Portrait: Back to Back Theatre’s participatory photographic exhibition arrives at Geelong Gallery

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Portrait: Back to Back Theatre’s participatory photographic exhibition arrives at Geelong Gallery

© Tamara Searle, Gemma-Rose Turnbull and Charlotte & © Tamara Searle, Gemma-Rose Turnbull and Claudia.

The Geelong Gallery and Back to Back Theatre exhibition is open now until Sunday 16 July 2023.

Arriving at Geelong Gallery this month, Back to Back Theatre’s Portrait is a participatory photographic exhibition with works facilitated by Tamara Searle and photographer  Gemma-Rose Turnbull with students from Geelong’s own Nelson Park and  Barwon Valley schools. 

This long-term project was created with a foundation of self-determination, in which existing photographic representations of disability, age, gender, and sexuality were challenged, allowing each of the students to reflect on and express their unique identities.  

Stay up to date with what’s happening within the region’s art scene here

In the creation of Portrait, Searle and Turnbull (and their collaborators) offered a safe space where young women from both schools could openly, and authentically question their diverse identities and analyse photographic forms of representation. 

These formative discussions, and the preferences and personalities of the young women, informed the processes and outcomes for each of the incredible and inspiring 17 portraits on display.

The photographs are presented in collaboration with the participants, who share a strong belief in the necessity and powerfulness of self-representation by teenage women living with disability.  


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“We are proud to present Portrait which liberates thinking, discussion, and creative tasks and practices focussed on identity and self-determination in the participating young women’s representation,” says Geelong Gallery Director & CEO Jason Smith. 

“The exhibition is scheduled to coincide with Geelong  Gallery’s 2023 drawcard, ticketed exhibition Clarice Beckett—Atmosphere which will ensure a wide-ranging and  extensive audience for this important  project.”

A free exhibition, locals and tourists alike are encouraged to visit Geelong Gallery to meet the personalities of the young women, profiled in each of the 17 portraits on display.⁠

“The project was designed specifically for girls and female-identifying students to avoid, in this instance, some of the  gendered and sexual complexities in high schools to ensure a safe space where young women could openly, authentically question their gender,  sexuality, and representation without feeling any influence of the male gaze or  comparison,” says Project creator Tamara Searle. 

The work was made with the support of set and costume designer Kate Davis, and studio photographers Mano Sidhu and Holly Borschman. Support was provided by Tara Lynch and Sue Angelovski, Nikki Watson and Mindez Chua.

Project participant Charlotte says of her portrait (pictured above) and the production process, “It’s (a portrait) a photo of a person and they can, be doing something… and then we kind of got to  design our art further of what we wanted to create… what we wanted to see in the  photo.”

A series of public programs will be announced to coincide with this exhibition. 

Back to Back Theatre—Portrait runs from Saturday 18 March to Sunday 16 July 2023 at the Geelong Gallery. This exhibition is free entry. Find out more here