By Hannah James, Stellar Magazine
SHE’S more accustomed to being in front of the camera than behind it. But Today show co-host Lisa Wilkinson is the one taking the photographs for a new exhibition soon to open in Melbourne.
Entitled Women of Influence, it showcases inspiring Australian women. Why this subject? “I wanted to photograph women; I find our complexity fascinating,” explains Wilkinson. So when Canon, for which she’s an ambassador, asked her to create an exhibition, she drew up a wish list.
“Women whose stories I’ve always found inspirational. It’s a bit like thinking of your ideal dinner party: a great mix of personality and styles and ages and sexualities and religions. And blow me down if they didn’t all say yes!”
From reclusive arts patron and heiress Gretel Packer (“I’ve known Gretel since she was 20 and came to work for me at Cleo – she’s a lifelong friend”) through to athlete and burns survivor Turia Pitt to actor Asher Keddie (“She’s the most exquisitely beautiful woman in every aspect: generosity, intellect… I have a massive girl crush”), the exhibition is a who’s who of accomplishment, resilience and grace.
But Wilkinson’s intent isn’t solely to capture her subjects.
This is something I’ve secretly always wanted to do. It was really creatively challenging but incredibly satisfying
“I’ve been incredibly blessed in my career to have done different things from magazines to radio, print, online and TV, and I would encourage others to push boundaries, step outside your comfort zone and try new things,” she tells Stellar. You might be pleasantly surprised with what you can do.”
Right from her days as a magazine editor, Wilkinson has always loved photography.
She picked up a camera on her first trip overseas to New York, aged 25, and soon became a keen amateur photographer. “It’s purely been a hobby for years and years. But no one has ever seen my photographs before – apart from on Instagram, which I love!”
Passionate about social media as she is, Wilkinson worries about its effects. “I’ve got real concerns when kids who haven’t yet worked out who they are and their own self-worth go onto Instagram. Just taking selfies and waiting to see if the world likes you has real issues. I didn’t let my kids go on until they were 16 – social media is something parents really have to be across because it can destroy confidence if it’s not properly managed.”
One thing she’s not worried about, though, is the exhibition’s reception: “When I said yes to editing Dolly at the age of 21, I knew a lot of people would be thinking, ‘Who the hell does this trumped-up little typist think she is?’ It was the same when I was asked to do the Today show; I didn’t know if I could do 17 and a half hours of live television a week, but I said, ‘At least I won’t die wondering.’ It’s the same with this. This is something I’ve secretly always wanted to do. It was really creatively challenging but incredibly satisfying.”
Are there more photography exhibitions to come? “If this one goes well, I’d love to do more. I’m wise enough not to presume; I’m just going to sit back and wait and see what the reaction is – I really hope it’s positive. I think we’ve really captured the essence of these women, or I hope we have: I’ll let people be the judge of that.”
She does have at least one very happy customer. “When Deborra-Lee [Furness] saw her shots, she loved them so much she was sending them to Hugh [Jackman] then and there. He loved them – he kept saying, ‘Send more! Send more!’”
Women of Influence opens on October 29 at SmartArtz Gallery, Melbourne, and November 2 at Customs House, Sydney; visit canon.com.au/womenofinfluence.
Lisa Wilkinson is exclusively managed by The Fordham Company.