Photographic artist William Debois will be extending the reach of his Sacrifice exhibition at the Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery this August thanks to a grant from the Regional Arts Development Fund (RADF).
William is a French/Australian photographer based in Gladstone with a career spanning more than 25 years and four different countries.
Sacrifice is his long-term project which aims to convey a range of experiences using a simple process: meeting people, capturing their portraits and collecting their stories of sacrifice.
“Since early 2021, I have been photographing strangers met through recommendations or by chance, using the same creative process each time,” he said.
“The sitter is photographed on film, in front of a backdrop custom-made for the project, and is asked to share their reflections on the two questions: What does sacrifice mean to you? What sacrifice have you made?
“Displayed together, the portraits and stories aim to encourage reflections and conversations about notions of generosity, hardship, community, commitment, privilege and inequality.”
Having successfully applied for a RADF grant, William is now extending the upcoming exhibition to include an artist residency to create new portraits, a community workshop and an artist talk.
“The funding provided by RADF will allow me to spend a whole week in Bundaberg in July and connect with members of the Aboriginal, South Sea and Torres Strait Islanders community in the region and collaborate with them on new portraits for the Sacrifice project,” William said.
“The photographs and stories that will result from this artist in residence period will become part of the Sacrifice exhibition on display at Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery from September.”
William said he hoped visitors to the exhibition would explore their own understanding of sacrifice and how it connected to the broader community.
“My hope is that some of the stories and pictures featured will resonate with the audience in Bundaberg and give some insight into the recent history of the region and Indigenous communities,” he said.
“My artist talk will focus on the reflections and influences that led me to start this long-term project and I will share some of the background stories and anecdotes linked to some of the portraits.
“This will be an opportunity to learn and ask questions about the way I work.
“The theme of the workshop is still being discussed but it will focus on technical questions that could help keen or even casual photographers.”
Telling local stories
William said the majority of the subjects portrayed in the exhibition lived in regional and rural areas.
“I think it is important to hold a mirror to the communities that are not often engaging in art practices and to give them an opportunity to recognise themselves in the artwork and stories on display.
“Photography is obviously a very effective ‘mirror' and the notion of interaction is quite central in my methodology on this project.
“Talks and workshops simply extend opportunities for collaboration.
“After all, a conversation is a collaboration in creating meaning.”
He said that RADF in particular led the way in nurturing projects that built communities from a cultural point of view.
“Its funding benefits the artist, of course, but the focus is systematically on what the community can gain through participation and engagement and how its identity, cohesion and skills can be reinforced in the process.”
The RADF is a partnership between the Queensland Government and Bundaberg Regional Council to support local arts and culture in regional Queensland.
For more information about the RADF, click here.