Documenting a struggle

Issue 

No Entry: Protest in the Park
A Photo Essay
By Nina Landis
Introduction by John Pilger
Foreword by Iain Stewart
Published by Save Albert Park 1995
Pre-order price $40
Reviewed by Jeremy Smith
No Entry is a public record of the struggle to keep Albert Park a free, public park. It documents the long and hard-fought campaign for democratic rights in Melbourne. It is a testament to the courage and determination of the campaign's many activists. Green Left Weekly spoke to Nina Landis about No Entry and the photographic exhibition which will run until November 26 at the Photographers Gallery, 344 Punt Rd, South Yarra. The inspiration for the essay came when Landis ran into a friend who had spent the day trying to save 400 trees, and had been arrested. "It became obvious very early that this government wasn't going to listen to the people who had objected to a grand prix at Albert Park. I sensed that we were in for a pretty long haul, and that this should be documented." For Landis, photography is a partisan medium that can capture a story in images and preserve them for the future. However, it can never be free from the photographer's opinion. Her involvement in the campaign led her in certain directions. "I was looking to respond in a heartfelt way, and was in constant search for the truth of this particular subject from the perspective of the people, rather than the [Grand Prix] corporation or the government. I wanted to visually give a voice to people who otherwise would not be heard." Landis searched the records for similar previous protest actions, but found none of the 1950s campaign against the Grand Prix at Albert Park. This reaffirmed to her the importance of recording the current one. The mass media has proved to be a barren source of information about the campaign. Editorial control has squeezed out much of the good coverage of Save Albert Park's activities, with the Age and Herald Sun editorials railing hysterically against the campaign's efforts. Landis pointed out that photographic journalism suffers at the hands of media editors who "choose photography that is sensational. They crop photographs, so that they help shape the story." Her approach is at sharp variance to this. "I'm trying to tell the human story and the human struggle that's involved. I always present my photographs in full frame so the viewer knows that there is no manipulation. What I am after is the truth." The initial 1000-copy print run of No Entry may well prove to be inadequate for a publication that should be in strong demand. Its 102 duotone photographs (chosen from nearly 4000 negatives) are ordered chronologically "in order to tell the story". John Pilger's introduction is a testament to the quality of this piece of journalism, and the importance of the campaign today. Landis hopes that, "In years to come, this will be used as source material for Australians in struggle for how they would like society to be and the principles they would like democracy to embrace. This book reflects the need for a public voice to define what kind of society we live in." All proceeds from No Entry will go to Save Albert Park campaign.

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