Susan Sontag, in her discussion of the inventory of photography since 1839, noted that seemingly everything has been captured in a photograph. This must certainly have seemed the case when twenty years ago, in 1997, Keri Whiteley set about curating the first exhibition of photographic prints from the Robinson Collection, Robinson & Son: A Photographic Studio, for Devonport Regional Gallery. This inaugural exhibition provided the public with their first glimpse into the tens of thousands of photographs taken by Bert and Albert Robinson in North-West Tasmania, over a 50-year period during the mid-20th century.
Over the past twenty years, Devonport Regional Gallery has held sixteen Robinson Collection exhibitions that have collectively served as a window into life on the North-West Coast of Tasmania during the 20th century. Through these exhibitions, the Robinson Collection continues to be a source of intrigue, nostalgia and reverence for Gallery staff, community members and visitors alike. Past & Present Tense features a selection of photographic prints from each Robinson exhibition to date, accompanied by reflections from artists, curators, researchers, volunteers and others who have come to know the collection over the past two decades. Past & Present Tense also prompts visitors to reflect on the value of this collection, and share their ideas for the next chapter of the Robinson archive.
-Erin Wilson, Curator
Each of the images below has been selected by someone who has come to know the collection; each sharing why this photograph has resonated with them.
‘This beautifully framed photo of Pop was taken by my father; it captures a relaxed Bluff Beach with his lifesaver mates. I’m unsure if Dad orchestrated his father’s quizzical look or pop heard noises behind him, but I love that in 2017, I am still able to access this intimate moment.’
-Dave Robinson, son of Albert Robinson
‘Some of the most fascinating images are those cloaked in obscurity – such as this funeral procession along one of Devonport’s suburban streets. We can look at such images as something outside of and beyond our own reality, but equally, they permit a personal, and at times confronting, avenue through which to consider social assumptions and cultural practices. ‘
-Alison Savage, Guest Curator, Tales from Suburbia 2011
‘The act of art making and what we respond to, that image that makes one stop, fascinates me. This image reminds me of my grandmother, her garden, and the energy she would deliver to this space. The last time I saw her I was four. She was a kind, generous person. That is why I remember her so vividly.’
-Lisa Garland, Artist ReViewing 2015
‘The photo is of my grandfather John Russell with his fleet of buses and hire car. The photo was taken at the Bluff together with two of his sons and other drivers. Typical of the time the drivers are wearing dust coats. Note the stone border in the foreground, long gone.’
–Rodney Russell, Robinson Collection volunteer from 1993
‘Seeing this photograph for me recalled Lloyd Rees’ painting The Road to Berry (1946–47). The elevation, the angle of the road and the framing of Rees’ work stayed with me as an exercise of precision and poetry, and was recalled many times in the North-West Tasmanian landscape. For me, the Robinson image is its precursor.’
-Dunja Rmandic, Curator of Collections 2013-2015
Past & Present Tense : 20 years of the Robinson Collection is on display at Devonport Regional Gallery until 27 August 2017.