Juno Gemes


SMH 05.11.07
Files reveal the silly, scary
spies' eye-view of Aboriginal

Joel Gibson
CITY WEEKLY 01.11.07
Proof positive

Josie Gagliano
Art Culture

Kate Moore
SMH 20.04.04
Beyond fashion to fine

Robert McFarlane
SMH 02.04.04
Spotlight: Photography

Sunanda Creagh
SMH 26.03.04
Metro: The Week's Best

Alex Tibbitts, Editor
Juno Gemes

Sasha Grishin
SMH 01.01.04
Mixed media in frame

Anne Loxley
ART MONTHLY #166 12.03
Photographic Proof I

Catherine De Lorenzo
ART MONTHLY #166 12.03
Photographic Proof II

Jennifer Isaacs
MUSE #231 08.03
We are also what we have lost

David Wills
Political images

Zoja Bojic
SMH 09.07.03
Charting the moves for justice

Angela Bennie
AAS 2003/2
Juno Gemes in conversation




Muse: Canberra's Arts Monthly #231 August 2003

We are also what we have lost
David Wills

For Juno Gemes The Movement is about many things including justice for Aboriginal people and generosity of spirit. And, without question, the subjects of Gemes’s photographs in Proof: Portraits from The Movement have been generous with their spirit.

Gemes has devoted three decades of her life photographing activists, community leaders, artists, writers, dancers, film-makers and photographers who have fought for recognition, change and land rights for Aboriginal Australia. The photographs in this exhibition, which have been selected from a vast archive, share with the viewer the energy, belief and humanity of Aboriginal people, and raise questions about our democratic society.

Gemes has also captured the determination of people who are strong in their beliefs. Her subjects have warmed not just to Gemes, but to the camera, and as a result they warm the viewer. Mum Shirl (Mrs Shirley Smith) takes the camera head on, staring intently down the lens in front of Sydney's Town Hall, while a strong sense of purpose emanates from Bill Reid - Elder, Artist as he stands smoking a cigarette at a polling booth. A portrait of Lyall Munro Senior shows him holding a book titled Victims of the Law. The cover shows five black figures in silhouette against a white background. This simple image depicts with clarity the divide between Aboriginal and white political thinking. In each of these photographs the subjects are interacting within ‘white man society’. To do this has meant dressing differently, learning English and the complex, often unfair, language of law.

Countrymen depicts three men, all with cowboy hats, shaking hands and hugging. Seemingly it’s an image of happiness with two cultures entwining. The handshake is a gesture of honour but in this image it sits uneasily. One with the Land shows a family on a beach, all with their backs to the camera. The mother sits on a tin drum, her daughter sits next to her with a cardboard box in front of her while her father reclines on a mattress. They are waiting for Dunna, fish that come to the surface once a year. This tradition mingles with detritus from white capitalist society.

The black and white photographs in this exhibition focus attention on the subject and details. In Lively Kids at the Settlement, depicting three boys alighting from a van in Sydney, the focus is turned to the boy in the foreground adopting the pose of someone about to shoot off a pistol. Chicka Dixon - Organiser is a relaxed portrait that incorporates elements of Australian culture. This time the focus is the cigarette in Chicka’s hand, the clothes that he is wearing and a Ford Falcon. Two Women from The Stolen Generations paints a picture of pain with the focus on the women’s facial expressions. The women are on stage, a large screen relays their image behind them. Presumably they are speaking of their experience as members of the Generations. It is hard to not be moved by this image.

While these photographs are about the struggle and hardships faced by Aboriginal Australia during the latter part of the 20th century, they are also about a people at peace with who they are and where they come from. Overall this exhibition doesn’t scream ‘look at me’; instead it allows the subjects of the photographs to emerge from the frame. It lets their spirits shine, their strength come through and most of all, in spite of the current political climate, allows hope to surface.

Proof: Portraits from The Movement rewards the viewer with a tremendous sense of humanity. Gemes connects the viewer to a peaceful, determined people who do not resort to violence, anger or malice but simply stand up for what they believe in. The images she has created show their struggles, their hopes and their dreams. Juno Gemes sums up her work eloquently in the last line of her poem, F8 to Infinity: ‘For we are also what we have lost’.

David Wills is currently completing his Honours in Photomedia at the Australian National University.