elise Searson, Mother One, 2020, multimedia digital scan and inkjet print, 61cm x 91cm

Elise Searson, Mother One, 2020, multimedia digital scan and inkjet print, 61cm x 91cm

Tricia King’s contribution explores the importance of memories as a place where identity and meaning can be rediscovered and shared. Each piece is a pair of closely associated portraits of an older woman living in aged care facilities, with the two images used to offset one another. On the left of each is an early portrait of the woman, on the right a new portrait. Having myself created a memory book of words and family images when my mother went into aged care, these works reminded me again how photographs enable an older person to share memories with others, particularly younger family. King’s juxtapositions of the now and then in these women’s lives are fabulous. The story of Margerie is especially well portrayed.

Tricia King, The Photographs of Home; Margerie, 2019, photographic inkjet print, 80 x 40cm                       Tricia King, The Photographs of Home; Margerie, 2019,                                   photographic inkjet print, 80 x 40cm

This excellent exhibition is a credit to all involved.

This review was also published in the Canberra Times and on the Canberra Critics Circle’s blog at , both on  on 25 March 2020.


National Photographic Portrait Prize 2020

Photography Review

National Photographic Portrait Prize 2020

National Portrait Gallery. Until 10 May

(If the NPG closes because of the COVID-19 virus restrictions, all the finalists can be seen online at

The National Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition is selected from a national field of entries, reflecting the distinctive vision of Australia’s amateur and professional photographers and the unique nature of their subjects.

What constitutes a portrait is a question that has been discussed often; with diverse views being expressed. For me, these words come reasonably close “A portrait is an artwork that has been created about a person or persons which tells us something about them.” That doesn’t mean a portrait has to look like or clearly show the person’s face. For me, revealing information about the person is the key element.

48 entries were shortlisted for 2020. There are two works that are collaborations between two artists. Two artists each achieved two shortlisted works. And five of the works are by Canberrans:

Oxygen Thief © Lori Cicchini

Oxygen Thief, by Lori Ciccini, stands out for two reasons. It is framed differently to the other works (artistically) and is not about a named person but portrays “the contemporary human”. Arguably, it tells us more about the photographer herself. Nevertheless, it is an extraordinary, created image that made this viewer think.

Prime Minister © Mike Bowers

Mike Bowers is Photographer-at-Large for Guardian Australia and also host of Talking Pictures on ABC TV. His image, Prime Minister, taken during a parliamentary vote, shows the PM sitting alone and looking uncertain, whilst other MPs stand in the background.

Brothers © Steven Lloyd

Brothers, by Steven Lloyd, was captured when two brothers re-united at a family gathering. Lloyd has succeeded in showing the joyous emotions of the occasion, as well as revealing the physical likenesses shared by Nik and Rouli.

Matilda (Ngambri-Ngunnawal) © Brenda L Croft

Brenda L Croft presents us with Matilda, a strong portrait of Canberran and Ngambri/ Ngunnawal Elder, Aunty Matilda House. It is best viewed from a distance. Incidentally, fully one third of the shortlisted works are portraits of people with indigenous heritage, not all having high public profiles.

Copyright © Charles Tambiah (All rights reserved - Worldwide).

Jarrah, by Charles Tambiah, was a standout for me. It is about a mate and reveals numerous things about him; his chosen clothing, vehicle and dog immediately establish an Aussie context for us. The inclusion of a footy adds to our knowledge.

Willie ‘Bomba’ King © Jason McNamara

Amongst the works by non-Canberrans, I particularly enjoyed Willie ‘Bomba’ King, by Jason McNamara. As with Tambiah’s work, this quickly reveals much about the person portrayed, whilst also inviting us to learn more.

Writing on the Wall, 2019 © Dr Christian Thompson AO

Dr Christian Thompson’s Writing on the Wall is an elaborate and stunning self-portrait referencing the collective anxiety posed by climate change. Its vivid colours immediately attract attention.

1967 © Dave Laslett

1967, by Dave Laslett, invites us to consider what, if anything, has changed since the historic 1967 Referendum when we voted overwhelmingly to include Aboriginals in the Census.

One of the NPPP 2020 judges, Nici Cumpston, has described the task. With Aboriginal heritage herself, Cumpston has said it was refreshing to see so many images of and by Aboriginal people among this year’s finalists. “Importantly, the NPPP is a democratic view of our society at this particular time in history, and the final exhibition tours nationally, which is a great gift for the nation.” Perhaps that is a partial answer to Laslett’s question.

There are other images of great interest for a variety of reasons, such as their storytelling, dramatic effects, background choices, and great subjects. It is most interesting to compare Hugh Stewart’s Eileen Kramer is a dancer (which was highly commended) with the painting Elizabeth – winner of the Darling Portrait Prize – on display in the adjoining gallery space.

Eileen Kramer is a Dancer © Hugh Stewart

Eileen Kramer is a dancer © Hugh Stewart

Another fine work, The Mahi-Mahi by Ron Palmer, was announced as the prize winner, despite a certain virus derailing the planned gala announcement event.

The Mahi-Mahi © Rob Palmer

This review was also published in the Canberra Times and on the Canberra Critics Circle’s blog at , both on  on 23 March 2020.


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 and follow the links to the Prize. Or go direct to the Prize competition portal at 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.



This piece reviewing a photographic exhibition by Ian and Roger Skinner and shown at The Queanbeyan Hive from 28 October to 14 November 2019 was submitted to The Canberra Times on 8 November for consideration for publication. Sadly, the response was “I really liked your piece about Coast! But the show finishes too soon for us to run it – it would be finished by the time we publish it…”

So, I am publishing it (unaltered) here instead:

This was my first visit to The Queanbeyan Hive; a delightful small gallery in an old house replete with pressed metal walls. I will visit it again. This exhibition filled just two rooms, with diverse artwork in the remainder.

I have a copy of Roger Skinner’s magnificent book ‘A Life in Light’ celebrating 50 years of his photography. I have seen his brother Ian’s images on the walls at the Huw Davies Gallery at Photo Access in Manuka. So, I was looking forward to this exhibition. Ian too has published books; I should add one of them to my collection.

What does the coast mean to you? Is it primarily places where you go to spend time on the beach or in the ocean? Do your childhood memories include building sandcastles, exploring rock pools looking for crabs, and first attempts at catching a wave? Do your family photo albums include shots of people in strange costumes? I even have a couple of images that include my grandfather wearing his bowler hat during family visits to the coast.

The coast is the land along the edge of the sea; a place where saltwater, sand dunes, shells, crabs and bluebottles are present. It’s also a place where humans build docks and harbours, cause pollution and leave waste.

Both Skinners live inland, in Canberra and Muswellbrook respectively. To create this exhibition, they chose to travel to observe the coast. In their exhibition proposal they wrote “An observation by a person who doesn’t live in constant touch with the ocean is an odd experience, There is of course a novelty – separated from their familiar eucalypts and dried, rolling hills, there comes a sudden rush, where everything is new and different, but then also and beyond that, comes the touch of the very measured eye. With a constant re-referencing separated by monthly or daily re-examination of these places. And things happen. The brain becomes more focussed and the eye sees thing differently. Very differently.”

There is a particular connection between brothers. These two have finally got around to holding this joint exhibition which brought them together visually. The exhibition affords these two artists the first joint exhibition in their lives as photographers, ever! Having been photographers for fifty plus years each, this affords a rare opportunity to see the output of these two brothers working remotely from one another, on a theme, that is physically remote from their regular inland homes. They are presenting their responses to their chosen coast locations.

Ian’s images are of Guerrilla Bay, on a part of the nearby South coast. I know it well and most readers probably do also. It is only 500m wide, East facing, bordered on the South by Burrewarra Point. It has rock platforms and gullies. Ian’s landscapes display the ocean-sculpted shapes and what he describes as “natural jewellery gathered in crevices, and tenuous flotsam arranged as if in a gallery on the sands.” If we’ve been there, have we seen Guerilla Bay as Ian has?

Small - To the Island © Ian Skinner

To the Island © Ian Skinner

Roger’s images are from the West Coast of Flinders Island. I’ve never been there. I know the island is in Bass Strait. I’ve been told it is beautiful, wild and rugged. Roger is showing us Zen observations of isolated smooth granite boulders, resting in sand, tide marked and covered in red lichen. If we visited there, would we see it as Roger has?

Reverse Arch © Roger Skinner

Reverse Arch © Roger Skinner

I am delighted that these brothers are sharing their great printed imagery with us. We who are photographers must all learn to see when we look. I will see more when next at the coast.


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 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”.