Australia – Homeland and Abroad: an exhibition in Ulvesund’s Greenhouse
Today was the opening of my very first photographic exhibition. Held in the Greenhouse Gallery in Ulvesund, where my husband’s grandmother lives and where we have spent a huge amount of time, it was close to home, a beautiful and calm setting, and a wonderful first exhibition experience.
This was a joint exhibition with Birgitta Knapp, the aforementioned grandmother-in-law who has taught me to knit, helped me learn Swedish, been an incredibly present great grandmother to my children, shared her home and her life with me – helping to bridge the enormous gap between the two very different worlds of Sweden and Australia.
She has visited Australia with us twice before. On her walls hung watercolours inspired by her impressions of my home country.
On mine, hung a collection of photographs from our last trip to Australia. The following is a bit of a description I wrote to accompany these images:
I was born in Newcastle, NSW, Australia, two hours up the east coast from Sydney. On a humid summer evening before the world went completely mad, I met a tall man with long, blonde, wavy hair, hailing from Gothenburg, Sweden. We were married ten months later, moved to his hometown a few months after that, and have since added a couple of Swaussie (Swedish/Australian) children to the family.
Throughout my life, I have leaned into photography as documentation of life – the mundane and the incredible. The immediacy and relative convenience of photography as an artform lends itself to the chaos of parenting small children. These images exist despite – and because of – the hardships of life between continents, during a pandemic, and with two children (aged around 16 months and 2.5 years in these photos).
For two years, Australia’s strict Covid-19 policies kept us out of my home country. My tight-knit family missed the birth of my second child, and his whole first year of life. The three months we spent in Australia from November 2021 to January 2022 was like a rush of blood to the head, a deep breath of fresh air, and a good night’s sleep, all at once.
Homesickness, pandemic isolation and parenting madness stewed themselves together in my psyche and jumped out at me on our visit back “Down Under”. The thought of not knowing when travel might be an impossibility made everything so precious and vital. I had to document it all.
What you see here is a collection of 23 images from a grand total of 789 that made it into my (very thick) photo album. They are photographs painstakingly curated to express what Australia is to me. The heady smell of rotting eucalyptus, the reflection of harsh sunlight from the faces of my kids, the mud-splattered livestock belonging to our farming neighbours.
The Banool farm (of image 26) has been sold since these photographs were taken and I am filled with gratitude that we made it back in time to capture these images.
The way the Pacific ocean curls my husband’s hair, and then the way the coastal wind whips it. The thousands of native flowers I can’t name that leap from lush vegetation and beg to be captured, my wide-open aperture freezing them in a bed of buttery green. The enormous insects and the danger displayed in their vivid colours. The tiny cups I’ve sipped Turkish coffee from all my life, framing the familiar sight of a saucer of dried tomato seeds, in the unchanged dining room of my Macedonian grandparents’ house (image 22).
During my time in Sweden, I’ve missed births, deaths, weddings, birthdays, graduations and elections. I miss the change of seasons, the passing of pets, the sale of familial houses, Fathers’ Day picnics, dinners in celebration of Macedonian Orthodox Easter.
But for all of that, my life is rich with a second language and passport, a dearly beloved family of my own, and a much better understanding of geography.
All of that, and so much more, is why I photograph my own life, and the overwhelming, heart-beating-faster joy I feel when I see a frame I fall in love with is what I want to share with friends, family, clients and the world.
I had planned to include all the photographs from the exhibition here but I am, in fact, known for doing things in half measures and, since it’s absolutely bedtime for this dog-tired mother photographer, I’ll leave that for exhibition post number two.
Thank you so much to everyone who came, saw and bought.