The old St John’s orphanage has consumed Canberra based photo-journalism student Michelle Doherty.
Ms Doherty launched her photographic exhibition, Old Boys Home last Friday at the Goulburn Regional Art Gallery.
Today she delivered a floor talk about the exhibition and the research she’d undertaken with ‘old boys’ to inform her work.
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- St John’s orphanage on fire
These were her feelings upon seeing yet another fire at the historic EC Manfred designed 1912 building:
“Driving home from my artist’s talk at Goulburn Regional Art Gallery, I knew at once that the plumes of smoke were coming from St John’s.
“I was torn; as a recent photojournalism graduate I was really engaged with the fire and the action around it, but as an artist I have worked hard to move away from the fire story.
“For me, it has always been about the light, the shadows, the angles and the grace - a home to 2500 boys over 66 years.
“In a somewhat cruel twist this evening, the light that fell on the burning ecclesiastical giant was spectacular. Standing there filming and taking photos, in the place where I fell in love with photography and Goulburn Boy’s Home, my feelings were somewhere between devastated and mesmerised.
“I watched firefighters racing in to the building that gave so many boys a chance to move forward in life. As the roof disintegrated and the facade for the first time began to waiver, I was pretty choked up.
“Over the last three years I have been very connected to St John’s and have created a narrative about it as a home; a story of survival, resilience and pride. It is distressing that in the same week my exhibition has opened, that the building has been gutted again.
“There is some solace in the fact that I have documented and preserved St John’s through my images over the last three years and have created a narrative with former resident Phil Merrigan’s stories which have added a deeper dimension to my work and the story of St John’s and its place in Goulburn, which was at one time, was one of pride.”