The Spirit of Anzac Centenary Experience. Perth 29 November – 11 December 2016

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016

The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016

The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016

The Spirit of Anzac Centenary Experience is a traveling exhibition that mainly tells the story of Australia’s involvement in the First World War, but also has some additional information about the Australian armed forces involvement in subsequent operations. The latter is restricted to information panels, videos and here in Perth, a Bushmaster provided by one of the local Army Reserve units, the 10th Light Horse.

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016

The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016. 10 Light Horse Regiment Bushmaster and the Cottesloe Surf Life Saving Club rowboat which was used in by the club as part of the centenary commemoration at Gallipoli on Anzac day in 2015.

The bulk of the displays follow a chronological timeline spanning the period just before the outbreak of World War 1 until armistice in 1918, with visitors using an audio guide, which provides contextual information to supplement the items on display.

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016

The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016

The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016

As can be expected with a traveling exhibition aimed at a general audience, the bulk of the stuff being presented consists of photographs, ephemera and didactic information panels along with (mostly) smaller items that are easy to transport and display. The exhibits are well displayed though and visitors pass through trench-like passageways as they move from one section to the next.  For Western Australian leg of the tour most of the items originate from the Australian War Memorial collection but also include artifacts from the Army Museum of Western Australia as each stage of the tour includes a local ‘flavour’ curating stories from the area visited.

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016

The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016. Australian uniform from the Dardanelles campaign

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016

The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016. Turkish soldier’s uniform from the Dardanelles campaign.

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016

The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016

Entry is free, although bookings have to be made prior to visiting and entry is controlled to ensure that all attendees have an audio guide. The audio is quite good providing context and automatically updating to reflect where ever the visitor is standing at any given point during their visit. It also provides for an option to have additional information about certain exhibits sent via email should something be of interest.

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016

The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016. Australian Flying Corps pilot in the Middle East. Most of the mannequin displays feature reproduction uniforms, which is understandable given the nature of the exhibition and display. Unfortunately this particular jacket features a really bad reproduction of the AFC pilot’s wing which is also sold as a souvenir in the AWM and RAAF Museum shops.

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016

The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016. Brass grave plaque and portrait of the Red Baron’s only Australian victim. Second Lieutenant Jack Hay was flying an outdated FE8 pusher biplane with No. 40 Squadron, RFC when he encountered Baron Von Richthofen’s squadron on 23 January 1917. Hay’s aircraft burst into flames and rather than burn, Hay jumped to his death. His mates made this plaque for his grave.

Overall, whilst I was slightly disappointed by the lack of post WW1 display items, it was quite an enjoyable visit and I think that I will drop by again for another look before the show moves to its next location.

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016

The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016. German 170mm Minenwerfer trench mortar.

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016

The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016. Ouch!

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016

The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016.

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016

The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016. Anti-conscription badge from the 1916 and 1917 conscription referendums. Australians rejected the notion of conscription and the AIF remained an all volunteer fighting force.

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016

The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016.

Spirit of ANZAC Centenary exchibition. Perth 2016

The Spirit of ANZAC Centenary Experience. Perth December 2016. Reproduction of a British MkIV ‘Male’ tank.

The Spirit of Anzac Centenary Experience is on display at the Perth Convention & Exhibition Centre until 11 December 2016.

Touring dates and visitor information for the exhibition can be found at http://www.anzaccentenary.gov.au/events/spirit-anzac-centenary-experience

Shaun Gladwell’s video portrait of Mark Donaldson VC

Portrait of Mark Donaldson VC (video still) by Shaun Gladwell. Note the ‘chopped’ Australian National Flag patch just visible on his left shoulder.

This afternoon  I dropped by the John Curtin Gallery here in Perth to check out an exhibition by two recent Australian War artists, Ben Quilty and Shaun Gladwell, both of whom were commissioned by the Australian War Memorial to cover the conflict in Afghanistan. It’s a very contemporary approach to war art and if one is expecting the traditional heroic depictions of the military on operations they will be sadly disappointed.

I quite liked the show, particularly Ben Quilty‘s very emotional and expressive portraits of the servicemen and women that he met whilst in Afghanistan in 2011 and then subsequently painted again after their return to Australia. The resulting portraits are not pretty likenesses, but are raw, the thick impasto application of paint charged with emotion. The paintings reveal much about the vulnerability and difficulty that so many of our servicemen face when returning home and trying to reintegrate into a society that is largely indifferent to their service and sacrifice.

Shaun Gladwell traveled to Afghanistan as an official War Artist in 2009. His work includes photographs, paintings and video. One of his pieces is a video portrait of Australian Special Air Service Regiment Victoria Cross winner Mark Donaldson VC. As a badge collector I found some aspects of this work particularly interesting, including Donno’s choice of chopped ANF patch that can be seen on his left sleeve in the stills grab above. It appears that he has cut the Southern Cross from the national flag and is wearing just the Union Jack with a single star below it. Interesting… I’ve seen this a couple of times now and I wonder if there is a reason for this symbolic change or (more likely) that its just to reduce the IR signature of the full size patch?

Both artists were commissioned as part of the Official War Art Scheme, the longest running and largest commissioning program of art in Australia. The Scheme was started during WW1 and reactivated during WW2, then again for the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam. In 1999 the Scheme was renewed for the Australian deployment to Timor and since then has seen artists deploy to various theatres of conflict, including the Middle East and Solomon Islands.  In 2003 the AWM commissioned a mate of mine, David Dare Parker, to be its first official War Photographer, deploying alongside artist Lewis Miller to document the Second Gulf War. The patch below is one that was given to Dave by the AWM for use during the deployment and then subsequently given to me for my collection.

Australian War Memorial Official War Photographer patch worn by

Australian War Memorial “Australian Official Photographer” patch worn by photojournalist David Dare Parker whilst embedded with Australian forces as part of the Official War Art Scheme during the Second Gulf War. (Julian Tennant Collection)

quilty-gladwell

Ben Quilty: after Afghanistan and Shaun Gladwell: Afghanistan is on show at the gallery from 2 August – 14 September, 2014

Images of War: Collecting and Preserving Military Photographs. Part 1. The Lost Diggers of Vignacourt.

Portrait of two Australian soldiers on a despatch motorcycle and sidecar. Identified on the right, in the sidecar, is 750 Lieutenant Sydney Hubert Carroll MC, 4th Machine Gun Battalion; and left, on the motorcycle, is an unidentified 4th Brigade Headquarters staff officer, also wearing a Military Cross. Taken by Louis and Antoinette Thuillier in Vignacourt, France during the period 1916 to 1918.Object TypeBlack & white - Glass original quarter-plate negativeItem IDP10550.049Source: http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/p10550.049

Portrait of two Australian soldiers on a despatch motorcycle and sidecar. Identified on the right, in the sidecar, is 750 Lieutenant Sydney Hubert Carroll MC, 4th Machine Gun Battalion; and left, on the motorcycle, is an unidentified 4th Brigade Headquarters staff officer, also wearing a Military Cross. Taken by Louis and Antoinette Thuillier in Vignacourt, France during the period 1916 to 1918.
Object Type Black & white – Glass original quarter-plate negative
Item ID P10550.049
Source: http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/p10550.049

The invention of photography in 1839 changed the world. It provided a more accessible means for society to record and over the course of time, define itself. For the collector, researcher and historian, photographic records are absolutely invaluable in providing important pieces of information about everything that has contributed to our past and our current identity. The camera has recorded everything, from the minutiae of detail on an item of clothing to a providing a document of events that shaped opinions and changed the course of history.

Like many soldiers, I also carried a camera and documented my life in the army and when I decided that it was time to head down ‘civvie’ street, I opted to take my photography to the next level opting to become a professional photographer. These days, in addition to taking photographs I also work as a Photography/Media lecturer at the Central Institute of Technology in Perth. My classes are varied and range from teaching digital capture, editorial photography to traditional darkroom and long obsolete 19th century ‘alternative’ printing techniques. I am also responsible for instructing the students on storing archiving and exhibiting their photographic collections. These are aspects that most people pay little attention to, with potentially disastrous consequences for the future, particularly in this digital era of built in obsolescence where technology becomes obsolete overnight and we are no longer limited by the shooting restrictions of a roll film.

Group portrait of a British artillery unit. From the Thuillier collection of glass plate negatives. Taken by Louis and Antoinette Thuillier in Vignacourt, France during the period 1916 to 1918. Object TypeBlack & white - Glass original quarter-plate negativeItem IDP10550.144

Group portrait of a British artillery unit. From the Thuillier collection of glass plate negatives. Taken by Louis and Antoinette Thuillier in Vignacourt, France during the period 1916 to 1918.
Object Type Black & white – Glass original quarter-plate negative
Item ID P10550.144

Source: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/p10550.144

So, in future blog posts, I’ll present a series of articles aimed at us collectors and military enthusiasts that will look at how to preserve, store and share the photos that are important to us, from a collectors perspective and also to ensure that our kids or grandchildren can enjoy the photographs that we take today. We will look at the various technologies from the birth of photography in 1839 through to the present day. For each of these we will cover considerations for preventive conservation, storage, handling and presentation. There’s a lot of ground to cover and I’ll break up the sessions with some battlefield reports (I’m heading back to Vietnam in a few weeks) or titbits from my collection.  But, before we start, here is something that should arouse your interest in the topic.

Group portrait of five unidentified American soldiers, with two local French civilian women, standing in front of a US Army Quarter Masters Corps truck. From the Thuillier collection of glass plate negatives. Taken by Louis and Antoinette Thuillier in Vignacourt, France during the period 1916 to 1918.Object TypeBlack & white - Glass original quarter-plate negative. Item IDP10550.143

Group portrait of five unidentified American soldiers, with two local French civilian women, standing in front of a US Army Quarter Masters Corps truck. Taken by Louis and Antoinette Thuillier in Vignacourt, France during the period 1916 to 1918.
Object Type Black & white – Glass original quarter-plate negative.
Item ID P10550.143

Source: http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/p10550.143

Vignacourt is a small French town a little to the north of Amiens and during the First World War played an important role as a base and rest area for allied troops from the nearby fighting as it was just outside artillery range, but close enough to act as a staging area for the British sector. In late 1916 hundreds of Australians moved from the winter trenches of the Somme to the relative comfort of the town to rest and refit. Whilst many of the young Frenchmen had left to fight, the town it was still functioning and amongst those who remained were Louis and Antoinette Thuillier who turned their home into a photo studio and advertised for soldiers to have their photographs taken.

Item IDP10550.050PhotographerThuillier, LouisPlace madeFrance: Picardie, Somme, VignacourtDate Madec 1916-1918Copyright holder Australian Capital Equity Pty LtdObject TypeBlack & white - Glass original quarter-plate negativeCollection	PhotographCredit line	Kerry Stokes collection, the Louis and Antoinette Thuillier CollectionDescription	Portrait of possibly 3335 Private Joseph William Devlin, 2nd Pioneer Battalion with a gas respirator bag around his neck. From the Thuillier collection of glass plate negatives. Taken by Louis and Antoinette Thuillier in Vignacourt, France during the period 1916 to 1918.

Portrait of possibly 3335 Private Joseph William Devlin, 2nd Pioneer Battalion with a gas respirator bag around his neck. Taken by Louis and Antoinette Thuillier in Vignacourt, France during the period 1916 to 1918.
Object Type Black & white – Glass original quarter-plate negative. Item ID P10550.050

Source: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/p10550.050

These were taken using glass plate negatives and printed outdoors, using the sun to expose the image onto postcards which the diggers could keep as a souvenir or send home to their families as evidence that they were still alive and well. Thousands of soldiers passed through their studio and whilst many of the resulting images have been preserved in family albums and institutions, it was believed that the original glass negatives had been lost. Then, in 2011 over 3000 of the glass negatives were discovered in a barn, amongst them around 800 images of the Australian troops. Kerry Stokes, businessman, philanthropist and friend of the Australian War Memorial generously donated these to the Australian War Memorial. Of these, 74 images have been selected and reprinted using the traditional darkroom techniques to feature as part of the Remember me: the lost diggers of Vignacourt exhibition which runs at the AWM until July 2013.

Click image to see video of the handover of the negatives to the AWM

Click the image to see a video of the handover of the negatives to the Australian War Memorial

The exhibition combines the images along with it’s own records and collection to tell the story of the subjects in their own voices. Whilst the exhibition only features a small number of the photos, the full collection is available online at the AWM site (http://www.awm.gov.au/exhibitions/remember-me/collection/). To coincide with the exhibition, Ross Coulthart has produced a book, The Lost Diggers, which tells the story of the discovery of the negatives and the stories of many of the people in the photos. The AWM has also released a video showing the restoration and printing of the images, which is worth watching and provides an insight into the preservation of this type of photograph.

Click the image to see a video featuring some of the background preservation and production of the images.

Click the image to see a video featuring some of the background preservation and production of the images.