Art and about: a lens on Melbourne

“Photography: Real and Imagined” at NGV

My home city, Melbourne, abounds with all things cultural: from large music, comedy, international arts festivals, to local community street fun, with dancing and feasting from around the world. Melbourne caters for every taste and budget, special occasions or friendly catch-ups, art, theatre too for all interests musical, ballet, opera, drama, new works and classics. We’re spoilt for choice!

There’s a strip that strolls from CBD festival venues and hubs, past the National Gallery of Victoria’s Ian Potter Centre and ACMI (Australian Centre for Moving Images) on Federation Square, to the Arts Centre – State Theatre, Playhouse, Fairfax, Hamer Hall; the NGV International, around the corner to Melbourne Theatre Company, Melbourne Recital Centre, then turn left to Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) and The Malthouse with its theatres and courtyard, perfect for summer nights.  That’s why Melbourne is ‘the cultural capital of Australia”. 

In the last weeks, I’ve visited a couple of interesting and vastly different photographic exhibitions.

PHOTOGRAPHY: REAL AND IMAGINED at the National Gallery of Victoria.
This exhibition explores the purposes of photography whether an historical record, an accurate depiction of moments in time, or an extension of the photographer’s creative thinking, the imagination. The photographer is a storyteller.

Photojournalism has long been an interest of mine, going way back to when Dad gave me my first camera, a Kodak Box Brownie, and a book, “The Family of Man” (Edward Steichen, Director, Dept of Photography, MOMA) about the exhibition originally held at MOMA in 1955 that toured the world for eight years, including Australia. A hugely ambitious project, Steichen invited worldwide photographers to curate a photo essay from beginnings of life to death. It covered the beauty, the grand, the poverty, the war, the celebrations. More than 500 photographers from 68 countries participated.  I still have this book – and several books of, especially, the Time Life Photographers. The Family of Man has been a life-time’s inspiration to me and has been reprinted several times since my first edition.

Photography: Real and Imagined at the NGV exhibits more than 200 works by Australian and international photographers, including several of my favourite photojournalists, from 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.  A wonderful exploration through the camera lens.

Photography: Real and Imagined images.  My (very old) copy of “The Family of Man”
Photography: Real and Imagined | NGV is on at the Ian Potter Centre, Federation Square, until 28 January (free entry)


INK IN THE LINES – The Shrine of Remembrance
I attended the Opening of this compelling exhibition, “Ink in the Lines”, Australia’s modern veterans’ stories through their tattoos. Poignant photographic and audio-visual images of mateship, family, hope, loss, healing, identity and belonging sit sombrely on solid brick walls in The Shrine’s underground museum.

Tattoos are “a conversation starter,” we were told. I spoke with Historian/Curator Stephanie, Director/Cameraman Steve, and Photographer Rob, about their collaborative time in the making of this exhibition. I learnt the breadth of tears and laughter, veterans’ stories previously untold to families and friends. But, these men and women who participated in the exhibition all shared one common purpose in getting their tattoos – to remember.

In Tanya’s a/v story, she says, “Veterans aren’t old guys in wheelchairs. They’re women too, they have kids, that are still young enough to run around the park with their grandson … “

Kev:  “and many, many, many years later, that my brain just went, time to go into shut down mode, time to hibernate, time to pull yourself back from everything and away from everyone.”

It requires time to absorb the force behind these ‘ink’ inscriptions. I was in awe of the Australian War Memorial’s cleverness in the exhibition concept and visual presentation. Words such as valour, potency and a deep respect filled my mind.  Lest we Forget!

The Shrine of Remembrance is a place of reverence for me. I thought about the tattoo my Dad had on his arm, the Prince of Wales feathers.  During WWII, Pte Norman Robert Reid was in the 9th Division Cavalry, fought and was injured in a tank in the Middle East. He told me stories, I have over 100 photographs, telegrams, press cuttings, letters home, but I never thought to ask about that tattoo and why that motif? I can only guess now that it was because our troops were fighting alongside the British allies, perhaps the tattoo was a nod to “King and Country”?

Photos: Stories in ink; Steve the Director/Cameraman; Kev.

More exhibition information in this catalogue.
Ink in the Lines | Shrine of Remembrance is on until 11 February 2024


“BALLET IS FOR EVERYONE” –  Instagram @balletbusker
Bianca Carnovale, Melbourne’s Ballet Busker, adds beauty to our city. When she steps onto her mat, up en pointe, Bianca is mesmerising.   Little girls twirl, all ages stop to admire.

There is much more to Bianca’s artistry than ‘busking’.  She has warmth, engaging with young ones, inviting them to pose and be photographed with her.  She works hard. “Ballet busking” is a long way from being a corps de ballet member.  Bianca travels independently – this year I’m aware she has been to Adelaide Fringe and Edinburgh Fringe festivals, as well as USA, Canada and other Australian cities – responsible for gear, engagements, logistics, coping with varying climates and weather conditions.

Bianca’s commitment to bring the enjoyment of ballet is visible. Parents and grandparents comment on her posts: “It’s like you sprinkled fairy dust around and enchanted the little girl”; “you brightened up our day”.  Onlookers photograph and video her performance for Bianca to share the joy she brings.

I grew up with dance, particularly ballet. While my Mum taught ‘tap’, my sister was a ballet dancer. The first ballet performance I went to, like many children, was The Nutcracker Suite. My sister, a then student at Borovansky Ballet School, performed in this production. We had 10” vinyl records, with the ballet music and narrated stories. (Yes, I too went to ballet classes, and tap, and jazz, but was never interested in being a performer.)  Dance and ballet have continued throughout my life.

My delight now is that I enjoy the Ballet Busker with Grandson, Hugo. He looks forward to seeing her on Melbourne’s streets. Hugo has posed with Bianca and, on one occasion, carried her ropes as she moved from one busking location to another.  She also let him cue her music. Hugo talks about Bianca as his friend, how he likes ‘helping’ her.

Daily, Bianca posts on her Instagram when and when she will be performing. Melbourne is fortunate to have our own beautiful Ballet Busker.

Photos: Bianca performing outside Melbourne Town Hall and Vic Arts Centre; Hugo with his ballerina ‘friend’.

Links for experiencing Melbourne’s vibrant arts scene:

The “Ballet Busker” outside Melbourne Town Hall

© Photos and text Pamela Reid 2023