Lismore Regional Gallery curator Fiona Fraser, Peter Derrett and National Portrait Gallery in Canberra curator Joanna Gilmour.
Lismore Regional Gallery curator Fiona Fraser, Peter Derrett and National Portrait Gallery in Canberra curator Joanna Gilmour. Sophie Moeller

City's soul comes to heart

IN THE past 12 months 100,000 people have come through the doors of the new Lismore Regional Gallery, three times more than the old space used to attract a year.

So it was with great gratitude the community came out to support the Heart and Soul exhibition last Friday in a setting that celebrates the passion of the city's people.

Such is the pull of our new gallery that National Portrait Gallery in Canberra curator Joanna Gilmour made the trip north to open Peter Derrett and Jacklyn Wagner's exhibition of 84 photographic portraits.

In her speech, Ms Gilmour made reference to the history of portraiture at the National Portrait Gallery in London, which existed under a "strict set of rules” to glorify the "great, famous and powerful” of the Victorian era.

Over time photographic portraiture has emerged to represent a more "vivid and complex story” about its subjects that "sets them apart” and "transcends classand education”, she said.

To be photographed is to enter into a "contract between artist and sitter” in which the sitter "generously agrees” to reveal themselves.

For two years, Ms Wagner and Mr Derrett have spent their time looking for people, who "at first sight we found interesting”, the results of which have produced a diverse and intriguing body of work.

Throughout this period those photographed were mostly unknown to the photographers.

The sum effect is that this project is very much a "portrait” of Lismore.

Ms Gilmour thanked the sitters who were part of the exhibition for "agreeing to be part of the contract and as well as their generosity for allowing themselves to be revealed”.

"I also thank you for giving me an excuse to come to Lismore,” she said.

Brett Adlington also made a speech alongside John Paterson of the New CameraHouse, who donated to the printing of the portraits, and thanked MrDerrett and Ms Wagner for gifting their work to the gallery as part of its permanent collection.

Heart and Soul will run until November 25.

Today at 11am join the artists as they discuss their approach to this project, the people they photographed and the legacy of projects like this one.