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Stories of Light shine brightly on WH!P Collective

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“Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark. Begin at the beginning… Make some light,” says American author Kate DiCamillo.

And, that’s exactly what a creative Newcastle group will do at the Watt Space Gallery on Friday 8 March.

Stories of Light, a collaboration with the Newcastle Writers Festival (NWF), University of Newcastle (UoN) and proudly supported by City of Newcastle (CN), is a two-month program celebrating and encouraging local contemporary photographic storytelling from 25 members of the WH!P Collective (Women of the Hunter in Photography). 

Katherine Williams’ Vermilion Blues.

Led by UoN art curator Gillian Shaw and WH!P founder Edwina Richards, the exhibition features work from some of the region’s leading female snappers.

It also acknowledges a collection by Liz O’Brien, an original and active member of the Collective until her passing in 2022.

One of WH!P’s initial values was to address, through positive action, the persistent gender bias in the professional world of photography.

Fittingly, Stories of Light launches on International Women’s Day (IWD), which in 2024 carries the theme Count Her In.

“The WH!P Collective is a diverse, multi-genre group,” Richards said.

“We share a common fascination and respect for our chosen medium but our approaches, passions and skills are really different.

“You’ll find unifying threads of writing, story and place throughout the show, however the variety in responses is huge.

Karen Brown’s Hopper Lounge.

“Storytelling, which truly reflects a place and people, is complex and deeply personal.

“It takes bravery and time following rabbit holes and red herrings.

“I sometimes only know I’m onto something when my heart beats faster. 

“They can be sparked by a brief but, in most cases, they lie outside commercial constraints.

“Stories of Light is an anthology of these kinds of stories, which continue to shape us as professionals… and we are very grateful to Watt Space for time and space to share them.”

Every Saturday at the gallery, the public can drop in and meet some of the award-winning artists who’ll be happy to discuss the show, their careers and all things photography. 

A schedule of free workshops will be staged at Watt Space and city locations throughout and beyond the duration of the exhibition, which ends on 4 May.

These include a Voices Of Women and Short Stories in Cyanotype session by Clare Weeks and Kelly Barlin respectively as part of the Newcastle Writers Festival; Light Speed Dating in the Park at the 4 May Olive Tree Market facilitated by Hilda Bezuidenhout; a collage seminar with NDIS providers Nexcare and Karen Brown; Spotlight an inner city night-time class with Edwina Richards; Stories of Self/Conversations about Authorship and Socially Engaged Practic” with Hannah Robinson and Melanie Muddle (founders ‘And Then’ social-arts agency); and Finding my story: A creative induction to inspire storytelling about people and place” from Katherine Williams and Professor Tamara Blakemore.

“They’ll encourage people to view the show and their city with fresh eyes, learn skills, experiment and play,” Richards added.

Em Warren’s untitled BnW.

NWF founder Rosemarie Milsom said the festival was thrilled to bring WH!P Collective members into the program fold.

“Our event is centred on storytelling and collaborating with WH!P opens up new possibilities to explore different ways of conveying stories, especially local ones,” she explained,.

“We’re always eager to connect with other art forms.”

A former lecturer in Photomedia, Shaw has been observing WH!P with “avid interest” since its formation and believes the idea of photo media telling stories is a perfect adjunct to the Newcastle Writers Festival. 

“The diversity of practice and the diversity of lives all brought together through a passion for the medium is rare and wonderful,” she said.

“I program each year a show that speaks to NWF, which draws more than 5,000 visitors, often from outside Newcastle.

“So, I am thrilled to have this one across both International Women’s Day and the festival.

“Each artist is presenting personal and complex work that will be really compelling for audiences.”

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