PhotoAccess has come a long way in the past 37 years, growing from its now demolished Kingsley Street building in the city into an organisation that has surpassed even its founders’ original vision.
Opening in 1984 in response to demand from Canberra photographers for low-cost facilities available to the community, PhotoAccess provided a non-competitive, cooperative environment where anyone could learn and practice photography, and offered workshops, courses and seminars on the aesthetic and technical aspects of photographic practice.
It also aimed to support the development of community arts, and work with other community arts organisations to further common aims.
Since then, the organisation has grown to achieve all those aims while also providing workshops, a gallery space, and facilities for thousands of photographers. It hosts more than 20 exhibitions a year, and runs a curriculum of diverse skills and thematic-based workshops to actively demonstrate and explore the importance of images in contemporary life.
PhotoAccess moved to the Manuka Arts Centre in 2002 and on Saturday, 20 February, it will be throwing open its doors to show how far the organisation and visual media technology has come during the past four decades.
Programs officer Kate Matthews says the Open Day is an opportunity to visit and see the not-for-profit’s facilities, workshops and current exhibition ‘VIEW2021’.
“We want to show people all the varied and exciting things we do,” says Kate. “At the Open Day, all of PhotoAccess will be on show.
“Whether people were a member 30 years ago, or this is the first they have heard of us, everyone is welcome at the Open Day. There will be all-ages activities, darkroom demonstrations, artist-led gallery tours, and you can meet our artists-in-residence all while relaxing to live music.”
PhotoAccess has expanded its scope to encompass the full range of photo media arts, from the original facilities and workshops on still photographs to photo-media, film, photo-sculptures and video art.
“We’re quite broadminded about what photography can be,” says Kate. “We’ve exhibited photo sculptures printed onto ACM panelling and hung from the ceiling, and images pulverized down and spun into thread. Photo-media isn’t just a picture on a wall.
“We recently ran a stop-motion animation course, with well-known animators Eleanor and Giovanni, for people who were interested in animation.”
During the COVID-19 lockdown, the not-for-profit organisation was able to put together an online gallery to showcase the work of exhibitors.
“We were forced to think much more flexibly and laterally than we usually do,” says Kate. “We developed our first online gallery space, a whole new website which is adaptable for each exhibiting artist.
“It was very exciting. We held online talks, we’ve been able to reach a much wider audience and also broadcast live talks from photo-media experts from anywhere in Australia, not just Canberra.”
At the Open Day, visitors can explore the Huw Davies Gallery and see current artists experimenting with new photo-media practice in the darkroom and in the digital realm.
Kid-friendly activities will include designing cyanotype T-shirts, creating lenticular magnets, hunting for an augmented reality treasure, and sitting for a take-home, large-format family portrait.
“The Open Day is always a welcome time for people to come along and donate, support us and have a bit of fun,” says Kate.