New Photography Book Sheds Touching Light on Byron Homeless

No Fixed Abode is a book of portrait photographs and intimate stories that give voice to Byron’s homeless community. The book was created to build connection, empathy and understanding for the region’s homeless community.

The black and white photographic portraits in the book are the work of local photographer Drew Rogers, who also works with people experiencing homelessness in Byron. The trust and friendship that he has with his subjects is evident in the images.

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An astonishing book… the photographs by Drew of these homeless people are brimful of humanity, almost glamorous… heartfelt stories by the writers… I hope one of these days a book like this won’t be needed.
— Craig McGregor, writer, journalist, & academic
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The book’s stories are presented in firstperson narrative and have been collected by a team of local volunteer writers who’ve visited the services such as community breakfasts and showers in Byron Bay, Mullumbimby and Brunswick Heads over many months. The stories present an intimate insight into the lives of these storytellers. Such as from Lou:
“It was just before my fourteenth birthday when I went to the streets for the first time. My first night on the street I was sleeping under a band stand and three dogs attacked me, so I scrambled up a tree and tried to tie my sleeping bag under a branch. The sleeping bag gave way and I fell … I’d broken twelve bones and had fractures in my spine.”

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"No Fixed Abode, published by the Byron Community Centre and The Byron Writers Festival gently addresses that callous disconnect by giving otherwise stifled, invisible Australians a face and a voice. By exploring the stories of people who’ve fallen through society’s cracks, readers can better understand some of the common trajectories of disenfranchisement – and what a truly horrible thing it is to be without a home." -Byron Community Centre

The book is a not-for-profit project that has been made possible by contributors volunteering their professional skills, and through the support of the Byron Community Centre, Byron Writers Festival and private donors L & R Uechtritz Foundation and Temple Byron. 

Rosie's life lines reel in Olive Cotton people's choice prize

Michael Cook's close-up portrait Memories has been voted the public's favourite in the Olive Cotton Award People's Choice Award, with visitors describing it as a "profound" and "powerful" image.

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The well-known Sunshine Coast photographer was thrilled with the news and indicated he would be giving the $250 winner's prize to Rosie, the subject of his black and white portrait.

Visitors to the Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre said the detailed portrait effectively captured Rosie's character by starkly depicting what a number of voters described as her "life lines".

Cook described Rosie as a beautiful person who kindly introduced him to bush tucker and is everyone's favourite grandmother in her community.

"I wanted to capture her beauty physically and within. I think the photograph allows the viewer to not only see a lifetime of memories but to actually feel who she is beyond appearance," he said.

The People's Choice Award, funded by the Friends of the Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre Inc, helped wrap up this year's Olive Cotton Award for photographic portraiture.

Hundreds of visitors to the exhibition took the opportunity to vote for their favourite work from the 72 finalists, which were on display at the Tweed Regional Gallery until 8 October.

Voting was close, with the portrait Trevor Jamieson by Brett Canet-Gibson of WA just 30 votes behind.

The biennial competition reinforced its claim as Australia's top photographic portraiture prize by attracting record entries this year. Entrants ranged from many high-profile photographers to a strong field of emerging artists, including the Olive Cotton Award's youngest finalist, 12-year-old local Ari Messina.

The end of this year's exhibition also brought to a close a 'selfie' competition to promote the new social media pages for the Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre.

Sherry Mackay won a Tweed Regional Gallery prize pack, featuring Margaret Olley merchandise, for snapping herself with her favourite portrait, featuring actor and comedian Bill Bailey.

Sarah K8 @cloudcatcher15 chose Anita Modok's portrait, in absentia: Judy Cassab's bedroom, for her selfie on Instagram and won a $100 food and drinks voucher from the Gallery Cafe. She said the colours, composition and texture are "absolutely divine".

"I could totally move in and make it my own room!!" she said.

Local photographer, 12, becomes youngest Olive Cotton finalist

The list of finalists for the Olive Cotton Award in 2017 features many of the biggest names in Australian portrait photography, but it has also continued the emergence of a talented young local.

In 2014, Ari Messina was a winner in Tweed Regional Gallery's Les Peterkin prize for portraits for local primary school children.

Fast forward just three years and Messina, now aged 12, has become the youngest finalist for the Olive Cotton Award, which has been touted as Australia's leading prize in portrait photography.

His piece, Dark Side of a Girl, hangs among the other 71 finalists for 2017, on exhibition in Tweed Regional Gallery until Sunday 8 October.

Ari Messina, right.

Ari Messina, right.

Messina said his selection as a finalist was a "really big surprise".

"I wasn't expecting it to be a finalist. I was shocked at first but it felt so good," he said. "At the time I took it, I didn't have any intention to enter it in the Olive Cotton Awards, but after I looked at it on the computer, my mum and I knew it would be good to enter."

Messina said he was exposed to photography from a very early age because his grandfather and uncle are both photographers.

"Being immersed in it really got me to enjoy taking photos," he said.

Messina says he does not have any particularly ambitions with his photography. "Right now I am just enjoying taking photos and learning how to use my camera."

Ari Messina's  Dark Side of a Girl

Ari Messina's Dark Side of a Girl

2017 Olive Cotton Award Finalists on display

The 72 finalists in this year's Olive Cotton Award for photographic portraits, opening at Tweed Regional Gallery today, are a "snapshot of our times", according to Award Coordinator Anouk Beck.

James Brickwood,  British Comedian

James Brickwood, British Comedian

Ms Beck said the 2017 judge, Shaune Lakin, chose a shortlist of finalists that examined many contemporary issues and reflected the ideas, techniques and styles of the overall record pool of entries.

"Entrants have explored themes of masculinity, cultural diversity and immigration, transgender transformation, family and mortality," she said.

"The portraits range from theatrically-posed tableaux to moments advantageously snatched."

A total of 492 entries were received for the 2017 award, continuing a steady increase in submissions for the Gallery's biennial competition. All 72 finalists will be on exhibition at Tweed Regional Gallery until Sunday 8 October.

Twelve-year-old Tweed Shire resident Ari Messina is among the finalists, along with a number of well-known photographers including Michael Cook, Polixeni Papapetrou, Stephen Dupont, Anne Zahalka and Julie Rrap.

They are vying for a $20,000 prize for the overall winner, to be announced at the opening function and awards announcement on Saturday from 5pm.

Stephen DuPont,  Up in the Sky

Stephen DuPont, Up in the Sky

This year's Olive Cotton Award has again attracted a wide spectrum of photographic styles. Some have embraced an historic wet plate printing technique, while others challenge the whole concept of a portrait - at a time when technology is transforming photographic portraiture.

Dr Lakin, the National Gallery of Australia's Senior Curator Photography, said "we shared about 24 billion selfies in 2015, and who knows how many photographs of friends sitting opposite the dinner table or of children doing this or that are among the more than one trillion photographs we will take and share this year."

"All of this has had a huge impact, not just on the social practice of photographic portraiture but on its form. Think, for example, about the way that the digital selfie phenomenon has produced a new portrait pose, one that views the face from above and highlights forehead, raised eyebrow and pouty lips."

For further information, visit the Tweed Regional Gallery website or phone the Gallery on (02) 6670 2790.

Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre is open Wednesday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm.