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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Observation point

by Sarah Rhodes, 22 May 2019

After Dante’s Inferno, 2018 Sarah Rhodes © the artist
After Dante’s Inferno, 2018 Sarah Rhodes © the artist

I met Clara while teaching photomedia at the University of Tasmania last year. One of her assignments focused on her relationship with her former boyfriend, who she now works for as his live-in carer. Clara’s work was beautifully thought-out, full of love and pain. It was titled, Dante’s Inferno. Intrigued, I wanted to make my own portrait of their relationship.

We organised to make my picture in their apartment above City Park, in Launceston. Clara wore her grandmother’s fur coat. Keagan wore his tuxedo and Doc Martens. They sat on her grandmother’s sofa and started role playing, using just their facial expressions. They were exploring their relationship for the camera, not knowing what the other was doing. Neither said a word or interacted with each other. I was a silent observer. I felt the portrait session was almost like an independent ‘he said, she said’, where they both had an opportunity to explore their roles.

My photographs are psychological portraits. The camera has a piercing gaze; it’s so revealing, as though it has a special power to see things not visible to the naked eye.

I wanted to be a psychologist while I was at university, but my passion for photography – combined with my love for exploring and storytelling – led me to an early career in photojournalism, then on to my current profession of photomedia artist.

I am always gently digging to find out how someone’s mind works. I try to tell personal stories that reflect what is happening in a broader social and historical context. After Dante’s Inferno is part of a larger body of work examining growing up on the island of Tasmania, at the edge of the world.

Clara’s story of love is one many of us have experienced. She writes: ‘My first love is a dance with many steps. We live through a subtle co-dependency. I have had to learn a great deal of what love is for this man so that we may occupy the same space and exist in harmony, otherwise we become villains to one another, comical and cartoonish but nonetheless sinister and cruel.’

Related information

Portrait 62, Autumn 2019

Magazine

National Photographic Portrait Prize 2019, the iconoclastic Japanese figures Yukio Mishima and Tamotsu Yato, Angélica Dass’ Humanæ project and more.

The Writer, Peter Goldsworthy, 2018 Deidre But-Husaim
The Writer, Peter Goldsworthy, 2018 Deidre But-Husaim
The Writer, Peter Goldsworthy, 2018 Deidre But-Husaim

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Helen Blaxland judging flower arrangements, c. 1940s photographer unknown
Helen Blaxland judging flower arrangements, c. 1940s photographer unknown
Helen Blaxland judging flower arrangements, c. 1940s photographer unknown

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Sarah Engledow lauds the very civil service of Dame Helen Blaxland.

Portfolio of 54 portraits compiled by Queen Victoria, 1859–1861 by John Jabez Edwin Mayall, Camille Silvy, Frances Day and William Bambridge
Portfolio of 54 portraits compiled by Queen Victoria, 1859–1861 by John Jabez Edwin Mayall, Camille Silvy, Frances Day and William Bambridge
Portfolio of 54 portraits compiled by Queen Victoria, 1859–1861 by John Jabez Edwin Mayall, Camille Silvy, Frances Day and William Bambridge

Queen of cartes

Magazine article by Joanna Gilmour

Joanna Gilmour discusses the role of the carte de visite in portraiture’s democratisation, and its harnessing by Victoria, the world’s first media monarch.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.