20 September 2016

Dual views of the Murrumbidgee River in 26 days

| Paul Costigan
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Tuggeranong Arts Centre exhibition

This joint photography exhibition at the Tuggeranong Arts Centre by Alan Lee and Jonquil Mackey is based on the notion of exploring the Murrumbidgee River along its path to the Murray.

This subject has local relevance given the ACT Government’s planning proposal to expand the Tuggeranong residential areas closer to the banks of the river, which would be an environmental mistake – but that’s another story.

The photographers have set out to portray a variety of natural settings and human interactions along the path of the river. Each has a slightly different style, with Jonquil being the more abstract and Alan having a more documentary approach.

However the two styles are not that different and so the exhibition does look as if it was put together by the one photographer.


The photographers are good at the craft of making images. Something to be enjoyed.

Most of photographs rely on how they have presented the subject matter. Some works are based more on presenting a palette of colour – especially in Jonquil Mackey’s photographs.

The artists state that they “hope people will get a sense of the river’s journey and its diverse beauty”. This is only partially achieved as the photographs are not arranged to be easily read as being a journey. Rather, the exhibition provides selected insights into what they encountered and engaged with during their excursions over several years along the different sections of this great river – but not any particular order.

This is a successful exhibition. It could have been even more so with a stronger curatorial hand. I suspect the actual hang would have benefitted with some variations to being in a straight line around the room and maybe a larger print or two.

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To one side of the exhibition is a screen that presents even more photographs. This was not necessary – as those selected for the exhibition were more than enough to make the point of the exercise.

However a screen presentation could have been useful if it was concentrated more on providing images and information about their journeys along the river – to have been grouped to represent the various sections of the Murrumbidgee.

It would have been interesting to view the different sections of this great and very important waterway as it flows through the changing landscapes on its way to the Murray. And to have it set up with comfy chairs to sit on – but with no audio as that tends to interfere with the peaceful viewing of the exhibition.

One last curiosity. All the photographs look to have been taken on the same day in the same weather. It seems that it does not rain and the sun does not go down. A little variation in weather and atmosphere would nice.

Despite these criticisms, the exhibition is definitely worth the visit, especially for the many lovers of photography and those with an interest in our landscapes and this magnificent river system that is so important to the health of our country.

Why ‘26 Days‘ in the title? Have a read of the blurb from the arts centre to work that one out.


Murrumbidgee River in 26 days: Tuggeranong Arts Centre, until October 1. Mon-Fri, 10am-6pm & Sat 10am-4pm. Closed Sundays. www.tuggeranongarts.com

For more about the photographers – click here

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