Photography show holds a mirror to our memories

Photography show holds a mirror to our memories


An ambitious new photography show holds a mirror up to life in Victoria, in the hope people might see themselves in its reflection.

Mirror: New views on photography opens Friday at the State Library of Victoria, with curators using 141 photographs from the library collection to inspire multimedia art.

Images from some renowned photographers are on show, including Destiny Deacon, Maggie Diaz, Rennie Ellis, The Huxleys, Wolfgang Sievers and Mark Strizic.

The exhibition space itself is a kind of mirror too, a symmetrical design with two giant digital screens and two smaller rooms with mirrored walls.

In these smaller spaces visitors can view the chosen images, and also see how they are stored as physical objects in the collection.

“I’ve made a lot of big crazy shows, but this would be up there,” curator Kate Rhodes told AAP.

As the curators delved deep into the library collection, they found there were many people and perspectives left out.

So they asked writers and artists to respond to the photographs, with the results becoming short films that are projected onto massive screens.

For example, The Pasifika Storytellers Collective composed a song about motherhood that is performed in Samoan, with subtitles in the language too.

A black-and-white photograph that inspired the song is shown alongside an Auslan interpreter, who is also part of the performance.

It’s a new way of seeing the collection and a suggestion of what might be possible, according to Rhodes.

“We can look at the photographs untethered from their makers, and set them free for others to find their own meaning,” she said.

The mirror concept was interpreted broadly when selecting the images, to include for example a reflection of the sky on a body of water, two identical children, or a screen in a photo booth.

Some of the photographs exist only as digital data, others as slides or ageing print stored away in an archival box.

“It has an institutional life, it’s cared for, it’s catalogued – this can make it an untouchable thing and we want to crack that open,” Rhodes said.

Yet she stressed that unlike a gallery show, the library’s photos are equally accessible for all – anyone can ask to view the rare and precious originals.

Mirror: New views on photography is at State Library Victoria from Friday until January 2024.