In Stillness: A Photographic Exhibition @ Everglades, Leura

It was one of those days when it would be so easy to stay at home. The weather was undecided, and then the skies darkened, a large storm approaching at speed. I waited until the worst of it was over before heading out, still feeling like it might have been a good call to stay put.

In driving rain I made my way to Everglades at Leura. I’d spotted a notice for a photography exhibition called ‘In Stillness‘ with the following blurb:

The photographs exhibited each draw on the essence of the Irish proverb, “In stillness, the world is restored”. The concept of stillness is explored by each photographer in their own way, with works ranging from monumental mountain landscapes to exquisite native birdlife to impressionistic interpretations of the landscape. The breadth of style and subject matter will give visitors to the exhibition a chance to join with the photographers in experiencing the concept of stillness in a myriad of forms.

There are three photographers exhibiting work: Louise Bishop, Fiona Huddleston and Dilshara Hill. Each photographer has an overall theme and style, but the work is complementary and creates the sense of stillness that it promises.

Winter is the setting for Bishop’s work, a time of ‘waiting, conserving, decaying and surviving’. The intrinsic stillness of this time of year, inherent in nature, is demonstrated in a myriad of forms including the nakedness of nature in winter. Decay is evident too, illustrated in landscapes and through dilapidated buildings. The quality of light itself is different in winter, and this too is captured in the work. Animals and landscapes feature throughout the photos, with a variety of textures and filters used for different effects. I particularly enjoyed the following: Sunrise, Kanimbla Valley; Once a Home, Hartley; and Winter, North Yorkshire Dales. The Hartley home is one that I have spotted on the Mid Hartley Road. I have also wondered at the lives that echoed within the old house.

Trees are the defining element of Fiona Huddleston’s photographs. They are identified as symbols of life, wisdom, strength and knowledge, amongst other things. Each part of the plant is revered: root, stem, leaf, trunk, branch. In her overview, Huddleston writes that her aim is to ‘endeavour to see rather than just look and to express rather than just capture’. Her exhibit is stunning in its range, with the works offering both depth and transparency. Tree of Contemplation, Tree of Connection and Tree of Imagination stood out for me, particularly with the gold highlights. It made me think differently about something that I see everyday.

Native birds feature in Dilshara Hill’s photographs. Her aim is to capture the world around her, recording the beauty in landscape and nature, and she hopes her work encourages and inspires others. The birds are captured in a striking array of poses: in bird baths, gracefully gripping grevillea, poised to take nectar from a camellia. And the range is broad: rainbow lorikeets, eastern spinebills, pelicans (a personal favourite), brolgas and zebra finches amongst others. The silvereye stood out, along with a clutch of fairy-wrens and an eastern yellow robin. But for me the showstopper was the gang-gang cockatoo, captured with a cheeky, over the shoulder look. I smile whenever I think of it.

There are prints and cards of some of the work available for sale, in addition to the exhibition pieces. When I wandered through, one of the photographers was there, providing an overview along with a friendly welcome. It was such a treat.

As I headed back through the mist-cloaked gardens of the Everglades, my mind was abuzz, filled with the wonderful images I had seen. Definitely worth leaving the house for.

Everglades Gardens Gallery, 5 – 27 November 2016, Wed – Sun 11 am – 3 pm.

[Photo: pool at Everglades as mist rolls in]



Glimpses of Another Time: Sydney Streetscapes

Recently I attended a talk on early photography in Sydney. The focus was on the changing streetscapes of the city from the late 1880s through to the early 1920s. The first photo of Sydney was taken in 1841, and changes in recording technology led to an increase in landscape photography with the introduction of dry plates. One of the benefits was as the glass plate negatives were less likely to warp or distort there remains a vivid record of what the city was like all those decades ago.

There were a couple of photographers in particular who extensively recorded the changes in Sydney and its suburbs, including panoramic shots from some of the many bays looking back towards Sydney. Henry King and Charles Kerry were the photographers, and a portion of their work is held in the Tyrell Photographic Collection which is now held in the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. The collection consists of 7,903 glass plate negatives which provide a fascinating glimpse into another time.

Some of the more visible markers of change over the decades were the transport options available to the city’s population. The earlier photos show people streaming across the wide streets, dodging hansom cabs and horse-drawn omnibuses. The omnibus could carry 24 passengers and there is one restored vehicle still on view at the Powerhouse Museum. Then came the trams, including steam engine trams that could cope with the steep inclines and grades of the sprawling city. There were photos of clusters of hansom cabs lined up at the early railway stations and along the foreshore of Circular Quay, waiting for trains and ferries to arrive and disgorge their passengers. The last hansom cab in Sydney – 1937 – was also recorded in a photograph.

Another couple of photographs captured the thousands of well-dressed spectators at the Association Ground, later renamed the Sydney Cricket Ground. The Members’ Pavillion had mostly men but also quite a few well attired women in long, elegant white dresses. Photos of beach outings captured men wading in their long bathing suits. Women were more likely to use the bathing cages, curious contraptions that had room for changing into a bathing suit before being wheeled into the water where you could dip into the ocean from the safety of the cage. It would keep sharks – and marauding men – right out of the way.

The talk covered just some of the extensive collection, and it provided an interesting glimpse into an earlier time.

Have you seen anything recently that makes you ponder on the past?

[Photo taken in the stables at Eskbank House (Lithgow) where there was the last working hansom cab from Parramatta on display, to the right of the photo]

My I Spy: Something Beginning with ‘A’

One of my favourite blogs is Pip Lincoln’s Meet Me At Mike’s. I discovered Pip by chance after hearing her being interviewed on a podcast. At first, I must confess, I thought something like ‘ho hum, another crafty person’ but that was way off the mark. Pip is extraordinary in many ways and her book, Craft for the Soul, is a creative and inspiring balm in a nerve-jangling world.

In a recent post, Pip started to play I Spy. And she invited other people to join in. There are no rules, only loose guidelines. Weekly posts or photos or whatever format you like – you can read the guidelines here. It got me thinking about what is around me, in an alphabetical kind of way. So I’m going to give it a go, using images of what I have around me, and what I come across in my meanderings.

A is for Apple

A is for Apple

A is for Apples

An obvious starting point, perhaps. I almost always have apples at home. My favourite are Granny Smith apples, particularly when they have that heady mix of tartness and sweetness. Good to eat as is, or to stew slowly and have on porridge or baked rice pudding.

Artwork by Catherine Rose

Artwork by Catherine Rose

A is for Art

These two mini canvases, ‘Pink Peonies’ and ‘Agapanthas’ are by Catherine Rose, an artist based in the Lithgow area. I discovered them at the K Gallery in Lithgow run by the enthusiastic Karen Matthews. These paintings have brightened my kitchen through the winter months when blooms are elusive in a mountain garden.

Ashtray at the Hydro Majestic

Ashtray at the Hydro Majestic

A is for Ashtray

I spotted this at the Hydro Majestic Pavillion this week whilst browsing for a gift for a friend. It is just one piece of a plethora of memorabilia from the Hydro Majestic on display.

And now to start spying for B …

Paragon Cafe, Katoomba

A Katoomba institution, the Paragon Cafe celebrates its centenary this year. It was established by Zacharias Simos in 1916 when he leased premises in Katoomba Street to start his business. The cafe walls are adorned with friezes including Roman inspired gods and goddesses, and chariots in full flight. What it is famous for, apart from its longevity, is its exquisite handmade chocolates.

The front window is presented with a wide collection of gifts, novelties and toys to appeal and draw you in. Inside is a cluster of booths along the walls with tables arranged in the middle, and signs directing to the Blue Room and Banquet Hall towards the rear of the building.

Around the picture rails are a wide assortment of photographs, documenting various celebrities who have dined at the cafe. Familiar faces of actors sit alongside politicians across the decades, some photos signed with a flourish.

The cafe embodies the tradition of an older time, embracing stylistic elements of the age of Art Deco. The atmosphere of a nostalgic time is further reinforced by soft jazz music playing in the background, and the wide assortment of paraphernalia associated with the cafe’s long life on display in cabinets.

It is a popular spot for tourists and locals, and has its own dedicated club – The Friends of the Paragon Cafe Inc which has a great website with a treasure trove of history, images and stories relating to the cafe and is well worth a visit. There is also a link to an article by R. Ian Jack providing an extensive history of the cafe.

If you’re in the area, drop in and experience the atmosphere, buy some of the amazing chocolates, enjoy morning, afternoon tea or lunch in the cafe, or book in for one of the jazz & dinner nights. The cafe’s Facebook site can be found here.

[Photo: inside the Paragon Cafe at the counter loaded with all kinds of temptation]


Down in the valley, the valley so low*

I have a bit of a thing for old places. Places with a history, regardless of whether they are in current use or not. The Australian countryside is host to thousands of ruined and abandoned sites, including places where entire towns have been left to slip slowly back into the soil. When driving beyond the city limits, sooner or later you will come across properties where there is little more than a chimney left standing in an enclosed space that once held a home where people lived.

But it isn’t just homes that are left in this state. It can be industrial sites that are left behind when their usefulness has come to an end due to changes in technology or productivity. They can be schools or boarding houses, factories or power stations, convents or hospitals.  I recently came across a blog post by Alien Shores with some beautiful photographs of ruins which you can find here.

One of the notable industrial ruins in the mountains area is the Blast Furnace in Lithgow. The Australian iron smelting industry began here, and it was an important industrial development as well as being a major employer and support for the mining industry. There is a detailed analysis of the significance of the site here. It was constructed between 1905 and 1913, and operated until it was relocated to Port Kembla in 1928. The site was opened in 1907 when Lithgow was the fourth largest town in Australia. To understand the sheer scale of industrial activity in Lithgow at the time, have a look at the historic photographs assembled here by John Paix.

The historical importance of the Blast Furnace has been acknowledged, and there is currently preservation work being carried out in order to make the location more accessible for tourists following government and council funding grant approvals. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for this site.

Do old places capture your imagination?

*Taken from the lyrics of Industrial Town by Weddings, Parties, Anything

[Photo: Blast Furnace Park, Lithgow]