Sometimes I take an image that I am thrilled to bits about because so many things just fell into place at the right time. This was one of them. I was taking images to capture the essence of my hometown, Penola, at the heart of the Limestone Coast in South Australia. There are many historic buildings and locations around my town I could consider but it is very hard to do better than this simple and very profound building. It took a bit of walking up and down thinking about the composition because this modest building has been photographed so many times. I wanted to achieve an image with a bit of a twist to it!
The Woods-Mackillop Schoolhouse is one of the most historic buildings in Australia and attracts visitors and pilgrims daily to see the historical sites and connect with the stories about the incredible journey that a strong, determined, independent and visionary young woman began in my town. She was cannonised in 2010 as Saint Mary of the Cross Mackillop. People wander around this 1867 building, which Mary was excited to see built as the first solid schoolhouse for the teaching Order that she co-founded, and they spend time inside and consider her life in her teaching days and the contribution she made. Mary Mackillop’s legacy of providing education to all including many less fortunate children than those she had first taught while working as a Governess in Penola, is still relevant today and the Order she began still follow many of the foundations which she laid.
What I love about this 1867 building is that it is still a simple limestone structure, and not one that has become adorned with religious iconography which has often happened with buildings and sites associated with a Saint. The Old Schoolhouse remains an authentic building with a whole lot of soul, and many stories have become embedded in the stonework and mortar to be a wonderful source of inspiration for both artist and artisan.
Having found the best location, one where I could also capture the iconic Australian country windmill across Petticoat Lane, I stood in the middle of the road during the early evening after the day's traffic had gone. I was waiting for the sun to be in its last hour just at the right angle so that orange light would make the front glow and come alive. As I began to take shots with my camera several Galahs flew over and were snapped just at the right moment to be flying close to the roof of the Old Schoolhouse. I had to be thrilled to bits about that because to me I had been able to then capture the essence of my town! Galahs, parrots and cockatoos fly over our town all the time and they add a lot to the atmosphere with their loud calling, they really make their presence known!
Images like these become so useful to me, in that they inspire ideas about my work in both textiles drawing and through painting. My work often involves digital processes and I may print images onto various grounds or fabric to use or develop ideas using Photoshop for collage and textile pieces. Using images I have taken is very important to me as this keeps control of my own authenticity and credibility. I have thousands of images and I try my best to keep them organized but it takes a lot of time sorting and editing! Although I am not a professional photographer, my training in using the camera has only ever been basic compared to a professional photographer, but adequate enough as over the decades of taking thousands of images I do have quite a few that are just that bit special and I think this is one of them. I am investigating having some art prints made of some of them and this is one I might have printed. Hope you like it too!
If you are interested or curious about the life of Mary Mackillop please visit this wonderful website http://www.marymackilloppenola.org.au/index.cfm
For information about visiting my town of Penola please visit this page or comment below as I love talking about my town and region