Exhibition Review, Reviews

WE ARE ONE – The First XI

Photography Exhibition Review

WE ARE ONE – The First XI Claire Letitia Reynolds and Sasha Parlett

PhotoAccess | 20 Jan – 10 Feb 2023

Everyone should see this exhibition. All indigenous people, because it is about a significant event in their history. Cricketers and cricket lovers, as it’s a significant cricket story. Historians, since it’s a historical event. Photographers and everyone interested in the medium. And everyone else, as it’s a fascinating and important story.

The portraits in WE ARE ONE – The First XI were produced by artist Claire Letitia Reynolds, the filmed interviews by Sasha Parlett. Reynolds discovered her love of photography at 14. She is known for capturing subjects at their most familiar moments. Parlett is the proud descendant of the first Indigenous woman to break in horses, was born on Darumbal country and educated and raised in Kabi Kabi ways. Together, the two artists are aiming to champion this epic piece of Australian history.

Parlett’s two videos are a series of vignette interviews providing a documentary style look into the verbal history of cricket in Australia. Through discussions with descendants of The First XI, past and current First Nations Cricketers, a

light is shed on the truths and triumphs such cricketers have faced since The First XI. Highlighting a forgotten history of this colonial sport turning stockmen into athletes and becoming an iconic sport within First Nations communities. The exhibition aims to uplift and contribute to reconciliation in Australia.

Still from Part 1 – WE ARE ONE –The First XI – Uncle Adrian, Mununjalli, Goreng Goreng Nations, QLD © Sasha Parlett
Still of title page of Part 2 – WE ARE ONE – First Nations Cricket © Sasha Parlett

Reynolds’ artworks, created utilising analogue and digital processes, comprise twenty-two portraits and three landscapes referencing the unique connection between Australian Indigenous people, culture and Country. The First XI included men from tribes in Victoria, NSW and Queensland. The portraits are of current and past Indigenous Australian cricketers, direct descendants of the First XI, and Elders.

Incredibly, this indigenous team of thirteen athletes undertook Australia’s first ever international tour. It is a story of strength, triumph and, sadly, tragedy. Several players suffered severe illness. Some were sent home early; others lost their lives. Despite the tragic incidents, the ledger was 14 apiece at the end of the England-wide tournament.

This exhibition seeks to square up the Australian identity ledger, with these pioneering men providing impetus for progress. Their story of courage, resilience, and identity is celebrated with pride. The beautifully printed artworks from hand-developed films are mostly on fine art paper using handcrafted dyes from various trees, bark, leaves, and sap.

Rosie, Gubbi Gubbi Nation, QLD, 2022 photographic print on fine art paper with narrow-leaved Red Gum bark hand crafted dye © Claire Letitia Reynolds
Aunty Betty, Bundjalung Nation, NSW, 2022 photographic print on fine art paper with Brown Bloodwood bark hand crafted dye © Claire Letitia Reynolds
Uncle Mickey AM, Yawuru Nation, WA, 2022 photographic print on fine art paper with Brown Bloodwood bark hand crafted dye © Claire Letitia Reynolds

One large portrait, of Aunty Fiona Clarke, is printed on 100% pure mulberry silk and displayed hung on a found Eucalyptus branch.

Aunty Fiona Clarke, Gudintjimara, Kirre Whurrong Nations, VIC photographic print on 100% pure mulberry silk © Claire Letitia Reynolds (Installation view)

Three landscapes showing black swans are hung close together in a row alongside each other on an end wall of the gallery.

Black Swans of Gunaduyen, Home of The First XI, Parts 1,2,3 photographic prints on fine art paper with Grey Ironbark hand crafted dye © Claire Letitia Reynolds (Installation View)

Below each portrait are quotes from  ‘Cricket walkabout : the Australian Aboriginal cricketers on tour, 1867-8 / D.J. Mulvaney’. Part of one reads “Yanggendyinadyuk/Dick-a-Dick challenged all comers to stand 15 or 20 yards distant and pelting with cricket balls….protected his body with a [narrow wooden parrying shield]….during his displays he often called out to the throwers ‘Can’t you do better than that?’….His wooden club is now in Lord’s Cricket Museum.”

There is one other rather special exhibit – The First XI Didge-Bat, with the names of The First XI inscribed.

The project was previously exhibited briefly on the Sunshine Coast (where Reynolds is based). It opened here as a big bash cricket fixture next door attracted a huge crowd by comparison. Its run includes the contentious 26 January date. It will be going to the home of The First XI – Harrow, Victoria and elsewhere. It is hoped to show it at Lord’s. And, more importantly, I was pleased to learn there are folk seeking to have items such as the previously mentioned club returned to Country.

This review was first published by The Canberra Times here and in its print edition of 28/1/23. It is also available on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.

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Exhibition Review, Reviews

DARK MATTER: Terraform, Earth to Images, Found Perceptions

Photography Exhibitions Review

DARK MATTER: Terraform, Earth to Images, Found Perceptions | David Lindesay, Melanie Cobham, Tessa Ivison

Photo Access | 28 October – 13 November 2022

These three exhibitions are the outcome of the 2022 Dark Matter residencies at Photo Access. These residencies aim to provide supported opportunities for artists whose practice incorporates darkroom-based or other alternative processes. They aim to foster the creation of innovative image-based works that involve artistic experimentation, critically engage with contemporary darkroom-based practice, and explore social, political, environmental and aesthetic questions of contemporary relevance.

Most of us are obsessed with immediate image creation, but David Lindesay, Melanie Cobham, and Tessa Ivison are exhibiting what a slower and more contemplative approach delivers.

Humans have impacted the physical environment in many ways – populating areas with far too many people, introducing harmful substances, burning coal and gas, and clearing large areas of trees. This has led to climate change, soil erosion, poor air quality, and undrinkable water – sometimes prompting mass migrations or battles for clean water.

Terraform by Lindesay responds to the imprints left by our presence. His photographs, taken to reveal the natural world, depict places that are actually artificial – or human-made. Then, reflecting the innate tension between wild and contrived nature, they have been marked, carved, and defaced. These markings are clearly visible on the displayed prints and, also, on some film strips in a light box we can switch on.

David Lindesay – from the series ‘Terraform’, 2022, inkjet print.

In a catalogue essay, Fletcher Aldous informs us that the exhibition title Terraform means ‘transform so as to make earth-like, to support life’ and notes that Lindesay’s hand-made marks form ‘a subjective response to the world’.

Earth to Images by Melanie Cobham addresses the movement of people to a new area or country in order to find work or better living conditions – what we commonly refer to as migration and colonisation. She has explored how those people, herself included, consciously observe nature in their new homes.

As migration became an increasingly tense subject in the face of the pandemic, Cobham started considering more abstract ways to understand borders, identity and belonging. She has produced drawings, prints, installations, and weavings. Here there are three distinct, and different, sets of images displayed – frost, spiderwebs, and land reclamation. All explore the fraught translations between the analogue and the digital, between gesture and image, and between communication and misunderstanding.


Melanie Cobham – FROST (Documenting Winter in the ACT), 2022, lumen prints.

Found Perceptions by Tessa Ivison explores the infinite number of ways we can perceive and interpret the world. Traditionally, cameras have been used to record our perspective. However, Ivison has asked what if the camera has its own way of seeing? The artist has created a series of unique pinhole cameras from found objects, designed to record a single moment from many perspectives. The resulting photographs question common assumptions associated with the medium and how we interpret the world.

One group of colourful images are delightful and employ chine-collé – a technique in which paper of a different colour or texture is bonded (not just glued) to the heavier support paper of the print during the printmaking process.


Tessa Ivison – Blackbird, 2022, photogravure with chine-collie.

Also displayed are three unique and complex pinhole cameras created from found objects and used to make the images alongside them. They are each quite remarkable, and different – pieces of tin cans protrude from the various surfaces of one in the style of a Panopticon. It, and another one named the Beast, have considerable numbers of separate pinholes and it is wonderful to see the resultant images. There is also an image of a classic Canberra bus stop turned into a camera obscura and used to create another exhibited image.

Overall we are shown clear evidence of another successful round of Dark Matter residencies. Each artist has delivered the goods.

This review was first published online by The Canberra Times here on 5/11/22 then in print on page 10 of Panorama on 12/11/22. It is also available on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.

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Photo Book Review, Reviews

Canberra Re-Seen Photobook

Photography Book Review

Canberra Re-Seen | Various Artists

Three new independently published photo-books were recently launched in Canberra at Photo Access, all examining the city of Canberra as a place of social, cultural and political significance. Each photographer, in all the books, explores their personal relationship to the city, as well as considering its wider, public meaning as a national capital city.

Canberra Re-Seen, by multiple artists, curated by Wouter Van de Voorde (currently acting Director of Photo Access), was an exhibition in 2021 that explored the idea of the city as a community of people, a built environment, and a physical landscape and the book selects and interweaves works from the project. I reviewed the exhibition at the time on this blog here.

Developed in collaboration with Canberra Museum and Gallery (CMAG), the project brought together sixteen artists to create new work responding to three of Canberra’s landmark photographers – Marzena Wasikowska, Edward (Ted) Richards and Ian North – all part of the CMAG collection. Just one image by each of those photographers are also included in this book.

The words accompanying the images throughout this book provide much information – historical background about the city, the project and the three landmark photographers; and the sixteen artists wrote their own words about their individual approaches and images.

Inspired by Wasikowska’s interest in capturing the human qualities of Canberra, one of the project groups explored the idea that a city is best understood through its people. They had the added benefit of Wasikowska herself leading their workshop. The book’s images from this group include Andrea Bryant’s marvellous portrait of her neighbour Maria, Eva Schroeder’s superb Metamorphosis  – a triptych portrayal of a Canberran transitioning from one gender to another, and Louise Maurer’s extraordinary Weetangera II – a composite speaking to the importance of diminishing green spaces and native ecosystems across Canberra. Each of those named images can be seen in my previous review of the exhibition, so here is just one of them.

Maria Straykova

A second collective, led by Van de Voorde, investigated Richards’ interest in documenting the character of Canberra’s little-known places. They shot on 35mm film and created darkroom prints in response to Richards’ dramatic black and white style. Amongst their creations are Annette Fisher’s delightful Abstracts, and Tessa Ivison’s strong cityscapes – interestingly titled Pastoral. Sari Sutton, inspired by the playful use of lines and geometry in Richard’s Dancing in the Mall, 1964 found her own and used them effectively in her Civic Stripes series. Again, each of those images was included in my review of the previous exhibition, and so, here is just one of them.

Annette Fisher, 4 Abstracts, 2021

Working with documentary photographer David Hempenstall, the third group explored the ideas of North’s early 1980s images of Canberra suburbs – vistas both bleak and beautiful. Peter Larmour took 3D images of landscapes. His Southern Anaglyph (dye sublimation on aluminium) was worthy of close examination when exhibited. Unfortunately, it can only be represented in two dimensions in this book. A very strong contribution is Beata Tworek’s series of excellent collages, which respond to North’s innovative and optimistic colour treatment of deserted streetscapes with austere monochromes reflecting disdain for their lack of individuality. Grant Winkler’s That Sinking Feeling is very much about the bush landscape disappearing as new suburbs creep over it, replaced by homes and other buildings sitting heavily on the scraped earth with what remains of nature being “moulded and manicured” and no longer particularly natural.

Once again, the mentioned images made by this group are in my review of the exhibition, but here is one of them.

Ambivalent collage 6 – Beata Tworek

Translated into this book, Canberra Re-Seen selects and interweaves work from across that broader project, drawing together digital and darkroom works to generate a simultaneously affectionate and challenging look at the city of Canberra and what it means to live in it today. Photo Access staff member Caitlin Seymour-King has done a fine job of designing the book. It is much more than a catalogue of the 2021 exhibition. It is a book to study and return to regularly as the city of Canberra continues to develop and change.

The book can be purchased at Photo Access.

This review is also on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here. Another version was published in the Canberra Times on 7/5/22 here as part of a combined review of this and the other two books launched at the same time.

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Reviews

SELECTED SUBURBAN WORKS – WILLIAM BROADHURST – FANTASY COLLISION – GABRIELLE HALL-LOMAX, REVERBERATION TIME – JAMIE HLADKY

Review of Photography, Mixed Media Exhibition

At Photo Access, 10 March – 9 April 2022

These three solo shows have been described as each sharing a fascination with the strange. They are said to probe notions that have long intrigued photographers in numerous ways, demonstrating the diversity of contemporary photo-media.

One show, William Broadhurst’s Selected Suburban Works, imbues everyday scenes with a sense of mystery through abstraction. He presents a series of fleeting encounters shot in south-west Sydney.

The majority of Broadhurst’s works convey a powerful sense of movement and, if you like, blur – causing the detail of the content to be strangely abstracted whilst, sometimes, revealing almost ghost-like shapes and figures.

William Broadhurst, Untitled#6, 2021

There are other works where particular content is more obvious – the moon is a clear presence in two works, in one seemingly hovering over a field of suburban lights.

Another work includes a person pushing a shopping trolley near the top of a hill. Others reveal a young person near a post and two youngsters alongside a soccer goal – doing precisely what is unclear in both images.

William Broadhurst, Untitled#5, 2021

Yet another work features a shirtless man (the artist?) working with a whipper snipper, although what it is cutting is out of the frame leaving us to imagine it. Perhaps the image I enjoyed most includes, it seems, a blurred reclining kangaroo surveying suburbia from a nearby hill.

William Broadhurst, Untitled#1, 2021

A second show, Gabrielle Hall-Lomax’s Fantasy Collision, integrates paint and digital manipulation techniques into layered photographic images. The works draw some attention to how human activity has transformed our Australian eco-systems. Expanding on environmental photography traditions – often used as a tool to raise awareness and educate us humans about the impact we cause on the environment – Hall-Lomax integrates paint and digital manipulation techniques into her works to reflect on the interconnectedness of nature – the body and the psyche are unified.

One work is titled Slip – whereas I saw a leap.

Gabrielle Hall-Lomax, Slip

Another titled Bushfires did not speak to me of that phenomenon – but is a lovely image, nonetheless. These are reminders, perhaps, that titles are unimportant to many artists and exhibition visitors. Whatever our views about that, these are fine images.

Gabrielle Hall-Lomax, Bushfires, 2021

Yet another is titled Rituals – it shows four modest-sized, standing stones amongst the mist – an acknowledgement of Stonehenge perhaps?

Gabrielle Hall-Lomax, Rituals

And Touching the sun is a sublime work that deserves lengthy contemplation – for me, the most interesting piece in the suite of three exhibitions.

The exhibition catalogue says the third show, Jamie Hladky’s Reverberation Time, “uses flash to explore places that have been reclaimed by nature after human occupation, illuminating the power of natural forces and our futile attempts to corral them.” Hladky himself has told me that the work is not so much about decay, or nature reclaiming, as he’s seen written. For him, his imagery is about “the irrelevant brevity of our short endeavours and our moments of self-absorbed pride.”

The titles of Hladky’s works reveal only where the images were taken. Around half are of decaying building interiors and half of cave and mining tunnel interiors.

Jamie Hladky, Gilgandra NSW, 2021
Jamie Hladky, Yarrangobilly NSW (1), 2021

One shot of the exterior of a neat and clean motel located in a desert area initially seemed out of place. Asked about it, Hladky told me he sees it as the first image in the series to pull the rest of them indoors – demonstrating that it is always good to have opportunities to discuss works with their authors!

In addition to viewing the three exhibitions, reading the delightful “essays” in their catalogues is a definite must, especially The House by Paddy Julian and A Cloak Stands in a Bore Hole, Arms Extended by Simon Eales.

This review was published in The Canberra Times of 4/4/22 here. It is also on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.

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Photography Story

2021 Year Ender

Photography, Photo Media, Mixed Media

2021. What a year! Despite everything, local photo artists have continued to make their marks.

There have been many exhibitions. Some openings were conducted outdoors; galleries having to let small numbers inside at a time. Even during lockdown, photo galleries and artists were active, using social media, livestreaming and virtual exhibitions most creatively.

I remain disappointed about poor supporting material available for visitors in some galleries. I urge those that fall short to improve the exhibition experience – catalogues that tell us more than titles and prices, artist/concept statements about artworks, catalogue essays, recordings about the artists and works to hear, and opportunities to look at and, perhaps, purchase books and other material as well as the actual works exhibited.

There have also been interesting new photobooks and books about photography this year, including Capital Country – an ‘exhibition in a book’ by Kate Matthews, and the substantial Installation View by Daniel Palmer & Martyn Jolly which has enriched our understanding of the diversity of Australian photography.

There have been marvellous awards for individual artists. For the third year in succession, Canberra photo artists were finalists in the Mullins Conceptual Photography Prize (MCPP). Indeed, once again a Canberran earned the $10,000 Prize. This year it was Ian Skinner for his poetic work, Ashscapes 01-04, about how the ocean delivered ash to the sandy edge of the land when the catastrophic fires in south-eastern Australia in 2019-2020 were shortly followed by torrential rain.

Skinner also took out 3rd prize in the storytelling section of the Australian Photographic Society (APS)’s annual photobook awards for his Aftermath: Cadgee 2020 – an intimate story of heartbreak and loss in the devastating bushfires which swept through the NSW South Coast hinterland in the summer of 2019-2020.

Lyndall Gerlach was again a finalist in the MCPP, was commended for several works in the Australia’s Top Emerging Photographers competition and the Mono Awards; and was featured in FRAMES Magazine’s Digital Companion.

Ribbons 10 – Milky © Lyndall Gerlach

Judy Parker, winner of the 2020 MCPP, won the portfolio section of the APS’s photobook awards, with her book Afterthoughts, described by the judges as “a stunning body of work with consistent post-production”.

The Canberra Times own Dion Georgopoulos, and Marzena Wasikowska, were both finalists in the prestigious National Photographic Portrait Prize. Georgopoulos has also done some wonderful Darling River photography, whilst Wasikowska was also selected as one of the winners in the 2021 Lens Culture Street Photography Critics’ Choice Awards.

Aaron Salway, with his nephew Harley Salway 2. Just behind them is the ridge where Aaron’s father Robert, and brother Patrick Salway died protecting their property in Wandella. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Two photographers received 2021 Canberra Critics Circle Awards. Sammy Hawker – for her exhibition Acts of Co-Creation at the Mixing Room Gallery, comprising unsettling and thrilling prints processed with water, soil, bark and flowers collected from the locations of the images. And Melita Dahl for her intriguing exhibition Portrait at Photo Access exploring connections between the traditions of fine-art portraiture, photography and facial emotion recognition software.

Murramarang NP #1 © Sammy Hawker
Melita Dahl, happy (0.96), 2019

Many professional photographers were hard hit by the pandemic, with sparse numbers of events to photograph, and physical outlets for their works closed. The recent collapse of the Australian Institute of Professional Photography after 75 years of serving photographers is, no doubt, an added blow. So, it was great to see on social media, just before writing this, photos from local professional Ben Kopilow’s coverage of a wedding in a hot air balloon.

I’ve recently reviewed some fine nature prints at the Australian National Botanic Gardens Visitor Centre – Recovery was the eighth annual photographic exhibition by the Friends of the Australian National Botanic Gardens Photographic Group. And also recently I reviewed the final show for the year at Photo Access by 11 photo artists – outcome of a Concept to Exhibition project. And there is one other show to see before the year is done – at Canberra Contemporary Art Space.

This city can, rightfully, be proud of all of the artists I have named here – and of many more making excellent photo artworks. No doubt 2022 will deliver great photomedia exhibitions, events and achievements, including the successful emergence of new local talents. Hopefully, it also will see significant progress on the Kingston Arts Precinct project!

This article was published in the Canberra Times of 23/12/21 here.

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Exhibition Review, Reviews

Canberra Re-Seen

Photography Exhibition Review

Canberra Re-Seen | Various Artists: Peter Bailey, Andrea Bryant, Abby Ching, Annette Fisher, Susan Henderson, Tessa Ivison, Peter Lamour, Caroline Lemerle, Louise Maurer, Greg McAnulty, Aditi Sargeant, Eva Schroeder, Sari Sutton, Beata Tworek, Brian Rope and Grant Winkler

Photo Access | 10 June – 10 July

Disclaimer: the author of this review has two works in the exhibition but received no payment for the review.

Earlier this year Photo Access 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 featured in Canberra Museum And Gallery’s current exhibition, Seeing Canberra.

The result is this exhibition, Canberra Re-Seen. There is also an online gallery showing the same works plus others by the participating artists. And there are two solo exhibitions showing simultaneously, both of which explore aspects of portraiture: A Surrounded Beauty by Sarah Rhodes, and Portrait by Melita Dahl

Inspired by Wasikowska’s interest in capturing the human qualities of Canberra, one group explored the idea that a city is best understood through its people. They had the added benefit of Wasikowska herself leading their workshop.

A second collective, led by Wouter Van de Voorde and with Richards’ involvement too, investigated Richards’ interest in documenting the character of Canberra’s little-known places. They shot on 35mm film and created darkroom prints in response to Richards’ dramatic black and white style.

Working with documentary photographer David Hempenstall, a third group explored the ideas of Ian North’s early 1980s images of Canberra suburbs – vistas both bleak and beautiful.

It is difficult to individually comment on all the works in Canberra Re-Seen, so I will just look at particular works that attracted my attention for various reasons.

The highlight for me is Eva Schroeder’s Metamorphis. Born and bred in Canberra, Schroeder has, like me, seen enormous changes in our city over the years. Researching, she learned that 2-4% of Canberra’s community identify as Trans and decided to portray a Canberran transitioning from one gender to another. Her triptych shows Norgaria, who has chosen to use prosthetics, wigs, makeup, and costumes to reveal her real self by entering the world of Cosplay.

Metamorphosis © Eva Schroeder

Then there is Louise Maurer’s beautifully constructed Weetangera II, 2021. That suburb is, like most, in a state of rapid change due to infill. Maurer’s constructed composite image speaks to the importance of the green spaces and native ecosystems, and also speaks for those who tirelessly seek to maintain them as our garden city becomes a thing of the past.

Weetangera II © Louise Maurer

Andrea Bryant’s Maria is another fine standout. It is a portrait of a long-term neighbour, “a strong and feisty woman”. An internationally recognised scientist, she is portrayed heartily laughing. Several other gallery visitors pointed to this work as one they loved.

Maria © Andrea Bryant

Another very strong contribution is Beata Tworek’s series of collages, which respond to North’s innovative and optimistic colour treatment of deserted streetscapes with austere monochromes reflecting disdain for their lack of individuality.

Ambivalent collage 2 © Beata Tworek

Grant Winkler’s Denman Prospect is very much about the bush landscape disappearing as new suburbs creep over it, replaced by homes and other buildings with what remains of nature being “moulded and manicured”.

Grant Winkler © Untitled (Denman Prospect DSCF6388)

Peter Larmour took 3D images of landscapes. His Southern Anaglyph (dye sublimation on aluminium) is worthy of close examination.

Southern Anaglyph © Peter Lamour

Sari Sutton’s Fyshwick is also interesting. She ventured to Fyshwick and photographed “the abstract, asymmetrical sculptural qualities” that she found,  “unjudged and un-romanticised”.

Untitled (Fyshwick) © Sari Sutton

And, inspired by the playful use of lines and geometry in Richards’s Dancing in the Mall, 1964, Sutton also sought images incorporating strong stripes – exploring the same general area near where the Monaro Mall once stood.

Untitled (Civic Stripes 2) © Sari Sutton

Other standouts for me were Annette Fisher’s Abstracts, and Tessa Ivison’s interestingly titled Pastorals.

4 Abstracts, 2021 © Annette Fisher
Pastoral #1 © Tessa Ivison

This review is also on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.

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