"On Anzac Day 2015, the Australian Institute of Professional Photography embarked on a nationwide project for the Anzac Centenary to photograph Australia’s surviving World War II veterans – many now in their late nineties. In South Australia alone 1050 portraits were taken over a seven month period. Presenting a selection of these works, this exhibition provides a snapshot of our remaining South Australian men and women who served in World War II, honouring their service and the service of those who are no longer with us." - Flinders University Art Museum
The evening of July 8th, the exhibition opened with a very moving ceremony. The Flinders University Art Museum was packed to standing room only, guests included government ministers, families of veterans, AIPP photographers and more than twenty surviving WW2 veterans!
Louise Bagger, exhibition co-curator, AIPP photographer, served in the Royal Australian Navy, and long time friend of Atkins Lab, gave a most moving speech about the importance of these photographs honouring these men and women who served our Australia. There was not a dry eye in the room.
The exhibition was curated by Louise, Sharon Cleary from Veterans SA, and Paul Atkins, the images featured were chosen from the 1000+ taken by AIPP volunteers here in South Australia. The chosen images were passed onto Atkins for artworking to make the 50x75cm print size.
Kate Burns, Atkins' creative director, did the lionshare of the artwork, which involved mostly cleaning up of the subjects clothing, an aspect that was not fully appreciated until the work began. With most of the subjects being in their 90s and their 'dress' clothing rarely worn, there was a lot of work to be done. But this is insignificant to the logistics around organising the original photographs.
Imagine arriving at a nursing home, with a vague idea of what resident had to be photographed. The resident may not be aware you are coming, they may not be dressed, they may be unwell. You then have to set up lighting and a background if the resident can stand. Photographers also faced suspicion around the motives from staff, families and some subjects. This was a significant challenge.
To have made it this far, with such success, is testament to Louise and her team around Australia. They do the work for no money, as a gift to the nation.
Once Kate had finished with the artwork, the files were passed onto Atkins' Miriam O'Brien for colour editing. Miriam ensured the images looked strong and pleasant in their colour balance. This job is often overlooked, but when such a large number of pictures of a similar nature are put together, they have to look consistent, and with pictures of people, they have to look healthy. Cool grey blue skin tones are very disconcerting, the subjects can look ill very easily.
The resulting prints were made on Kodak Esurface silver halide paper, and then mounted onto Gatorfoam and hung on the walls by Fiona, Celia, and Belle from the art museum.
Atkins had offered to print and mount these images as a gift to the project. There was the potential to get a grant for the work, but as with grants, there is no guarantee. Whilst these funds have yet to come through, Atkins expects to get covered for the materials used, with a donation of time.
The pictures below are by Louise Bagger and Paul Atkins