Sally Brownbill

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‘THREADS’ - Fringe Exhibition at BIFB 2011 by Melanie Faith Dove

– posted by Sally

While I was up in Ballarat I visited Melanie's exhibition. It's beautiful work and she has sent through a couple of images to share with you.

Thanks Melanie we love your work.

Late last year my Grandmother, my last living grandparent gave me a small perishing dress she claimed was worn by her children.  I cried when I looked at it, why did it make me sad, I don’t know?

In January 2011, I took the old family photographs down from my Granny’s walls and started to copy them with my camera in order to learn about and preserve the evidence of my family’s heritage.  I soon become transfixed with the actual decay shown on the backs of the photographs and frames as much as the images themselves.  As a photographer I idolise images, it was shocking to see how differently my Grandmother treasured them.

In February 2011 my Grandmother had a stroke, I was the last family member to speak with her before the attack and the conversation was about the dress.  From her hospital bed and through slurred and scrambled sentences she asked visitors how the exhibition of the dress went.  I printed the dress image, wrote a letter on the back and took it to the hospital.  Through only one open eye she gazed upon the image whilst passing in and out of sleep.  I sat with her hand in mine gazing at her face and realised the age spots and colour of her jaundiced skin replicated that of the stained image of the dress.  The next day I returned with my camera.  It felt slightly odd to be photographing a helpless subject but I found comfort in the fact that every time I had seen Granny I had made her endlessly pose for the camera.  When I first saw those two images on the wall, the dress and Granny, I was truly moved and I felt like I had created something truthful and special.  The rest of the exhibition grew organically from that one image of the dress.

The image of my Great Grandmother and Grandfather titled ‘Lost Identity’ is one of those copied images which I made my own by photo-shopping their faces into oblivion.  Magritte-like surrealism was the aesthetic I was striving for but the underlying question I was posing was how much can we learn about people by their images? Quite ironic that I was using photography to de-stabilise the value of imagery.   I don’t know my great grandparents and photographs give me no greater insight into their characters.  Old photographs are usually repaired and cherished, I on the other hand defaced them, it felt really wrong.

‘Threads’ is a reflection on quiet conversations and intimate discoveries.

Exhibition Venue:Portico - 31 Sturt St Ballarat ph. 53 321 020

Melanie Faith Dove is a professional photographer and has worked for The Age (Fairfax) newspaper in news and editorial photography for over ten years.  Her award-winning work has been published in books and magazines and also exhibited in Australia, US, Indonesia and the UK.  She is currently one of 25 International Artists in the Charlatan Ink (US) prize to be exhibited from Sept 29 2011 in New York.

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