By Greg Allen Pretty
It is one thing to have your lovely photographs mounted and displayed on a fence around a local bushfire recovery hub. For a budding pre-teen photographer, that would make you rather happy. But when your work goes on display in the main town of the region for all to see, that is quite exciting!
‘Sarsfield Snaps’ began as a project in the Sarsfield and Clifton Creek area with bushfire recovery funding from the state government and from Connect Well East Gippsland + Wellington.
It followed the Black Summer bushfires that hit that particular area in a devastating way around 30 and 31 December 2019.
The photography project involved young people, initially of primary school age, roaming the area with cameras donated by Fujifilm and taking some rather creatively eye-catching photos. They were shared at first on a secure online forum and then mounted on a fence around the recovery hub at the Sarsfield Hall.
Since beginning in 2020, the project has expanded to involve 3- to 16-year-olds and now there are two lots of colourful photos for public viewing at the hub. However, the upcoming exhibition in Bairnsdale will give the work of 55 kids, up from an initial 27, a wider audience.
“It’s really exciting for the children to be part of an exhibition,” said committee member Virginia King.
“We have about 60 new photos to go on display as part of the East Gippsland Winter Festival.”
The exhibition will be open to the public from 22 June in the Brabuwooloong Gallery at the Forge Theatre and Arts Hub in Bairnsdale.
Some photos were selected for a calendar published at the end of 2020, a photo book is in the planning, and the committee hopes to end the project next year with an exhibition in Melbourne.
“We hope to produce a coffee table book,” Virginia said, “and I’d love for there to be a photo of each kid along with their photographic contribution. But we’ll have to see about that.”
“We have managed to get a camera to each individual kid and they’re so excited. Instead of sharing a camera, they’ve got their own and you can see the excitement on their faces.
“One parent said that bushfire took away the kids’ safety and security, but this has given something to focus on that’s good and positive, and has done the kids a world of good.
“Another kid said that after the fires we had Friday Night Feeds and other activities for adults but there wasn’t much for the kids. So, this is something they can say is theirs. It gives them a focus on something that they see as important. One kid said it’s going to last and not be destroyed by fire,” Virginia said.
For the exhibition, each of the ‘Sarsfield Snaps’ children nominated their two favourite photos, and the committee chose one of those to display.
“The children gave each photo a title and wrote an artist’s statement about it.”
The Sarsfield Snaps Winter Festival Exhibition will be open 10am to 3pm on June 22, 25, 26, 27 and 29, and July 1, 3, 5, 6 and 7.
The Sarsfield Snaps committee, led by Tiana Felmingham, is incredibly grateful for the support and funding provided by the Sarsfield Community Association, Connect Well East Gippsland + Wellington, FujiFilm Australia, Bushfire Recovery Victoria, Gippsland Primary Health Network, iEARN Australia, Findlay & Weymouth Camera House, Uniting and the Victoria Bushfire Appeal.