Imaging and Imagining the Pacific: A journey through myth, beauty and reality 25 Nov - 14 Dec 2010

An exhibition marking the 75th Anniversary of John Macmillan Brown's bequest.

Stepping back almost one hundred years, to the beginning of the twentieth century, this exhibition revisits photographs taken by John Macmillan Brown on his journeys around the Pacific Islands and juxtaposes them against other photographic images of the era. Macmillan Brown's photographs are modest and reveal the integrity of his desire to learn more about the Pacific. His fascination with the Pacific is further evidenced in his two fiction novels, Limanora: the island of progress and Riallaro: the archipelago of exiles, which were published under the pseudonym Godfrey Sweven1. They describe an idyllic world with imaginary, utopian islands.

Those seeking to understand the history of Non-Western cultures can often be misled if the subjective quality of photographic documentation is not taken into account. The photographs in this exhibition depict vastly different representations of the Pacific Islands. While Macmillan Brown's photographs reflect a more realistic and natural imagery, other professional photographers were creating an imagined image of the Pacific. By manipulating the deceptive ability of the camera, these photographers cast their models as stereotypes or charged each image with primal and erotic intent. These less truthful representations fuelled international misunderstandings of the diverse Pacific cultures.

Curator: Lydia Butler

1. John Macmillan Brown. published under pseudonym Godfrey Sweven (1845-1935). Limanora: the island of progress, Riallaro: the archipelago of exiles, 1931, 2nd ed.