We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.

🛈 Find out what you need to know before visiting


First impressions: camera obscura



Katthy Cavaliere


11 Nov 1972 – 23 Jan 2012

  • Details

    Media category
    Materials used
    camera obscura gelatin silver photographs
    110.0 x 130.0 cm
    Gift of the Estate of Katthy Cavaliere 2022
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © Estate of Katthy Cavaliere

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Katthy Cavaliere

    Works in the collection


  • About

    Working across performance, installation and photography, Katthy Cavaliere transformed the everyday and the intimate into symbolically loaded, yet distinctly personal, narratives that unravelled within the public space of the gallery. Often incorporating her personal possessions into her installations, Cavaliere produced work in which the theatrical infiltrated the domestic interior.

    During her 2005 survey show at Bathurst Regional Art Gallery Cavaliere took up residence in the cottage once owned by Australian artist Donald Friend and Donald Murray in Hill End. She converted this temporary residence into a camera obscura, using a makeshift lens made out of piping to project an inverted view of the garden onto the darkened interior. Two photographs by Cavaliere in the Gallery’s collection, day dreams: camera obscura (negative) and day dreams: camera obscura (positive), stem from this project. With their haunting and semi-abstract compositions – a fleeting trace of the world enclosed within the camera itself – these mural-like photographs were central to Cavaliere’s engagement with the photographic medium and interest in the peephole as device that both frames and transforms the world as well as her interest the domestic interior as a mutable, magical space. Cavaliere returned to this technique in 2008 during a second trip to Hill End when she constructed a mobile camera obscura affixed to the back of a flatbed utility so it could traverse the town. It was during this trip that First impressions: camera obscura was produced.

    By turning a cottage or a vehicle into a camera, Cavaliere inscribes an external scene onto the surface of an interior space. Public and private seep into one another in a poetic reiteration of the underlying concerns of Cavaliere’s practice. Preoccupied with family and childhood narratives and the residual traces they leave on objects, Cavaliere constantly negotiated the edge between the public and the private. As Daniel Mudie Cunningham, the curator of her 2015-16 posthumous retrospective Loved, writes, ‘the story of Katthy’s life is the story of the eye. Fixated on life as if seen through a peephole or lens, Katthy presented the world – her world – as an inverted looking glass, reflecting back a life lived inside out, back to front and upside down’.

Other works by Katthy Cavaliere

See all 9 works