This exhibition features photographs from the Austinmer Pool project by Julia Coddington.
Julia is an internationally recognised street photographer whose photographs are known for their use of colour, movement and light. Her Austinmer pool series is her signature work and a project that she has been working on for several years and is ongoing.
Julia has gained attention internationally and her images have been selected as finalists in major international street photography festival contests, but her work is less well known in Australia. Head On provides her first opportunity to showcase her work on her home ground.
There is a developing tradition among Australian women street and documentary photographers to document the beach and ocean pools that line our city shores. For example, Narelle Autio, Brydie Piaf, Rachel Willis, Leslie Goldacre and Rosie English have, or are producing work with a focus on that environment.
The Austinmer pool project fits into that tradition and typifies small-town Australian beach culture. The pool is located in Austinmer, New South Wales, in the Northern Illawarra (about 55 kilometres south of Sydney). It is a gem of a place. The pool and surrounding beach are a focal point of the community where locals gather for their morning and evening swims, eat fish and chips, chat whilst walking their dogs, and where, on Thursday evenings, a local choir comes to sing.
On summer weekends the area comes alive when people from western and southern Sydney visit the pool, beach and park. Locals and visitors gather around the pool to experience the joy the place brings. It is a small place and people maintain a measure of personal space but they are also exposed in their near nakedness and everyone, largely stripped of the usual measures of ethnicity, class and culture, becomes equal. People simply frolic and enjoy the special place it is.
Julia loves to capture that diversity and energy in her images. There is not just a physical dynamism; people are also contemplative and at peace. The place is symbolic of our beachside culture, fused with our ethnic diversity and the images capture the dynamism, emotion and joy of the place.
Julia’s work is often complex and layered, as well as making the most of the uniquely Australian light. It has been described as reminiscent of Alex Webb’s but also has echoes of Max Dupain and Martin Parr. She likes to think it is uniquely hers.