Distinctively Visual: memories of the 1989 Newcastle earthquake

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Recalling, and recreating, the emotional impact of the Newcastle earthquake was a photographic exhibition titled Earthquake: Then and Now to commemorate 25 years since the event.

Although the exhibition is no longer showing, this article is particularly poignant as the salience of black and white images reconstruct harrowing reactions. Students may enlarge the gallery and effectively analyse the images in order to discuss the impact of surviving harsh and emotional experiences.

Students should consider visual literacy features such as:

  • gaze: how we are drawn to certain aspects of the image possibly through vectors
  • composition: the placement of people and objects within the shot – affects our gaze, draws our focus, salience
  • colour: black and white is harsh and unforgiving, heightens impact
  • figures look directly into camera: immediate emotional engagement
  • still images allow the viewer to spend time contemplating the key ideas or purpose
  • framing and cropping: has the image been constructed in a way that we are ‘forced’ to accept a dominant reading?
  • male/female subjects: is there any significance in the way that masculinity and/or femininity are represented?

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Student should also consider the language features of the article and evaluate the compelling nature of first person perspective in relating an individual’s experience. This text demonstrates resilience and the determination of survivors to begin life anew after trauma which has direct links with the short stories of Henry Lawson, The Shoe-Horn Sonata and Amanda Lohrey’s Vertigo. 

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Read the article Photographic exhibition brings back painful memories of 1989 Newcastle earthquake

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