Exploring small-town Australia

Media release: Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Smalltown, a new photographic exhibition at the National Archives in Canberra, takes a nostalgic look at far-flung towns across the nation through the eyes of photographer Martin Mischkulnig and author Tim Winton.

Inspired by his childhood in a series of roadside motels run by his parents, Mischkulnig travelled to out-of-the-way places to shoot images of the aspects of Australia neglected by tourism brochures.

His photographs examine and contrast the sentimental myths of life in rural and regional Australia with the sometimes ugly reality.

From the cinder-block motels, crooked signs and unnamed graves beside endless freeways, to the towering silos, empty sports grounds and derelict cars, the photographs explore a side of Australia that is often ignored.

Mischkulnig set out to revisit the towns that made an impression on him during his formative years. He explored the idea that they were never destinations in themselves, but rather places on the way to somewhere else.

'I feel that a lot of photography shown to other countries about Australia has been polished and is idealistic', he said.

'My photos are a rebellion of that, probably because of the towns I grew up in and the realities of those towns. I always wondered what it must be like for tourists who have been shown beautiful documentaries and books about Australia to then come and drive around outback locations.'

The exibition is a touring exhibition from the Historic Houses Trust of NSW with support from Visions of Australia. It has a related book, also titled Smalltown, written by Tim Winton.

Smalltown opens at the National Archives of Australia, Queen Victoria Terrace in Canberra on 3 December. It runs until 26 February 2012.

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