New Photographers: Q&A with Jahkarli Romanis


Jahkarli Romanis is a Naarm based artist and researcher. After completing an Honours in Photography at RMIT in 2020, she has commenced a PhD at Monash in 2021. Her work is inextricably intertwined with her identity as a Pitta Pitta woman and explores the complexities of her lived experience and the continuing negative impacts of colonisation in Australia. For her mentor, Jahkarli is paired with Alona Pardo—curator at Barbican Art Gallery and advisor for PHOTO 2022.

Hello Jahkarli, please start by telling us something about yourself that is not in your bio.

This is such a tricky question! I feel that what is in the bio summarises very neatly who I am.


I suppose one thing not in my bio is that I’m a person who enjoys kewpie mayo on literally anything and everything. It is my favourite condiment.


I also don’t drink coffee (wild, I know).

What inspired you to work with photography?

I think I’ve always been intrigued by it as a medium. Our generation have grown up in the digital age, interacting with cameras and photographs is second nature to us. Something I feel which has been a formative experience for me (maybe more so than I’ve previously acknowledged) is the age which I began creating images. I was 11 when I got my first camera. It was a small red digital point and shoot and it immediately became like a third arm. I took it with me everywhere. In some ways it helped me perceive the world around me but also approach the world with a sense of curiosity.


So, with that in mind, maybe it was more out of habit. Something constant that I had been doing since I was a kid which led me to continue doing it as an adult.

How would you describe your practice? Can you explain your artistic process?

My practice is informed by my lived experiences, and I use it as a way of navigating certain feelings, ideas and research. My artistic process is a bit haphazard. As I work within a cycle of praxis, (making and research at the same time) often I’ll be deep in thinking with not much making, or something which I’ve been considering for a while will finally surface in a photographic way, if that makes sense? This might sound silly but it can feel instinctual too. I would say I often follow a process in terms of the tools I use. My work is very layered and so it might just begin with a single image in photoshop and then things can go from there. Lots of trial and error.

What can people expect to see from you at PHOTO 2022’s New Photographers exhibition?

I think the work I’m showing is a somewhat new direction. I look forward to having an opportunity to really push the boundaries visually and see where I can take it. I hope my work can challenge people’s thinking around Western ways of mapping, but also how photographs of place are used in mapping technologies.

Image: Jahkarli Romanis, [Waddi Tree], 2020. Courtesy the artist.

Image: Jahkarli Romanis, Waddi Tree, 2020. Courtesy the artist.

Where do you draw inspiration for your work from?

Everywhere. My peers, the internet, my family, weird technology.

What does the PHOTO 2022 theme Being Human mean to you?

The last couple of years in particular have really highlighted what it means to ‘be human.’ The fragility of humanity and life. I think it’s a good theme to be explored for this years festival, a chance for reflection.

Image: Jahkarli Romanis, Untitled I, from the project '(Dis)connected to Country'.

Image: Jahkarli Romanis, Untitled I, from the project (Dis)connected to Country. Courtesy the artist.

As part of the New Photographers program you have been paired with Alona Pardo as your mentor. Can you let us know why you are excited about connecting with them and what you are hoping to gain from the mentorship?

I’ve been paired with Alona Pardo who is a curator at the Barbican Art Gallery in London. Admittedly, as I write this, my first catch up with her is in a few days time and I can’t wait! The Barbican is an incredible gallery space and Alona herself has been part of some fascinating and exciting projects. She has so much experience in the field and shares similar interests to me and where I’d like to take my research.


I hope to gain a fresh perspective on my work and a new partnership. One that will guide me but also bring reciprocal critical discussion about both our practices.

When you are not working, what do you enjoy doing most?

Listening to music.

What advice would you give to your 15 year-old self?

Hang in there Juc. Just keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll see soon that it all works out. Things may feel a little stressful, a little uncertain and a little strange (growing up is kinda yuck, but also kinda cool sometimes). You’re on the right path, keep focused and be kind to yourself.

Image: Jahkarli and her first camera

Founding Partners
  • Bowness Family Foundation
  • Naomi Milgrom Foundation
Major Government Partners
  • City of Melbourne Arts Grants Program
  • Creative Victoria
Major Partners
  • Maddocks

PHOTO Australia respectfully acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands upon which we work and live, and the rich and diverse Indigenous cultures across what is now called Australia. For over 60,000 years, Indigenous arts and culture have thrived on this sacred land, and we honour Elders and cultural leaders past and present. This was, and always will be, Aboriginal land.

01–24 March