Wiradjuri Country on show at National Portrait Gallery

Stan Grant and Tracey Holmes captured by Nic Walker at Yarrangobilly River in the Snowy Mountains last year. This image is now on display in Canberra at the National Portrait Gallery.

The Snowy Mountains region is on show at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra, with prominent Australian broadcasters Stan Grant and Tracey Holmes posing for a portrait at Yarrangobilly River, a location which is deeply personal for them both.

“It’s the ancient culture of this place, 60,000 years, and the modern culture, my ancestors coming here and settling there, so it’s where those two meet,” Tracey said of the portrait, which is displayed as part of the Australian Love Stories exhibition.

“The rock of it, the heart of it, the important part of that photo is the land, the river – that’s Australia.

“Stan and I coming together as different aspects of this country, I think, is a remarkable story.”

The Australian Love Stories exhibition highlights love, affection and connection in all its varied forms, from the romantic to the platonic, between friends and lovers, creative collaborators and within families and communities.

Made up of more than 80 love stories, the exhibition features previous gems from the National Portrait Gallery Collection and other public and private collections, as well as a series of newly-commissioned portraits of high-profile Australian couples.

Stan and Tracey are one such couple, who were paired up with photographer Nic Walker last year to take their portrait. Nic interviewed the couple, aiming to find a location that suited them both and ‘captured their essence’, and eventually decided on the Yarrangobilly River.

Stan is a Wiradjuri man and has a deep, spiritual connection to the region, and Tracey’s Chinese ancestors settled in the area, so it felt like the perfect location for all involved.

“If our ancestors, Stan’s and mine, ever crossed paths in their lifetimes – you know, great great grandfather or whatever – it would have been there, and [Nic] found that location, so it was stunning,” Tracey said.

She has an ongoing connection to the region, with her Dad’s relatives and friends still living in and around Tumut.

“My Dad goes back there quite frequently, he goes fishing, he spends time on farms with his friends and relatives there, so it’s always had a pull in that regard,” Tracey said.

Stan grew up all across Wiradjuri country, and recounted the time he spent learning to read the land and how it changes as a boy.

“When you’re travelling across that landscape, there are moments where it changes and my connection to it changes, and I feel a very deep, spiritual and ancestral pull towards it,” he explained.

“It’s my home, it’s the only place in the world that can be my home, I’m so deeply embedded in that place.

“For some reason, of all the parts of Wiradjuri country, that area around Gundagai across to Tumut – I lived in Tumut for a while when I was a kid – it’s always fixed very deep in my memory, for some reason it has an even greater pull on me.”

The couple – who have been together for over twenty years – agree that by having their photo included in the exhibition, they are most proud to be showing off the Wiradjuri country that means so much to them.

“It is a love between Tracey and I – that’s our life, that’s our business – and it’s our place here, and the country, and to see the country represented in a way that evokes our love of this place I think to me is the most important thing,” Stan said.

“We’re just two people on the land, that land is there before us [and] it will be after us, it connects us deeply to our ancestors, and in Australia that’s the most important thing.

“Australia is not a border or a flag or an anthem or a name, it’s a place, so that place is the great love in the photograph, and the love between us is a reflection of our place in this country.”

The Australian Love Stories exhibition opened at the National Portrait Gallery on Saturday, March 20 and will be open daily until August 1 this year.

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