Gallery exhibits a 'portrait' of Lismore
THERE could be no two people more capable of capturing the heart and soul of Lismore and the Northern Rivers than Jacklyn Wagner and Peter Derrett OAM.
Wagner worked as a photojournalist with The Northern Star for 20 years and as a teacher and photographer; Derrett has nurtured and portrayed most of the dramatic talent to come out of the region for the past 36 years.
Next week, a two-year collaboration between the photographers will open at The Lismore Regional Gallery in an exhibition of Lismore locals called Heart & Soul.
The "body of work documenting the diversity of people who make up this eclectic community” will then become part of the gallery's cherished permanent collection.
This "portrait of Lismore” is made up of more than 80 locals who were mostly unknown to the photographers who "at first sight we found interesting”.
"One of the nicest things about the opening night is it will bring an amazing collection of people together, who would not normally be together, in a place they may not normally come to,” Derrett said.
"The pleasure will be standing back and just watching that.
"It definitely says something about the power of photography.”
While both share a deep love of humankind, and respect for one another's work, they are the first to admit their styles, and modus operandi, could not be more different.
"Jacklyn is a photojournalist and that informs all her pictures,” Derrett said.
"She uses a 20mm wide-angle lens and her subjects are always in their own environment.
"I never look at the person in her photographs first, but what is around them. You learn all sorts of things from what is in the background.
"For me, it's the opposite: I go in for the person, bang bang. A quarter of that is by necessity, I can't hold the camera still for that long, and I use the flash.
"In the studio, there is nothing but the person. I look for the moment, for the feeling.”
It is a technique that has come, partly, from photographing more than 3000 dogs for his many books over his career, he says.
"Dogs are not thinking. It is about waiting for something to happen. Often, it is in the silence. Rather than 'what', I focus on 'the why'; the emotional connection.”
For Derrett, what the subject wore "or didn't wear” was important but, for Jacklyn, the honesty comes from "not what the person did or owned, but the environment in which they lived”.
"Where you live is unique to a person, it is an extension of who you are. Home can be many things.”
The journalist in Wagner meant the conversation before the shoot was key to "getting a sense of the person”, which is why each of her images is accompanied by a quote.
Derrett is known to generations of people in the region for having set up the beloved Theatre North with his wife, Dr Ros Derrett OAM, in 1981.
Brett Adlington of the Regional Gallery highlighted the "theatricality” in his work, which Derrett said was borne of his "fascination with young people in the arts”.
He is in touch with many of his proteges - from having taught drama and English at Lismore High School and Trinity for 36 years - to this day.
Both said they were very proud of what they had produced.
During her discussions it was reinforced to Wagner how "emotionally connected” Lismore is as a city.
The subjects exhibited range in age from 4 to 96 and both said it "was amazing” how often people's passion for the city "came out” and what "a fabulous cross-section of the community emerged”.
But that is not all this exhibition has revealed.
Watch this space, this body of work won't be the last collaboration we get to see between this heart and soul.