Kate Robertson

Recording the medicinal plants of Siwai, Bougainville

4 May30 June 2017

Kate Robertson uses photography as an approach for absorbing and understanding information, rather than merely to capture a likeness.

Underpinning this is a view that mere visual reproduction does not fully capture the layered intricacies of communities, places and individuals. Incorporating traditional and alternative developing methods, she employs studio, darkroom and on-location practices alongside lens and lens-less capturing methods to work with images.

Recording the medicinal plants of Siwai, Bougainville depict plants from the Siwai region of Bougainville Island and their medicinal properties, through analogue and digital photographic forms and concepts.

The works reflect on the plants’ medicinal properties during a time of substantial changes in Bougainville’s culture, politics, and technologies. Local concern for the erosion of traditional knowledge in an increasingly modernised and globalised community is visually explored through light, time, and material and digital traces.

The photographs utilise the lumen process on location at Kainake Village, Siwai. Black and white paper are used in a cameraless method. When the surface of the paper touches another surface, such as a leaf structure, a chemical reaction is orchestrated and imprinted, thus changing the colour of the paper. The process transcends the plant specimen to reveal the plant’s chemical knowledge within its internal structure.

Kate was born in 1981, Mount Gambier, Australia. She currently lives and works in Melbourne, Australia. Her work has been exhibited at PhotoLondon, Australian Centre for Photography, Art Gallery of New South Wales and Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts.

This project was initiated and is supported by Chief Alex Dawia, Taa Lupumoiku Clan, and Chief Jeffrey Noro, Rura Clan.

Click here to download the exhibition essay by Christine McFetridge.