Athol Shmith, Rob Imhoff & Carol Jerrems at Brummels 1975

Brummels: Australia's first gallery of photography

22 October 2011 — 22 January 2012

Monash Gallery of Art
860 Ferntree Gully Road
Wheelers Hill VIC

“...campaign headquarters for a generation of photographers”

Brummels Gallery of Photography was established in 1972 by the prominent photographer Rennie Ellis. As such, it was the first gallery in Australia dedicated to exclusively showing photography.

Over an eight-year period Brummels not only hosted a remarkable range of exhibitions by many artists, but it was also the social scene and campaign headquarters for a generation of photographers lobbying for artistic recognition.

MGA’s exhibition will feature the work of 19 photographers who exhibited at Brummels between 1972 and 1979, including work by those who went on to establish significant careers including, Rennie Ellis, Carol Jerrems, Ponch Hawkes, Sue Ford, David Moore and Wesley Stacey.

The exhibition will pay tribute to this important moment in the history of Australian photography, and allow audiences to reflect on the artistic styles and concerns of the time.

MGA curator Stephen Zagala states, “The artists who exhibited at Brummels deserve to be recognised as the avant-garde of Australian photography. Their work clearly laid the foundations for what we now recognise as contemporary photomedia art.”

Located above a restaurant in South Yarra, the humble gallery space was the hub of an emerging community of art photographers. On 14 December 1972, photographer and film-maker Paul Cox officially opened Brummels’ first exhibition Two Views of Erotica by Carol Jerrems and Henry Talbot. Over the next eight years the gallery staged over 70 exhibitions that featured the work of about 100 contemporary photographers.

Established photographers of the time embraced the opportunity to exhibit photographs of a personal and experimental nature, while a new generation of students, able to study photography in an art school context for the first time, showcased their emerging talents.

As MGA Director Shaune Lakin states: “Brummels is a perfect story for MGA to tell: it’s about the moment in Australian photography’s history when, in the hands of an avant-garde, highly social and entrepreneurial network of men and women, photography became art and art became photography. The legacy of Brummels continues to be felt today in many of the artist-run spaces and galleries we now have in Melbourne and also in the acceptance of photography as a vital medium. On top of this, the work exhibited at Brummels was amazing: diverse, adventurous and highly influential.”

Working closely with Manuela Furci, Director of the Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive, the exhibition draws on a remarkable body of vintage and archival material, including photographs from the National Gallery of Australia and the National Gallery of Victoria collections.

Manuela Furci, states, “Rennie struggled to attain the financial support needed from patrons to keep the doors of Brummels open. There were a few however, who wholeheartedly supported the ideals of gallery.  Journalist, Philip Adams was one, who in a letter accompanied with a cheque congratulated Rennie on what he was trying to achieve but also declared: “In Russia, they’d make you a Hero Worker of the Soviet Union. In Japan, the Diet would declare you a national treasure. Here the philistines will probably break your heart”

Artists include Robert Ashton, Godwin Bradbeer, Warren Breninger, Ian Dodd, Rennie Ellis, Sue Ford, George Gittoes, Gerard Groeneveld, Ponch Hawkes, Carol Jerrems, Peter Leiss, Steven Lojewski, Rod McNicol, David Moore, Jean-Marc Le Pechoux, Jon Rhodes, Wesley Stacey, Geoff Strong and Henry Talbot.

Graham Willett and John Arnold, (Eds)

Queen City of the South: Gay and Lesbian Melbourne

1 May 2011

Latrobe Journal 87
Paperback, 200 Pages, Published 2011

Queen City of the South: Gay and Lesbian Melbourne presents a history that will be new to many readers. Using archives, remembrance, experience and reflection, the various contributors bring new insights to our knowledge and understanding of Melbourne. The articles in this special issue of the La Trobe Journal cover both historical and contemporary subjects, including naked saints; homosexual eroticism in nineteenth century photography; gay subculture in the interwar years; the relationship between the two female pastoralists, Anne Drysdale and Caroline Newcomb; the 1970s as the decade of Gay Liberation, including memoirs and a portfolio of photographs taken by Rennie Ellis during Gay Pride Week in 1973; an account of how museums and libraries are now dealing with LGBT related material; and various other essays. This volume is a fascinating mix of information and analysis, investigation and reminiscence, and is an invaluable addition to our knowledge of this fabulous city!

“…. photos from the Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive represent a remarkably important record of Gay Pride Week in Melbourne in 1973. In the first place, the pictures are unique – not even the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives has any significant images of that memorable week. And, equally important, Ellis has captured in a few shots a sense of the variety of politics at work. From a protest march through the streets, to Gordon Doak and his one-man banner, to the picnic in the park which so unsettled the police. And he captures, too, the playful use of graffiti and the playful-serious use of radical drag to challenge gender norms. Here we really do see how pictures may indeed tell thousands of words”

(extract from an article by Graham Willett p.89 )