Vivid Songlines 36

Sydney May-June 2016 (32 photos)

This is the final part of my 8 part Vivid Sydney 2016 series.

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Each year, the Lighting of the Sails of the Sydney Opera House is the centrepiece of the Vivid festival. This year the show was entitled, Songlines.

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Songlines was directed by the Head of Indigenous Programming at Sydney Opera House, Rhoda Roberts. It was co-curated by the Sydney Opera House and Destination NSW. The visual content and animation was created by Artists in Motion.

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Celebrating First Nations’ spirituality and culture through the songlines of our land and sky, this year’s Lighting the Sails was about painting and celebrating country through a pattern of sharing systems, interconnected history lines and trade routes.

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For the eighth year of Vivid, Sydney Opera House was transformed into an animated canvas of Australian indigenous art featuring iconic contemporary works from Karla Dickens, Djon Mundine, Gabriella Possum Nungurrayi, Reko Rennie, Donny Woolagoodja, and the late Gulumbu Yunupingu.

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As the first indigenous work commissioned exclusively for the sails of the Sydney Opera House, this visual tapestry weaved through personal journeys, while celebrating the timeless themes and enduring art of Australia’s most influential contemporary First Nations artists, exclusive to Vivid Sydney.

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It rained during Vivid this year.

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Most people with the choice would stay at home on a cold Winter’s night especially when it is windy and rainy.

Most people.

I’m not “most people”.

Instead, I grabbed the raincoat, camera and tripod and headed straight into Vivid.

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I’ve been wanting it to rain during Vivid for a while. I was hopeful such a small added detail as rain would add another dimension to my photographs. I took the chance when it came and I’m very pleased with how the photographs came out.

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The display on the Opera House changes reasonably rapidly, yet I had to choose a longer exposure time to get the trails of rain, without blurring the Opera House display.

50mm focal length. Aperture F7.1. Shutter Speed 1/20 second. ISO 12500. Taken at 10:21pm.

… details matter.

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A few words of advice. If you’re photographing Vivid, bring a tripod. Each year I see so many people with cameras who don’t and then end up having to lean on a wall or rest their camera on a railing, or even lie on the ground, usually to minimal benefit. And a little knowledge about the interactions of the triad of Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO will be a big help.

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Artist: Karla Dickens (Wiradjuri people) was born in Sydney in 1967; the Year of the Referendum that gave Aboriginal people human status in Australia. A double dawn for Aboriginal people; a major national political and social shift, and an innocent newborn seemingly as yet without any connection to her history and Aboriginal heritage. Karla’s Aboriginality and sexuality profoundly inform her work – her insight and breadth of artistic practice both deeply embraces the notion of identity politics and yet works with universal human experiences.

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Artist: Djon Mundine OAM (Bandjalung people) is a member of the Bandjalung people of northern New South Wales. Djon has an extended career as a curator, activist, writer, and occasional artist and is renown as the concept curator for the Aboriginal Memorial installation permanently exhibited at the National Gallery of Australia. Djon was awarded the Order of Australia in 1993 and is currently Indigenous Curator-Contemporary Art at the Campbelltown Art Centre.

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Artist: Gabriella Possum (Nungurrayi people) was born in 1967 and she is the eldest daughter of the internationally renowned artist Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri who was awarded the Order of Australia in 2002. Gabriella is best known for her Seven Sisters paintings (see first photo of this post), with her iconic depiction of the Milky Way and she also paints Bush Tucker and Grandmother’s Country stories.

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Artist: Reko Rennie (Kamilaroi/Gamilaraay/Gummaroi people) explores through his art what it means to be an urban Aboriginal in contemporary Australian society. Reko received no formal artistic training but as a teenager discovered graffiti which became an all-consuming passion. His art and installations continually explore issues of identity, race, law & justice, land rights, stolen generations and other issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in contemporary society.

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Artist: Donny Woolagoodja (Worora people), Mowanjum Artists Spirit of the Wandjina Aboriginal Corporation (MASWAC) chairman, is the fourth eldest of ten children. His father, Sam, was the last of the Worora banmen (lawman and medicine man). Donny’s upbringing bridges the white Christian beliefs he became aware of at the mission churches and the ancient Wandjina laws his father taught him allowing him to move easily between his Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal people.

Vivid Songlines 25-8

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Artist: Gulumbu Yunupingu (1954-2012, Gumatj people) painted Garak, the starry universe, on barks and poles. She came to national prominence when she won the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award (2004), and to international acclaim in 2006 with her scaled-up version of Garak on permanent display at Musee du Quai Branly (2006).

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Artist: Artists In Motion is a Creative Project company that are highly regarded as pioneers of the industry. Known for their work around the world they produce all of their creations from their Sydney studio. Previous projects include content creation for the Beijing Olympics Ceremonies, Vancouver Winter Olympic Ceremonies, Hong Kong Pulse Shows, Alfa Bank Projection Moscow, 1st European Games Baku, the iconic UAE production “Clusters of Light”, as well as previous works for VIVID.

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Vivid Songlines 36-35


This is Part 8 of my 8 part VIVID Sydney 2016 series.

This year, I’ve presented 137 photos in 8 posts. I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing it from wherever in the World you are.

All of my photography from this series and previous years of VIVID Sydney going back to 2012 can be found here:
VIVID Sydney page

Leica Etcetera, Photography Etcetera

VIVID 2016: Songlines


108 thoughts on “VIVID 2016: Songlines

  1. KG says:

    What an amazing show and needless to say, beautiful photographs 🙂
    The rain did add such an interesting effect to the photographs. It looked like a wavelength.
    I wonder when they start preparing for this show. It would take so much effort.
    It’s always a pleasure to see your presentations of such a lovely show, LD
    And I will remember to take my tripod 😉

    • Thank you so much. I believe planning commences at least 18 months or more before appearing to the public.
      The rain was a visual bonus for sure. Worth getting wet for. 🙂
      Low light – remember the tripod. It will make a big difference to your photography.

  2. As always….gorgeous, both art in the event and your artistry in the photographs. Thank you for braving the rain, it adds a wonderful dimension. And, as I’ve said just about every time you post, you’re the reason Sydney is on my bucket list!

    • Thank you for your generous remarks. I was so hopeful the rain effect would turn out that I was actually smiling when I reviewed the initial shots. Once I had my parameters as I wanted, I just took about 50 shots, loving all those rainbow like patterns.

      I do hope you get to visit Sydney and Australia one day.

  3. Lovely for this year’s VIVID to pay homage to the First Peoples and to showcase their art on such a scale. What an array, what a platform. I like what you did there with the rain shots. The water looks like wavelengths, or something you might see on a heart beat chart – gives the impression that the Opera House is full of life, brimming with so much energy. Hope your gear didn’t get wet and that you were well prepared 🙂

    *applause* Take a bow. You don’t seem the kind to do standing ovations…so perhaps take another bow 😀

    • Thank you so much, Mabel.

      I suspect sales of Indigenous artworks may experience a bit of a boom. 🙂 The rain shots worked out incredibly well – it’s all about the light.

      Getting wet is part of the fun about rain. 😉 Besides, the camera gear is waterproof.

  4. I have indeed thoroughly enjoyed this series Mr Dragon. This post, a particular favourite. I love the way you capture the rain! Superbly done! Looking forward to next year. 🙂

  5. Thank you again this year for another wonderful tour of Vivid Sydney, Draco. Truly awesome displays recorded beautifully in your photographs.

  6. An amazing set of pictures. Such wonderful projections for the theme. When I saw Songlines, the first thing I thought was Bruce Chatwin, whose book is formative in terms of my knowledge about it. And good on you for getting out in the rain. It makes the images a bit special.

    • I haven’t read that book. Thanks for letting me know about it.

      The rain shots were taken early in the week. By the weekend, the storm had intensified and was dubbed “stormageddon”. Beachside houses were destroyed and Vivid was shut down for the weekend. I’m glad I went before the storms came.

  7. Wow, 32 fabulous shots of this magnificent Sydney Opera House for this grand annual event! Thoroughly enjoyed your eight post and all 137 awesome photos. We are so very spoiled, say the least. Thank you, thank you, Dragon! 🙂

  8. As always, a delight in images. I did try to find whatever stories the Gabrielle Possum works are related to, but all I could find were the images themselves. Is it that the title “Grandmother’s Country Stories” is the name for her work rather than artwork depicting images of a story? The art is the story? Inquiring minds–at work and unable to do a thorough search–wish to know.

    • Aboriginal Art is not Art as we know it. Rather it is based on stories and knowledge that has passed down through the generations. It is a way to communicate meaning and ideas about important cultural and spiritual beliefs. Mostly the stories behind the Aboriginal art works are connected to individuals through family lineages, as groups become custodians for particular parts of cultural events and stories. The art is often produced communally, as artists work together on their individual paintings, and this reinforces social and cultural values. Group cohesion and interdependence is further supported by the production of paintings.

      Traditional Aboriginal art requires authority, knowledge, association and recognition by the artist who produces the painting. Artists are only permitted to paint the stories and subjects that they are entitled to under traditional law. Aboriginal art has different levels of interpretation, with the greater knowledge belonging to elders of the Aboriginal group, who understand the stories in detail. Therefore it is possible for outsiders to understand some aspects of the stories, while more sacred sections may be withheld from descriptions or paintings.

      So in the specific example of Possum’s work, the art IS her grandmother’s stories. You just need the knowledge to read it. To us outsiders, it is beautiful artwork. I hope that helps.

  9. To ending in apothéose, the opera with all this wonderful colors. Superb !!!!! Have a nice week ahead
    I can’t imagine that the rain fall in Australia 😉

    • LOL. Australia is one of the driest continents but it does rain here. 🙂

      Thank you so much. It’s what everybody wants to see. It was a wonderful display of patterns and colours.

    • Thank you. It was definitely worth the effort of getting a bit wet. Doing the little bit extra is what it is all about, as you would appreciate. Have a great day ahead.

  10. A show of extraordinary proportions, Draco. Your photography here is astounding, taking in the night show, while it’s raining. I’ve been up close several times to the Sydney Opera House and there are so many textures and angles, how they created the light show here is incredible. And the aboriginal designs themselves are yet another statement of beauty and extraordinary. Thank you so much.

    • Thank you very much for your kind words. Up close, you can’t help but want to touch the tiles and explore the angles. It was genius to turn the shells into a canvas for a light show. The Aboriginal theme was quite welcome and interesting.

      I could see the potential of the rain. I had to take the chance to get the shot I envisioned.

  11. Mr Draco .. Wow! What a display! The opera house looked spectacular. So many talented artists. Detail does matter .. And so does a tripod! I think the photographer did a sensational job! 😃

    • Thanks so much, Julie. I think I did alright. Always room for improvement and now I need to find some new vantage points to photograph from. 🙂

      The patterns are so intricate and how they merge from one to another is fascinating. I never get tired of watching the shows.

  12. mi piacerebbe sapere per quante ore la tua immensa passione per la fotografia ti ha tenuto in una notte fredda e piovosa in piedi per poter donare anche a noi così incredibilmente lontani dalla tua terra e da questi straordinarie irproduzioni artistiche in luce queste stupefacenti meraviglie!
    anche tu sei un artista fantastico!
    grazie, grazie, grazie!!!!

    • Roma non fu costruita in un giorno. Allo stesso modo, avevo bisogno di diverse notti per ottenere tutte le mie fotografie. E ‘la mia passione.

      Grazie mille. 🙂 🙂 🙂

  13. I really loved Lighting the Sails this year. I thought Songlines was amazing, but your photography just makes it pop! It took my breath away. And your visit in the rain produced some stunning shots. Bowing down to the photography master! XD

  14. I am just gutted to have missed Vivid while visiting Sydney (although I am not gutted to have missed stormageddon) but I always know where to go for my Vivid fix. And I have to say that ‘Songlines’ may be my favorite Vivid to date. Perhaps it is that I am in the NT right now, but these images really spoke to me. It is difficult to single out a favorite, so I am not going to try. Tremendous job as always.

    • Thanks very much. Interestingly, when I arrived at Uluru, I saw an original painting of the Seven Sisters, which features in my first photo.

      This year’s was particularly vibrant. They did a great job. I’m glad I could show it to you.

  15. Wow… What a treat !!!

    Hard to image how stunning it have been there, watching it in person…

    Though I have seen scores images from this place, I never saw anything like this.

    Thanks again for sharing, Draco 🙂

  16. It’s always good to see this building glowing with images, so attractive! 🙂 I must say, your rain effects are stunning, almost looks like something coming from an alien ship! 😀

  17. Wow! Thanks for a great post… for giving us an small insight into the art of the First Nations folk and for sharing the camera settings!! I am, with your permission, going to try something copy-cat! 😉

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