What does our community mean to you? Do you ever pass individuals in the street when you’re out and about your daily tasks … and wonder what their story is?
Local photographer Ronnie Grammatica is a photographer who’s still exploring what it means to be a part of the Greater Port Macquarie area, after relocating here from his native Italy, and his audiovisual project, Faces of the Hastings, shares what he’s discovered so far …
Hi Ronnie. We last chatted with you for FOCUS around two years ago. Now that you’ve lived locally for a while, what do you most enjoy about the Greater Port Macquarie area?
Hi Jo! Yeah, it’s been a while – and a lot has changed since then. What hasn’t changed is me enjoying life in a regional area. I live in a rural area near Beechwood, and it’s beautiful. It’s pretty special to watch the sunrise and sunset from home.
I have a deep sense of belonging now, and it’s been growing in the last couple of years. I like the sense of community in the area. Everybody is very supportive and friendly, not only in times of need.
Your photographic journey has certainly taken a few twists and turns! Do you still photograph sporting events these days – especially mountain bike comps?
Well, it has. I don’t photograph as much sport as I used to. My focus lately has been on my artistic projects and teaching – the parts of the job that I really enjoy. I feel really lucky to be able to do these projects and share them with people through exhibitions and workshops. Using photography as a visual language to tell stories – especially local stories – has been my main focus.
Tell us a bit about your latest project – Faces of the Hastings. How/why did you come up with the concept for this public art installation?
I approached PMHC to get involved in the ArtWalk 2018 and when I caught up with Arts and Culture Officer Skye Frost, we just clicked. We were tossing ideas around about the bicentenary commemoration and as soon as we started to talk about public art and street art, we were finishing each other sentences.
Faces of the Hastings has happened naturally, I guess. We’re both passionate about engaging with the community and in bringing art to the people; the project is a reflection of that.
In this project I wanted people to reflect on our community. There are faces that we pass every day in the street, often unnoticed. I wanted to capture some of these faces and put them back on the street, in the form of large unmissable posters. This was to prompt people to stop and reflect, to look beyond the facade. Who is this person? Who are we collectively? Who are we as a community?
Art is so important; it’s a powerful tool that helps us understand and make sense of the world around us. This is why I am passionate about bringing art to the people. I get completely excited about street art – it’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s engaging, it’s in your face!
How did you select the people you photographed for the project?
The aim of this project is to capture and portray a cross section of our community. So, anyone would fit in! I was looking for characters, interesting people who would make a good picture – but not limited to that. I’m interested in their stories and also, I wanted to show the diversity in our community. I tried to get people from all walks all life.
There’s already been one instalment of Faces of the Hastings ... many readers will remember the superb black and white portraits that adorned the walls of the old (now demolished!) Food for Less building in Port Mac. Where/when will the next instalments of this exhibition take place?
After the great experience in Port Macquarie, we’re bringing Faces of the Hastings to the Wauchope town centre. There are three instalments: Oxley Lane, Hastings Street, and Bransdon Street/Brownings Lane.
These will be on exhibition in May 2019.
Now, Faces of the Hastings isn’t just about the visual aspect, is it? How can viewers access the audio component of this exhibition?
The Faces of the Hastings exhibition showcases the diversity of our community, providing fascinating insight into who we are, where we have come from, and what community means to us. Subjects have been interviewed about their connection with the local area, and audio snippets of their stories will be available.
The photographs will be presented with the option of an interactive audio guide tour using izi.travel app. This will allow people to discover the different installations and enjoy fascinating stories about the faces they are observing.
All you need to do is to visit the exhibition in Wauchope and scan the QR code on the info panel next to the images. It will take you straight to the audio guide tour. You can download the izi.travel app prior, or do it on the spot. You just need a smartphone and internet connection.
If, for some reason you can’t make it to Wauchope, you can always check out the images and the interviews online. Just search for the Faces of the Hastings, or Port Macquarie on the audio guide section of www.izi.travel from 1st May 2019.
Whom would you like to thank for their support of Faces of the Hastings?
There are many people to thank for their support and participation!
I’d like to thank all the people who stood in front of my camera, for sharing their stories. This project wouldn’t be possible without them.
Thanks to PMHC for supporting the exhibition, the amazing team that has been working with me: Arts & Culture Officer Skye Frost and the teams at the Glasshouse and at the Manning Regional Art Gallery in Taree.
ABC journalist Kia Handley, for helping me with the audio interviews, and the Hastings Co-op for letting us install the posters on their premises in Wauchope.
A special thanks to all the different community groups who have welcomed me, my camera and my microphone – there are too many to mention here, but you know who you are – and thank you.
A big thank you to my family for the ongoing support. I wouldn’t be where I am now without them.
What’s something you’ve learned/enjoyed most about the whole process of organising, compiling and installing Faces of the Hastings?
Seeing my work taking shape and installed on the streets makes me feel proud.
I’ll admit that since moving to Australia, I have struggled with isolation at times. With this project I’ve had a chance to get out there and interact with people. I’ve stopped strangers at the pub, on the street – wherever – to take their portraits, and there have been people stopping by while I was shooting on the streets.
It’s been a great way for me to engage with and really get to know our community. Meeting new people and listening to their stories has been the part I’ve enjoyed the most about this project.
Where can we find out more info – about Faces of the Hastings, and also about any other projects you may have planned?
The whole project will be available on www.izi.travel
You can find out more about Faces of the Hastings on the PMHC website’s in the arts and culture section.
I’ll have more news, including upcoming projects on my website at www.ronniegrammatica.com/journal
Interview: Jo Robinson.
Ronnie Grammatica pictured bottom left this page.