Melbourne-based artist Jody Haines will be presenting a new body of work for PHOTO 2021 at Footscray Community Arts Centre, in a two-person exhibition with Julie Millowick OAM. By applying an Indigenous and feminist filter to her work, Jody focuses on identity, representation and the female gaze within the Australian context. Here she shares some insights into her early inspirations and how her portraiture is political.

What started your relationship with photography?

I guess what started my relationship with photography, initially, was really home movies and family portraits and the contrast that existed between them. My nan got a video camera when I was young and she had that thing basically glued to her. Making family films about anything and everything! She’d set up the projector for movie and slide nights when ever I stayed with her; a bed sheet pinned to the wall, lights down and freshly popped popcorn, mixed with moments of awkwardness and raucous laughter. There was always something free and natural that occurred in nan’s movies, that looked starkly different to the family portraits that also occupied her home. The portraits looked forced, unnatural and disconnected.

I never really wanted to be a photographer, all my dreams revolved around music, being a musician and songwriter, but my pragmatic side took over and I decided I needed a “fall back” career – so I studied photography and that was the start of a new beginning. When I began making images I wasn’t really sure what images I did want to make, but I knew that I didn’t want to make images that looked like our family portraits. I was hoping for connection and engagement. It took me a long time to find it.

How do ideas relating to 'The Truth’ factor into your practice?

We all understand that ‘truth’ is so subjective.

We are all creating our own versions of truth, our personal propagandas. What I prefer to look at in my work is the politics of a person’s representation and their collaboration, consent and contribution to how that representation is pictured and then presented. Making sure it’s as close to the version of ‘truth’ they wish to share.

In this post-internet age, how do you see the viewer in relation to your artwork?

The viewer is always a contributor of meaning to the work – online, offline, IRL. They are the last element in the creation of the image event.

How do you plan for new projects?

Dreaming. Scribbling. Researching. Responding. Testing. Re-testing.

If the idea’s got legs, then I get very very nerdy and start project managing the life out of it. Developing Gantt charts, participant call-outs and information sheets, risk assessments, securing venues/public locations for potential outcomes, funding/budgets etc, etc. Once this is done, I have a pragmatic road map that covers all the big boring things and leaves me the room and the opportunity to just flow and focus on the making of work – which is a deeply intimate and collaborative process. The potential hurdles can be catered for and adjusted in the timing and plan. Although, my “crystal balling” definitely didn’t foresee any bloody global pandemic affecting the PHOTO 2020 [now PHOTO 2021] roll out… so it’s not a foolproof process.

Jody's studio

What books are you currently reading?

Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism by Ariella Azoulay

What is your favourite website?

Reasons to be cheerful

It’s a website put together by David Byrne. The byline is “A recipe book for solutions. No dietary restrictions.”

What music are you listening to?

Lately, Lucinda Williams has been on HIGH rotation.

If the work you are presenting at PHOTO 2021 was a song, what would it be?

“People Have The Power” by Patti Smith

Patti Smith, People Have the Power

Patti Smith, People Have the Power

How are you spending your time with the current social distancing restrictions? Has this motivated you in a way that you might not have expected?

I’m “attempting” to work on a PhD, so time is mostly spent reading/writing and navel gazing. For me, the new world order of COVID-19 is not motivating in the slightest. I’m not rushing to create something new or artistically exorcise the beast from my psyche. I’m also avoiding all calls to join the “productivity porn” wagon that’s demanding we create-create-create! Rather, I’m doing more self care, being gentle to myself and my community. Sitting in the moment.

Although existing in the vulnerable category as a chronic asthmatic, I am thinking through ways to continue a practice in isolation, when the way of physically being with and relating deeply to women I work with is potentially in the past for the foreseeable future.

Lorna, Inbetween, 2020

Do you have any daily rituals?

Rituals – long early morning walks with my dog, Bailey, where I breathe deeply, watch the light dance, and imaging the world isn’t as it is; while he sniffs and pisses and happily exists in the moment.

Other rituals – MANY coffees.

Do you have any unrealised projects you would like to work on? Please elaborate.

There’s always a million ideas for projects that are floating around in my mind, tagged on scraps of paper, written in note books, waiting for their time. Some are fleshed out, others skeletal. For me, projects kind of “raise their hand” when the time is right, some continue, others get put away.

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

Not to listen to anything my future self advices.

Aunty Noritta (projection detail), Women Dreaming, 2018

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