Artist's Statement - Faces of St Marys

Penrith City Council Logo

When we started this project we had just two things - a concept of taking portrait photographs of locals in St Marys and a title - Faces of St Marys.

Chris Peken

We weren’t really sure how many people that would be, or exactly who they might be. We just knew that we wanted to try and capture the faces that represent the community that is St Marys.

At one point it was discussed that we would be able to do 25 images. But somehow that didn’t seem to represent a community to me. A community has so many faces, literally and figuratively; different faces that represent different ages, different backgrounds, and different roles, but all of them vital in making a community and a place what it is.

So we set about trying to capture this. As I set up my mobile portrait studio both on the street and inside Memorial Hall, my four able students – Barbara, Kira, Sevket Ufuk and Yvonne – went out onto the streets
themselves, to capture the daily life of St Marys and Queen Street.

At this juncture I need to point out something. As an artist and a photographer, and particularly as a portrait photographer, I have to work in collaboration with my subjects. I can’t photograph somebody unless the person consents to be photographed. And in St Marys I found so many wonderful people with amazing stories, who were so generous and open in sharing their stories with me that it was truly humbling.

I am honoured to have shared just these small moments with each person who came before my camera in this project, and these portraits here attempt to capture just a small but essential part of who each person is. As you can see some are happy and laughing, some are sad, some are caught lost in thought, others are playful, others show surprise... collectively they represent not only themselves as individuals but also the community as a whole - a community that at any one time will be both happy and sad, thoughtful and distracted, and so much more. I finished with some 70 images capturing over 100 faces of this community.

I must also highly commend Penrith City Council for their support of arts projects like this, projects that both reflect and give back to the community. And a very special thanks to Adnan Begic as without his support, understanding and hard work, this project could not have occurred.

So here we have a series of street shots by my students and a series of my portraits. I hope that what you see here is the many wonderful and varied faces of St Marys.

2013 Faces of St Marys crew

Faces of St Marys project crew. From left to right: Barbara Glover, Chris Peken, Sevket Ufuk Guden, Yvone Larkins and Kira Ogston.

Chris Peken, Photographer and mentor of Queen Street Riches and Textures 2013

Chris Peken is a Sydney based photographer. His photos have been exhibited in the Head on Portrait Prize, Love Postcode 2012 and the Kings Cross Photography Prize and Nudes on Tap. He has had two solo exhibitions of his “Exposed” series. He works primarily with black & white medium format film.

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