(Australia 14 May 1957 – )
72.5 x 89.5 cm image (sight); 98.4 x 112.5 x 3.7 cm frame
As part of a generation of Australian women artists who came to the fore in the early 1980s, Anne Zahalka’s practice has always been concerned with questioning dominant myths and cultural constructs. The broad sweep of Zahalka’s oeuvre has often been underpinned by a common strategy: the world in her images appears as theatre where place, gender and national identity are questioned.
Many of Zahalka’s more recent works are located outside the studio though the natural environment can be seen to be equally constructed. In ‘The girls #2, Cronulla beach’, the photographer has returned to the seaside, which was the setting for one of her most iconic series, ‘Bondi: playground of the Pacific’ 1989. The girls.. was made as a response to the Cronulla riots and after an introduction to Aheda Zanetti, the designer of the burqini. Zahalka ‘also knew of a documentary film being made following the recruiting of Lebanese men and women into the lifesaving club. It seemed like there was change adrift on the beachfront.’1 The permutations and post-modern anxiety about what constitutes Australian identity seen in the ‘Bondi…’ series, have spilled out into the real world. But the image of these young Muslim women lifeguards seems to celebrate the potential to transgress accepted value systems.
1. A Zahalka et al, ‘Hall of mirrors: Anne Zahalka portraits 1987-2007’, Australian centre of photography, Sydney 2007, p 43
Centre for Contemporary Photography, Hall of mirrors: Anne Zahalka portraits 1987-2007, 2007, (illus.).
Hall of mirrors: Anne Zahalka, portraits 1987-2007:
Australian vernacular photography, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 08 Feb 2014–18 May 2014