The art of photographing strangers on the streets of Sydney

Posted February 12, 2018 08:00:39

Everyday photographer Jon Lewis hits the streets to document the ever-changing cosmopolitan face of Sydney.

“What I’m trying to say in it is everybody is important, it’s not just us long-legged white fellas,” he said of the purpose of his work.

“It’s also Asian people, it’s also Indigenous people, it’s also religious people, it’s all that.”

Over the past four years his daily ritual has involved pulling up strangers to make impromptu portraits with the available light.

Lewis can’t predict who he will encounter or what will attract him to certain characters on his journeys.

“I have no idea until I see it, but up until that stage it’s always been a time of wondering what’s going to surprise me or indeed talk to me.”

Last year the State Library of NSW acquired a selection of 50 images from his growing street portraits series that currently includes more than 750 pictures.

Lewis’s portraits appear compositionally straightforward, but it’s a technique he has worked to perfect over a career spanning five decades.

“I’ve always loved [photography] through my adult life.

“Anything good is a gift in this world because the world is so buggered.”

Born to an Australian father and Jewish-American mother in Maryland, USA, Lewis came to live in Australia in 1951.

In the 1970s he co-founded Greenpeace Australia and rubbed shoulders with other prominent creatives as part of the Yellow House art collective in Sydney’s Potts Point.

The profession took him to Europe, Asia, the Pacific and outback Australia, and led to his documentary-styled images being acquired by cultural institutions and private collectors around the globe.

“It’s nice to have the world seen in photographs, of things that actually happened and meant something to a great deal of people.”

Lewis’s assistant Sarah Barker plays a critical role in curating, exhibiting and highlighting the photographs through social media.

“I think it’s important work that needs people to see it,” Ms Barker said.

“It says a lot about society, our shared humanity and how we have more in common than we do different.”

In her opinion the best of Lewis’s images are the result of his friendly and transparent approach with the subjects.

“Most street photography is done with the people unaware that they’re being photographed, whereas he really wants them to be an active part of what he’s doing,” she said.

“So that’s why he seeks permission; engaging with them, it makes them a very interactive part of the photograph.”

“I think it’s dignified and the way to get good work is to acknowledge the person that you’re photographing,” Lewis added.

Although he’s a veteran behind the lens, Lewis admitted that approaching people could still be a challenge.

“Every time I make a photograph I get a little frightened; I’m not particularly comfortable.

“But generally speaking people are wonderful and they’re most accommodating, and if you’re correct and happy with them they will usually be easy to photograph.”

While he always carries a light camera kit, Lewis let in on one tip for making engaging portraits of strangers.

“Humour is a wonderful thing to bring along when you photograph people that you don’t know.”

His exhibition Perfect Strangers is on display at The Photography Room in Canberra until March 4.

Topics: fine-art-photography, photography, human-interest, people, multiculturalism, community-and-society, sydney-2000

People are boycotting Peter Rabbit over allergy ‘bullying’ scene

Posted February 11, 2018 13:55:37

An Australian allergy awareness group is calling for Sony Pictures to apologise its for depiction of “blatant food allergy bullying” in the upcoming film Peter Rabbit.

Key points:

  • The film includes a scene where a character is intentionally attacked with allergen, causing anaphylaxis
  • Organisations call it ‘socially irresponsible’, want Sony Pictures to apologise
  • Authorities say making light of serious allergies could be harmful to community

The film was released in the US last week and according to America’s Kids With Food Allergies Foundation (KFA), it includes a scene where a character is intentionally attacked with his allergen, which leads to anaphylaxis.

Australian group Global Anaphylaxis Awareness and Inclusivity (Globalaai) has created a petition asking Sony Pictures to apologise, saying the scene is socially irresponsible.

“This mocks the seriousness of allergic disease and is heartbreakingly disrespectful to the families of those that have lost loved ones to anaphylaxis,” the petition reads.

“To spread a message that condones such victimising and dangerous behaviour amongst children is grossly offensive to worldwide viewers, especially those who live with severe allergic disease.”

The hashtag #boycottpeterrabbit has also kicked off on social media.

According to the National Allergy Strategy, allergic diseases are among the fastest-growing chronic conditions in Australia — affecting one in five people.

Globalaai is encouraging parents to talk to their children about the scene and the seriousness of food allergies.

“Given that this movie is aimed at children, to see a character being intentionally attacked with the allergen that they’re allergic to has been really disturbing worldwide, not only for the allergy community but also for parents,” Globalaai founder Dr Pooja Newman said.

“We have a serious problem in our community with a lack of understanding and a lack of appreciation that allergies can be instantaneously life threatening and many children have died all over the world from accidental exposure to food allergens.”

“Unfortunately, I believe the Peter Rabbit movie is sending a message that food allergies are not necessarily to be taken seriously and that food allergy bullying is something that is OK.”

Dr Newman said she has been encouraged by the response the petition has received.

Sony Pictures have not responded to the petition.

Authorities warn not to joke about serious allergies

KFA said jokes about food allergies could be harmful to the community.

“During a reaction, patients require the life-saving drug epinephrine and must go to the nearest hospital for follow-up treatment,” it said.

KFA said the fear and anxiety experienced during an allergic reaction is very serious.

“Making light of this condition hurts our members because it encourages the public not to take the risk of allergic reactions seriously, and this cavalier attitude may make them act in ways that could put an allergic person in danger,” it said.

Sony Pictures has been contacted for comment.

Topics: arts-and-entertainment, film-movies, allergies, diseases-and-disorders, health, community-and-society, family-and-children, children, children—preschoolers, children—toddlers, food-safety, food-poisoning, united-states, australia

Racist symbol or harmless toy — should Golliwog dolls exist in 2018?

Updated February 03, 2018 11:53:23

A shocked tourist, an Indigenous advocate and a colonial historian have condemned the sale of Golliwog dolls in Australia, dubbing them deeply offensive racist symbols that should be taken off shelves nationwide.

Meanwhile an Australian soft toy manufacturer who sells hundreds of thousands of ‘Gollies’ each year has defended the doll’s existence.

Melbourne woman Soyla Echeverria was shocked to see the divisive dolls displayed in a souvenir store at a popular shopping centre during her working holiday in far north Queensland.

Ms Echeverria confronted management and the dolls were moved from the front display to the back of the store but the tourist said she would rather they were taken off the shelves.

“I was extremely surprised. I felt very ashamed to be Australian, to come here as a white person and see that, I mean it’s 2018,” she said.

Indigenous rights advocate Henrietta Marrie said while the sale of a toy might seem small to some it represented a wider cultural problem.

“It’s a huge problem and it’s laughable this is happening in the 21st century,” she said.

“It’s the look, the connotation and the naming [of Golliwog dolls] which sends a negative message. Years ago it was an insult and it’s still insulting to us. It gives a negative image about who we are and what we can do.

“Let’s get them off the shelves and educate people as to why we’ve done that.”

The far north Queensland academic, who has also worked for the United Nations, commended Ms Echeverria and encouraged individuals from all backgrounds to speak up when they saw something they thought was wrong.

“The positive thing is a tourist has alerted [the store] to the sensitivity of this issue and that’s brave of her,” Ms Marrie said.

“We need people to make a stand because that’s the only way we are going to be able to change the perception out there.”

‘People need to get a grip, it’s just a doll’

Australian soft toy manufacturer Elka ships hundreds of thousands of their ‘Golly’ dolls to every state and territory each year and is releasing a new range this month according to national sales manager Jan Johnco.

She believed it was a vocal minority who viewed the toy as a racist symbol.

“Traditionally, in my childhood and most certainly my mother’s, everyone had a Golly and it was a beloved doll, it was so wholesome and lovely,” she said.

“We sell so many Gollies across the country because people want them.”

Ms Johnco denied the term had racist or negative connotations but conceded Australia’s toy industry needed to be more racially diverse.

She said Elka was working on representing other races in their doll range separate to the golly line but said finding something as popular would be a challenge.

“These dolls have got a very honourable past and I don’t think it’s fair to inflict any sick connotations of racism onto something that’s got nothing to do with racism,” she said.

“People need to get a grip, it’s a doll. We’re talking about an innocent, benevolent, beautiful black doll.”

Protest against damaging caricatures started decades ago

The Golliwog was first thrust into popular culture in 1895 as a character in a children’s book.

Florence Kate Upton illustrated ‘The Adventures of Two Dutch Dolls and a Golliwogg’ with the character reportedly inspired by Ms Upton’s black minstrel doll.

Despite quickly becoming a friendly character later in the book the Golliwogg is first described as “a horrid sight, the blackest gnome” who made the dolls “scatter in fright” when they saw him.

Colonial historian Liz Conor said the feeling of denigration among Indigenous Australians when it came to Golliwogs and other black caricatures dated back to the Day of Mourning on January 26, 1938.

“The negative response to Golliwogs [continued during] the civil rights movement in the 1960s [in the US] and the black resistance movement here in Australia,” Dr Conor said.

“In the 1980s the first formal complaint about denigrating representation of Aboriginal people was from the Redfern Aboriginal Legal Service and they complained about some Eric Jolliffe cartoons, Witchetty’s Tribe.”

The La Trobe University researcher said it was clear that white consumers were the ones benefiting and gaining enjoyment from how Aboriginal people were represented in pop culture.

“There’s a lot of denialism still going on,” Dr Conor said.

“It’s a slap in a face to continue to stock images that denigrate [Indigenous Australians] at a time when there’s a very robust national debate about Australia Day or Invasion Day and how we remember this history.”

History of the Golliwog in Australia

Dr Conor said it was during the early 20th century that prominent toy manufacturers began producing Golliwog dolls using a slightly different spelling.

“Whether we like it or not we can’t just step around the [issue of slavery] and why the smiling little doll, much like piccaninny [or minstrel] characters, is racially denigrating,” she said.

Like Upton, author Enid Blyton depicted the Golliwog in her stories. But the character was not limited to books and toys in Australia.

It became a popular pop culture figure appearing on postcards, food jars, key chains and in the 1960s as chocolate biscuits manufactured by Arnott’s.

Those biscuits were renamed Scalliwag in the mid-1990s before being discontinued at the end of the decade.

The biscuit may be no more but the character continues to be sold by several Australian retailers in the form of gifts and, of course, dolls.

Topics: community-and-society, popular-culture, indigenous-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander, indigenous-culture, cairns-4870

First posted February 03, 2018 11:26:15

After being a day away from closing, Canberra’s Phoenix is rising from the ashes

Updated February 02, 2018 13:59:25

Staying true to its name, Canberra’s Phoenix Pub has risen from the ashes with renewed hope of survival.

Manager Netti Vonthethoff said she was overwhelmed the Canberra community raised $50,000 in weeks to save them from closing due to a complex legal dispute with the landlord and property manager.

“Just weeks ago we were sure we needed to close the next day and it was all very exhausting,” Ms Vonthethoff said.

“Now I think we’re going to make it through.”

The public threw the business a lifeline through fundraising events, online donations and simply grabbing a beer at the venue, with Ms Vonthethoff saying trade had increased drastically since they signalled trouble one month ago.

“All those people that have come forward [to help], the bigness of that, I don’t even know how to express. It makes me realise there’s no way they would have let us close,” she said.

“It’s not just my heart that’s up there, it’s the community’s heart and it’s been shown.”

Water and fire damage cause sting of setbacks

During a recent fundraising event, ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury said the city’s live music scene would suffer from the loss of The Phoenix, which had been showcasing local talent for 25 years.

The pub in the iconic Sydney Building on East Row had faced a string of financial setbacks since the premises were damaged by fire in February, 2014.

After being hit by a storm the following year, it was slapped with a $200,000 bill for a period operators say the business was unfit to trade, despite putting thousands of dollars into repairing the venue.

The Phoenix spreads across two premises and the original part — the much larger section — has been mostly closed since the fire.

Last year the property manager, LJ Hooker, terminated that section’s lease after claiming the business’ renovations were non-compliant with fire regulations.

Ms Vonthethoff said community support had put the businesses in a significantly more stable financial position, making the prospect of reopening that section more likely.

“That other side still has a lot of debt on it, but the trade is now enough to carry the costs of that side where as it hadn’t been,” she said.

“That’s why we are hoping to negotiate [with the landlord] to get back into that space.”

But she said for now she was just happy the smaller side’s immediate future was secured.

“Pretty much every band that has come though The Phoenix for all of January have donated their time and energy and all the money raised for them has been donated directly to The Phoenix,” she said.

“For everyone to have jumped out to help us just shows how much we mean to them and that is just so positive.”

Topics: music, community-and-society, canberra-2600, act, australia

First posted February 02, 2018 13:43:58

‘Time capsule’ web series celebrates characters of Melbourne’s west

Posted February 02, 2018 12:28:48

A new series of short web documentaries celebrates the characters who define Melbourne’s western suburbs.

We Are West has so far featured little-known locals as well as household names such as furniture retailer Franco Cozzo and youth worker Les Twentyman.

Local filmmaker Laurens Goud moved to Williamstown with his mother he was 11 years old and now lives in Altona.

“I didn’t move too far,” he told ABC Radio Melbourne‘s Richelle Hunt.

He said the idea for the web series came from local businessman Marty Rankin.

“[He] came to us and said, ‘I want to make a time capsule of the way that the west is’,” Mr Goud recalled.

Together they came up with a plan to produce a series of short documentaries featuring “some of the characters that are famous, and even some of the stories that are less famous”.

“We’re not all going to be around forever, so if we don’t go about capturing the way that the west is now, we won’t be able to remember what it was.”

Famous and not-so-famous

The series started in November with a video telling the little-known story of Peter and Lola Anderson from community group Friends of Cruickshank Park.

“[They’re] an adorable pair who put in a lot of work to make Cruickshank Park what it is today,” Mr Goud said.

He said the Yarraville park was “an amazing resource for the west”.

“I walked my dog there so many times without any idea about the amount of work that went into creating that.”

The series returned this year with a video featuring high-profile youth worker Twentyman, before releasing its most recent episode on the furniture king Cozzo.

The Italian immigrant is famous locally for his television commercials and love of baroque furniture.

Mr Goud described Mr Cozzo as “genuine” and said he was “one of the most amazing people to meet”.

“We actually just walked in [to the furniture store] and he was at the back of the store in his office,” Mr Goud said.

“We said, ‘We’re doing this series, love to talk to you’, and off we went.

“We could have cut a much longer story there; he wasn’t afraid to talk, as you could imagine.”

In the video Mr Cozzo talks about the early days of his business, and says the inner western suburb is “better than Toorak”.

“I will say, ‘West is the best’.”

‘Genuine’ stories for social media

Mr Goud said with the first few episodes the producers were testing to see if there was an audience on Facebook for these sorts of local stories.

“Social media, there’s so much action and people jumping up and down for attention,” he said.

“We sort of thought: ‘We think that there’s an audience for genuine stories, for real people, but let’s go out and find out if that’s the case’.

“If we have people watching and enjoying what we’re trying to do, then we’ll keep making the stories.”

Topics: documentary, internet-culture, social-media, television, community-and-society, people, human-interest, footscray-3011, williamstown-3016, braybrook-3019, altona-3018, melbourne-3000

Gallery removes painting of naked nymphs to ‘prompt conversation’

Updated February 01, 2018 08:49:54

Manchester Art Gallery has removed a painting of young naked female nymphs tempting a man to his doom to “prompt conversation about how we display and interpret artworks”.

Hylas and the Nymphs, painted by John William Waterhouse in 1896 and one of the most recognisable of the pre-Raphaelite paintings, was taken down on Friday, and postcards of the picture will be removed from sale in the shop.

A statement on the gallery’s website said it presented, “the female body as either a ‘passive decorative form’ or a ‘femme fatale’. Let’s challenge this Victorian fantasy!”

“The gallery exists in a world full of intertwined issues of gender, race, sexuality and class which affect us all. How could artworks speak in more contemporary, relevant ways?” the statement read.

The initial response to the removal was mixed, with some calling it “politically correct” and claiming censorship.

But the gallery’s curator of contemporary art, Clare Gannaway, told The Guardian the aim of the removal was not to censor, but to provoke debate.

“It wasn’t about denying the existence of particular artworks,” she said.

“For me personally, there is a sense of embarrassment that we haven’t dealt with it sooner. Our attention has been elsewhere … we’ve collectively forgotten to look at this space and think about it properly.

“We want to do something about it now because we have forgotten about it for so long.”

Ms Gannaway said the painting would probably return to the gallery — it previously hung in a room titled In Pursuit of Beauty, containing late 19th century paintings showing the female body — “but hopefully contextualised quite differently”.

“It is not just about that one painting, it is the whole context of the gallery,” she said.

The gallery said the removal itself was an artistic act and “part of a group gallery takeover” that will feature in a solo exhibition by Sonia Boyce.

Topics: arts-and-entertainment, visual-art, community-and-society, united-kingdom

First posted February 01, 2018 08:36:05

Meet this year’s Australia Day Honours list recipients

Updated January 26, 2018 01:17:04

A total of 895 Australians who have risen to the top of their fields in sports, science, performing arts and media have been recognised in this year’s Australia Day Honours List for 2018.

While male athletes usually dominate the headlines, this year’s Honours List recognises some of Australia’s most well-known female athletes from a range of sports.

Australia Day Honours List level of award

  • Companion of the Order (AC)
  • Officer of the Order (AO)
  • Member of the Order (AM)
  • Medal of the Order (OAM)

But despite this, women still only make up one-third of all recipients.

Here is what some of the recipients had to say.


While male athletes usually dominate the headlines, this year’s Australia Day Honours List recognises our female athletes.

The late Betty Cuthbert (AC)

Australia’s “golden girl” Betty Cuthbert has been posthumously awarded a Companion of the Order of Australia.

She became Australia’s first triple Olympic gold medallist as an 18-year-old after winning the 100 and 200 metre sprints and being a member of the victorious 4×100-metre relay team at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.

Cuthbert died last year, aged 79, after a long battle with multiple sclerosis.

As well as her on-track achievements, she has also been honoured for being a role model, fundraiser, and advocate for research into a cure for MS.

Evonne Goolagong-Cawley (AC)

Tennis legend Evonne Goolagong-Cawley has also been recognised with the nation’s highest honour for her sporting achievements and her role as an Indigenous youth health advocate.

Goolagong-Cawley won seven Grand Slam titles in her career, including four Australian Open titles.

Through her work at the Evonne Goolagong Foundation she encourages Indigenous children to get involved in tennis, to promote better health, education and employment.

Liz Ellis (AO)

Former Australian captain Liz Ellis is receiving an Office of the Order of Australia for her outstanding netball career — which included two Commonwealth Games gold medals and three World Championships.

She said she is proud to see women’s sport move to the forefront.

“To be a part of that movement that has now seen women’s sport move from the periphery now to front and centre, it’s incredibly satisfying to see that happen,” Ellis said.

“I feel really grateful that I’ve got the opportunity to be part of that movement and that moment.

“I’m not satisfied though, I want to see more happen.

“I want to get to the point where we talk about sport and not ‘women’s sport’.”

Shane Gould (AM)

Shane Gould was a shy 15-year-old when she won three gold medals at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

She’s being honoured for her service to swimming and to creating water safety programs in developing countries.

“When you see someone really struggling to manage the water and then it’s like they have a revelation, when a person whether they’re an adult or a child finally understands the water holds me up if I interact with it,” she said.

“To me that’s the ants pants.”

Susie O’Neill (AM)

Dubbed “Madame Butterfly” for her dominance in the pool, Susie O’Neill now has another title to add to her name.

She has received an AM for service to swimming and charity work.

“It’s a very proud moment to become a Member of the Order,” she said.

“To see my name on the list with the other names, people who have achieved and given so much, it will take some time for me to digest.”

Karrie Webb (AO)

As Australia’s most successful professional female golfer, Karrie Webb is used to accolades, but said being honoured with an AO came as a shock.

“I was thrilled a few years back when I became a member of the Order of Australia and I don’t think it’s something that you think you’re going to climb the ladder on,” Webb said.

“They’re such prestigious awards and the fact that my career and the things I’ve done in golf are so highly thought of that I would receive this recognition is really a thrill and an honour.”

Performing Arts

Lucette Aldous (AC)

Lucette Aldous taught ballet to generations of young people, following a career which started in the 1950s and saw her dance with the Royal Ballet in London and as a principal dancer with the Australian Ballet.

At 79, she fondly remembers filming a version of Don Quixote together with Russian great Rudolf Nureyev in a hangar of the old Essendon airport in the early 1970s, and remembers Nureyev as being very generous, and humorous.

“It was sort of a personal contact, but one never over stepped his genius,” she said.

“At one stage, I had to learn a very difficult solo and he said, ‘OK, I sit and play my favourite piece of [Sergei] Prokofiev. Get on with it.

“I stood in the wings one time and I said, ‘You should open a ballet school just for ballerinas … I’ve learned so much’.

“The generosity, the knowledge that he had.”


Dr Mukesh Haikerwal (AC)

Dr Mukesh Haikerwal suffered a traumatic brain injury when he was attacked by three men with a baseball bat in a Melbourne park in 2008.

He has been recognised for his work as an advocate for mental health and accessible health care.

Despite the attack, he has a measured opinion on how best to tackle youth crime in Victoria.

“I think we’ve got to deal with the facts and the stats,” he said.

“And try not to politicise it because ultimately that causes pain at the time and causes less cohesion in our society in the future.”

Professor Trevor McDougall (AC)

Doctor Trevor McDougall is recognised as a leading world authority on ocean mixing.

His work focuses on discovering what role the ocean plays in climate change.

“It’s very easy to mix things horizontally and very hard vertically and what I’ve done is to really change the way the world thinks about that and how we model it in models of the climate,” he said.

Professor Creswell Eastman (AO)

Professor Creswell Eastman’s transformative work in iodine deficiency disorders in China led to him being dubbed, “the man who saved a million brains”.

He’s now working with pregnant Indigenous women in the Northern Territory who are iodine deficient to try to lower rates of intellectual disability.

“If we’re ever going to close the gap we have to concentrate on the first 1,000 days of life,” he said.

“Because that’s when your brain develops, that’s when most development occurs and if you don’t get it right then you’re not going to catch up later.”

Dr Jenny Martin (AC)

Doctor Jenny Martin has been working for decades to tackle what has been described as one of the biggest threats to global health — antibiotic resistance.

“We found that if we could knock out this particular machinery we could actually stop bacteria from causing disease,” Dr Martin said.

“Now we’re looking for drugs that can have the same effect.

“We’re in the early stages of that but we have some promising results.”


Tracey Spicer (AM)

Tracey Spicer has worked in the Australian media landscape for almost 30 years as a news reader and journalist.

She has been recognised for her excellence in broadcast, for being an author, her journalism work and for her advocacy work with a number of charities.

“I’m absolutely honoured and humbled to receive this award and I’d like to dedicate it to the now more than 1,000 women that have come forward courageously to talk about their stories as part of the MeToo movement,” she said.


Trevor Weatherhead (AM)

Trevor Weatherhead got his first beehive in 1972 and quickly turned a hobby into a career.

The executive director of the Australian Honey Bee Council hopes the accolade will shine a light on the importance of the honey bee industry.

“It’s not one of those that’s out in the limelight, yet it’s a very crucial industry for a lot of our Australian produce in particular,” he said.

“It’s been estimated between $4 billion and $6 billion worth of agriculture and horticultural crops rely on honey bees.

“The most notable ones are things like almonds, if you don’t have bees you don’t get an almond.

“Watermelons, pumpkins, rockmelons, no bees, no crop there.”

Topics: australia-day, arts-and-entertainment, event, community-and-society, sport, human-interest, media, australia

First posted January 26, 2018 00:28:02