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Lismore Echo gets a new photographic contributor

Del Johnson - Christmas 2017 in Lismore.
Del Johnson - Christmas 2017 in Lismore. Peter Derrett

FOR many from Lismore Peter Derrett OAM needs no introduction, especially if you were lucky enough to have him as your drama teacher at Lismore High or Trinity Catholic College. Or for that matter, you took part in the many community dramatics, such as those he directed, and took part in, for Theatre North.

It is with genuine delight I am able to run the front page of this Christmas edition with one of his photographs. It is a great way to let you all know, from next year, Peter will be a regular contributor to The Echo.

The Good Light will put an aspect of, or personality from, Lismore, in his frame. We're lucky to have him.

Peter's career spans nearly 50 years. He has taken part in countless photographic exhibitions and publications. In 2007, he was awarded OAM for services to regional theatre and dramatic education. He has also become one of the country's most recognised photographers. He regularly takes pictures for Opera Australia and has mentored many of his theatrical proteges, many of whom have gone on to do big things in the world.

He is currently a member of Getty and is preparing for a major exhibition with Jacklyn Wagner at our New Regional Gallery called Heart & Soul next year.

Peter's front page is of Delcil Johnson, 19, and is a recreation of one of his favourite photos, taken of a boy in Venice.

LET THERE BE LIGHT: Candle Boy in Venice. This is one of my favourite photos. My wife and I have been fortunate to visit Venice many times. We love to go to the Celebrations in Salute Cathedral at the end of November. The young people of Venice come to light thousands of candles for the celebrations. It is the start of the lead up to Christmas.
LET THERE BE LIGHT: Candle Boy in Venice. This is one of my favourite photos. My wife and I have been fortunate to visit Venice many times. We love to go to the Celebrations in Salute Cathedral at the end of November. The young people of Venice come to light thousands of candles for the celebrations. It is the start of the lead up to Christmas. PETER DERRETT

When Del's family arrived from Africa they were taken in by the congregation at St Paul's Presbyterian Church on Keen St, where his father, Adeyeni, is a lay preacher.

Del remembers how "welcoming” the church was to his family who had escaped war torn, Ebola inflicted, Serra Leone.

Del Johnson in front of his parish church, St Pauls Presbyterian Church in Lismore.
Del Johnson in front of his parish church, St Pauls Presbyterian Church in Lismore. Sophie Moeller

Adeyeni first came to Australia 12 years ago with his daughter. Del and his mother followed four years later, having had to stay healthy to comply with our strict quarantine laws. He remembers his first Christmas in Lismore clearly.

"It blew my mind,” he says. He was delighted by the carols and fireworks and says the people were a lot more giving than in Africa, given the circumstances.

"I needed to photograph Del for a dance program he was in. I was so struck by his vulnerability yet joy at having survived being a refugee in Serra Leone and making it to Lismore,” says Peter.

Having completed his schooling at Trinity, Del is now pursuing a career in modelling. He says he feels very much part of the community, as do all the Africans who have made Lismore their home, many of whom are part of the Uniting and Catholic Church congregations.

Delcil Johnson.
Delcil Johnson. Peter Derrett

Our photo demonstrates the Christian values that historically underpin our city, how accepting of diversity we are, and how Christmas is about goodwill to all mankind.


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