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Visualising a Nation - the politics of an image

Past Event

Saturday, 8 April 2017 - 2:30pm to 3:30pm

Photographed in 1937 and launched into the public sphere in 1975, Max Dupain’s Sunbaker is recognised as a portrait that embodies what it means to be Australian.

“I said ‘Max, this is the one that says Australia. It conveys what it is to be Australian’ … Sunbaker was a quintessentially Australian photograph.”

Graham Howe, inaugural Director of the Australian Centre for Photography, Australian Financial Review, 2008

A diverse panel of leading thinkers will discuss the role of Max Dupain’s Sunbaker as representative of Australian identity and whether it still reflects contemporary Australian society.

Chaired by Walkley award-winning journalist Helen Vastikopoulos, panelists Stephen Gilchrist, Prof. Meaghan Morris and William Yang will interrogate the role of the image in symbolising and constructing a national identity and how these images re-enforce ideas of dominant culture.

About the Panelists 

Helen Vatsikopoulos is a Walkley Award winning journalist who has worked for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and its international station, the Australia Network, and for the Special Broadcasting Service.

In a career spanning 30 years she has worked on programs such as the ABC News, the Midday Report, the 7.30 report, Dateline, Lateline and Foreign Correspondent. In that time she has specialised in International Reporting and has covered history-changing events like the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of Communism, the Rwandan Genocide, the HIV-Aids crisis in West Papua, the Sri Lankan Civil War, the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, and the Bali Bombings — among many others. Her reporting on the collapse of the USSR won her a coveted Walkley award.

Helen has presented many studio-based television programs including Face the Press, News Extra, Talking Heads and Dateline for SBS; The 7.00 pm News and the Midday Report for ABC1 and Asia-Pacific Focus for the Australia Network. She has also made three documentaries: New World Borders, Getting Gehry and the award-winning Agatha’s Curse.


Stephen Gilchrist, belonging to the Yamatji people of the Inggarda language group of northwest Western Australia, Stephen Gilchrist is Associate Lecturer of Indigenous Art at the University of Sydney. He is a writer and curator who has who has worked with the Indigenous Australian collections of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (2003-2005), the British Museum, London (2008), the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2005-2010) and the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College (2011-2013). Stephen has curated numerous exhibitions in Australia and the United States and has written extensively on Indigenous Art from Australia. He has taught Indigenous Art in Australia and in the United States and is currently completing his PhD at the University of Sydney. He is working on an exhibition titled Everywhen that will open at Harvard Art Museums, Harvard University in February 2016.

Research interests include: Indigenous Art and Indigenous photography, Contemporary art, Political ecology, environmentalism and planetarity, Theory and practice of Indigenous museology and National identities and formations of alternative citizenship.


Professor Meaghan Morris is a figure of world stature in the field of Cultural Studies. She is Chair of the Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Society and past Chair of the international Association for Cultural Studies (ACS), 2004-08. A Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, the Hong Kong Academy of the Humanities, and a former ARC Senior Fellow, from 2000-2012 she was founding Chair Professor of Cultural Studies at Lingnan University, Hong Kong.

Research interests include: Film and media historiographies; local and national cultures in globalisation; Australian and Asian-Pacific popular culture; action adventure in cinema and literature; public cultures and institutions after 'privatisation'.


William Yang was born in North Queensland, Australia. He moved to Sydney in 1969 and worked as a freelance photographer documenting Sydney’s social life which included the glamorous, celebrity set and the hedonistic, sub-cultural, gay community. In 1977 he had an extremely successful exhibition, Sydneyphiles, at the Australian Centre for Photography which launched him as a gallery photographer.

In 1989 he integrated his skills as a writer and a visual artist. He began to perform monologues with slide projection in the theatre. These told personal stories and explored issues of identity. He has done eleven full-length works and most of them have toured the world.

William’s current work is photo based, he has gallery exhibitions, which embrace both documentary photography to works of photo media. Text written on the prints is often a feature of his work. He continues to perform spoken works with image projection in the theatre. He has converted three of his theatre performances into film at the University of NSW. These have been broadcast on ABC1.

He teaches his performance method of storytelling with images to others in workshops, and is working with Annette Shun Wah at Contemporary Asian Australia Performance on numerous productions, including The Backstories at Adelaide Festival 2017.



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