APHK PHOTOGRAPHY – July 2020: Retrospective


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ABSTRACTS - CROSSES IN THE SEACrucifixes – Rapid Bay, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)


July is mid-Winter in Australia; it also the 7th month that we all having been dealing with the various challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. Subsequently, many of the following photographs are reflections of these times. This July retrospect is divided into number of seperate categories; these include – ‘Abstracts’, ‘Black & White’, ‘Landscapes’, ‘Night’, ‘Seascapes’, and ‘Sunsets’. It also includes selected photographs from on-going series – ‘Pareidolia’ and ‘In the Time of Self-Isolation’. As always, behind each photography is my desire ‘to make the ordinary “Extraordinary”!’


ABSTRACT - WalpurgisnachtWalpurgisnacht – Windy Peak, Adelaide Hills, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

This was taken one wild, windy, and rainy night at Windy Peak in the Adelaide Hills. The photograph is associated with my ‘Pareidolia’ series in that the wooden posts and the trees seemed to become in this cold weather strange spectral creatures, coming together as if to celebrate ‘Walpurgisnacht’.

IMPRESSIONISM - After KlimtReflections – Adelaide Botanic Gardens, Adelaide, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

This was taken in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens and is of the reflection of a canopy of leaves from willow trees overhanging one of the ponds in the garden. There is a deliberate ‘impressionism’ influence, particularly Monet, but also a ‘post-impressionism’ feel as one finds in some of the works by Klimt.

ABSTRCTS - SHEET METAL 1Sheet-Metal Wall in a Sunset Light – Penny’s Hill Vineyard, McLaren Vale, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

This striking ‘detail’ of a section of the sheet-metal wall of the Penny’s Hill Vineyard Cellar-door took on a golden radiance and sheen under a setting winter sun.

IMPRESSIONISM - Behind the LinesBehind the Lines – Adelaide Botanic Gardens, Adelaide, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

Following a theme and subject matter of ‘lines’, this is a detail of a section of glass fountain in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. The reflection in the glass is from the water in front of this sheet of corrugated glass, which in turn reflects the cloud in the sky above. These multiple reflections give and added depth to the image; in the centre there is a kind of ‘pareidolia’ with a figure that seems to be peeping through the curtain of glass.

ABSTRACTS - THROUGH A WINDOW - The ChildThrough a Window: The Child – Adelaide Botanic Gardens, Adelaide, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

This photograph was taken at the same glass fountain in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. It is also part of the on-going series – ‘Through a Window’. These ‘windows’ are portals; when one gazes through these ‘windows’ one can see and imagine a number of imaginative possibilities.

HOPE - THE RAINBOWThe Rainbow – Port Willunga, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

The rainbow is a symbol of Hope, which is what is vitally needed in these challenging times.

ABSTRACTS -Two PolesBPoles Apart – Rapid Bay, South Australia (Sony LICE-7)

These two poles are part of the old ruined jetty at Rapid Bay. Whilst beautiful in themselves there is a relatively tragic dimension. It is as if these two poles are lovers who yearn to be together but will be forever apart, able to see each other but never to touch.

ABSTRACT - Sniffing out Out LeadsModern Times: Sniffing out Leads – Windy Peak, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

This ‘abstract’ is a satiric metaphor of modern business. With virtually everything moving to be on-line the relative ‘positivism’ and optimism of modern business from a certain perspective seems to have become rather desperate in sniffing out potential leads and ways to make money, at a time when most people don’t have much money to spare.


PEOPLE - DancingIn the Time of ‘Self-Isolation’: The Dancer – Port Willunga, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

On one of my walks around Port Willunga, from the cliffs above I glanced down to the beach below and saw this young woman. She was dancing in the surf with the setting sun – an expression of freedom in this time of ‘self-isolation’.

_1210271aIn the Time of ‘Self-Isolation’: On the Phone – Port Willunga (Sony ILCE-7)

How many times during these challenging days have we seen this? A person sitting alone on their mobile phone. I saw this young man on his mobile phone and also noticed how his surrounding, particularly the iron fence seemed to box him in, adding to the sense of ‘isolation’.

Little Hampton School 2The Old School House – Littlehampton, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

On a day trip to the small South Australian rural town of Littlehampton we stopped to visit the old sandstone Schoolhouse, which had been built in the 1860s. At one time this country school had over 60 students all crammed into this tiny school house. It has been beautifully preserved and restored by the local community.

AUSTRALIAN ROMANTICISM 1 - The Winter TreeThe Winter Tree – Adelaide Botanic Gardens, Adelaide, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

This marvellous old tree sits on a little island in the middle of one of the ponds in the garden. It has a ‘pareidolia’ aspect that is perhaps more noticeable in Winter when all its leaves are gone – a fantastical tree creature.

AUSTRALAIN ROMANTICISM - Murdoch AvenueMurdoch Avenue – Adelaide Botanic Gardens, Adelaide, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

‘Murdoch Avenue’ is one of the most magical parts of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. I have deliberately put a sepia filter over this photograph to complement the charming nature of this location.


PENNY HILL'SVINEYARDPenny’s Hill Vineyard – McLaren Vale, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

‘Penny’s Hill Vineyard’ in the McLaren Vale is about 1hrs drive south of Adelaide. It is one of the oldest vineyards in the region and is very ‘English’. This is exemplified by the old sandstone Georgian main-house, as well as these ‘black-faced’ Suffolk sheep.


AUSTRALIAN ROMANTICISM - Adelaide 2Adelaide @ Night – Adelaide Hills, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

This was taken one cold July at Mt. Observation in the Adelaide Hills, which gives one a wonderful view of the Adelaide Plain and the Adelaide CBD. It is a very ‘romantic’ view of Adelaide, yet also one that has resonance with photos of Los Angeles.


‘Pareidolia’ is that unique aspect of the human imagination in which one sees faces in natural and man-made objects. The following photographs are part of an on-going series devoted to the human phenomena of ‘pareidolia’, which is something we all share in common – a thing that unites us as human beings rather than divides us.

peeping truckThe peeping truck – Port Adelaide, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

It is as if this truck is peeping at you as it passes over a concrete bridge in Port Adelaide. This photograph has been deliberately manipulated to give it a kind of ‘pop art’ feeling and tone.

DSC00749bCrocodile Logs – Old Noarlunga, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

These two logs sit in the Onkaparinga River near Old Noarlunga, a small rural town about 40 minutes south of Adelaide. Crossing the pedestrian suspension bridge over the Onkaparinga River I noticed these two logs. They looked like two crocodiles lying in the shallow water, which reflected the hills towering above the river.

P1110377HThe grumpy rock – Christies Beach, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

This is part of a spectacular cliff face at Christies Beach on the Gulf St. Vincent, South Australia. It struck me that this particular section looked like a grumpy old man – hence the title – ‘the grumpy rock’.

ELEPHANT ROCKaElephant Rock – Port Willunga, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

This rock face at the base of a cliff at the northern end of Port Willunga beach struck as looking a bit like and old elephant.

PEOPLE: In the Time of ‘Self-Isolation’

The following photographs are part of an on-going series entitled In the Time of ‘Self-Isolation’. This is an attempt to chronicle as well as express the sense of bafflement and isolation that is very much a part of the challenges of these days when confronted with the Covid-19 pandemic.

IN THE TIME OF SELF-ISOLATION - MemeIn the Time of ‘Self-Isolation’: Meme – Port Willunga, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

This a photograph of my friend Meme with whom I often go for morning walks along Port Willunga beach and other locations in the region.

P1110442DIn the Time of ‘Self-Isolation’: The Walker – Christies Beach, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

At times the effect of living with the Covid-19 pandemic seems rather surreal. Despite the very real threat and with certain restrictions, nonetheless, here in South Australia we are relatively safe and free to move around – and in such a beautiful place even in mid-Winter.

P1110389In the Time of ‘Self-Isolation’: Searching the Sands – Port Willunga, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

I saw this young girl searching the sands on the Port Willunga beach one sunset. I don’t know what she was searching for but she was quite focused if rather frantic. It struck me as rather metaphoric and symbolic of how we are all trying to find answers but finding it all rather baffling – searching for answers in the sand.

DSC01048In the Time of ‘Self-Isolation’: Red Hoody and Stormy Seas – Rapid Bay, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

On a rather wild and stormy day I went to Rapid Bay, which is about a 90 minutes drive south of Adelaide. At the end of the pier there was this young boy looking out on the rather turbulent sea. This also struck me a rather metaphorical and emblematic of these times. Gazing out to sea may bring some solace sometimes, but it can also express our bafflement and anxiety in these stormy days.


The following photographs are part of an on-going series of ‘Seascapes’, primarily from the Onkaparinga region. This includes Aldinga Beach, Port Willunga, Maslin Beach, Port Noarlunga, and Christies Beach – and more.

PORT WILLUNGA - WINTER SUNRISEThe Morning Walk – Port Willunga, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

DSC00834On a Winter’s Day #1 – Port Willunga, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

PORT WILLUNGA - WINTER.jpgOn a Winter’s Day #2 – Port Willunga, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

PORT WILLUNGA - The FishermenFishing – Port Willunga, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

DSC00855oCormorant and Ruins – Port Willunga, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

DSC00965 2A Foggy Day – Port Willunga, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

DSC01128 copyRapid Bay – Fleurieu Peninsular, Gulf St. Vincent, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)


It somehow seems appropriate with the ending of mid-Winter and also the seeming end of so much that we may have taken for granted due to the Covid-19 pandemic that this July 2020 retrospective fishes with ‘Sunsets’. These are from a number of locations, including Mt Observation, Port Willunga, and Penny’s Hill Vineyard.

BarrelaThe Barrel – Penny’s Hill Vineyard, McLaren Vale (Sony ILCE-7)

after rothko 2aSunset (after Rothko #1) – Port Willunga, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

AFTER ROTHKO - Port Adelaide.jpgSunset – Port Adelaide, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

AFTER ROTHKO - AdelaideSunset (after Rothko #2) – Adelaide, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

If you have come this far – THANK YOU.

Just one more, which is a bit of a self-portrait. I saw this piece of ‘Street Art’ at Christies Beach where I was picking up some medication for the local chemist for my tinnitus. I wasn’t feeling the best, not just because of the tinnitus, which is just annoying, but for the fact that after applying for numerous jobs I didn’t get any – only one interview and that wasn’t very pleasant.  I connected with this torn and damaged piece of ‘street art’. I took a photo of a section and then later played around with it – this is the result.

UnknownIn the Time of ‘Self-Isolation’: Torn & Twisted Self-Reflection – Christies Beach, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

Tony Knight – July 2020 (c.)

APHK PHOTOGRAPHY – SALA 2020: Australian Romanticism


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IN THE TIME OF 'SELF-ISOLATION' - DRIVE-IN1. In the Time of ‘Self-Isolation’: At the Drive-In – Adelaide Hills, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)


Due to the Covid-19 pandemic I was unable to hold my annual photographic exhibition for this years South Australian Living Artists Festival (SALA). Subsequently I will present my exhibition via my WordPress website as well as other social media; all 18 photographs in this collection are available for sale via my Bluethumb.com site.

The overall theme for this exhibition is Australian Romanticism. The collection includes ‘Landscapes’, ‘Seascapes’, ‘Sunsets’, ‘Night’, and ‘Abstracts’, as well as photographs from on-going series, namely ‘Adelaide Noir’, ‘Through a Window’, ‘Pareidolia’, and ‘In the Time of Self-Isolation’. This later series, exemplified by the above photograph, is an attempt to express the surreal nature of these current times in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

The sources for inspiration behind this collection are numerous. They include the natural extraordinary beauty of the Australian countryside, as well as influences of major artists; this includes early colonial artists John Glover, German ‘romantic’ artist Caspar David Friedrich, and American ‘abstract’ artist Mark Rothko.

As the above photograph also exemplifies there is often a romantic ‘theatrical’ aspect to my work. Behind all my work is my motto and attempt ‘to make the ordinary “Extraordinary”!’ Hope you enjoy this collection.


28. THROUGH A WINDOW - SILVERTON2. Through a Window: Ruined House, Silverton, New South Wales (Sony ILCE-7)

The old mining town of Silverton is about 25kms north of Broken Hill in the north-western corner of New South Wales. It has often been used as a location for Australian films, including George Miller’s Mad Max series. This photograph is part of the on-going series ‘Through a Window; gazing through a window one can see and imagine numerous possibilities.

'SUGARLOAF' - HALLET COVED3. ‘The Sugarloaf’ – Hallet Cove Conservation Park, Hallet Cove, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

‘The Sugarloaf’ is one of the most distinctive features of the Hallet Cove Conservation Park, about 21kms south of Adelaide on the Gulf St. Vincent. This extraordinary formation is part of the remnants of an old pre-historic glacier; white sand replaced the ice as the glacier slowly melted 15,000 years ago. Early colonial settlers called it ‘The Sugarloaf’ due to its resemblance to a ‘loaf’ of hardened white sugar.

12. AUTUMN - MT LOFTY 14. Autumn 2020 – Mt. Lofty Botanic Gardens, Mt. Lofty, Adelaide Hills, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

Autumn in the Adelaide Hills is simply spectacular! The Mt. Lofty Botanic Gardens is a terrific place were one can see this colourful spectacle. Unfortunately, the gardens were closed for most of this Autumn due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, it re-opened for the final week of Autumn 2020 and I drove up immediately and found this tree that seemed ablaze with Autumn colour.

DSC00599a5. Penny’s Hill Vineyard – McLaren Vale, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

Penny’s Hill Vineyard is one of the most charming and picturesque established vineyards  in the McLaren Vale, approximately 35kms south of Adelaide on the Fleurieu Peninsular. There is a strong sense of old England at Penny Hill’s Vineyard, with its sandstone Georgian two-storey main house, as well as these Suffolk ‘black-faced’ sheep.


14. SEASCAPES - MASLIN BEACH 36. Maslin Beach, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

Maslin Beach is one of the ‘best beaches’ in Australia. It was also the first nudist beach in Australia, which is at the southern end of the beach. You can just see the small sign on the left of this photograph that states that this is the ‘Unclad’ section of the beach. I took this photograph one cold and stormy Winter’s day. I waited for a break in the cloud, a ‘decisive moment’, when the sun burst through the clouds and lit up the cliff face. Extraordinary.

IN THE TIMES OF 'SELF-ISOLATION'in the time of 'self-isolation7. In the Time of ‘Self-Isolation’: The Walker – Port Willunga, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

This photograph was taken one early Winter morning at Port Willunga, about 35kms south of Adelaide on the the Gulf St. Vincent. It is part of the on-going series ‘In the Time of “Self-Isolation”‘, and can be seen metaphorically as a reflection of these current times. The cliff face can be representative of the almost overwhelming nature of the Covid-19 pandemic, with the female walker standing tall but alone against this formidable force.

CONFERENCE OF THE BIRDS - PORT NOARLUNGA8. The Conference of the Birds – Port Noarlunga, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

This photograph was taken from the Port Noarlunga jetty on a cold early Winter’s day. It looked like this flock of seagulls were debating certain issues; such as, in the case of the Covid-19 pandemic – ‘Where have all the humans gone? Where are out chips?’. Subsequently, in order to find food they would need to brave the cold sea and debating, ‘Well – who’s going in first?’


‘Pareidolia’ is that unique aspect of the human imagination that sees faces in natural and man-made objects.  The following photograph is part of my on-going series devoted to this wonderful human phenomena, which is something that unites rather than divides us. Nonetheless, the faces and creatures that one may see in these photographs is up to you.

WHAT LIES BENEATH?9. Pareidolia: ‘What Lies Beneath?’ – Port Noarlunga, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

‘What Lies Beneath?’ – some see a serpent, some see a crocodile, some see a turtle, and some see a ram with a golden fleece – what do you see?


22. ABSTRACTS - BRAVE NEW WORLD 1-210. ‘Brave New World’ – Austinmer, New South Wales (Sony ILCE-7)

This photograph was taken in January 2020 during the height of the Australian Summer Bushfires. Whilst it may seem that this photograph has been ‘doctored’ in some way in actual fact I did very little re post-production. The unique and relatively disturbing colours were due to the continual haze that hung over Austinmer, a beach town on the South Coast of New South Wales, for days and days and days.

10. ABSTRACTS - RIPLES - After H. R. Giger -211. Ripples – Christies Beach, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

This was taken one Winter morning on Christies Beach, which is about 20kms south of Adelaide. The ripples across the sad reminded me of the work of German illustrator H. R. Giger who created the ‘Alien’ for Ridley Scott.


18. SUNSET - PORT WILLUNGA12. Sunset #1 – Port Willunga, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

This photograph and the two following were all taken at respective sunsets at Port Willunga. They are all very different in their own ways, inspired by different artists. The one above is influenced, particularly in terms of colour and tone, by the early Australian colonial artist John Glover.

9. SUNSETS - AUTUMN LIGHT13. Sunset #2 – Port Willunga, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

This photograph was taken on Autumn 2020 sunset. This photograph and the one following were influenced by the American ‘abstract’ artist Mark Rothko. They are specifically designed and crafted to encourage and support meditation and reflection, particularly during these challenging times.

SUNSETS - BATHER - PORT WILLUNGA 114. The Bather – Port Willunga, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

This photograph was also taken one Autumn 2020 sunset. The young woman in the photograph swims every day and in every season the considerable distance from the ruined jetty at the southern end of the Port Willunga beach to the northern headland. As with the previous photograph this is specifically created and designed for meditation and reflection.

9. SUNSETS - BOWRAL 215. Bowral ‘Bushfires’ Sunset – Bowral, New South Wales (Sony ILCE-7)

This photograph was taken one January 2020 sunset at a friend’s place in Bowral, in the Southern Highlands in New South Wales. Whilst all may seem relatively calm and peaceful, nonetheless, this was taken during the height of the catastrophic bushfires that dominated the Australian Summer. The orange glow in the distance is not from the setting sun but from a relatively nearby fire. As my friend and I gazed out over this landscape water helicopters continually flew by and over us.


1. ADELAIDE NOIR - BEACON, TORRENS ISLAND 2-216. The Beacon – Dolphin Sanctuary, Port Adelaide, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7)

This photograph was taken at Port Adelaide at the end of Summer 2020. It can be seen as a metaphorical expression of ‘Hope’, referencing the old Australian Labor Party and Christian motto of ‘the beacon the hill’ being a light of hope in the surrounding darkness.


The following two photographs may be taken as continuing the ‘noir’ theme from the above section. However, these two photographs are from two radically different locations – one in a modern Australian city and one in a remote Australian country town.

sydney War memorial17. Sydney War Memorial – Hyde Park, Sydney, New South Wales (Sony ILCE-7)

The was taken one still and balmy Summer’s night in late December 2019 in Sydney. Whilst the city was surrounded by Bushfires there was a relatively strange peace and quiet in this place of memorial and reflection.

silverton dust storm18. ‘Municipal Chambers’ (in a Dust Storm) – Silverton, New South Wales (Sony ILCE-7)

This was taken one night in early December 2019, in Silverton, in the far north-west of New South Wales – during a furious dust storm. The taking of this photograph was a ‘decisive moment’ and more. I was driving very, very slowly through this dust storm when I noticed the way the ‘Municipal Chambers’ appeared under the respective lights from the moon and nearby lamp, both affected by the haze of the dust storm. With the wind, dust, and rocks whirling around me I positioned my car up against a wall on the opposite side of the street, and with my back against a wall to keep me steady and using the open car door for some protection I took this one shot – which in the end came out rather well – like a Russell Drysdale painting.

If you have read and gazed at all the above I hope you have enjoyed it. I feel I have grown considerably in my development and evolution as an artistic photographer. The future? Who knows – but I am more certain about my artistic eye and aesthetics, which is, unashamedly, ‘Romantic’.

Tony Knight – August 2020.






APHK Photography – In the Time of ‘Self-Isolation’ and ‘Social Distancing’. June 2020.

IN THE TIMES OF 'SELF-ISOLATION'in the time of 'self-isolation

In the Time of ‘Self-Isolation’ & ‘Social Distancing’ – Port Willunga, SA (Sony ILCE-7)

June 2020 has been a relatively tumultuous month, beginning with the ‘Black Lives Matter’ amid the continuing Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the concerns and anxieties associated with all this and other issues re the future there have also been some wonderful events and excursions, including the ‘soft opening’ of the new Her Majesty’s Theatre, Adelaide, and exploring more of the Fleurieu Peninsula. The following is a selection of photographs taken during June 2020.

‘Black Lives Matter’ Rally – Victoria Square, Adelaide (Sony ILCE-7)

To be 'Black' in a Sea of 'White'‘To be “Black” in a Sea of “White” ‘ (Sony ILCE-7)


‘Stop the Spread’ – Adelaide Central Train Station, Adelaide, SA (Sony ILCE-7)


‘At the Drive-In’ – Adelaide Hills, SA (Sony ILCE-7)

CONFERENCE OF THE BIRDS - PORT NOARLUNGA‘Conference of the Birds’ – Port Noarlunga, SA (Sony ILCE-7)

SUNSETS - BATHER - PORT WILLUNGA 1‘The Bather’ – Port Willunga, SA (Sony ILCE-7)

Poles & Signs – Port Noarlunga / Silver Sands, SA (Sony ILCE-7)

SEASCAPE - WALKING THE DOG - ALDINGA‘Walkin’ the Dog’ – Aldinga, SA (Sony ILCE-7)

MILANG 2Jetty – Milang, SA (Sony ILCE-7)

MILANG 1‘Lola’ – Milang, SA (Sony ILCE-7)

'SUGARLOAF' - HALLET COVED‘The Sugarloaf’ – Hallet Cove, SA (Sony ILCE-7)

HER MAJESTY'S 3.jpgFoyer – Her Majesty’s Theatre ‘Soft Opening’ – Adelaide, SA (Sony ILCE-7)

HER MAJESTY'S 2Foyer (detail) – Her Majesty’s Theatre, Adelaide, SA (Sony ILCE-7)

HERMAJESTY'S 1Foyer (detail) – Her Majesty’s Theatre, Adelaide, SA (Sony ILCE-7)

21. ABSTRACTS - 'BOLD FUTURE' - PORT ADELAIIDE copy‘Bold Future’ – Port Adelaide (Sony ILCE-7)

35. PORT ADELAIDE copyBridge – Port Adelaide (Sony ILCE-7)

ADELAIDE NOIR - 'No Parking' - PORT ADELAIDE 1-2‘No Parking’ – Port Adelaide (Sony ILCE-7)

Pareidolia & Ripples – Christies Beach / Windy Peak, SA (Sony ILCE-7)

ABSTRACT 2‘Walpurgisnacht’ – Windy Peak, SA (Sony ILCE-7)


DSC00356DJetty – Port Willunga, SA (Sony ILCE-7)

DSC00381bSunset Board Riders – Port Willunga, SA (Sony ILCE-7)

Tony Knight c. June 2020.

On this Day in History: 28 JUNE


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The 28th June is a rather unique day in regards to World History and in particular ‘Western’ History. It marks the anniversary as well as birthdays of certain events and people that had considerable impact on the future and the present. The following are just   some that occurred on 28 June.

1. Coronation of EDWARD IV (1442-1483), King of England – Westminster Abbey, London, 1461. The coronation of Edward IV, eldest son Richard, Duke of York, and brother to George, Duke of Clarence and Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later Richard III), marked the end of the first part of the so-called ‘Wars of the Roses’ between the Houses of York and Lancaster. Edward IV reigned from 1461-1470 until the Lancastrian forces rose in rebellion and re-instated Henry VI. The Battle of Tewksbury in 1471 saw the defeat of the House of Lancaster and Edward IV retook the crown, reigning until 1483.

2. The birth of HENRY VIII (1491-1547) – Placentia Palace, Greenwich, Kent. Henry VIII was the third child of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. His subsequent reign after his father’s death in 1509 was one of the most turbulent and influential in English history. Controversial not just because of his family – his six wives and father to Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I, but also because of the split with Rome and the Catholic Church and the creation of the Protestant Church of England.

3. The birth of CHARLES V (1519-1556) Holy Roman Emperor, King of Germany and Italy – Prinsenof, Ghent, Holy Roman Empire. One of the most dynamic and powerful rulers of Europe in the 16th Century, and the person who firmly established the House of Hapsburg as a major force in ‘World History’. Throughout his life Charles V fought many battles mainly on behalf of Catholicism. His enemies were not only the European Protestant states but also the Ottoman Turks.

4. The BATTLE OF NAGASHINO (1575) – Nagashino Castle, Mikawa, Honshu, Japan. The Battle of Nagashino was one of the decisive battles in the Sengoku period (1467-1615) between Okudaira Sadamasa of the Tokugawa Shogunate and Takeda Katsuyori of the Takeda clan. Okudaira Sadamasa managed to defend the Nagashino Castle from considerable attacks until relief arrived from the Tokugawa-Oda alliance.

5. The birth of SIR PETER PAUL RUBENS (1577-1640) – Siegen Nassau-Dillenburg, Holy Roman Empire. One of the most influential (and wealthiest) painters of the Baroque period of Art. Rubens worked as a painter as well as a diplomat. Most of his art work, however, is devoted to historical, mythical, and religious event and people.

6. The birth of JEAN-JACQUES ROUSSEAU (1712-1778) – Geneva, Republic of Geneva. Rousseau is on of the most influential philosophers of the 18th Century. His major works include Emile, or on Education (1762), The Social Contract, or Principles of Political Right (1762), and Confessions (1770). Rousseau’s work was considerably influential on the Jacobins during the French Revolution. His work and philosophy continues to be studied today. Always controversial, it was the British philosopher Bertrand Russell who stated, ‘Hitler is the outcome of Rousseau’.

7. Coronation of QUEEN VICTORIA (1812-1901) – Westminster Abbey, 1838.

8. The premier of the ballet GISELLE, or THE WILLIS by Adolph Adam, Theophile Gautier, Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges – in Paris, France 1841. Giselle is one of the most popular and enduring classical ‘romantic’ ballets. It was based on two sources – Heinrich Heine’s De I’Allemage and Victor Hugo’s ‘Fantomes’ (Les Orientales). The ballet was created for Carlotta Grisi, an Italian dancer and one of the most popular ‘stars’ of European ballet in 19th Century.

9. The death of ROBERT O’HARA BURKE (1821-1861) – Coopers Creek, Queensland, Australia, 1861. Burke’s death at Cooper’s Creek in 1861 marked the end of the disastrous and tragic ‘Burke and Wills Expedition’ whose aim was to cross the Australian continent from Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria. Launched with much patriotic sentiment and celebration, departing from Melbourne 20 August 1860 with about 15,000 spectators, the expedition was a complete disaster. Despite Burke and his companions, including William John Wills, making it to the Gulf of Carpentaria they did not have enough provisions nor understanding of the harsh realities of the Australian outback. Burke and Wills and Dennis King made it back to Cooper’s Creek only to discover that their depot party had left the previous day. Burke and Wills died at Cooper’s Creek, however, King managed to survive thanks to the assistance of a local Indigenous tribe.

Unknown.jpeg10. The birth of LUIGI PIRANDELLO (1867-1936) – Girgenti (now, Agigento), Sicily, Italy. Pirandello is one of the masters and major influencers of 20th Century theatre. This includes his extraordinary plays – Right You Are, If You Think So (1917), The Rules of the Game (1918) Six Characters in Search of and Author (1921), and Henry IV (1922).

11. The capture of NED KELLY (1854-1880) – Glenrowan, Victoria, Australia, 1880. Ned Kelly remains one of the most iconic and controversial Australian ‘bushrangers’ of the 19th Century. The siege of the Glenrowan Inn, Glenrowan, involving Ned and his fellow gang members, as well as the Victorian police and locals was bloody affair. In the morning of 28 June 1880 Ned put on his iconic armour and left the Glenrowan Inn, leaving his companions behind. Ned Kelly confronted the police, which included journalist Tom Carrington who later wrote that when Ned Kelly appeared for the final confrontation it was like a ‘strange apparition’ – ‘With the steam rising from the ground it looked like for all the world like the ghost of Hamlet’s father….It was the most extraordinary sight I ever saw or read in my life, and I felt fairly spellbound with wonder, I could not stir or speak’.

11. The birth of RICHARD RODGERS (1902-1979) – Queens, New York City, USA. One of the masters of American Music Theatre, Richard Rodgers will collaborators Lorenz Hart and later Oscar Hammerstein II created some of the most popular and enduring American musicals of the 20th Century. This includes – (w. Lorenz Hart) On Your Toes (1936), Babes in Arms (1937), The Boys from Syracuse (1938), Pal Joey (1940-41); (w. Oscar Hammerstein II) Oklahoma (1943), Carousel (1945), South Pacific (1949), The King and I (1951), The Sound of Music (1959).

12. The Assassination of Arch Duke Ferdinand (1863-1914) and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenburg (1868-1914) – Sarajvo, Austria-Hungary, 1914. The assassination of ‘heir presumptive’ to the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, Arch Duke Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, is generally cited as the ’cause celeb’ that triggered a series of events that led to World War I.

13. The signing of the TREATY OF VERSAILLES – Versailles, France, 1919. The signing of the Treaty of Versailles on 28 June 1919 officially marked the end of World War I and hostilities between Germany and the Allied Powers of Great Britain, France, and the USA.

14. The birth of MEL BROOKS (1926- ) – Brooklyn, New York City, USA. One of the greatest American clowns, comedy writer and director of the 20th Century – who is still alive today. His many films include – The Producers (1967), Blazing Saddles (1974), and Young Frankenstein (1974). My favourite? The Producers (1967).


There is a lot more – but – ‘Here endeth the lesson’ – Happy 28 June.

Tony Knight – 28 June, 2020.

APHK PHOTOGRAPHY – 2019 Retrospective


Making the ordinary ‘Extraordinary!’

The following photographs are presented as ‘retrospective’ of the work I have done in 2019. The works range from ‘Abstracts’, to ‘Landscapes’, ‘Seascapes’, and ‘Portraits’. Most of these photographs were taken in Adelaide and Port Willunga in South Australia. There are, however, others from my respective travels to Broken Hill, Silverton, and Sydney in New South Wales. The first section contains some of the photographs that were in my 2019 SALA Exhibition. The other sections are ‘New Work’ under their respective ‘series’ titles.

SALA 2019

SALA 2019 - THE TUNNEL - QUEENSCLIFF, NSWThrough a Window – Tunnel – Queenscliff, New South Wales (Sony ILCE-7). This photography is part of an on-going series entitled ‘Through a Window’; when we look ‘through a window’ we can see a world full of possibilities – some good, some bad. This tunnel was originally chiselled out by local fishermen in 1912 to give them access to the headland between Queenscliff and Freshwater on Sydney’s ‘Northern Beaches’.

Enter Oberon

Enter Oberon – Mt. Lofty Botanical Gardens, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7). This photograph also exemplifies my continuing interest in the unique aspect of the human imagination known as ‘pareidolia’ – seeing faces and figures in nature and man-made objects. It is also reflective of my continuing passion and love for Shakespeare. This horned figure emerging through the trees is like Oberon, King of the Fairies, furious entrance in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.


Babe in the Wood – Mt Lofty Botanic Gardens, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7). This was a fluke – a lucky ‘decisive moment’. I saw this young child who was with her parents playing in the midst of the Mt Loft Botanic Gardens. The trees seemed to hover over her, protecting innocence.

likebluevelvetAbstract: Like Blue Velvet – Port Willunga, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7). This work is partly inspired by the work of American artist, Mark Rothko. It is designed to be meditative and encourage peace and calm.

SALA 2019 - ABSTRACT - 'MAD MARCH' MARCH 2019Abstract: ‘Mad March’ – Adelaide, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7). The month of March is called by Adelaidians ‘Mad March’. This is because the city is bursting with theatrical activity due to 3 annual international festivals overlapping one another – the Adelaide Fringe Festival, the Adelaide Festival, and WOMAD.SALA 2019 - ABSTRACT - STEEL ROOF.jpgAbstracts: Burning Steel Roof – Adelaide, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7). In the Summer months, the temperature in Adelaide can be very hot. I took this from the top of a carpark in the Adelaide CBD, the burnished steel roof glimmered in the heat.

SALA 2019 - LAKE BARMERA #3_edited-1.jpgLake Barmera #1, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7). Lake Barmera (aka Lake Bonny) is a freshwater lake in the ‘Riverland’ region to the east of Adelaide. It is fed and drained by the Murray River. Up until 2010 there was a regulator that prohibited water flowing into the lake, which had been disastrous for local vegetation and animals. In 2010 the regulator was removed and slowly the lake resumed to its former levels of water. Whilst now a popular tourist destination, nonetheless, the old dead trees that stand in the lake, with crows, cormorants, pigeons, and sometimes pelicans, are a spooky reminder of the past.

SALA 2019 - LAKE BARMERA #2.jpgLake Barmera #2, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7). When the sun started to set the golden rays hit the dead trees standing in the lake, bringing them to life as ghoulish creatures.

THE POLES - LAKE BUMBUNGA.jpgLake Bumbunga, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7). Lake Bumbunga is a large salt-water lake in the mid-north of South Australia. Salt has been mined here since 1881. The name ‘Bumbunga’ derives from the local indigenous Parnpanka people term for ‘rainwater lake’.

pelicansPelicans – Milang, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7). Milang is a small town on the west coast of Lake Alexandrina, about 71kms south-east of Adelaide. From 1860 to 1880 it was a major port on the Murray River system. Today, it is a small town with a population of about 700 people. Like most of this region, pelicans are a major feature.

SALA 2019 - SENTINEL - MYPONGASentinels – Myponga, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7). This photograph is part of an on-going series entitled Sentinels. Myponga is a small coastal village to the south-east of Adelaide that was first established in 1858. There are the ruins of an old jetty on the foreshore. These weathered old timber pylons stand like sentinels facing the village.


Topless Cupolas – Adelaide Showground, Adelaide, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7). This was taken one winter night. During Winter the tops of the cupolas on the giant Ferris Wheel inside the Adelaide Showground are removed. This photograph is also part of the on-going series dealing ‘Pareidolia’ (seeing faces and figures in nature and man-made objects), the cupolas appearing to have faces – as if they are sleeping.

Adelaide Industrial - film

Adelaide Industrial: Manton Street, Hindmarsh, Adelaide, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7). Manton Street is a major linking street in the Adelaide suburb of Hindmarsh, running between South Road and the Adelaide Entertainment Centre. This photography is part of an on-going series entitled ‘Adelaide Industrial’.


Adelaide is one of the few major cities in the world that is surrounded by Parklands. The following is a series of ‘Abstracts’ that all reflect in various ways aspects of Adelaide’s ‘Parklands’.ABSTRACT - CYCLISTS.jpgAbstracts: Parklands: Cyclists – Rose Park, Adelaide (Sony ILCE-7). The track around Rose Park in the Eastern Parklands just outside the Adelaide CBD is used for a number of sports, including cycling.ABSTRACT - BALL COURT #1 Abstracts: Parklands Netball Court #1 – Parklands, Adelaide, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7). In the south-east corner of the ‘Parklands’ surrounding the Adelaide CBD there are a number of Netball playing fields. This photo and the one following are two ‘abstracts’ I took at these netball fields. The one above I just cropped and did not ‘Photoshop’ at all; the one below I did work on to reflect the extremely hot day in which these photographs were taken.ABSTRACT - BALL COURT #2.jpg Abstracts: Parklands Netball Court #2 – Parklands, Adelaide, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7).ABSTRACT - SNAKE LIGHTS #2.jpgAbstracts: Parklands – Snake Lights #1 – Rose Park, Adelaide, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7). This photograph and the one below were taken from my sister’s apartment in the Queen Victoria Apartments, Rose Park, which was once a major maternity hospital in Adelaide. ABSTRACT - SNAKE LIGHTS #3.jpgAbstracts: Parklands – Snake Lights #2 – Rose Park, Adelaide, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7). 


The following section contains photographs from two on-going series – Adelaide Industrial and Adelaide Noir. 

Adelaide Industrial is a series that examines and records respective ‘Industrial’ sites in and around Adelaide, some of which are no longer functioning. Adelaide Noir is a nod towards film noir, often giving a particular location a mysterious and/or magical feel with the interplay between black and white and in-between.ADELAIDE INDUSTRIAL



Adelaide Industrial: ‘Blade Runner’ Night – University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7). This was taken one night behind the old Adelaide Hospital on the University of Adelaide grounds. It was done with a 30 sec time-lapse. The title came about because it suddenly felt like this could be a location in the dystopian world of Ridley Scott’s film Blade Runner.

PORT ADELAIDEAdelaide Industrial: Port Adelaide, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7). This and the following two photographs were taken one still Spring evening at the Dolphin Sanctuary at Port Adelaide, opposite the Gas Works on Torrens Island. In the above photograph, the lights reflected in the water were like flaming pillars, which illuminated the way for the departing ship.

TORRENS ISLAND GAS WORKSAdelaide Industrial: Torrens Island Power Station – Torrens Island, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7). The Torrens Island Power Station has essentially been in continuous operation since 1967. It was once the largest single power station user of gas in Australia. Now, however, the Torrens Island Power Station is slowly being decommissioned and shut down. This is partly due to advances in alternative power sources, such as wind farms, and a decrease in the use of fossil fuels such as coal. It is expected to be completely closed by 2021.

ADELAIDE - TORRENS ISLANDAdelaide Industrial: The Beacon – Dolphin Sanctuary, Torrens Island, Adelaide, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7). This was taken on a tranquil Spring night. The water was so flat – no dolphins in sight. Due to certain attacks on the Arts in Australia, including the abolishing of a stand-alone federal Arts Department by the current federal Liberal Party Government this photograph took on another meaning. ‘The Light on the Hill’ is a biblical phrase associated with Christ’s ‘Sermon on the Mount’. In American politics, and with the Australian Labor Party it has been modified to ‘the beacon on the hill’, meaning a ‘light of hope’ amongst the darkness.

ADELAIDE NOIR - LANE XAdelaide Noir: Lane X – Adelaide CBD, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7). Adelaide is full of lanes, some of which a half pedestrian pathways and half driveways. This is such a lane and is off Weymouth Street in the heart of the Adelaide CBD. The iron bars give it a rather sinister atmosphere.

ADELAIDE NOIR - ADEALIDE FOOTBRIDGE Adelaide Noir: Footbridge – River Torrens, Adelaide, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7). This photograph was taken one Spring night from the footpath that runs underneath the footbridge that crosses the River Torrens in the Adelaide CBD, linking the Adelaide Festival Centre and central train station with the Adelaide Oval and North Adelaide.


The following three photographs are from a series entitled Glenelg Sunrise. Glenelg and Glenelg Beach are perhaps the most popular and well-known of all of the Adelaide beach suburbs and beaches. Glenelg was established in 1836 and is the oldest European settlement on mainland South Australia. These photographs were taken one cold Spring evening. They are strongly influenced by the work of American artist Edward Hopper.

GLENELGGlenelg Sunset – Glenelg, Adelaide, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7). This was taken from the Glenelg Jetty looking southward down Holdfast Bay in the Gulf St. Vincent.

GLENELG - COUPLE 1.jpgGlenelg Sunset: Couple #1 – Glenelg, Adelaide, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7). This and the following photo were taken at the beginning of Glenelg Jetty. This is from the northside and is of two young women who were reading books in the setting sun.

GLENELG - COUPLE 2Glenelg Sunset: Couple #2 – Glenelg, Adelaide, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7). This romantic photograph is of a young couple in an embrace as they face the setting sun on the southern side of the Glenelg Jetty.


The following collage of ‘portraits’ exemplifies my endeavours in ‘portraiture’.  I have only just begun to take ‘portraits’. So far this has included a couple of students, homeless people, some of Adelaide’s ‘street performers’, as well as two young ‘drummers’ at Port Willunga and a drag Queen in Broken Hill.


The following photographs are from various locations ‘beyond Adelaide’. This includes some from the McClaren Vale region, particularly Port Willunga, as well as Broken Hill, Silverton, Austinmer, and Sydney in New South Wales.CORIOLE VINEYARD Coriole Vinyard – McClaren Vale, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7). This was taken on Spring day when visiting the wonderful Coriole Vineyard for lunch. It captures the majestic sweep characteristic of the region.

Port Willunga

Port Willunga is a small coastal town on the Fleurier Peninsula, about 40 minutes drive south of Adelaide. It was once a major port, the remnants of its past life can be found in the old timber posts that stand on the top of the cliffs overlooking the beach, and the ruins of an old jetty on the seashore.

ABSTRACT - THE FURYAbstracts: The Fury – Port Willunga, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7). This was taken from inside a car travelling down one of the roads that lead to Port Willunga. It does not reflect a personal mood, but rather the speed we were travelling at that it was actually quite a stormy and overcast day.

PORT WILLUNGA - SENTINELSentinels: Port Willunga, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7). 

PORT WILLUNGA - BARKING ROCKBarking Rock – Port Willunga, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7). This photograph is part of the on-going ‘Pareidolia’ series. In this case, the section of the cliff face above the ruined jetty looked to me like a dog barking.

PORT WILLUNGA #1Ruined Jetty – Port Willunga, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7). One of the most distinguishing landmarks of Port Willunga is the ruins of the old jetty on the beach.

PORT WILLUNGA - THE CRYSentinels: The Cry – Port Willunga, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7). This is part of the on-going series entitled ‘Sentinels’. In this case, it is one of the old ruined pylons from the jetty at Port Willunga. ‘Pareidolia-like’ it stands like a mournful sentinel, with its mouth wide open as if crying out to the far distant shore.

Abstracts: After Rothko – Port Willunga, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7). The American artist Mark Rothko is a major influence on my photographic work. Many of Rothko’s paintings were designed to encourage meditative contemplation, primarily through the juxtaposition of particular colours. My intention is the same as exemplified by this ‘triptych’ re colours, shapes, and textures from the natural world.

Graveyard – Port Willunga, South Australia (Sony ILCE-7). The old Port Willunga graveyard is right next to the main highway. It is not only full of graves of the early settlers it also is the final resting place for a number of people who lost their lives in the tragic ‘Star of Greece’ ship sinking just off the Port Willunga coastline. With the sun setting, it allowed my friend and I to indulge in some spooky shots.

Broken Hill & Silverton

In early December 2019, I spent a week up in Broken Hill in the remote North-West of New South Wales. Broken Hill was established as a town in 1883 and grew in prosperity and prominence due to the discovery of silver and lead in the region. There are many wonderful things to discover in Broken Hill and the surrounding region, including the small town of Silverton, the Mundi Mundi Lookout, and the Living Desert State Park.

BROKEN HILL - SUNRISE.jpgSunrise – Living Desert State Park, Broken Hill, New South Wales (Sony ILCE-7). About 20kms north of Broken Hill is the Living Desert State Park. I drove up their early one morning and was rewarded with a spectacular sunrise.MUNDI MUNDI LOOKOUT - DUST STORM #2.jpg Dust Storm – Mundi Mundi Lookout, Silverton, New South Wales (Sony ILCE-7). Approximately 30kms west of Broken Hill is the Mundi Mundi Lookout. This lookout offers a wonderful vista of the vast Australian outback. I went to take a photograph of the sunset. However, a huge dust storm suddenly descended, in which I became caught. It was a little scary as the wind was so strong and fierce with stones and dust whirling all around me. The power of Nature. I later learned that dust storms were now a common occurrence in the region – on average two a week. This is largely due to the lack of water and the drought that has ravaged Australia for the past ten years.SILVERTON - 'MUNICPAL CHAMBERS' #1.jpg Dust Storm: Municipal Chambers, Silverton, New South Wales (Sony ILCE-7). From the Mundi Mundi Lookout, I drive very cautiously back through the dust storm to Silverton. The dust storm had abated a little and as I was driving down the main street in Silverton the opportunity arose to take this shot. I stood with the car door opened to protect myself from the wind, stones and dust, and went for this ‘decisive moment’.SILVERTON - THROUGH A WINDOW.jpgThrough a Window: Ruin – Silverton, New South Wales (Sony ILCE-7). I returned to Silverton the following day and it was clear blue skies – and very hot. There were a number of old ruined houses off the main road. I ventured inside one of them to take this shot.MUNDI MUNDI LOOKOUT - SUNSET #1.jpg After Rothko: Sunset #1 – Mundi Mundi Lookout, Silverton, New South Wales (Sony ILCE-7).MUNDI MUNDI LOOKOUT - SUNSET #2.jpg After Rothko: Sunset #2 – Mundi Mundi Lookout, Silverton, New South Wales (Sony ILCE-7). The above two photographs were the ones I wanted from this journey to Mundi Mundi Lookout. They are part of the on-going series entitled After Rothko, inspired by the works of American artist Mark Rothko.


SYDNEY - WAR MEMORIAL.jpgReflections: ANZAC War Memorial, Hyde Park, Sydney, New South Wales (Sony ILCE-7). In marked contrast to the photographs from Silverton and Broken Hill is this one of the ANZAC War Memorial in Hyde Park Sydney, which I took one December night.


I spent Xmas and saw the New Year (and decade) in at the coastal town of Austinmer, about 90minutes drive south of Sydney on the New South Wales South Coast. Whilst pleasant in many ways, nonetheless, the experience was shadowed by the horrendous fires that were raging throughout New South Wales as well of the rest of the country. There has been significant loss of life and property. So many, too many, mornings the air was filled with smoke and haze, casting a strange and disconcerting orange glow over everything – and it was hot, very hot. I couldn’t help but feel that this new decade was the beginning of a kind of ‘Brave New World’ in which we now must reckon with significant ‘Climate Change’ in order to survive.BRAVE NEW WORLD 2Brave New World: Thirroul Beach – Thirroul, New South Wales (Sony ILCE-7).

FLYING FOXES 1.jpgBrave New World: Flying Foxes – Austinmer, New South Wales (Sony ILCE-7). There has been a major loss of Australian native flora and fauna, including flying foxes.  These strange mammals that look like bats fly over Austinmer and the surrounding suburbs every evening. Whilst there are quite a number of them in this region sadly there have been massive deaths recorded in other parts of fire-ravaged Australia.

BRAVE NEW WORLDBrave New World: Trees – Sharkey’s Beach – New South Wales (Sony ILCE-7). This was my final photograph for 2019. In many ways, it exemplifies the nightmare that has engulfed Australia this December and is still continuing. Whilst this photograph may look like it has been severely ‘photoshopped’ in actual fact it has been hardly touched. The orange glow, caused by the smoke and haze from the fires to the north, west, and south of Austinmer, is captured in this rather eerie formal Japanese-like-print photograph of trees on the seashore at Sharkey’s Beach near Austinmer.

This challenging time will end and hopefully, we will all enter a new period that is indeed a wonderful ‘Brave New World’.

Tony Knight











NEW WORK by Tony Knight – SALA 2019


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This gallery contains 22 photos.

INTRODUCTION Welcome to NEW WORK – my photography exhibition for this year’s South Australian Living Artists (SALA) festival. My focus this past …

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ON THIS DAY: 18 February 1970. The Trial of the ‘Chicago 8’


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ON THIS DAY – 18 February 1970 – The Trial of the ‘Chicago 8’

A couple of days ago was the anniversary of the handing down of the all-important verdict in the so-called Trial of the ‘Chicago 8’. This was one of the most shocking, alarming, important and influential political trials in the 20th Century.

The ‘Chicago 8’ consisted of some of the most dynamic, passionate, outspoken and controversial of the relatively young contemporary American political activists in the heady days of the late-1960s.

The Chicago 8′ were:

  • Abbie Hoffman (1936-1989)download-1.jpg
  • Jerry Rubin (1938-1994)
  • David Dellinger (1915-2004)
  • Tom Hayden (1939-2016)
  • Rennie Davis (1941- )
  • John R. Froines (1939- )
  • Lee Weiner (1939- )
  • Bobby Seale (1936- )

Glancing at this list of names containing some of the most important and influential American left-wing political activists of the 1960s and 1970s it is immediately apparent that four have passed on, and four remain. It struck me as rather a shame as well as a little disturbing that this notorious trial, the people involved, the events of the trial, and its subsequent influence, could disappear without much notice in the on-going cultural amnesia of the ‘Great Nothing’ that removes all sense of knowledge about the past. Ignorance of The Trial of the ‘Chicago 8’ evokes the ‘Santayana historic principle’ that ‘those who ignore the lessons of the past are bound to repeat them’; and what happened in The Trial of the Chicago was so shocking that, if you knew, you wouldn’t want it repeated at any cost.

Why this trial came about in the first place, and what happened during it and after it is of enormous importance – and should never be forgotten.

In August 1968, at the height of a very ‘long, hot, summer’, in Chicago during the 1968 National Democratic Convention, there was a number of rather violent anti-Vietnam ‘protests’, in which members of the ‘Chicago 8’ were actively involved. The Right-Wing reactionary conservatives in government, Republicans and Democrats, decided to may them accountable. There were formally charged with, amongst other things, the very real and serious charges of ‘conspiracy’ against the State, including the building of bombs, and for deliberately and illegally ‘crossing borders, in order to incite riot’. 

The subsequent trial had more layers to it, greater complexity, and on-going relevance than a mere generational battle between the ‘Young’ and the ‘Old’. This was also a battle of conflicting visions and ideas as well as actions in regard to the US Legal system, ‘crime and punishment’,  ‘justice’, and the  ‘American way of life’.  It was a battle between the old dominant ruling conservative ‘white’ ‘Right’, exemplified by presiding Illinois District Court Judge Julius Hoffman (1895-1983), and Illinois State Prosecutors Richard Schutlz and Tom Foran (? -2000), and the more radical ‘younger counter-culture’ ‘Left’, exemplified by the ‘Chicago 8’ and their equally out-spoken attorney’s William Kunstler (1919-1995) and Leonard Weineglass  (1933- 2011),

The Trial of the ‘Chicago 8’ descended into a complete and utter travesty of so-called American justice and the contemporary US Legal System. It exposed the ruthlessness as well as the determination of both sides, in regard to their vision of the ‘American Way of Life’, what was acceptable and non-acceptable behavior, and a new vision of  ‘the American Dream’ that drove fear into the heart of conservative America.

The reasons why this particular group of men from the ‘Left-wing’ of American politics was chosen to be the scapegoats for the violent demonstrations that occurred in Chicago in that hot August in 1968 is not altogether clear. Part of the reason lies with other matters, such as African-American activist Bobby Seale who was a co-founder of the militant  African-American organization known as ‘The BlackPanthers’ that had very little to do with the demonstrations in Chicago that August in 1968.

Maybe the ‘Chicago 8′ were charged because of the way they dressed? They were all relatively young men, fresh out of college, smart and ambitious and ready to make their mark on US politics, society and culture. The ‘Chicago 8′, for the most part, and as contemporary photographs of them reveal, dressed in the popular ‘hippie’, ‘beatnik’, and ‘denim’ counter-culture fashions of the late-1960s. Furthermore, they grew their hair. It is sometimes a forgotten aspect of the American counter-culture of the 1960s and 1970s that young men growing their hair, and/or having it ‘permed’ to complement modern youth fashions, was also an act of rebellion against the conservative ‘Right’, who preferred and in some places demanded that men and boys had the same militaristic ‘short back and sides’ cut their hair. The song ‘Hair’ from the landmark musical HAIR, which had just opened on Broadway in 1968, reflects and satirizes this contemporary revolutionary obsession with the length of one’s hair.

Whilst to modern eyes it is perhaps too easy to place Judge Julius Hoffman and his associates as the villains, and the ‘Chicago 8′ and their respective attorneys as the victims. The truth is more complex, with neither side behaving with much grace and generosity towards the other. On the contrary, both sides indulged in ruthless, intolerant, and aggressive behavior to one another, as exemplified in the case of Bobby Seale.

From its very beginning, the actual trial of the ‘Chicago 8‘ was surrounded with controversy and relatively strange and inexplicable choices, such as those associated with Bobby Seale. It was a sheer accident as well as blatant manipulative opportunism that saw Bobby Seale suddenly been made to be a part of the ‘Chicago 8’. Prior to this, Bobby Seale had had very little to do with the anti-Vietnam War ‘protest’ leaders, such as Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, and Tom Hayden. Bobby Seale was the co-founder of the newly formed militant and relatively subversive and intimidating African-American organization, The Black Panthers. To the conservative ‘Right’, Bobby Seale represented a very real and dangerous threat to their decaying vision of the ‘(‘white’) American way of Life’. Even though he was only in Chicago for two days during the National Democratic Convention, nonetheless, he was considered equally guilty as the others in regard to the charges of being involved in a ‘conspiracy’ against the State, and ‘crossing border, to incite riot’. 

What happened to Bobby Seale during the course of this trial came to exemplify and symbolize the worst of this trials abuse of privilege, power, and justice.

From the very beginning of the trial, Bobby Seale fought for his right to choose his own legal counsel and for his case to be heard separately from the others. His appeals were ignored and dismissed, and he became outraged. In every court session, he would speak up loudly and passionately, demanding his rights for his legal counsel and for his case to be trialed separately. He never stopped – ever. Supported by his co-accused, his constant barrage of loud and assertive interjections prevented the relatively smooth process of the trial and the day-to-day running of the court. Finally, after yet another loud and aggressive altercation Judge Julius Hoffman, in order to silence Bobby Seale did the unthinkable. He charged Bobby Seale with ‘contempt of court’, which carried with it a 4-year prison sentence, and then when that still did not silence him, Judge Hoffman ordered the courtroom staff to bind Bobby Seale to a chair in the courtroom, and ‘gag’ him. This was done, not just once – but four times. This drastic and brutal action, known as ‘the “gagging” of Bobby Seale’became the most notorious incident this trial full of notorious incidents. It came to symbolize the utter travesty of justice, the use, and abuse of privilege and power, and essential American civil and human rights.

Whilst arguably Bobby Seale through his own abusive behavior, particularly towards Judge Hoffman, may have brought this on himself, no one could have predicted the punishment. It shocked the nation and helped turn public opinion in favor of the ‘Chicago 8’. Throughout all this, Bobby Seale stood firm. indignantly defiant and demanded his right for legal representation and for his case to be heard separately. Promises and reassurances were made, but nothing happened, which only fueled his anger and outrage. However, following his controversial ‘gagging’ of Bobby Seale, Judge Hoffman then severed Seale’s relationship with the others, who henceforth were known as the ‘Chicago 7′ for the rest of the two-year trial. Eventually, all charges against Bobby Seale were dropped, nonetheless, he still served time in prison because of his (justifiable) ‘contempt in court’.

The ‘Not Guilty’ verdict that came down on 18 February 1970 may have released the ‘Chicago 7’ from the ‘conspiracy’ charges, but they received a ‘Guilty’ verdict for ‘crossing borders, to incite riot’. This was partially true as they did know that what they were doing was technically illegal, and they did intend to disrupt the National Democratic Conventions. They each received prison sentences for this ‘crime’, in addition to the racked-up years they received for the numerous ‘contempt in court’ penalties they and their attorney’s received from Judge Julius Hoffman. Subsequently, each member of the ‘Chicago 8’ received prison sentences. Essentially, each member of the ‘Chicago 8’ received prison sentences of approximately 10 years each.

In 1972, just two years after the official verdicts, the respective Trial of the ‘Chicago 8’, and the later Trial of the ‘Chicago 7’, and the case against Bobby Seale were reviewed. The subsequent results of this review were considerable. The charges against the ‘Chicago 7’ and Bobby Seale were dropped and their respective sentences squashed. The respective trials had shown up major inadequacies and flaws in the US Legal System, which included and allowed the suppression of information, ‘extreme prejudice’ by the practicing representatives of the law, and the imposition of intimidating means to maintain order, control, and power.

The Trial of the ‘Chicago 8’ triggered off numerous judicial and law reforms in the US Legal System, particularly in regard to due process in court proceedings. The importance and significance of The Trial of the ‘Chicago 8’, and later The Trial of the ‘Chicago 7’ was partially acknowledged via being the source and inspiration and fact behind the creation of numerous artworks.

The 1968 Chicago demonstrations and the subsequent Trial of the ‘Chicago 8’and/or Trial of the ‘Chicago 7’ has featured either directly or indirectly in a number of films and television productions. This includes Haskell Wexler’s Medium Cool (1969), Jean-Luc Godard, Jean- Pierre Grolin and the Dziga Vertov Group’s Vladimir et Rosa (1970), Peter Watkins’ Punishment Park (1971), and Woody Allen’s Bananas (1971). 

Direct dramatizations, based on the transcripts of the respective trials include the BBC’s docudrama The Chicago Conspiracy Trial (1970), and HBO’s docudrama Conspiracy: The Trial of the ‘Chicago 8’, John Goodchild’s and L. A Theatre Works’ radio play The Chicago Conspiracy Trial  (1993), Robert Greenwald’s Steal this Movie! (2000), Brett Morgan’s animated documentary Chicago 10: Speak Your Peace (2007), Kerry Feltham’s The Great Chicago’s Conspiracy Circus (1969/2008), Pinchas Perry’s The Chicago 8 (2009 / 2012), and Kenneth Bowser’s documentary  Phil Ochs: There but for Fortune (2010), 

51ujCPavLhL._SX355_In the world of popular music, the Trial of the ‘Chicago 8’ has featured in a number of works, notably Graham Nashe’s Chicago from his debut album Songs for Beginners. The opening line, “So your brother’s bound and gagged, and they’ve chained him to a chair”, is a direct reference to ‘the gagging of Bobby Seale’ during court proceedings in the first trial.

One of the most powerful and lasting images associated with the respective trials is Richard Avendon’s 1969 ‘wall-sized mural portrait photograph of the ‘Chicago 7’. First exhibited at the Minneapolis Institute of Art in 1970, it shows the members of the ‘Chicago 7’ in a line very similar to a conventional US Police ‘line-up’ of suspects. The Avedon portrait was shot and made before the verdicts and the official end to the trial. It has subsequently, however, toured and been shown in many art galleries and museums around the world.

The human cost to the individual members of the ‘Chicago 8’, as well as their respective families, was considerable. Despite the verdict of ‘Not Guilty ‘ for the ‘conspiracy’ charges, the members of the now ‘Chicago 7’, were found ‘Guilty’ on other charges, particularly the charge of ‘crossing borders, to incite riot’ and a number of ‘contempt of court’ fines that generally contained the added punishment of a 4 years prison sentence. All-up, each of the ‘Chicago 7’ were facing a prison service for the next 10 years.

The damage to the reputation and integrity of the American legal and justice systems was considerable. In particular, it was the jurisdiction and power of the District Courts and their respective State judges that was profoundly questioned. As with other institutions and organizations, such as the US Arms Forces and the Vietnam War, the US Legal System, particularly the numerous District Courts scattered right across and throughout the USA, experienced a radical change in how they were perceived by the general public.

A general lack of trust in the courts and the US Legal System seems to have permeated across the entire country from which it would take decades to recover.

Maybe that is the reason why when on the anniversary of the ‘Not Guilty’ vote, which marked the end of the ‘Trial of the Chicago 8’, there was barely a mention of it in the news or social media. That as well as it becoming yet another so-called meaningless incident from USA and World History, it has the potential to produce shame for allowing such a travesty of justice to exist in the first place. It has the potential to further damage the US Legal system, government, and administration because it removes trust and confidence with those particular and necessary components of an advanced ‘Western’ democratic country, that advocate the principle of  ‘and justice for all’ but in reality cannot always guarantee it.

This is the reason why ‘The Trial of the ‘Chicago 8’ is so important because it reveals a crack in the system of a democratic government and the law, for which we can be and are both outraged and ashamed. There is a danger to a blind belief and expectation in the basic democratic and human rights involving the law ‘and justice for all’, which cannot always be guaranteed by that government and its legal system, even if it is advocated as an essential part of a so-called ‘democracy’.

We assume that we are all protected by the ‘Law, of the Land’ and that our individual lives, as well as our democratic right to hold differing opinions and beliefs, are sacred. We are wrong. History continually reminds us of this, and we continually ignore and dismiss it. Subsequently, this kind of abuse of power is continually repeated, and we continue to do nothing until the point where ‘and justice for all’ and other basic democratic and human rights are completely removed, and the doors to the gas chambers are opened yet again.

This is of great relevance to those living in the USA today and in other so-called ‘democratic’ countries, where the forces and supporters of far Right-Wing re-active conservatism are on the rise. The Trial of the ‘Chicago 8’ reminds us of the potential vulnerability of this scared democratic principle and human right under the law. It reminds us of the potential and actual use and abuse of this sacred democratic principle of ‘and justice for all’ by the very people who seemingly advocate it,  yet some of these people will actively work to suppress it in the face of opposition to their preferred ‘way of life’. This is fascism – the active and brutal suppression of difference, as was seen throughout the entire Trial of the ‘Chicago 8’, and by both sides. It resonates with a famous proverbial statement by the 19th Century English historian, Lord Acton – ‘Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’. 

62bafa4e9ad09d5f3988f2d539c1b85cMost people, it would seem are cowered and intimidated into states of bafflement, bewilderment, and silence, due to the impassioned vitriol that can spray forth from the extreme ‘Right’ and the extreme ‘Left’. It is far too much ‘noise’ in a world that is increasingly ‘noisy’ and invasive into our personal and public lives. Based on historical precedents, exemplified by life under Nazi Germany, Russian Stalinism, and any other fascistic totalitarian government or organization of ‘like-minded’ people who are intolerant of any difference, to be silenced by the heated words and actions of anger and hatred is the norm.

This is perhaps why the anniversary of the verdict for The Trial of the ‘Chicago 8’ went relatively unnoticed. What happened in that Illinois District Courtroom so many years ago produced silence as well as outrage. The Trial of the ‘Chicago 8’ was an explosive vitriolic battle of anger and resentment by both sides against each other. The outrage over the proceedings, particularly ‘the “gagging” of Bobby Seale’ is relatively easy to understand and appreciate because it was so appallingly outrageous – and yet, during four days of the course of the trial it was tolerated. Not by the victims of the oppression, but by the American people. With extensive news coverage of this very open and public display of the Government and the Law to make accountable through the Law any opposition was draconian, to say the least. It is the silence of the majority of the American people that is baffling. Most people were shocked and dismayed at what was happening, especially the image of the ‘bound and gagged’ Bobby Seale, which had all the trappings of the worst cases in Nazi Germany and beyond – but nothing happened, and the trial continued. This whole trial, this travesty of American justice, could have stopped immediately if the majority of the American people wanted it to stop, but they didn’t, and the trial continued for the next two years.

It is noticeable that the ‘voices of reason’ were relatively silent or ineffective during the course of the trial. Maybe it was because of all the ‘noise’ of hatred and resentment firing out of the courtroom that stifled any attempt to stop the trial from proceeding. Maybe the extreme Right was seen as too powerful and intimidating; maybe the extreme Left was seen as too powerful and intimidating? Maybe it was an issue of timing? Waiting for the right moment to fix up and hopefully repair any damage done. This would have been impossible to achieve if the trial continued, as it did continue for the next two years.

The ‘voices of reason and reconciliation needed to wait until all the anger, hatred, and resentment had dispersed. It is noticeable that it was two years after the verdict, in 1972 that the whole schmozzle was unpicked, charges dropped, sentences squashed and the prisoners set free. Two years may sound like a long time, but in actual fact, it is a relatively short time.  To go through all the documents, transcripts, in fact, everything to do with the case, then to take any recommendations in regards to the convicted-by-Law, and go through the whole process of reversing judgments and sentences, et. al, could have taken a lot longer than two years after hearing the verdict.

It is possible that all the necessary paper-work and meetings etc may easily have been done by the respective people and organizations involved. A number of the ‘Chicago 7′ were lawyers with extensive and successful practices. It is arguable that some of the friends of the  ‘Chicago 7′ had ‘influence’, which would have assisted in getting the necessary people in the US Administration and Bureaucracy to immediately attend to the documents and papers associated with the trial. Nonetheless, that it was all done in two years implies either that the US Administration and Bureaucracy was extremely, extremely efficient at this time (unlikely): or that finally the ‘Voices of Reason and Reconciliation’ were able to move quickly and collaboratively with numerous ‘stakeholders’, including that vast mass known as the ‘American People’.The relative quickness in having the whole things reviewed, overturned and the prisoners released could not have happened if the culture of anger, hatred, and resentment was still relatively dominant; any change to the judgment would have been met with opposition and from a variety of people and places. It wasn’t – which suggests the opposite – that public opinion had swung in to support the ‘Chicago 7’.

You get a hint of the gradual but steadily growing swing in favor of the campaign to free the ‘Chicago 7’ and Bobby Seale in the respective local, state and national newspapers and journals from 1970 to 1972. This swing comes at a relatively tempestuous time for the US Presidency and Administration now under the conservative grip of Republican President Nixon and his team. The campaign to free Bobby Seale and the ‘Chicago 7‘ parallels the call and drive to end US involvement in the Vietnam War, which is finally if somewhat controversially achieved in 1973. That this dominating business of the day was going on at the same time only further suggests that there must have been a lot of quick and easy collaboration between the respective Government Departments to get this matter resolved as quickly as possible.

The campaign to free Bobby Seale and the Chicago 7 catches the wave of change generated by the growing backlash against the reactive and oppressive conservative powers and their responsibility for the disastrous Vietnam War. This backlash was to take another leap forward with the ensuing ‘Watergate’ scandal and the resignation of President Nixon in 1974.

imagesIt should also be noted that this change in public opinion was partly due to the fact that The Trial of the ‘Chicago 8’, as well as Vietnam War, and the ‘Watergate’ scandal was played out on national television. It has been said that it was the influence of television that assisted in ending the Vietnam War because for the first time the real horrors of war were being broadcasted via television into ordinary American homes across the entire nation. This influence of television on public opinion in regard to the Vietnam War is equally true in regard to public opinion about The Trial of the ‘Chicago 8′; a fact driven home by the respective dramatizations of the trial, as well as in other art forms, which also presented disgust over the trial and sympathy for the ‘Chicago 8′.

To some, the ‘Chicago 8’ are still the radical left-wing, ‘hippies’, ‘traitors’, ‘druggies’, and (of course) ‘Communists’; for others, such as Richard Avedon and his generation of artists they were ‘heroes’. The truth of all this, however, lies somewhere in between. As was obvious then, The Trial of the ‘Chicago 8’ represented the polarization of the radical Left and the conservative Right in US Politics and Society in the final years of the 1960s. It showed how on both sides privilege and power can be abused, and how on both sides arrogance and entrenched prejudical behaviors and attitudes can lead to a type of physical and psychological violence. This violence unchecked can seriously undermine trust and confidence in a countries legal system and government, and make a mockery of a sacred democratic principle and belief in the right and even existence of ‘and justice for all’. The Trial of the ‘Chicago 8’ revealed how truly fragile is the law when faced with irrational fear, anger, resentment, and hatred.

There is, however, something else about ‘The Trial of the Chicago 8’ that is more positive than the fear and anger it unleashed. I experienced this ‘something else’ when I was first exposed to and learned about The Trial of the Chicago 8. I was only 11 years in 1968 and blissfully unaware of any of the people and incidences that are associated with this notorious trial and ‘travesty of justice’. Two years later, however, in 1970 it was a different story. I remember I watched with my family the excellent BBC docu-drama The Chicago Conspiracy Trial. We were all appalled, outraged and silenced by this event, particularly ‘the “gagging” of Bobby Seale,’ something hitherto we knew nothing about. In many ways, I mark the awakening of my political consciousness with seeing The Chicago Conspiracy Trial. The issues of injustice, civil and human rights discussed in this docu-drama as well as the real trial itself, was also influential in shaping the form and expression of my future social and political activism, something that was given further inspirational stimuli with the changes in Australia ushered in by the newly elected Prime Minister Gough Whitlam and the Labour Party in 1972, the ending of Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War, and the end of  compulsory ‘conscription’ into the Australian Armed forces, the beginning of the ‘gay’ rights movement in Australia, and the controversial sacking of Gough Whitlam and his Labor Government in 1975.


Looking back, it now seems all so quick, so much social and political change in Australia, the USA, and the rest of the world, within the seven years between the beginning of the Trial of the ‘Chicago 8‘ in 1968, and the resignation of President Nixon, and the sacking of the Labor Government in 1975. Time and again I am reminded of the old saying, ‘From the Ashes of Disaster comes the Roses of Success’. This seems to me rather apt in regard to disastrous actual Trail of the ‘Chicago 8’, and the ‘Roses of Success’ that came from this disaster, including radical legal reforms in the US, and the eventual placement of the radical ‘revolutionaries’ that made up the ‘Chicago 8’ as first victims of prejudice and injustice, and then as ‘heroes’ for their courage and resilience as the world around them collapsed, changed, and was reborn. I was reborn – as it was their story that woke me up to the realities, privileges, vulnerabilities, and brilliant possibilities inherent in living in a ‘democracy’. Their individual and collective heroism helped shape me, and the future – and we are all the better for their trials and tribulations as the ‘Chicago 8‘.


‘Westward Ho!’ – ‘Go West’: How ‘the West’ was Imagined. Part 1: In the beginning…

‘Westward Ho!’ – ‘Go West’: How ‘the West’ was Imagined.

PART 1: In the Beginning…..

Go West, life is peaceful there. / Go West, lots of open air. / Go West to begin life new. 

The above is from the song Go West by Henri Belolo, Jacques Morall, and Victor Edward Willis, which was first sung by the iconic ‘gay’ group The Village People in 1979. It was not as popular as other songs by The Village People but eventually gained international success when the Pet Shop Boys released a revised version in 1993.

What the above lyrics encapsulate is an image of ‘the West’, a romantic utopian ideal that is ‘peaceful’ with ‘lots of open air’ and a place where one can ‘begin life new’. It is inspired by the statement Go West, young man, and grow up with your country that is generally attributed to American journalist and politician Horace Greeley (1811-1872), horacegreelywho amongst other things was a co-founder of the US Republican Party. Greeley’s statement was part of a US idealistic movement in the mid-nineteenth century known as ‘Manifest Destiny’ that envisaged a kind of divine ‘collective destiny’ of the American people to expand and conquer all of North America. It was not popular with all Americans, notably President Lincoln; nonetheless, it played a significant role in the evolution of the United States of America in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries


What does ‘the West’ mean? It can be allegorical as well as actual. It can be wild and dangerous as well as peaceful. Most will associate ‘the West’ with the American ‘West’ and particularly the ‘Western’ film genre. Yet, even here there is a vast diversity of imagined worlds. The ‘Western’ is the oldest film genre, exemplified by the very first films, such as Edwin S. Porter’s The Great Train Robbery (1903), as well as Charles Tait’s The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906), which is the first motion picture feature in World Cinema.

The ‘Western’, however, has more sub-genres than any other film genre. Indeed it is possible to argue that the ‘Western’ IS film in all is magnificent grandeur. You want ‘diversity’ – then look no further than the ‘Western’ in World Cinema. Virtually every major actor, director, producer, writer, cinematographer, designer, composer, editor, et. al, have done at least one or more ‘Westerns’.

Currently, the most common cry in the contemporary performing arts is ‘Diversity’ – usually made by people considerably younger than myself and peers. It is declaimed in such a way as if it had never been called for before they embarked on their evangelical like mission. Talk about patronizing arrogance and re-inventing the wheel? They do, however, have some valuable points to make in terms of certain aspects of ‘identity politics’ – but not in others; plus their punitive measures against any who oppose or question their God-given democratic right to judge and condemn (based on social media) is rather intimidating.

This recently came to a head for me over a New Year dinner party when I mentioned I was looking into ‘Westerns’.

Oh, I HATE ‘Westerns’, said ’20-something’ Cheryl contemptuously and supported by 30-something Shane (not their real names, of course, but will suffice).

Do you’, I replied, ‘And why?’

‘Oh, all that antiquated macho bullshit – it’s disgusting’.

How many ‘Westerns’ have you seen?’

They rattled off a few of the older ‘classics’, which was rather impressive as I was expecting ‘zero’, plus Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven, which they did like nor approve of. Yep – they didn’t ‘approve’.

‘It’s soooo American’ – was the other erudite criticism. Whilst the conversation veered towards other topical sensations associated with disgraced actors and ‘identity politics’, rather than engage I retreated into my own escapist world of the movies, and hence this rather extended essay was born.

Classic ‘Westerns’ include John Ford’s Stagecoach (1939) and The Searchers (1956), Fred Zimmermann’s High Noon (1952), George Stevens’ Shane (1953), John Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven (1960), Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1969), and Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven (1992). However, there is a lot more than these brilliant works – a hell of a lot more.

There are ‘Western’ musicals, notably Rodgers and Hammerstein’s highly influential Oklahoma (1943) and Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun (1948), but also Stanley Donen’s Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), David Butler’s Calamity Jane (1953), Joshua Logan’s Paint Your Wagon (1969), Michael Apted’s The Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980), and Robert Altman’s Nashville (1975) and A Prairie Home Companion (2006). There are even ‘Western’ Operas, exemplified by Puccini’s The Girl of the Golden West (1910), which is based on the 1905 play by David Belasco.

‘Western’ comedies include Buster Keaton’s Go West (1925), Mae West’s Go West, Young Man (1936), George Marshal’s Destry Rides Again (1939), The Marx Brothers’ Go West (1940), Mel Brook’s Blazing Saddles (1974), John Landis’ The Three Amigos (1986). and Ron Underwood’s City Slickers (1991). 

The American ‘Western’ really started to change in the late 20th Century. This was partly due to ‘Revisionist’ history, exemplified by Dee Brown’s enormously influential Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (1970). This subsequently ushered in a new wave of ‘Revisionist Westerns’ in which Native American started to be given an authentic voice. Examples in include – Ralph Nelson’s Soldier Blue (1970), Elliot Silverstein’s A Man Called Horse (1970), and Arthur Penn’s Little Big Man (1970).

The extreme violence in these three films is reflective of the need to smash through complacency and ignorance of the nightmare of ‘white’ invasion and ‘manifest destiny’ on the Native American population. This is still a highly volatile and contentious issue, not least being the issue of ‘white’ actors playing Native American roles. This includes downloadeven such illustrious actors as Dame Judith Anderson who is virtually unrecognizable in A Man Called Horse. Her Academy Award-nominated performance as the Sioux matriarch Buffalo Cow Head is truly terrific. In today’s world, however, Dame Judith Anderson’s performance would be regarded as inappropriate ‘cultural appropriation’. Changing times, changing tastes, nonetheless, it is still a great piece of ‘transformational’ acting from one of the 20th Century’s greatest actors.

billy_jack_posterThe changes in political and cultural tastes and ethics in the USA in the 1960s and 1970s, especially in regard to Native Americans, can be seen in the relative success of a small independent film that nearly didn’t get made at all – Tom Laughlin’s Billy Jack (1971). Tom Laughlin had first introduced the character of Billy Jack in the ‘outlaw biker’ film The Born Losers (1967). ‘Biker’ films of the 1950s and 1960s, such as Laszlo Benedek’s The Wild One (1953) with Marlon Brando, and Peter Fonda’s and Dennis Hopper’s seminal Easy Rider (1969) share many things in common with the traditional ‘Western’ format – outsiders facing hostility in rural and country settings, with motorbikes replacing horses. These films offered Tom Laughlin a way in, an ‘entry point’ to the American film market. Billy Jack is a ‘half-breed’ Navajo Indian, who is also a Green Beret Vietnam War veteran and a ‘Hapkido’ Korean martial arts Master. You could say that Tom Laughlin deliberately had all bases covered. It didn’t make much difference as it took him 3 years to get Billy Jack made, from 1969 to 1971. Three production companies, American International Pictures, 20th Century-Fox, and Warner Brothers, came and went in regard to the making and distribution of Billy Jack. Finally, in 1971, Tom Laughlin distributed the film himself. It was a massive hit! Looking at the film now it is an odd mixture of styles and genres – part action film, part civil rights film, part martial arts film (in an era before Bruce Lee’s kung-fu films). There really isn’t anything else like it – it is quite simply unique. What makes it uncomfortable is its defense of violence against racism. Justifiable violence? That is what makes the film still extremely important. It is up to the individual viewer to make up their own mind.

Other ‘Revisionist Westerns’ include – Clint Eastwood’s The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), Kevin Costner’s Dances With Wolves (1990), and Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man (1996), featuring Johnny Depp. I really don’t know where or how to place Gore Verbinski’s The Lone Ranger (2013) in which Johnny Depp played the Native American role of Tonto. This caused quite a controversy with accusations of ‘white-washing’ and inappropriate ‘cultural appropriation’ – the film was universally condemned. I didn’t dislike it – in fact, I found it rather fascinating; certainly strange and unconventional, which I’ve come to expect from anything with Johnny Depp who has also played a Carribean pirate, a psychopathic 19th Century London barber, Lewis Carroll’s Mad Hatter, and a creature called Edward Scissorhands. Again, like Dame Judith Anderson in A Man Called Horse, the contemporary ‘white-washing’ and ‘cultural appropriation’ arguments draws attention to a modern tension in regard to acting and casting. It would seem, following modern tastes and sensibilities that Actors are no longer encouraged or even allowed to ‘transform’ into characters other than themselves. Contemporary tastes seem to be pulling away from this ancient tradition; only ‘gay’ actors should play ‘gay’ roles, only Native American actors should play Native American roles, only transgender actors should play transgender roles. It is an on-going ‘drama’ that is a part of the ultimately limited vision of contemporary ‘identity politics’. Strangely enough, for some reason, everyone meets in ‘the West’.

Other examples of how the ‘Western’ was evolving in the late-20th Century, complementing changes in socio-political tastes, concerns, and sentiments (e.g. civil rights, racism, feminism, gay rights,  et al.) can be seen in the sub-genres of ‘Crime Westerns’ and ‘Western Dramas’, embracing both the ‘epic’ and smaller ‘naturalistic’ social dramas. Examples include – John Sturges’ Bad Day at Black Rock (1955), Ridley Scott’s Thelma and Louise (1991) , The Coen Brothers’ Fargo (1995), No Country for Old Men (207), and Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017); George Stevens’ Giant (1956), Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show (1971) and Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas (1984), Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain (2005), and Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood (2007).

Possibly partly due to the influences of ‘revisionist Westerns’ other sub-genres began to emerge in the late-20th Century. It was almost as if ‘revisionism’ allowed for greater imaginative and creative freedom. ‘Science Fiction Westerns’ and ‘Horror Westerns’ began to appear, exemplified by the influential Westworld (1973), written and directed by Michael Crichton. Other ‘Science Fiction Westerns’ include Robert Zemeckis’ Back to the Future III (1990),  Jon Favreau’s Cowboys and Aliens (2011) and Joss Whedon’s Firefly (2002) TV Series and follow-up film Serenity (2005). 

‘Horror Westerns’, like ‘Science Fiction Westerns’ are a curious hybrid that has evolved in the latter half of the 20th Century and are now an important part of contemporary World Cinema. Very often ‘Horror Westerns’ will embrace other film genres such as musicals, comedy, and satire (‘spoofs’). This includes Edward Dien’s Curse of the Undead (1959), Norman Taurog’s and Elvis Presley’s Tickle Me (1965), William Beaudine’s Billy the Kid versus Dracula (1966) and Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter (1966).

Considering the enormous universal popularity of ‘Horror’ film throughout the world, it is hardly surprising that there has been an increase in the number of ‘Horror Westerns’. This includes Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark (1987), Robert Rodriguez’s and Quentin Tarantino’s From Dusk to Dawn (1996), John Carpenter’s Vampires (1998), Antonia Bird’s Ravenous (1999), J. T. Petty’s The Burrowers (2008), Timur Bekmambetov’s   Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer (2012), S. Craig Zeher’s Bone Tomahawk (2015), Martin Koolhoven’s Brimstone (2016), and The Spierig Brothers’ Winchester (2018).

Outside the USA there are a number of ‘Western’ sub-genres that are country-specific and are often identified by food from a particular country. For example, ‘Curry Westerns’ are those from India and South East Asia, such as R. Thyagarjan’s Thai Meethu Sathyiyam (1978) and K. Murali Mohana Rao’s Kodama Simham (1990). 

Connected to this but completely independent are the respective ‘Martial Arts Westerns’ that can be found in numerous countries. This includes ‘Samurai Westerns’ of which Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (1954) is the most influential, being the base for the 1954 and 2016 American versions of The Magnificent Seven. The Japanese ‘star’ actor of Seven Samurai was Toshiro Mifune (1920-1997), who is one of the greatest actors of the 20th Century. He made very few English-speaking films compared to the massive amount of work he did in Japan and Asia. Nonetheless, there are a couple, which includes Terence Young’s unique American ‘samurai Western’ called Red Sun (1971) that also features Charles Bronson, Alain Delon, and Ursula Andress.

Perhaps the most famous and universal recognized are the influential Italian and Spanish ‘Spaghetti Westerns’. These are best exemplified by the films of Sergio Leone and Sergio Corbucci. Sergio Leone’s ‘Dollars’ Trilogy featuring Clint Eastwood as ‘the Man with No Name’ – A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For A Few Dollars More (1965), The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966), as well as Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) has had a significant and acknowledged influence on US ‘Western’ as well as ‘Crime’ film directors, notably by Don Siegel, Clint Eastward, and Francis Ford Coppola. The influence of Sergio Corbucci’s Django (1966) and Django Strikes Again (1986) with Franco Nero as Django is evident in the work of Quentin Tarantino who gave Franco Nero a tribute cameo role in Django Unchained (2012).

Australian ‘Westerns’ are sometimes called ‘Meat-Pie Westerns’ or ‘Kangaroo Westerns’, although I prefer the more accurate term ‘Outback Westerns’. Warwick Thornton’s Sweet Country (2017) is the most recent addition to the heritage of ‘Outback Westerns’ that began with The Story of the Kelly Gang. Others include Ivan Sen’s Mystery Road (2013), John Hillcoat’s The Proposition (2005), Rolf de Heer’s The Tracker (2002), Ken Hannam’s Sunday Too Far Away (1975), Nicholas Roeg’s Walkabout (1971), George T. Miller’s The Man from Snowy River (1982), Ted Kotcheff’s Wake in Fright (1971), Charles Chauvel’s Jedda (1955) and Sons of Mathew (1949), and Ken G. Hall’s The Squatter’s Daughter (1933) and On Our Selection (1932). Even the Stephan Elliott’s ever-popular Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) falls into a kind of ‘Outback ‘Western’ Musical. George Miller’s Mad Max films are also a type of ‘Science Fiction Westerns’.

It is, however, George Millers Mad Max films – Mad Max (1979), Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981), MadMax 3: Beyond Thunderdome (1985), and Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) – with all their dystopian frenzy that are the most well-known Australian ‘Science Fiction Westerns’.

There are many other sub-genres to ‘Westerns’, not least being animation. However, rather than this essay turn too much into a tome, I will stop here. All the above is merely designed to prove that that ‘Western’ is the most diverse and fascinating of all film genres. It embraces everything, including virtually every country in the world that makes movies. The ‘Western’ IS World Cinema.

But where did this all begin?

The ‘Western’ – In the beginning…

Whilst today ‘the West’ it may primarily conjure up images largely associated with the 46_image1_045_vespucciAmerican ‘Western’ film genre, its historical precedent is considerably older. The notion, idea, and practice of traveling ‘westward’ can be seen in the early sixteenth century, exemplified by Amerigo Vespucci’s Mundus Novus (1503), and other works associated with the ‘New World’ of the Americas.

The cry Westward Ho!, and its opposite Eastward Ho!, date from 16th Century London. Ferrymen on the River Thames used these cries when declaring their respective direction up and down the Thames. Westward Ho! was reflective of the growth of London to the west outside the city walls (the ‘West End’), as was satirized by John Webster and Thomas Dekker in their Jacobean City Comedy Westward Ho! (1605).220px-eastward_hoe! In turn, Ben Jonson, John Marston, and George Chapman satirized this play with their own Eastward Ho! (1605), which resulted in them being imprisoned for angering King James I. Whilst neither play is set in the ‘New World’, at least some of the characters in Eastward Ho! board a ship bound for the new colony of Jamestown in Virginia. The fact that they never get there, but are shipwrecked before they even leave the Thames estuary, does not diminish the notion that to the characters involved traveling ‘Westward’ to the ‘New World’ offered hope of a new life and bountiful riches.

This dream, this journey to the ‘West’ in the ‘age of discovery’ also offered the hope of religious freedom. In 1603 the English Puritan lawyer, John Winthrop (1587-1649) published a pamphlet citing the image of a ‘city upon a hill’, a phrase found in Jesus Christ’s ‘Sermon on the Mount’ in Mathew 5:14 in The Bible that states, You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. This, plus the desire to escape religious persecution led to the ‘Pilgrim Fathers’ crossing the Atlantic on the Mayflower and landing on Plymouth Rock in the ‘New World’ in 1620. The ritual of Thanksgiving has been a part of American culture ever since. Escaping religious persecution was also behind the journey of English Catholics in 1634 and the establishment of colonies in Maryland.

Dreams of wealth, a new life, religious freedom are all part of what makes up the image of ‘the West’. There is, however, a lot more – it was also an epic romantic adventure, full of the exotic and the erotic. This is exemplified by numerous novels and films from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The popular 1952 Hollywood film epic Plymouth 250px-plymouthadventurehsbAdventure, directed by Clarence Brown, with Spencer Tracy, Gene Tierney, and Van Johnson, deals with the ‘Pilgrim Fathers’ braving the Atlantic crossing and landing on Plymouth Rock in what is now Provincetown. The producer, Dore Schary said at the time, “I don’t think that historical era has been done properly on screen before because the people were too soft. The pilgrims had to be tough and lusty to accomplish what they did. So that’s the kind we cast in the film.” (Hedda Hopper, Man with a Mission! Chicago Daily Tribune, 27 July 1952). Hmmm? Maybe – but this does draw attention to how history has been re-interpreted in drama dependent upon popular tastes and sentiments of a particular time; in this case 1950s Cold War America. Nonetheless, Dore Schary is correct in that it takes a particular person to actually venture into ‘the West’. Today, despite all the coiffured machismo you would be hard pressed to find much that is similar about these pilgrims and about this landing amongst the ‘gayland’ of modern Provincetown. But let’s go back even further.

220px-charles_kingley_-_1899_westward_ho!_cover_2Charles Kingsley’s Westward Ho! (1855), involving Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh in the ‘New World’ and their battles against the Spanish was so popular that a town in Devon was named after it – the only town in the UK that has an exclamation mark attached to it. Kingsley’s novel also involves the first English settlement of the ‘New World’ at Jamestown, Virginia. However, in popular culture, the main focus of this story has subsequently been the relationship between ‘founding father’ Captain John Smith and the American native Indian Pocahontas. Whether or not any of it is true is now irrelevant. To the modern imagination it is true, and has even been made into a Disney film (with a sequel) Pocahontas (1995) – so, of course, it must be true. Terence Malik’s The New World (2005), as well as Roland Joffe’s The Mission (1986) and Peter Schaffer’s The Royal Hunt of the Sun (1964) are perhaps more accurate dramatizations of the European invasion of the Americas.

But let’s go back even further. John Dryden’s and Sir Robert Howard’s The Indian Queen (1664), Aphra Behn’s Oroonokoo (1688) and Thomas Southerne’s 1689 play adaptation are examples of how the ‘western’ imagination realized ‘first contact’ with the indigenous population and the creation of the character of ‘the noble savage’. Whether or not Aphra Behn actually visited Surinam in South America is questionable, nonetheless, her Oroonokoo was the ideal ‘noble savage’ for the ‘western’ imagination until Daniel Defoe’s Man Friday in Robinson Crusoe (1719). Add in for good measure Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, notably the Yahoos in Gulliver’s final voyage to the Land of the Houyhnhnms, and the overall portrayal of ‘indigenous’ people are seen as rather romanticized and patronizing and far from the truth.

The idea of a ‘New World’ in ‘the West’ becomes intrinsically linked to the idea of the United States of America itself. This is exemplified by Thomas Paine who wrote in his pamphlet Common Sense in 1776, ‘We have it in our power to begin the world over again. A situation, similar to the present, hath not happened since the days of Noah until now. The birthday of a new world is at hand.’

Things begin to truly accelerate after Thomas Jefferson secures what is known as the ‘Louisiana Purchase in 1803. This opened up vast amounts of land across North American. The ‘Manifest Destiny’ of the American people evolved throughout the 19th Century into ‘Continentalism’ – never mind the Native Americans, Mexicans, Spanish, and any other opponents. The Monroe Doctrine of 1823 made it very clear to Great Britain and any other European power that they were not welcome to participate in this ruthless land-grabbing juggernaut expansion across North America. In certain places, namely the Oregon border disputes with Canada and Great Britain things were not resolved until 1844. The American-Mexican War 1846-48 saw the Westward Ho! movement take over modern-day California and Texas. The American Civil War in the 1860s did not stop further expansion and consolidation of ‘the West’.


The 1872 painting American Progress by John Gast in a way represents this ‘Manifest Destiny’ and ‘tellucracy’. It is a bit of a creepy painting with ‘Columbia’ all in ‘white’ advancing ‘westward’, making the Native American cower as she heralds advances in American industry such as the railway and the telegraph. This isn’t a benign ‘patriotic’ love of country, as defined by George Orwell, but rampant and rapacious ‘nationalism’; the ‘white’ American way is the only way – and look what comes with it – ‘Strike me lucky!’

American expansionism, ‘Manifest Destiny’ and ‘Continentalism’ influences the image of the American ‘West’, as found in many of the respective novels by American writers in the 19th and early 20th centuries. This, in turn, influenced the popular image of ‘the West’ and how it eventually was dramatized in American film. This includes the works of Washington Irving (1783-1859) and James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851). What is quite apparent, and makes these works a little difficult to stomach is the attitude of ‘white privilege’, particularly towards the Native American Indians, who seem to have descended from ‘noble savages’ to just ‘savages’, as well as the Mexicans. Somewhat perversely the current cry of President Donald Trump to build a wall along the US-Mexican border is a continuation of this essentially racist attitude. God is no longer an Englishman, he is a ‘white’ American.

James Fenimore Cooper’s five ‘Leatherstocking’ novels involving the trapper Natty Bumppo – The Pioneers (1823), The Last of the Mohicans (1826), The Prairie (1827), The Pathfinder (1840), The Deerslayer (1841), mark the beginning of what we now imagine as the American ‘West’. They are not necessarily comfortable reads as invariably Native Americans are cast as the enemy (along with the French), and Natty Bumppo invariably is there to assist the ‘white’ settlers conqueror their opponents as well as the land.

James Fenimore Cooper’s novels are romantic historical adventures with Natty Bumppo as a kind of modern-day knight. It is interesting to note that for the most part his name is never mentioned; which in a curious way pre-figure Clint Eastward’s ‘Man with No Name’ in the Sergio Leone ‘spaghetti westerns’, such as The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1967).

The romanticism increases with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), particularly with Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie (1847), The Song of Hiawatha (1855), and The Courtship of Myles Standish (1858). Whilst The Song of Hiawatha may be the most potent and influential work for its time, nonetheless, as evident by the numerous subsequent parodies many contemporaries found it too mawkish to be credible, particularly with its ultimate Christian message of conversion and salvation for the noble Native American savage.

A more interesting story is that of Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie, which is supposedly based on a true story. Unlike Fenimore Copper’s French characters Longfellow’s Evangeline and her Acadian compatriots, French colonists who the British expelled from Canada in ‘The Great Upheaval’ 1755-1764, has a tragic romantic epic sweep that captures the bewilderment of strangers in a strange land; very much a part of the story of ‘the West’. Unlike other narratives, the motivations behind the actions of Evangeline and her lover Gabriel (yes – the Christian allegories are rampant here) are those of love rather than conquest. Subsequently, it has things in common with John Maclean’s film Slow West (2015), one of the most unique ‘Westerns’ of modern times.

title_page_for_the_scarlet_letterI’m going to add to this little group Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter: A Romance (1850). As its title suggests the notion of dealing with the ‘New World’ has a strong romantic side. Like Martin Koolhoven’s Brimstone (2016) the primary focus of the female protagonists, Hester and Liz respectively, is the protection of a female child. This too is part of ‘the West’.

The final part of this initial exploration of what constitutes ‘the West’ involves three American writers from the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century – Bret Harte (1836-1902), Jack London (1876-1916), and Zane Grey (1872-1939). Collectively, these American writers successfully create what we today imagine to be the American ‘West’ way before Hollywood arrives with the ‘Western’ film genre. They are, however, very different.

Bret Harte was primarily a short story writer concentrating on the Californian Gold Rush – the ‘49ers’. Two of his short stories, in particular, The Luck of Roaring Camp (1870) and The Outcasts of Poker Flat (1869), captured the imagination of the general public and are still regularly reprinted, and have been adapted in dramatic form numerous times and numerous ways. These are works of ‘naturalism’, tragic tales that have a poignant spiritual essence; all the more remarkable because they are relatively short. There is a profound dignity and integrity in Harte’s portrayal of seeming social outcasts who have gone ‘West’ in order to find a better life but pay a considerable price – usually death. It draws attention to another meaning associated with ‘Go West’, which is a euphemism for Death.

Jack London’s The Call of the Wild (1903) and White Fang (1906) take as their respective setting the Klondike in Canada – a different ‘West’ but no less foreign, wild, and adventurous than others. Charles Chaplin’s The Gold Rush (1925) and Mae West’s Klondike Annie (1936) are the best films that also deal with this imagining of ‘the West’. Furthermore, the heroes of the London’s respective novels are dogs – Buck and White Fang; perhaps the best stories about ‘man’s best friend’ that have ever been written.

It is, however, Zane Grey who is the American writer that Hollywood primarily turned to in the realization and dramatization of the American ‘West’ as popularized in American ‘Western’ film. His canon of work is massive, yet virtually all his novels have been turned into films and/or television series. To single out one as representative of all the safest bet is Riders of the Purple Sage (1912). 220px-zg_riders_of_the_purple_sage_coverWhat is fascinating about Riders of the Purple Sage is not necessarily the numerous times it has been dramatically realized but its actual content. The novels chief protagonist and heroine is Jane Withersteen. The novel focuses on her battle with Mormon polygamy. Similar to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Hester and Martin Koolhoven’s Liz, the motivating factor is the protection of a female child.


As I have hopefully drawn attention to the protection of children and adolescents is a major feature of the American ‘West’. It is evident in the above as well as George Steven’s Shane (1953), John Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven (1960), both versions of True Grit (1969/2010), and Ron Howard’s The Missing (2003). This, however, is just one aspect of the ‘Western’. Other characteristics will be explored in a later essay, nonetheless, based on the above it is reasonable to place the notion and dramatic realization of ‘the West’ into the world of ‘Romance’; and by ‘Romance’ I mean ‘classical Romance’ which is essentially a journey of transformation. What makes ‘the Western’ a unique ‘Romance’ is that invariably it occurs at the frontier of civilization. Furthermore, as exemplified in numerous novels and films, it is a place in which gender issues are sometimes blurred. It may well seem male-dominated (and it is), but women can and often do play an equal role in respective power and survival struggles, exemplified by Nicholas Ray’s extraordinary Johnny Guitar (1954) and Tommy Lee Jones’ The Homesman (2014).

This concludes the first essay about how ‘the West’ has been imagined. It has essentially been a ‘curtain raiser’ for the examination of the ‘Western’ film genre, one of the most extensive and diverse and influential in World Cinema. Time and space have not permitted me to cover all aspects of ‘the West’ prior to its prime position in film. All art forms in one way or another have dealt with ‘the West’; and intriguingly, virtually every major actor of the 20th and 21st Centuries have done at least one if not more ‘Westerns’. The ‘West’ sits in the frontier world of our lives; we may never actually go there, especially the American ‘West’, but we can and do go there imaginatively. Subsequently, whatever it may mean personally and/or professionally it plays a significant role in all our lives.

Tony Knight







2018 in Review – Theatre & Film: “It’s come to my attention that you don’t know who I am.”


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“It’s come to my attention that you don’t know who I am” – is a line that Cate Blanchett delivers with deep and devastating effectiveness when she first enters THOR RAGNAROK. Could it be that she is referencing her old acting teachers, Kevin Jackson and myself? Not certain – but what this line does reflect is the subject of ‘identity politics’ that has come to dominate so much of modern theatre and film.

So – here we are – at the end of 2018 – that brief time in which we reflect on what we have seen and done over 2018, amidst the plethora of ‘Best of’ lists. I am not necessarily into the ‘Best of ’ etc. I have a fervent dislike of art becoming a kind of superficial competition, which is why I don’t watch a lot of TV. My lists are far more personal and revealing, reflective of those productions that affected me in one way or another, and have stayed with me for various reasons. I have my favourites, certainly, but they are not necessarily the “Best” of anything. I like the respective following works – because they moved me – that’s all.

I feel very fortunate to be living and working in Adelaide, partly because I am able to see a relatively vast range of national and international productions each year. This is primarily due to the respective festivals, such as the Adelaide Fringe Festival, the Adelaide Festival, the Adelaide Film Festival, the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, and (my favourite) the Oz-Asia Festival.

So – here we go. However, let me first state that I did not see any opera this year, nor did I see much dance and ballet, so these kind of productions are not on my list. All the theatre productions listed below were different in their own way, yet each profoundly moved me as well as enlightened and thrilled me.

THEATRE (in roughly chronological order)

JOHN BUCCHINO: IT’S ONLY LIFE – Davine Productions (USA/AUST. – Fringe Festival)

FLESH & BONE by Elliot Warren – Unpolished Theatre (UK – Fringe Festival)

KING JACK QUEEN by Baboab Tree Theatre Company (UK – Fringe Festival)

SMOKING WITH GRANDMA (Threewords Playwright (China – Fringe Festival)

KINGS OF WAR based on the ‘History’ plays by William Shakespeare – directed by Ivo von Hove and produced by Toneelgroep Amsterdam (Adelaide Festival)

US/THEM by Carly Wijs and BRONKS, Belgium (Adelaide Festival)

FLA.CO.MEN – Israel Galvan (Spain – Adelaide Festival)

MEMORIAL by Alice Oswald – directed by Chris Drummond with Helen Morse (Brink Productions) (Australia – Adelaide Festival)

PATTI LUPONE (USA – Cabaret Festival)


NASSIM by Nassim Soleimanpour (Iran – Oz-Asia Festival

SECRET LOVE IN PEACH BLOSSOM LAND by Stan Lai (China – Oz-Asia Festival)

SUTRA by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui (Netherlands/China – Oz-Asia Festival)

FAITH HEALER by Brain Friel – directed by Judy Davis with Colin Friels, Alison Whyte and Paul Blackwell. (State Theatre of South Australia.)

THE PURPLE LIST by Libby Pearson (UK – Feast Festival)

SEUSSICAL by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens– Northern Light Theatre Company

LINES by Pamela Carter (UK) – directed by Cory MacMahon (UK)

GODS OF STRANGERS by Elena Carapetis (State Theatre of South Australia)

Whilst this is really just shameless self-promotion, nonetheless, I am very proud of the productions that STARC the company I have formed with Stefannie Rossi and Marc Clement, produced in 2018. This includes TOYER by Gardner Mackay, TWO by Jim Cartwright, and REASONABLE DOUBT by Suzie Miller. Plus – there was Genet’s THE MAIDS.

Suzie Miller’s REASONABLE DOUBT, Elena Carapetis’ GODS OF STRANGERS, as well as Jada Alberts’ BROTHERS WRECK were the outstanding new Australian plays produced in Adelaide in 2018. I did see other new works in Sydney and Melbourne – but that’s another story, and none of them had the same impact on me as these three works. I may be biased re REASONABLE DOUBT but it was an honour and privilege to direct and produce the Australian premiere of this play.

FILM (not in any order of preference)

SHOPLIFTERS (2018) directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda (JAPAN)

CRAZY RICH ASIANS (2018) directed by Jon M. Chu (USA)

A STAR IS BORN (2018) directed by Bradley Cooper (USA)

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (2018) directed by Bryan Singer (USA.UK)

HEREDITARY (2018) directed by Ari Aster (USA)

GURRUMUL (2018 directed by Paul Damien Williams (AUSTRALIA)

Films released at the end of 2017 and seen in 2018

SWEET COUNTRY (2017) directed by Warwick Thornton (AUSTRALIA)

THE INSULT (2017) – directed by Ziad Doueiri (LEBANON)

A FANTASTIC WOMAN (2017) directed by Sebastian Lelio (CHILE)

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME (2017) directed by Luca Guadagnini (ITALY)

THOR – RAGNAROK (2017) directed by Taika Waititi (USA/NZ)

DARKEST HOUR (2017) directed by Joe Wright (UK/USA)

THE POST (2017) directed by Steven Spielberg (USA


THE DISASTER ARTIST (2017) directed by James Franco (USA)

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI (2017) directed by Rian Johnson (USA)

THE GREATEST SHOWMAN (2017) – directed by Michael Gracey (USA)

BLADERUNNER 2049 (2017) – directed by Denis Villeneuve (USA)

Rather an eclectic group – and there are others – but these are the ones that have stayed with me.

I was also very fortunate in representing the National Film and Sound Archive in presenting during the 2018 Adelaide Film Festival (which was excellent) the newly restored prints of Gillian Armstrong’s STARSTRUCK (1982) and John Duigan’s THE YEAR MY VOICE BROKE (1987). The latter, in particular, was very well received, and it was marvellous to see the very young Noah Taylor and Ben Mendelsohn who most certainly have gone on to have quite wonderful careers.

2018 also marked the 100th Anniversary of the Raymond Longford’s and Lotte Lyall’s THE SENTIMENTAL BLOKE (1918), which premiered in Adelaide on the 26 November 1918. I couldn’t attend the anniversary screening in Adelaide, so I watched this great Australian silent film classic at home.


Re Australian films – I did see a number, including Stephan Elliot’s SWINGING SAFARI, Mark Grenfell’s THE MERGER, Chris Sun’s BOAR, Ben Howling’s CARGO, Marion Pilowsky’s THE FLIPSIDE, and Heath Davis’ BOOK WEEK. I also finally caught up with Simon Baker’s BREATH (2017) and Ben Young’s HOUNDS OF LOVE (2017). A number of these films I admit I watched at home as they either had a limited cinema release and/or went straight to Netflix.

So – a wacky combo of romantic comedies and horror. None of these films was ‘brilliant’, but they were OK; in fact, more than OK. I particularly liked and appreciated the romantic comedies, perhaps the most difficult of all film genres to successfully pull off.

 It was, however, Paul Damien Williams’ documentary GURRUMUL and Warwick Thornton’s SWEET COUNTRY that were the stand-outs – especially SWEET COUNTRY.

Warwick Thornton’s SWEET COUNTRY is terrific! And yet – I don’t know anyone who has seen it. Seriously. I saw it at the movies in Mitcham and I was one of three people in the session. Rather depressing – especially for such an excellent Australian film, but the reality is that it has been a bit of a disaster at the box-office, and continues to be an unknown despite good reviews etc.

SWEET COUNTRY, however, did trigger and inspired me to explore in more detail the nature of Australian ‘westerns’, and the ‘Western’ as a film genre in general.

The ‘Western’ is arguably the most common form of film in World Cinema, beginning with the Tait’s THE STORY OF THE KELLY GANG (1906), the first feature film in World Cinema, and the shorter THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY (1903).

Subsequently, it is possible to argue that it was the ‘Western’ that began cinema and feature film. There are so many sub-genres in regard to ‘Westerns’, including musicals, comedies, horror, and science-fiction. Virtually all major ‘stars’ have at least one ‘Western’ in their body of work – and often more than one. Nor is the ‘Western’ confined simply to US film – they are everywhere; for example, the influential Italian/ Spanish ‘spaghetti westerns’ of Sergio Leone. Australian ‘Westerns’ have the strange title of ‘meat-pie’ Westerns.

There is not the time nor space to elaborate on this wonderful conundrum (what does the ‘West’ mean? Etc), but SWEET COUNTRY certainly joins the pantheon of great Australian ‘Westerns’ that includes WAKE IN FRIGHT, THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER, THE TRACKER, THE PROPOSITION, MYSTERY ROAD, GOLDSTONE, as well as earlier films such as ROBBERY UNDER ARMS, BITTER SPRINGS and even JEDDAH.

 The ‘Western’ is also very much a part of contemporary US films. Here is a list of some of the modern US ‘Westerns’ that I have watched. John McLean’s SLOW WEST (2015) and Ti West’s IN A VALLEY OF VIOLENCE (2016) being two in particular that I enjoyed and would thoroughly recommend.

THE HOMESMAN (2014) – directed by Tommy Lee Jones

SLOW WEST (2015) – directed by John McLean

BONE TOMAHAWK (2015) – S. Craig Zahler

THE HATEFUL EIGHT (2015) – Quentin Tarantino


BRIMSTONE (2016) – Martin Koolhoven

Looking back – WOW – quite pleased with myself that I have actually seen so much.

Finally – did Ms Blanchett wickedly reference either Kevin Jackson or myself in THOR RAGNAROK?

I don’t really know – but it certainly has been suggested. No matter – but if and whenever I see this wonderful ex-student of ours I do intend to say to her in a rather deep voice – It has come to my attention that you don’t know who I am (Kevin), quickly followed by – Have you been listening to a word I’ve said!!! (Me)

Bring on 2019.






Tony’s Top Australian Films: #8 – IT ISN’T DONE (1937)


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Ken G. Hall’s It Isn’t Done (1937) was one of the most successful Australian films of the 1930s. It was based on a story by Cecil Kellaway and written by Frank Harvey and Carl Dudley. Cecil Kellaway was a South African born actor who lived and worked in Australia during the 1920s and 1930s. He would eventually move to the USA where he would establish himself as a major character actor, featuring in such films as The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), The Luck of the Irish (1948), and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967). This was also Shirley Ann Richard’s first feature film.

The story involves an Australian farmer called Hubert Blaydon (Cecil Kellaway) who suddenly inherits a baronet in the UK. He and his family travel to England to take up the inheritance but run up against British snobbery. Eventually, Hubert arranges to get rid of the inheritance, giving it to a young writer, Peter Ashton (John Longden), who has fallen in love with Hubert’s daughter, Patricia (Shirley Ann Richards). Hubert and his wife return to Australia leaving Patricia who marries Peter.


Whilst mostly set in the UK, the film was entirely shot in Australia, in the Cinesound Bondi studios. This is a truly delightful ‘comedy of manners’ contrasting contemporary Australian social ways and ethics with British ones. It was a big success in Australia as well as the UK and USA and is still as funny and engaging as it ever was.

Tony Knight