Victorian writers and photographers on show in new State Library exhibition

Installation-view-of-MIRROR-New-views-on-photography-at-State-Library-Victoria-photo-by-SDP-PhotographyMIRROR: New views on photography, a new major cinematic exhibition showcasing the Library’s extensive photography collection, has opened at the State Library Victoria.

141 photographs by Victoria’s most renowned photographers including Destiny Deacon, Maggie Diaz, Rennie Ellis, The Huxleys, Alan Jordan, Viva Gibb, Julie Millowick, Wolfgang Sievers and Mark Strizic, were handpicked by State Library curators and connected by the theme of ‘mirror’. Visitors can see the images displayed in large scale digital format in two mirrored cinemas within the gallery space.

Leading Victorian storytellers inspired by the photography collection, have created new works of art. From poetry and song, to spoken word and performance, their work has been woven into stunning short films and soundscapes, projected in super large scale within MIRROR, creating an immersive experience of the Library’s photography collection and the artists’ reflections.

The new commissions include: lyrics arranged by Alice Skye; a visual essay by Leah Jing McIntosh; an audio-visual journey by Jason Tamiru, songs, film, short texts, spoke word and prints by Pasifika Storytellers Collective; poetry by Prithvi Varatharajan; a radio show by Superfluity (Casey Bennetto, Clem Bastow & Christos Tsiolkas); and an Auslan poem by Walter Kadiki.

State Library Victoria CEO Paul Duldig said he is excited to share these new and historic works with the people of Victoria. “MIRROR not only offers an insight into Victorian life through the lenses of some brilliant photographers, it also provides fresh perspectives of the Library’s rich holdings of photography through the talents of some brilliant novelists, poets, performers and activists,” he said.

“This is a new kind of exhibition for the Library – and it’s something you could only see here at the Library. It merges the two strands within the collection – words and images – to create something new and inspiring. After all, the Library holds a public collection that anyone can use for creative interpretation, and that’s something we really want to encourage,” said Mr Duldig.

Co-Curator Kate Rhodes said the exhibition’s theme was partly born out of lockdown. “We spent so many hours on Zoom – for work meetings, birthday parties, dinner parties, we were constantly looking at ourselves. Our computers were our connection to the outside world, but they were also a mirror to performances of ourselves,” she said.

“The idea to select images from the collection that related to that theme, and its many synonyms, was apt and asking storytellers to reflect on the images and create new responses was really exciting,” said Ms Rhodes.

Co-Curator Linda Short said she is delighted to see what the new commissions say about the State Collection. “This is a completely new way of commissioning for us, and a totally new way of exhibiting the Library’s photography collection,” she said.

“The exhibition draws attention to how we can grow the collection and emphasises an ever-present invitation for others to tell stories about, around and against it. And some of the responses are really surprising.”

“For example, Christos Tsiolkas chose a very unusual Rennie Ellis image that shows interior wall insulation in a house and created such a personal and powerful piece in response. It’s a creative response that might not have arisen had we been more prescriptive, and we love it,” said Ms Short.

Co-Curator Jade Hadfield said MIRROR intends to showcase the richness and diversity of Victoria’s storytellers. “It was important to us to show a breadth of writing practices and people,” she said.

“Walter Kadiki is a deaf poet who performs his poetry using Auslan and visual expression. Alice Skye, a Wergaia and Wemba Wemba songwriter has created a poem reflecting on her deep connection to Country and Grace Vanilau, weaver of words, creates an ode to mothers.”

“These interpretations of State Collection items open up our collections and create a space for all Victorians,” said Ms Hadfield.

MIRROR: New views on photography continues the gallery’s core purpose of exploring Victoria’s stories through a variety of perspectives and showcasing the treasures in the State Collection that contribute to the Victoria we know today.

MIRROR: New views on photography
Victoria Gallery – State Library Victoria, 328 Swanston Street, Melbourne
Exhibition continues to 28 January 2024
Free entry

For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Installation view of MIRROR: New views on photography at State Library Victoria – photo by SDP Photography