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Robin captures city's heart

Friday, 11th November, 2011

HOT OFF THE PRESS: Robin Sellick and Jack Marx prepare for tonight’s book launch. HOT OFF THE PRESS: Robin Sellick and Jack Marx prepare for tonight’s book launch.

By John Casey

Internationally-acclaimed photographer Robin Sellick will unveil his latest project tonight with visions that it will help the rest of Australia - and an international audience - understand Broken Hill a little better.

“Life & Times in the Republic of Broken Hill” is a concept that has taken 12 years to be published and Sellick’s thoughtful and creative photos are likely to find themselves promoting the city in all corners of the world.

Coupled with a 10,000-word biography of the city written by respected journalist Jack Marx, the book will tonight be launched at the Regional Art Gallery by noted writer, satirist and comedian Bryan Dawe. 

“I wanted to show the city in a way it has never been shown before,” Sellick said yesterday during a break from signing 1000 books.

“Broken Hill is a unique, special place in the world and the quicker everyone here comes to terms with that fact, the faster the rest of Australia and others will understand.

“The rest of Australia has this perception of Broken Hill as a dry, dusty, hot and rough place - and that’s our fault because we haven’t told them differently,” Sellick added.

Marx agrees, pointing out that little has been written about the city’s history since Geoffrey Blainey tackled the subject in his 1968 book “The Rise of broken Hill”.

“This has been an amazing journey for me,” said Marx, who has made eight return trips from Sydney to BH to research the book.

“Talking with people like Olive Murray who grew up during the depression in a wheat-flour bag shack at Menindee before her father and brothers went off to war and thinking her life was the norm for everyone - remarkable,” he recalled, shaking his head.

So bewitched by BH and its history, Marx is moving here to write his next book which will use a 1952 murder-mystery to further explore and channel the city’s history.

Sellick says Marx’s words are just as important as his photos in the book to create “a complete portrait” of the city.

“I’m still coming to terms with the finished product,” Sellick revealed.

“This is a very personal project - the most personal thing I have ever done - and there is a lot of emotion attached to it.

“The focus was to describe Broken Hill through a high-quality product using local characters because the community today is the sum product of all those who have come before us,” he added.

Sellick’s own tale of how billionaire businessman James Packer played a seminal role in the project is not included in the book but is worth re-telling.

Prior to Packer becoming engaged to Kate Fischer, Sellick had taken racy portraits of the model which the wealthy businessman preferred not be published.

At a personal meeting Sellick handed over the images and Packer promised to re-pay the favour, eventually providing seed capital for the book.

“I first came up with the idea for this book 12 years ago, and I am very happy and excited with the finished product,” Sellick said.

“Oddly enough my favourite photo in the book is a black and white landscape, which is different from what I usually do.”

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