The trip to Australia has led to some thinking and research into Australian photography, followed up on return to the UK, was the work of Anne Zahalka, a leading contemporary photographer and how her work in the 1980’s sought to challenge a mythology of Australian identity. This could be defined by the location of Australian history in the landscape of the Pioneer and the outdoor life of the beach. Zahalka recreated a number of classic Australian landscape pictures from the Heidelberg School, including through collage and later through recreation to undermine the accepted largely mono-cultural, Anglo Saxon male and patriarchal history. She reinterpreted works about the cultural space of the beach, feminising and representing a famous beach scene, Australian Beach Pattern a painting by Charles Meeres, with a new population, first with people of mixed European origin and then a scene full of Australians of different Asian and other ethnic backgrounds, most importantly including an aboriginal child appearing to claim possession of a towel with the Southern cross of stars – an emblem from the Australian Flag. Zahalka’s reinterpretation of Max Dupain’s iconic black and white image of the male surfer recumbent in the sun, as a flame haired androgynous figure also changes the narrative of the Australian Male Icon.
Frederick McCubbin paintings ‘The Pioneer’
Anne Zahalka The Immigrants (second version), 1985 type C photograph
Australian beach pattern 1940 – Charles Meere (Art Gallery of New South Wales)
The Bathers, 2013, Anne Zahalka
Blair, F (2009) Twelve Australian Photo Artists, Sydney: Piper Press.