Behind the big picture.

PollyannaR first appeared on my radar when we met in a windy Traralgon alleyway as she snapped us in the name of love. She’d stuck a white background against the street art wall in the Little Prince alleyway to add us to her ‘Big Picture’ lineup.

With that we joined over 500 Gippslandians to show support for the ‘I Do’ campaign. The campaign responded to the outcry when our local MP, Darren Chester, stood up for marriage equality and was criticised in local media. She quickly spotted that the community wasn’t getting the whole picture. Using her art, PollyannaR diffused the hatred with a massive campaign of support for our gay community. She expressed our views in a real, tangible, engaging and fun way – giving hope to many. Initiated in Sale, and then popping up in Bairnsdale, Traralgon, Warragul, Walhalla and Meeniyan, PollyannaR took the positive pulse of our region and proactively responded.

PollyannaR contributed to our Sunday Talk at The VRI (Victorian Railways Institute Hall, Traralgon). Learning her journey added further weight to her work. She held two successful crowdfunding campaigns to fund the Australian Transplant Community and the ‘I Do Support Gay Marriage’ Big Pictures. She shared her experiences of crowdfunding and the expense of art in terms of energy, emotion and cash. She inspired our emerging Alt_Artists and wider community alike. Generously, she shared her pitfalls and triumphs, her guts and determination impressing us all and we all learnt ways to initiate projects of passion.

We heard about PollyannaR’s studies and the challenges of learning despite dyslexia. Her studies at RMIT allowed her to assist many of the Top 50 Australian photographers. She described accepting and overcoming her limitations and developing her own signature style of black and white photography on white background. She shared her adventures in Canada, Alaska, Bali, Mexico, Japan and India – each location adding to this 27-year-old dynamo’s impressive body of work.

PollyannaR fell in love with photography, at the age of 16, in Alaska. Revisiting the northern wilderness at 22 to capture the pristine beauty of that faraway place. In Bali, she learnt to be a yoga teacher, a practice that has grounded her and supported her when stressful times have depleted her. Mexico was the most dangerous place for raw journalism and it was here she completed her portfolio pieces. In India, she completed the World’s Largest Family Portrait, reuniting a migrant family in Australia with a family of over 300 in India through the family portrait. It was an epic and ambitious adventure. PollyannaR documented the Lolita women’s rights movement in Japan – work that is continuing.

In 2015 PollyannaR worked on the Big Transplant Picture to raise awareness for Transplant Australia. She photographed Victorians on the organ transplant waiting list and gave a face to the statistics. It told the story of 113 transplant recipients, donors, donor families and people on the waiting list. This big picture was exhibited in the Melbourne’s City Square for a week and became an artist book.

After her exhibition in the city, PollyannaR was drained and experienced a breakdown. She returned to family in Sale and mended. She loves living in Gippsland surrounded by friends and family and the support of a strong community. Living here gives her opportunities that wouldn’t be available in the crowded city market.

Each morning, PollyannaR milks cows on a farm. When PollyannaR returned from years of study and travel she found herself at Centrelink with no marketable skills. Milking cows, with its daily demands and early mornings, lends structure to her artistry and finances her mission to put family portrait, art and culture back in the main street. It’s refreshing to learn the great lengths she has gone to fund her dream, and it won’t be long until the milking days are no longer necessary as her reputation builds, she becomes increasingly in demand.

The Big Picture studio certainly makes a bold statement in Sale’s Raymond Street. The studio has evolved into a creative space that brings workshops, artists-in-residence and spiritual events to slide in alongside her photography gigs. This woman does not sit still. Her family portraits are fresh and lively, with PollyannaR’s warmth and humour reflected back in the real smiles she captures. PollyannaR has hosted a number of artists-in residence since opening her studio. She has recently been announced as a Regional Arts Victoria ‘Toe in the Water’ grant recipient for $6,000 to continue supporting local artists. She offers her space as an opportunity to raise profiles and shake up the town. Her occasionally controversial style and bold statements confront and challenge the conservatism of the small town where she grew up. People didn’t expect it to last, thinking it was a pop-up or experiment, but PollyannaR tells us she’s here to stay, “It’s not up to me to make you feel comfortable”.

We had PollyannaR photograph our 50 Mile Farmers Market at both the Tarwin Street and The VRI markets. She came along and engaged with market-goers and stallholders alike delivering a range of great shots that captured the spirit of our markets. It’s a delight to work with her as she gets the job done in a fun way – bringing out the smiles without once saying, “cheese”.

Her latest work with Gippsland Women’s Health’s, Making The Link campaign seeks to highlight the link between equality for women and domestic violence. We look forward to seeing this Big Picture through the eyes of PollyannaR.

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