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Our Ode to Photography

The relationship of the photograph and prose has a rich and fertile collaborative history, with such famed partnerships as Man Ray and Belgian poet, Adon Lacroix as well as Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith, poetry and photography have been muse and inspiration to one another in a variety of ways. Yet, in 2015 it would seem poetry and photography are not often in collaboration, or not often enough in the ACP's opinion. This prompted us to organise our inaugural Art After Dark event, for the Spectrum Now Festival with the theme 'An Ode To Photography'. Our exhibitions of Christian Thompson and group show Dear Sylvia allowed us the opportunity to celebrate the relationship between text and image. This was an invitation to meditate upon the poetry spoken and the works hung on the gallery walls. We endeavoured to open a dialogue up between like minded artists - those whose works were on display in the gallery and the exciting voices of Sydney's poetry scene. The synchronicity found in moments and references between the images on the walls and the short pieces read by each poet created an exciting space of aesthetic exploration in text and image. 

Curator Claire Monneraye describes the exhibition Dear Sylvia as a conversation with the themes of Sylvia Plath's poetry. The poets at ‘An Ode to Photography’ joined the dialogue, often referring to self-identity, gender, intimacy and social norms. As each of the eight poets read throughout the evening, the works in the gallery took on new meaning, transforming as new ideas emerged. 

Thank you to Maclay Heriot for his Polaroid magic throughout the night and to Stone Pitt of Bitemarks for the perfect music vibes. The Venice Beach backdrop Maclay was using was most appropriate as the mass of people created in almost tropical heat in the galleries. It was wonderful to have a full and completely engaged audience for the poetry readings and it was a joy to have the ACP filled with the hubbub of people talking and drinking throughout the night.

It was an enormous honour to have some of the most interesting Sydney poets, including Elizabeth Allen, Niobe Syme, Eileen Chong, Jane Gibian, Mark Riboldi, Kate Middleton, Fiona Wright and Susie Anderson. We would especially like to thank Elizabeth Allen for all her wonderful help in organising such a strong line-up of Sydney’s poetry scene. It was so rewarding to have poets write new material for the evening, inspired by the themes of the exhibition.

We leave you with the work of Elizabeth Allen and Mark Riboldi written for the evening.

The following poem was the first for the evening, from Allen;



Imagine being

Sylvia Plath and

Ted Hughes--

not having

Sylvia Plath and

Ted Hughes to

go before you,

smashing a path

with their words,

those steel-tipped

ice breakers.


Elizabeth Allen 2015


And Riboldi's work, whose title is taken from the group show;


Dear Sylvia


Awake, arise, lift your gaze

Beyond the setting sun


See the futility of inevitability

Let the walls around you fall

Like the icons in your halls


Throw the shackles from your ankles

Starve your childhood-reared protectors

They served well. They’re not you.

Take one step and through


And, if that it isn’t you

Walk around it to the other side


Where the sun will rise again

Where I will be standing

In whatever shape you get here


I too fear the darkness, dear Sylvia.


Mark Riboldi 2015





Images courtesy © ACP, Image 2 © Maclay Heriot