19 October 2022

Capturing those kind and creased faces that mirror Goulburn

| John Thistleton
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Man in front of photo on wall

Bob Christie left school early, started work with Adam Lighting and later painted cars for Neville Burrows. Bob is among the 100 people featured in Portraits on Main. Photo: Tina Milson.

Over in seconds, pivotal moments nonetheless can shape people’s lives. Goulburn photographer Tina Milson has recorded 100 of those moments. They began to emerge when Tina, one of five photographers commissioned for the NSW Government’s Art of Ageing project in 2017, began approaching Goulburn’s senior residents.

That body of work has evolved into a new exhibition, Portraits on Main, which opens for six weeks next month, after being postponed due to COVID last year. It’s an extraordinary endeavour revealing faces lined with life’s experiences and accompanied by succinct biographies.

Some stories are deeply personal. People overcoming tragedy. Or triumphing with generosity. Or starting a business, or propagating native seeds, joining the gay rights movement, winning a national speedway event and many more uplifting stories, all linked by the people’s contributions to Goulburn and a spark of hope for the future.

So what pivotal moments shaped Tina Milson’s life with a camera?

She still sees the photograph that set her off on that journey to public exhibitions. On the family’s farm near Singleton in the Hunter Valley, the then-11-year-old saw a bright-orange pumpkin on a wire fence covered in ladybirds that were eating it. The setting sun threw red over the striking scene. She raced inside, snatched up her father’s camera and took the shot.

“Then I discovered, much to my sadness, there was no film in the camera,” Tina said.

Nevertheless, her father, Arthur Bowman, always with his camera at the ready, had inspired her to save for her own Kodak Instamatic and continue with photography. That drive comes from her mother, Paula, too. She had met Arthur during World War II when he was a Lancaster pilot. She followed him back to Australia on ”the brides’ ship” in 1946.

Now in her 100th year, Paula lives in Sydney and took up painting and drawing during COVID. She turned out beautifully painted cards, which she sent to friends, and is about to hold her first pop-up exhibition.

Person walking with dogs

Tina Milson snapped this scene on a frosty morning walking with her three dogs and her neighbour Fi Finley along a farm lane. Portraits on Main is the latest chapter in her journey as a photographer. Photo: Tina Milson.

Tina’s creativity behind the lens is built on a broad foundation. She studied and majored in art photography at TAFE in Goulburn and the Illawarra and the Sydney School of Colour and Design.

Everyday people can be challenging too. Once out the front of an older couple’s home, she could see they were unsure of whether to participate in her exhibition. She kept talking and finally was invited inside.

“I walked down their hallway into their living room and there were some old photographs on the wall,” Tina said.

”I immediately had an affiliation with them. There was a crew from a Lancaster bomber, other Second World War photographs. I can relate to all of that. His wife was from England and I was able to relate that to my mother.

“The more I talked to them, the more things they showed me and trusted me, I guess.”

The large Portraits on Main weatherproof photographs will decorate a fence line along Auburn Street outside of Belmore Park, opposite the Court House, and stand in the park’s rotunda and along pathways. The subjects’ stories will be linked via a QR code to a website.

Woman and dog

Tina Milson opens a new chapter with her camera next month with the unveiling of Portraits On Main, which celebrates people over the age of 50 making a difference in Goulburn. Photo: Nicola Milson.

The pride these portraits can generate was evident in the 2020 Art of Ageing exhibition in the Regional Art Gallery. A man walked in with his family and saw his photograph up on the wall.

“Apparently it was one of the proudest moments of his life,” Tina said. “I thought wow, that was very easy to do and yet look at how excited they were about it. Sadly, that gentleman died not long afterwards at quite a young age, and still the family talk about that photograph and use it, and I will be using that photo in this exhibition for that reason.”

Celebrating people over the age of 50 making a difference in the Goulburn region, Portraits on Main opens at noon on 12 November. For more details click here.

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