Design Matters: Canberra Times Sunday 19th August 2018

Tony Trobe talks with Helen McFadden, President of the Canberra Photographic Society, prior to the opening of the society’s latest exhibition.

Lichen Reclaiming by Judy Parker

Lichen Reclaiming by Judy Parker

TT Hi Helen, tell me something about the Canberra Photographic Society and why it is relevant in an age when we are surrounded by smart phones and bombarded by images?

Humans are visual creatures who love to capture and look at images. It is true that cameras are now ubiquitous, but it is the eyes, mind and heart that are essential for creating great images. We at the Canberra Photographic Society are passionate about growing our photography and helping others achieve their photographic potential no matter where they are on their photographic journey.

Why do you consider this to be of benefit to the community?

Many people enjoy having a creative outlet and photography has wide appeal. Photography can be as simple or as technical as you would like and we welcome all types of photographer. Many members find that the act of making photographs has a meditative quality that can be beneficial when dealing with health and life issues. Photography can also take us beyond recording places and experiences and allow us to explore and communicate ideas and emotions and even influence change. Photography can take you to places at home and away that you may not otherwise have visited or even considered. Some members travel extensively and share images of wonderful places when they return while others focus on local subjects and make beautiful and thought-provoking images from the apparently ordinary.

TT Where does your upcoming exhibition fit in with this vision?

This exhibition features members’ photographs that show the beauty and importance of the natural world. Our environment is changing rapidly with humans’ need for resources putting pressure on built and natural systems, wild places and wildlife. Some of the landscapes depicted in the exhibition, such as our magnificent eucalypt forests, are disappearing. Animals, such as the black rhino, are critically endangered. Pollinators are in decline. All are essential for our physical and emotional well-being. Sadly, in some instances photographs may be all that we have to leave for future generations unless we can reduce negative human impacts on our planet.

I understand that the Canberra Photographic Society was formed in 1945 and has seen a lot of changes in the way photography is practiced. Has the society itself changed much with the times?

I like to think so. We now have more emphasis on sharing, participation, collaboration and learning than on competition and our membership now is more diverse than it was. We run a full program ( with our main event (on the first Tuesday evening of each month) being an Exhibition and Critique night. Visitors are welcome.

Why is this venue special for you?

I spent most of my career as a CSIRO scientist and I worked for a time in a laboratory in the Discovery Centre building where the exhibition is being held. Architects Daryl Jackson Alastair Swayn Pty Ltd won the AIA Canberra ACT Medallion in 2000 for the centre’s innovative design. In addition to the gallery and cafe most visitors come to the Interactive Discovery Centre to learn about Australia’s role in the fascinating world of science and research.

“The Natural World” is on at the Discovery Centre, CSIRO Black Mountain, from 21st August to 27th September 2018. The gallery is open from 9 am to 4.30 pm Monday to Friday.



Comments by Chris Holly on CPS Projected Portfolio Awards, Aug 2018

The Venice Carnivale

Great framing and light. Whether posed or captured, the series joins together well.

Alas the use of vignettes is hiding the scene. While a useful device for drawing a viewer’s eye to the subject, in this case, the vignette may not have been needed at all as the framing and backgrounds add context and depth to each image.


Graffiti Walls

Excellent portfolio and wonderful and comedic timing of passers by both in terms of interaction with the walls and in every day observations of people in the city. The framing is brilliant to use the backgrounds as backdrops so well.

The series hangs together very well. Great presentation with the drop shadow and white border – almost as if they are matted prints. The borders add a strong finish and tie the series together very well.



Very crisp definition with choice of background and composition. Diffuse lighting lends well to the softness and purity of the newborn subjects. These are a very high standard of images and ones that any parent would be delighted to receive. A healthy nod to Anne Geddes and classic modern newborn photography.


Impressions of Kingston

Such simplicity and continuity. Very well seen and photographed.  Using water in this way to abstract is clever, decisive and distinct. While reflections work for some subjects, this series uses reflections of buildings to a marvellous effect. This is definitely a body of work to continue to explore and refine. The series hangs well together and the images are captivating both up close and at a distance. The acuity varies depending on viewing distance and this playful way of exploring is what makes this portfolio really engaging.


Winter Trees

Very pleasing images and selection of snow gums and snow scenes. The solitary tree invokes both isolation and shelter. Having spent many years in the snowy mountains backcountry, these are all excellent landscapes and it is a challenge to find clean snow and isolated trees, not to mention shooting in the cold. It may be interesting to rotate the camera and explore a vertical aspect for the panorama to explore different dimensions and scale for the trees.



Images tie in nicely as a series. I liked the way roads, huts or humans provide scale. A square format provides a different symmetry and feel for the landscapes which are often shot in a traditional landscape or portrait format. The colours and weather provide a pleasing continuity to the series.



A solid series exploring and refining macro insects on flowers. These are tricky subjects to make portraits of. There is a range of views with insects as what the focal point of the subject should be (i.e. eyes or other prominent body parts). As with all series and all subjects, keep exploring and developing and refining your technique.


UK and Europe Black and Whites

The series combines as black and white, however it appears undecided whether the series s of street and water scapes or architectural icons and edifices. It may be interesting to explore the series from one or the other, or look for a story that ties the images together. Great range of tones and good contrast for each image.



A well spotted and timed series of expressions that show either a relaxing lion or a despondent beast in a zoo. While difficult to achieve from a set standpoint observing such behaviour, it is a good thing to practice and develop watching backgrounds and elements in the frame. While the lion is not moving too much, the logs and wood could be reduced to strengthen the viewer’s eye to remain with the lioness by cropping the images slightly or watching through the viewfinder as the images were made.


Colour Infra Red

A great series showing IR colour landscapes. This would be a great educational series to show how colour IR behaves under different ambient light, scene brightness range and vegetation types. It also  hangs together as a travel series in what looks like South Australia and the Flinders or Gammon Ranges. There’s an interesting connection of decay, raging and ruin from human presence on the landscape.


Montreal Cats

A quirky and cool cat expose of travel photography. Great to see little or no human presence bringing the cat as subject of the portrait. The composition and timing is great to have cats where one might expect people and that the cats are doing what appears to be very human things relaxing in a cafe or waiting at the hairdressers. Well conceived as a series.


Forest Blur

An excellent start to what can become a trademark or signature technique. The series shows a range of zoom and motion techniques to blur the trees and does it well. Perhaps consider how to tie the two techniques together by sharing a common set of trees or consider a series exploring one of the techniques. As with all series and techniques, keep refining, developing and most of all practicing to improve your skills.


Varanasi Noon

Very interesting series. I had to sit with the images for some time. Time being the operative word. The scenes are very quiet in terms of human presence and the use of what appears to be a similar viewpoint shows a slight change between frames to emphasise or diminish the activity and daily happenings. The subtle differences between frames is what makes this series work well.


Lady Blues

Performances are a challenge and a delight to photograph. With the busy stage and constantly varying lighting, the timing and composition of an image provides a clue as to the nature of the performer, and can hint at the type of music and how dynamic the performer was on the day.

Definitely keep pursuing this opportunity. These images work well as a series of performers at an event, and while it can be challenging to get god angles with crowds and shooting position, explore as many options and take as many shots as you can to gain a range of emotions and stage antics.


Street Scenes

Fantastic travel shots and views into rainy and wet weather in a foreign city. The textures of the walls and streets are softened by the rain and the vibrant elf umbrellas and fashion show careful observation and thing to capture these images – especially the range of moments, movements and interactions from people. The author appears to be unobtrusive given that the people in the images appear to be unaware of the photographer’s presence. Great series.


Multiculturalism and Urban Space

Healthy to provide and artist’s statement for this. The use of the hat in most frames works as a theme well. The images from observers looking out of windows didn’t quite give me a sense of darkness of our condition, however it did provide a divergence of relationship between the hat images and the street observers. The narrative through the series could be further explored by the hat appearing more often to refine and clarify what the relationship is between multiculturalism and urban spaces. I’m left wondering who is a local and who is a foreigner in this place…


Round (wish) Squared

An excellent series in both concept and construction. Using the same size in the frame provides an intriguing removal of scale while maintaining the circular outline shows things as a whole, but in one plan view or transverse plane. Objects in this way appear to be something different until one makes a closer inspection. The presentation is very scientific and objective su a fruit could be a planet, or a microscopic diatom magnified thousands of times. The choice of mon (black and white) further enhances the ambiguity and simplicity – when all appear equal, one must look carefully to find a difference.



An interesting catalogue of a place at different times and at different scales. The progression from a high and wide viewpoint to a ground level framing provides a documentary approach to the rock and provides the viewer with a sense of mood, scale and comparison between frames. Perhaps explore how the series or portfolio would hang together with a similar treatment (i.e. all colour or all mono) to guide you viewer to the rock itself and not so much on the changing conditions between each frame.


Winter is coming

A beautiful series of landscapes reminiscent of Eliot Porter or other north american landscape artists of the last century. The series shows the pallid and cold conditions that signal winter through trees as a measure of seasonality with deciduous colours and the first snows. The structure of each frame is bold and simple keeping the emphasis on either the colour of leaves, or the lack of leaves – a smart way to tell a story of many words in single frames.