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Smiles for Miles

Josephine Walsh

Loud. Dangerous. Freedom.

What do you think of when you think of motorcycles?

For me, they epitomise cool. Super, super cool.

Smiles for Miles is the latest photographic exhibition of talented Canberra-based photographer Stella-Rae Zelnik. The large solo exhibition opens on Thursday 3 March at M16 Artspace, and pays homage to the love affair between motorcycle riders and their Freedom Machines. Stella-Rae describes her latest body of work as a collection of “adventure, movement, breakdowns and quiet reflections.”

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“Being a female photographer from the skateboarding community, I have always been attracted to documenting people and their passions,” says Stella-Rae. Her photography seeks to capture “the joy and freedom one gets from being encased in the cool air and hot sun, surrounded by the elements and your own thoughts.”

Stella-Rae recently received a grant from the ACT Arts Fund, which supports Canberra artists and organisation in providing enriching opportunities for public engagement with the arts. The large body of photographs presented in Smiles for Miles were taken over approximately one year as Stella-Rae travelled with custom-motorcycle riders from Canberra and Sydney. “It’s not only a passion but a compulsion. To build and ride is part of these peoples lives,” she explains. “It’s about the adrenaline that comes from the artistic freedom, and the pride of what they [the riders] built and [their joy in being able] to show it off.”


Travelling alongside and getting to know the riders enabled Stella-Rae to capture an intimate snapshot of their lives. “Drawing inspiration from American photojournalists Robert Frank and Magnum photographer Danny Lyon, I put myself if unnerving situations,” Stella-Rae describes. “These images offer insight into the choices they’ve made in the pursuit of a lifestyle on two wheels.”

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Her beautiful and poignant images capture her subjects’ passionate relationship with their machines, as well as the strong community and identity born from their shared love of freedom on the road.“[I connected with] and became part of a community that I have come to love and consider family.”

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Stella-Rae breaks the mould in this personal and stunning exhibition which opens on Thursday. The Afterparty kicks off from 8pm at Sancho’s Dirty Laundry Lowbrow Gallery and Bar. You can also check out her work and projects on Instagram: wearenotobscene


the essentials

What: Stella-Rae Zelnik Smiles for Miles solo photographic exhibition
Where: M16 Artspace, 21 Blaxland Crescent, Griffith
When: Thursday 3 March (opening at 6pm) until Sunday 20 March*
How much: Free

*Please note M16 is open Wednesday – Sunday, 12pm – 5pm


Josephine Walsh

Jose Walsh is a digital communications specialist who also runs her own blog, She has a passion for museums and the arts, a deep love of travel and more shoes than sense. Having worked in museums for the past seven years, she loves finding new ways to connect people with their cultural institutions. She loves meeting new people, hunting for a decent espresso, and planning her next adventure. More about the Author

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