The Making of an Exhibition

The O’Malleys were invited to have lunch at the Pooles; © Glen O’Malley, 14 March 1987, Red Hill, Brisbane (from the Journeys North Portfolio)

With the re-hanging of Journeys North – Revisited by the Queensland Art Gallery, I was able to reflect on the work done in getting Glen O’Malley‘s portion of that iconic Queensland Photography Exhibition on to the gallery walls.  Sponsored by the Australian Bicentennial Authority, Journeys North was a comprehensive black and white documentary exhibition with an interesting grouping of participants.  The Exhibition opens on 20 February and runs until 3 July 2016 at the Queensland Art Gallery.

Lin Martin was the only woman, and she was joined by College of Art Lecturers Charles Page and Robert Mercer, fine art photographer Max Pam, and long time camera club member Graham Burstow.  Whilst the prevailing genre was documentary, the diversity of images produced was a piercing insight into the Queensland (and by default Australian) psyche.


Yowah Opal Fields – John Perham fossicks for opals and runs a museum ; © Glen O’Malley, 1987, (from the Journeys North Portfolio)

Probably not necessarily mainstream Queensland society, but an in-depth assessment from a photographic standpoint.

At this time I had known O’Malley for well over a decade, having assisted in helping him find a job with well known Brisbane architectural photographer Richard Stringer.

see   My claim to fame in the Journeys North saga was that I had a fully fledged commercial black and white darkroom and almost enough trays to process a series of large exhibition prints.  O’Malley  was demanding four 60x50cm (24″x20″) – two for himself and two for the Gallery.  All archivally processed!


Gerard and his girlfriend hung out his washing; © Glen O’Malley, 1987, Brisbane (from the Journeys North Portfolio)

The process of making archival gelatin silver photographs is both time consuming and tedious.  Making four prints from the same negative is not as easy as pressing “Command ⌘ P” four times!  For a start, large quantities of chemicals are required as these big sheets of sensitised paper absorb vast quantities of liquid and exhaust the chemicals quickly.  Then, after an agitated soak in fresh and strong fixer, that very same fixer needs to be washed from the print.  A slow process taking (wasting) a large quantity of water.  Then the density of each photograph must be consistent.  Many tests were made and debated.


Camooweal – Mrs Steele; © Glen O’Malley, February 1987 (from the Journeys North Portfolio)

With the passing of time it can be now said that O’Malley’s great skill was his instinctive and observant eye.  Not necessarily his dedication to “correct” exposure!

I have deliberately not spoken of the other artists.  With the exception of Max Pam they are all friends and past photographic colleagues and the photographs will speak loudly and proudly on their behalf at the Queensland Art Gallery.  But I will show a couple of their pieces.

The great sadness of this Exhibition is that it has never been repeated.  Almost thirty years and no similar exploration of photography sponsored on such a major scale.

Pam, Max_The Big Pineapple

The Big Pineapple, near Nambour; © Max Pam, 1986, from the Journeys North Portfolio


Lynn and Jenny Cook, twins, Weipa; © Charles Page, 1987, from Journeys North Portfolio


Young Dancers, Kuranda, Laura Dance Festival, Cape York ; © Robert Mercer, 1987, from the Journeys North Portfolio


Eyes right, Coolangatta; Graham Burstow, 1986-87, from Journeys North Portfolio









Herbie Harold Adams, retired boxer, gold miner, Clump Point; © Lin Martin, 1986-87, from Journeys North Portfolio)

All photographs in Journeys North are gelatin silver photographs on paper.  Purchased 1987 with the financial assistance of the Australian Bicentennial Authority to commemorate Australia’s Bicentenary in 1988 Collection: Queensland Art Gallery.   

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Further essays –


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