Margaret River Exposed
Photos by Michelle Troop. Interview with Michelle by Mark Boskell.
Margaret River Exposed is an awesome local street art project created by photographer Michelle Troop. It seems everyone wants to know just a little more about it, so here goes…
Can you tell us a little about Margaret River Exposed?
Margaret River Exposed is a street art exhibition that features large black & white portraits displayed on walls and other landmarks around the town. It’s a community project. I was drawn to do it because I love street art. Last year I traveled Europe, and I came back really inspired to do a project. I came across Inside Out, a street art project created by this guy JR in France which has gone global, and I was really inspired by what they were doing. Margaret River Exposed is a very similar concept, and at first I thought of joining their project and working alongside them, but then my ideas evolved and I decided I wanted to include people’s stories on a website of our own.
What was it about the idea that most interested you?
I think it’s to do with having street art in Margaret River, and how that adds to the character of the town. It’s about capturing people, either as they are moving through this town or if they’ve been here forever. I wanted people to walk down the street and smile, see people that they knew, and get some joy out of the photos. To get that sense of community. It’s about belonging and sharing stories. I love hearing about what drives people, and their passions. Everyone’s got something to say. It’s an opportunity for people who might not otherwise get the chance to tell their story.
I find it funny that we walk around and see all these people, and sometimes even give them names. Like Tilly Palandri, people often refer to her as the waving lady, yet we don’t stop and talk. Often people say to me they’ve always wanted to stop and talk to her. If we’re going to keep community alive in Margaret River we do have to stop and speak to people.
What’s the reaction been?
So positive, so positive… I could not ask for better feedback from people. I get stopped in the street and get emails all the time, people saying “ Thanks for doing the project because it adds life to the town” and whether they’re from here or not, there’s a real gratitude. They’ve loved reading the stories, and hearing about each person. It’s been really positive.
How did you choose people?
In some aspects that was really easy, because the same names would get mentioned to me all the time. But I was under a time restriction. I only had 6 weeks to pull the whole thing off, so sometimes there was a pressure to choose and I just had to do it. I was really aiming to make it as diverse as possible, have a vineyard worker, a backpacker, someone who’s been here for 80 years, all different kinds of people. I could have photographed 100 people and that still wouldn’t have covered everyone. People say to me ‘I can’t believe you left this person out’, but I only had 6 weeks, and I’m still struggling to get the interviews done. But it wasn’t just about the people that have been here forever, it was important for it to be about people who are here now, and why they’re here. To hear a backpacker say ‘this is somewhere I don’t want to leave’, was just as important as hearing somebody talk about why they never left 40 years ago. There’s definitely other people that I wish I had the time and energy to do, but maybe that’ll be project B. It could also have been broader in terms of ethnic representation. I tried really hard to get people involved, but there was an issue of shyness, and a lack of contacts for me. I’m sorry if I disappointed anyone in the community in that regard. I really tried.
6 weeks to pull this off is a pretty massive undertaking, what support did you have?
Emma Holben. Massive support. The transcribers that helped out on this were amazing, Linda Henry and Elisha Holcroft, Tilly Kelleher and Sophie Mathewson. They just helped in so many ways with the transcribing, because it takes such a long time. Friends have been so good with their time, and helping put up posters. I could not have done this on my own. Taking the photos was just one thing. I’m still in the process of finishing the project. It’s probably the biggest thing I’ve ever organized to do. I’ve been shooting and editing weddings during this time too…so it’s been crazy! But it was a challenge, and it was fun.
Any favourite stories or moments?
The kids are always funny because they’re so honest. Emma’s interview with Mikayla Skivinis has a part where she told Emma how her dad likes shooting and she does too…Mikayla told me afterwards, ‘I like shooting kangaroos and kookaburras’, and I was thinking ‘you’re way too sweet…this can’t be true!’ (laughs).
Philip Pain and Shelia Greenwell’s interviews are inspiring. I haven’t put them up yet, but they’ll go up soon. People who dedicate their lives to a cause or helping others, or animals….to me those people are amazing.
I like the 72 hours with Hayley Maynard because she’s such a busy, amazing person and she had so much to do in that 72 hrs. I hope that inspires people to do more! (laughs)
I haven’t put Tilly Palandri’s interview up yet. I’m still typing away. Lots of people have been asking me about her story. Everything she told me was interesting, from moving here at a young age, to having 11 children and no electricity for 30 years. Living such a simple life, no TV, no radio. She’s such a colourful character who loves music and singing and dancing. Some of those older people’s stories are really cool because it’s so different to the way we live our lives now. Their lives were so hard. It makes me think twice about anything I complain about.
Any speed-bumps along the way? Did everything go smoothly?
Definitely a few speed-bumps, but what do I want to mention here… We had printer problems so the prints have been slow to go up. There’s been a lot of rain, and not enough time in the day! The posters at the back of the Corner Bar are falling down because of the huge rains and I think people are pulling them down too. A mouse ate your eye on your poster, (laughs) I promise, I think Emma has a photo of it. The glue was made out of flour, sugar and water…so I guess that appealed to the mouse that ate through your face. I could never have foreseen that! By now that sort of stuff doesn’t bother me, I just order another one. There’s always a challenge. I’ve been pretty lucky really. Council have been so good. Everyone’s been so positive. Rarely did I hear the word no, almost everyone said yes, which is surprising because you’re asking to blow someone’s face up to to 1m high and put it in the main street. It can be quite confronting. Funding has been amazing. Businesses and clubs around town have really backed us up.
Go to www.margaretriverexposed.com.au for all the pictures and interviews, and to the facebook page to stay in touch with all the latest.
And for more of Michelle’s photography work, check out her Le Photogenic website.