Learning Resource: Faces and Places

An exploration of portrait photography representing people, place and time.

Penrith Regional Gallery, Home of The Lewers Bequest

Gemma McKenzie-Booth, Learning Coordinator

This resource is designed to provide an insight into photographic portraits from the Penrith Regional Gallery Collection. It explores an expanded notion of portraiture photography that extends to include representations of people, place and time. It can be used to complement a visit to Collection in Focus: Between Urgency and Leisure or support a unit of study on photography or portraiture. The information and activities have been created for secondary students but can be adapted to use with other learning stages.

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Between Urgency and Leisure

This exhibition highlights the history of Penrith Regional Gallery in commissioning and presenting social photography projects that connect leading contemporary artists with communities from our region. 

Artists Harold David, Lyndal Irons, Ladstreet, Selina Ou, David Porter, Greg Semu and Craig Walsh represent a diverse and varied snapshot of Penrith and western Sydney as it has changed and grown over the last sixty years. With a clear focus on capturing people in their own spaces, and on their own terms, the artists in Between Urgency and Leisure share a respect of their subjects, and an interest in how the everyday may be translated through photography into the iconic.

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Marita Penese (2010) by Craig Walsh; Josh RaymondPenrith Regional Gallery, Home of The Lewers Bequest

What is a portrait?

A portrait is an artistic representation of a person or group of people. Portraits can depict the way a person looks, but also capture their identity or personality.

This photograph by Craig Walsh is an example of portraiture where the facial expression is shown in close detail.

Sacred Turf, Warrimoo, 2020 (2020) by Lyndal IronsPenrith Regional Gallery, Home of The Lewers Bequest

In other examples of portrait photography, the subject can be less dominant, allowing location and objects to tell the story.

In this work by Lyndal Irons, the focus of the image is the flamingo watering can and the turf rather than the person.

Boy at fence Sunbury Pop Music Festival 1972 (1972) by David PorterPenrith Regional Gallery, Home of The Lewers Bequest

Capturing Moments

Why might an artist choose to use photography as a medium for portraiture?

The artists focused on in this resource have diverse practices, however they share a mutual desire to capture moments that will never happen again in the same way.

Discuss
What types of portraiture have you encountered before? For example, school photographs, family albums, or paintings from the Archibald Prize.

Do you think that all of these examples can be described as artworks? Why or why not?

Leaupepe Family, Campbelltown (2008) by Greg SemuPenrith Regional Gallery, Home of The Lewers Bequest

Subject

The subject of a portrait is the person or people who the artist is representing. The artist's choice of subject influences the story that the photograph tells.


Discuss:
Looking at the photographs by Greg Semu and Lyndal Irons below, discuss:

- Who is in the photograph?  

- What does the image reveal about them?  

- How have social, community, or cultural issues been represented in the artwork? Use the cultural framework to help answer this question.

Luatua Family, St Marys (2008) by Greg SemuPenrith Regional Gallery, Home of The Lewers Bequest

Aussie Aiga: Greg Semu

These photographs are part of Greg Semu's Aussie Aiga series. They were the result of a community cultural development project that saw Greg Semu and Leo Tanoi working with western Sydney Samoans to explore concepts of family, self, cultural knowledge and links to ancestors.

Greg Semu is a multidisciplinary artist, frequently addressing issues of cultural displacement and colonial impact on indigenous cultures. His work strongly critiques historical narratives by questioning accuracies around representation and loss of cultural authenticity.

Ah Chong Family, St Marys, Greg Semu, 2008, From the collection of: Penrith Regional Gallery, Home of The Lewers Bequest
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Peni Family, Fairfield West, Greg Semu, 2008, From the collection of: Penrith Regional Gallery, Home of The Lewers Bequest
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Vaele Family, Bankstown, Greg Semu, 2008, From the collection of: Penrith Regional Gallery, Home of The Lewers Bequest
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Heber Park, Hebersham, 2020 (2020) by Lyndal IronsPenrith Regional Gallery, Home of The Lewers Bequest

Outside the Stadium, Lyndal Irons

Outside the Stadium captured Penrith Panthers fans as they prepared for the 2020 grand final. Celebrating deeply held passions and personal expressions of fandom, the series of portraits were displayed to the public on the windows of the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre.

Lyndal Irons is a Sydney-based photographer and writer focused on local reportage, and interested in seeking out parts of Australian society that are familiar, accessible, yet not often closely encountered. Lyndal is a former Penrith resident and avid NRL fan.

Wayne, South Windsor, 2020, Lyndal Irons, 2020, From the collection of: Penrith Regional Gallery, Home of The Lewers Bequest
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MG Activ, South Penrith, 2020, Lyndal Irons, 2020, From the collection of: Penrith Regional Gallery, Home of The Lewers Bequest
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Chad and Catherine, South Penrith, 2020, Lyndal Irons, 2020, From the collection of: Penrith Regional Gallery, Home of The Lewers Bequest
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Create:
Plan a portrait of someone from your community. How will you show what is important about them through an image?

When I Grow Up (2023) by LadstreetPenrith Regional Gallery, Home of The Lewers Bequest

Time & Place

Portraiture can capture a particular location or moment in time through the setting, events, fashion, and people depicted. A portrait might then depict many people at once, connected by a common purpose or occasion.

Discuss: 
Compare the images by Ladstreet and David Porter. What similarities and differences do you notice?

700 Feeling (2023) by LadstreetPenrith Regional Gallery, Home of The Lewers Bequest

Ladstreet

Ladstreet is a pseudonym for a west Sydney photographer who works across documentary, reportage, street photography and editorial. Primarily working in portraiture, their subjects range from family, friends, fan groups, musicians and artistic collaborators.


The intention of my body of work and practice is to document the multi-faceted components of identity, and its proximity to subculture and community. My work explores how identity is a reflection of the lived experience and material world around us, and the various ways our identity is articulated and expressed through the trials and tribulations of suffering and joy, and it being nurtured through mutualism and community. 

Ladstreet

Home On Your Sleeve, Ladstreet, 2020, From the collection of: Penrith Regional Gallery, Home of The Lewers Bequest
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The Block Is Hot, Ladstreet, 2020, From the collection of: Penrith Regional Gallery, Home of The Lewers Bequest
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Inferno Aftermath, Ladstreet, 2023, From the collection of: Penrith Regional Gallery, Home of The Lewers Bequest
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Ross Hannaford (with guitar) (1971) by David PorterPenrith Regional Gallery, Home of The Lewers Bequest

David Porter

David Porter's photographs capture the zeitgeist of Melbourne's 1970's music and counterculture scenes. The portraits offer a rare opportunity to witness the energy of the 70s through a series that documents the pressing political, social, and cultural issues of the day.

Sunbury Pop Music Festival 1972, David Porter, 1972, From the collection of: Penrith Regional Gallery, Home of The Lewers Bequest
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Ian McCausland, Jen Jewel Brown, Terry Cleary, unknown, Lee Jiva Dillow, David Porter, 1972, From the collection of: Penrith Regional Gallery, Home of The Lewers Bequest
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Audience #1, David Porter, 1971, From the collection of: Penrith Regional Gallery, Home of The Lewers Bequest
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Create:
Take a photograph that you believe captures a particular moment or place. What scene, objects, or people will you include to tell this story? 

Ethan Johnson (2010) by Craig Walsh; Josh RaymondPenrith Regional Gallery, Home of The Lewers Bequest

Record or Legacy

How will an artwork be viewed in the future?

Artists create portraits with an intention or purpose such as to capture a subject's personality, document an event, or share experiences of a community. However, the way that these works are interpreted can change over time.

"The work will mature with each passing year, causing viewers to ask: Who were these people then and who are they now? Where did they come from and where are they now? How did they live then, and now?" - Greg Semu 2008  

Discuss:
Looking at the images by Craig Walsh and Harold David below:

Do you think the interpretation of these photographs has changed since they were taken nearly 20 years ago? Do you think they will be seen differently in the future?

Think about your own collection of photos on your phone or social media. How do you think they will be perceived in 10 years time?

Hilda Woods (2010) by Craig Walsh; Josh RaymondPenrith Regional Gallery, Home of The Lewers Bequest

Heads Up

These photographs were taken by artist, Craig Walsh as the result of a collaboration with the Penrith Panthers football club. The project involved photographing players and supporters just minutes after the final whistle of the first four home games of the 2008 NRL season.

Over the last 30 years, Australian artist Craig Walsh has become widely known for his pioneering works including innovative approaches to working in unconventional sites. His large-scale portrait projections have animated trees, rivers and mountains addressing both connections between people and their surroundings and conversations around whose stories are upheld and shared.

Frank Puletua, Craig Walsh; Josh Raymond, 2010, From the collection of: Penrith Regional Gallery, Home of The Lewers Bequest
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Jarrod Sammut, Craig Walsh; Josh Raymond, 2010, From the collection of: Penrith Regional Gallery, Home of The Lewers Bequest
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Josie and Georgia Addie Nepean District Athletics (Tracksuits of St Marys series) (2005) by Harold DavidPenrith Regional Gallery, Home of The Lewers Bequest

Tracksuits of St Marys, Harold David

This series of work surveyed the historical, cultural and political significance of tracksuits and their wearers. Harold David took the portraits in St Mary's where he attended community events and sports games, photographing participants in their favourite tracksuits. 

Harold David is a multidisciplinary artist based in the Blue Mountains. After establishing himself as one of Australia’s premier portrait photographers, Harold turned his focus to painting, a passion he first discovered as a young boy growing up in the United States. Harold’s professional experiences as an editorial and fashion photographer contribute to the sense of sartorial flair of the people captured in these works. 

Jordan Walker, Jacob Mill, Karl Smith, Ronald Loyola, Jeremy Rosario, Jason Rosario Tracksuit Day, St Marys Public School (Tracksuits of St Marys series), Harold David, 2005, From the collection of: Penrith Regional Gallery, Home of The Lewers Bequest
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Dianne and Lachlan Minehan Saturday Family Session (Tracksuits of St Marys series), Harold David, 2005, From the collection of: Penrith Regional Gallery, Home of The Lewers Bequest
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Bradley Jones St Marys Spring Fair matt c type print (Tracksuits of St Marys series), Harold David, 2005, From the collection of: Penrith Regional Gallery, Home of The Lewers Bequest
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Congregation of the St Marys Assembly of God Church, Oxley Park (2008) by Greg SemuPenrith Regional Gallery, Home of The Lewers Bequest

Learn more about the Between Urgency and Leisure artists' practices and gather  case study information by following these links:

Greg Semu

David Porter

Lyndal Irons

Ladstreet

Craig Walsh

Harold David

Credits: Story

The artworks featured in this story have been provided by courtesy of the artists

Between Urgency and Leisure was curated by Toby Chapman, Director Visual Arts

This resource was written by Gemma Mckenzie-Booth, Learning Coordinator and edited by Nina Stromqvist, Curatorial Programs Manager.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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