During the opening of our new exhibition Wildlife Photographer of the Year we had the opportunity to welcome a special guest: Scott Portelli, an Australian photographer living in Sydney has already travelled the world extensively and took pictures in some of the most remote destinations like The Arctic, Antarctica, Galapagos, etc. He spent hundreds of days in pursuit of different wildlife. Due to his experience, he is privileged to be up close and personal with many creatures. Scott has already won multiple awards, this year he got selected by Wildlife Photographer of the year and his picture can be seen in the exhibition.
‘Grog and cigarettes are mostly out…milkshakes and tins of baby food are generally in, birds are acceptable provided they never ride a surfboard and keep always in the background, except on those special occasions…’ reported photojournalist Jeff Carter in his Surf Beaches of Australia’s East Coast in 1968.
Well it was a special occasion when the museum opened its Australian beach photography exhibition at the Noosa Regional Gallery recently, in the same week as International Women’s Day, and with seven times world champion Layne Beachley on the podium. She was in company with other surfing luminaries Phil Jarrett, Bob McTavish and Pete Townend, and me but the ironies and the passage of time brought pause for reflection.
Gervais Purcell’s photographs depicting tests for an underwater camera by Amalgamated Wireless Australasia in Sydney have an interesting association with the discovery of the sunken HMS Affray on 14 June 1951 near Hurds Deep in the English Channel.
“By-the-bye, everyone rushes after lunch to the Palace Pier to see a young Australian girl in a swimming and diving performance. We went with the rest, and can assure our readers that Miss Kerr is better worth seeing than nine out of ten of the famous dancers…”
Digitising the National Maritime Collection archive reveals some interesting stories from the lives of the people behind the objects. One such story was the career of aquatic star Beatrice Kerr. I found her both entertaining and inspirational, while scanning and researching her letters, handbills and photographs.
“Although the sailor, while at sea, is obliged to do without nearly all of the home attractions which even the poorest landsmen indulge in, he is allowed to cultivate to a limited extent his fondness for domestic pets…It affords him deep pleasure to hold in his loving though rough embrace the innocent creature who either by a cheerful wag of the tail or a responsive purr assures him that his attentions are appreciated…”
(New York Times – November 2, 1884)
We love them. Their loyalty, good humour and appreciation for simple pleasures—dogs are quite simply the ultimate companion. And for hundreds of years, sea farers have also thought so. Other pets such as monkeys, cats, birds and even goats may have their place, but dogs and boats are truly a match made in maritime heaven.
The museum has many photos capturing the unique friendship between sailors and their dogs. Whether it be captains, crew, cooks, explorers or passengers, dogs were never far away. Although the life these ship-board dogs led may not have involved parks or yards, their small on-board world was one filled with affection, attention and camaraderie. They were a welcome relief from the monotony and tension of sea life, and despite their earlier uses as ratters, it was their endearing nature that has kept them happily afloat.
History has also proven that no matter what the maritime triumph or disaster, dogs could be found on board. From the sinking of Henry VIII’s ship the Mary Rose, the Titanic and even HMAS Sydney, dogs were on board and suffered the same conditions and fate as the ship’s crew.
Incredibly dogs were also kept on board some submarines. Surely a less dog-friendly environment would be hard to think of. There is a story of one such dog called Garbo who lived aboard the USS GAR. One crew member recalls:
“Under the heaviest depth charge attacks, when the gauges were leaking, light bulbs breaking, and fires breaking out, Garbo remained as playful as ever. Bunn said, “She should have gotten a medal for keeping our spirits and morale up when we needed it most.”
Whilst they were commonly known as mascots, dogs proved to be so much more. They provided comfort and courage, loyalty and affection, and a chance for crew to be human in circumstances that often asked them to forget their humanity.
– Myffanwy Bryant, Curatorial Assistant
I’m pleased to announce the May winner of the museum’s #HoodsHarbour People’s Choice competition. Robert Osborne chose this photograph from the museum’s Samuel J Hood collection via our Flickr Commons photostream. Robert noted the picture ‘reminded me of the Manly Ferries as I used to spend the journey looking into the engine room from the passenger area and soak up the sights and smells‘. He composed a poem, which now forms the basis for the photograph’s exhibition label:
A memory of the past,
the glorious days of old.
The smell of oil and steam,
the shine of brass.
Gone, but still a dream.
Congratulations to Robert and thanks to all those who participated in our #HoodsHarbour competition. It was a museum first for us and was aimed at engaging visitors by allowing them to explore our historic photographic collection online as well as participate in the exhibition process. We hope you enjoyed it just as much as we did! 🙂
#HoodsHarbour is open at the museum until 9 June 2014.
I’m pleased to announce the first winner of the museum’s #HoodsHarbour People’s Choice competition for the month of April. Myleah Bailey from Victoria has chosen this photograph from the museum’s Samuel J Hood collection via our Flickr Commons photostream. It depicts crowds at Circular Quay, Sydney welcoming home the crew of HMAS Sydney II on 10 February 1941. The ship had left Australia 10 months previously for battle in the Mediterranean and relatives were keen to see their fathers, uncles, cousins, brothers, husbands, fiancées, boyfriends and friends again. Myleah told us why this was her favourite from the Hood collection, which now forms the basis for the photograph’s exhibition label:
The faces and fashions change, but be it 1941 or 2014 the heartfelt message, and title, of this image remains the same – ‘Welcome Home’.
Our winner told me she ‘was very surprised to receive it! I really enjoyed seeing the pictures in the exhibition and there were many beautiful ones displayed.’ Congratulations Myleah!
The day has finally arrived for the opening of our #HoodsHarbour exhibition! Showcasing a small selection from our Samuel (Sam) J Hood collection, #HoodsHarbour pays homage to the work of a group of individuals we call our ‘super sleuths’. Thanks to their efforts on our Flickr Commons page, we were able to solve the mystery behind the image that formed the inspiration for this exhibition – the lovely Hera Roberts. The story of this discovery symbolises the way that our followers have enriched our collection, unearthing its secrets and finding its hidden stories. Hood’s photograph of Hera remains the highest viewed and most favourited on the museum’s Flickr Commons photostream to date. More than 80 years after it was taken, Hera continues to captivate and inspire our audiences. Continue reading
If you have a minute, take a look at this shot with me. It’s a maritime scene – and not a cross between a really bad accident on the Persian rug or a promising entry for the Sulman Prize! It’s been cropped a bit and I’ve fiddled the contrast and colours to give it more impact, but the rest is what the camera and I saw.
This was taken in mid July, 35000 feet up, window seat 41K in a Boeing 777, three hours or so from Singapore, on the way home from holidays, with pleasant memories of European landscapes recorded in 300 or so snaps of idyllic scenery, all as promised in the travel brochures. But no one mentioned this scene, and it seems to top them all. What’s going on down there?
Since coming across this striking portrait a year ago, the anonymity of its subject has given me plenty of room to reflect on its beauty. The dark and lovely creature peering intensely at the photographer in this image from our historic William Hall collection seemed entirely suited to the shroud of mystery surrounding her identity.
It is odd under here.
The warm, almost suffocated air inside the velvety fabric tent. Like hiding under the covers. The image- all upside down, back to front and obscured, unfocused in a gridded glass plate. It is a concept of the life in front of the lens. While I look through this camera, a passer by, enamoured with the display of vintage technology, stops to take a photograph of a photograph being taken.
We are outside the museum for an introduction to our Ansel Adams-inspired photography workshop, learning what it is like to work with large format analogue cameras like those Adams would have used. We’ve toured the beautiful images in the exhibition with ANMM curator Richard Wood and now it is time for our workshop with tutors Michael Waite and Benjamin Stone-Herbert from the Australian Centre for Photography.
Tiny slide frames are handed around. This is how we will learn to compose our shot. Michael suggests that even contemporary landscape artists and photographers may not have any better tool for thinking about a shot than a simple rectangular frame held up to the life around them. The perfect photo may just be found in deciphering the best way to frame the vast chaos and disordered collection of shapes in any given environment.
It is really a perfect day to be out on the harbour. Blazing sun cut by the cool breeze flapping in from the open doors and windows of our tiny ferry as it powers down the Parramatta River. Michael encourages us to concentrate on the journey. To not see the ferry as a barrier between us and the “out there” subject but as something that could frame our images. A scratched window, a red railing, a smear of reflection all adds to the scene. This idea is inspiring and releasing to almost all the participants and they head about keenly experimenting with compositions in, on and through the ferry towards the passing vistas.
There is no shortage of beautiful and fascinating subjects- Graffiti-ed pylons, churning water, dilapidated boats and sheds along the river, or even the other photographers.
And it is lucky we are focusing on the journey.
As we pull in towards our destination (the semi- submerged shipwrecks of homebush bay) we discover the water level is too low to go any further today. We have to be content with a long distance shot or risk being marooned on the banks of the river. But there has been so much to capture already no one seems to be worried. As Ansel Adams would say “every experience is a form of exploration” and today, it would seem, we have been explorers.
What’s your favourite story from our photographic collection? Is it the voyage of the Sunbeam, the glamorous Hera Roberts or the mystery disappearance of two film stars? How about the ‘yachties’ – master shipwright Billy Barnett, Frank Albert or Sydney’s oldest yachtsman? For History Week this year the theme is Picture This, and on 11 September, in partnership with our friends Inside History Magazine, we will be exploring how cultural institutions are using digital communities to share photographic collections and unlock the past. Join my fellow blogger Penny Hyde, myself and our guest panellists Paula Bray, Geoff Hinchcliffe, Mitchell Whitelaw, Lisa Murray and Bernard de Broglio for a lively discussion about the exciting world of online collections! Continue reading
For this month’s make-it-at-home craft activity we’ve taken inspiration from the beautiful landscape photographs by the American photographer Ansel Adams featured in Ansel Adams – Photography from the mountains to the sea, open at the museum on 4 July, until 8 December. We’re going to show you how to make your own mini-landscapes in glass jars, called terrariums.
Terrariums are great fun to make with children, especially when it comes to designing your landscape with plants and rocks.
We’d love to see your terrarium creations. Please do send us photos either by email at web[at]anmm.gov.au or via Instagram, just tag the photo with our username @ANMMuseum.
Let’s get started… Continue reading