Australian identity seen in sand and celluloid: A review of Bega Valley Regional Galleries “Waves and Water”

Bega Valley Regional Galleries blockbuster summer exhibition “Waves and Water: Australian Beach Photography”, sees iconic images of Australian beach culture exhibited in the region. Images from Nacelle Autio, Jeff Carter, Max Dupain and Anne Zahalka invite audiences to consider the Australian relationship to the beach, in many different ways.

Around the gallery, some guests spoke softly on their own memories of sea-side adventures, others spoke about Zahalka’s interpretation of The Bather’s. Resoundingly there was careful conversation around other memorable moments, linking Australian media, history and the beach.
The conversation of identity and site introduce elements of fun and play, with Roger Scott’s images of swimmers in the surf or performing handstands. Relaxation and the formation of an Australian identity, which below the surface is far more complex than the images of smiles and sand would suggest, with a conversation between Zahalka’s works and those of Ray Leighton.
The gallery space encourages audiences to think about our relationship to the beach as a site of one of Australia’s greatest past-times, but also as a site which intrinsically belongs to white Australia in the popular imagination, as a site of colonisation, and as a site of riots.
The space is inviting and guests will see in this exhibition the elements of fun, cultural memory and beautiful colours captured in film. Others will see this exhibition and gain greater insight into how stereotypical images of sun tanned Australians can be reimagined in images of truer, diverse beach goers.
The 35 images in the exhibition take guests on a journey on Australian beaches from the 1930’s to the 2000’s. In 35 images the exhibition hopes we start conversations about how Australian identity is tied to and changes on the waves of our shores.
Let us hope that this exhibition, which captures the link of Australian identity and the beach, continues the conversation of identity, our shores and what pictures of Australia today will look like to people in another 70 years.
Waves and Water is open until the 4th of February at the Bega Valley Regional Gallery,  click here for more information.