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Anne Zahalka

Anne Zahalka works in a variety of photographic modes including documentary and digital photography, montage and studio-based tableau to explore themes of identity and environment. In her 1995 series, Open House, the private, domestic spaces of Zahalka’s friends are the settings for a group of portraits that are at once intimate and self-conscious. This series of lightboxes parodies the aesthetics of advertising, documentary and genre painting to generate a curious amalgamation of the constructed and the natural. We examine the faces of the subjects for clues about their identity, but the banality and apparent artificiality of the subject’s poses encourages us to instead focus on the objects in the room for hints about their personalities and relationships.

Zahalka examines much larger narratives of identity and place in the series Bondi: Playground of the Pacific (1989). By reworking iconic images of Australian beach culture, including Charles Meere’s Australian Beach Pattern (1940) and Max Dupain’s Sunbaker (1937), Zahalka highlights the masculine and Anglo-Celtic biases of the beach as a symbol for national identity. Leisureland (1998-2000) marks Zahalka’s continued interest in imaging national cultures by looking at the importance of leisure, sport and recreation in Australia. As crowds gather en masse at sporting grounds, shopping centres and theme parks, Zahalka encapsulates the sheer scale of the contemporary leisure industry in Australia. The commodification of leisure and nature is examined in Zahalka’s Natural Wonders (2004) where quintessential Australian landscapes are presented alongside kitsch, artificial arcadias. With the use of digitally heightened colour, Zahalka draws our attention to the consumption of Nature as spectacle.