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What are the images that capture the soul of a city?
We asked nine Canberra photographers to share an image that speaks to them.
“What represents Canberra for me is the suburbs, the smaller communities within the larger Canberra. The place to be when I was a kid was the local shops. The hub, where $5 chips—with sauce on one side and gravy on the other—is part of a balanced diet for the local kids, along with a few dozen cheese and bacon rolls.
“This photo, sums up a big part of my childhood in Canberra. I like photographing things that bring memories flooding back—maybe the shop owners will see them and know that their delicious treats have helped Canberra through many hangovers and heartbreaks.”
“To me, this image of the Sydney building is a reflection of Canberra’s past and present. I have always had a real interest in Canberra’s historic buildings and cityscapes—this gave me an idea to meld my photography with that of Canberra’s first Official Photographer William James Mildenhall.
“Mildenhall photographed and documented the early development and growth of Canberra during the early 1920s up until 1935, and I have always admired how he captured the rawness of the building industry.
“I believe The Sydney Building (mirrored by the Melbourne Building across Northbourne Avenue) is the heart of the nation’s capital and thought it appropriate to create a time capsule image of this iconic Canberra building from the exact spot William Mildenhall stood 70 years ago before me.”
Original image: National Archives of Australia, A3560, 6594
“Autumn in Canberra. Trees turn from green to spectacular shades of yellow and red. Crisp mornings shrouded in fog clearing up to blue sky days.
“I love experiencing the best of all four seasons in Canberra. A reminder that change happens and change is good.”
Nathan Harradine Hale
“These images represent such a dark moment in Canberras history. At a time that was filled with a yellow haze, I felt like it was my duty as a photographer to step out and capture these moments in our city’s story.
“These images not only show the powerful impacts of the fires but the resilience of Canberrans who went out to carry on their normal daily duties during such a traumatic time.”
“I love experiencing Canberra from the water’s perspective. I am constantly spellbound by the beautiful spectrum of colours that are continually cast in Canberra.
“A lot of people have a perception that Canberra is lacklustre in winter, but for me this is when the cool conditions create unforgettable moments like this!
“We have such beauty on our doorstep, sometimes you just have to open the door.”
“I love how as you drive around Canberra, many of the roads line up with major landmarks including Parliament House.
“Lake Burley Griffin was designed with many geometric motifs and the alignment of the two major bridges are an obvious example. However, it is not until you explore a little further you come to appreciate the true simplicity of Canberra’s design.
“This photograph captures much of that simplicity for me, while still representing an angle that many miss despite driving over the lake every day.”
“Once you dig just a tiny bit deeper, past Canberra’s “political bubble” reputation, you’ll find a thriving undercurrent. It’s vibrant and energetic, but most of all, it’s authentic. A home to artisans who are colourful and creative.
“You’ll discover them and what they create, in places that you might not expect. Canberra is so much more than just the bush capital. It’s edgy, and outdoorsy and the food and coffee is second to none.”
“I think this image reflects Canberra the ‘secret city’, in that we hear rumours of tunnels going from Parliament House to various places and bunkers underground….and I like the ironic nature of the fact that when I walked down the stairway, there was a locked door, and yet the light (which I put there) shines outwards…so heaven is only available to those with the key?”
“This photo really did not register at the time. I had just come off an Enlighten project where I was looking at photos of Walter and Marion and producing some projections for the National Library.
“It was only later that I realised a resemblance, and it was then the image came to life.
“The slight lead the lady has and the determination in their stride shows a power couple. The setting really puts them in Canberra, and with the crane in the distance—the building the city story is told.”
This article originally appeared in Magazine: Time (AW2020), available to read free online.
Read it here.