All posts by Ben Apfelbaum

My photography began when my father handed me the proverbial brownie box camera as a child. As cameras developed I went through Fujica and Olympus range finders graduating to my first single lens reflex camera, the Minolta SRT101, the latter being the greatest facilitator to my growth as a photographer. Digital photography has only added to this. I was a regular contributor to Camera Craft magazine (Australian Camera ) for over three years. During Australia’s Bicentennial year (1988) I made it a personal project to document the celebrations. This culminated in the creation of a book of my photos which was published in 1989. The book was called CELEBRATING AUSTRALIA and came with an accompanying calendar. My works have appeared in a number of publications including the coffee book entitled MY AUSTRALIA (1989), publisher Robertsbridge Severn. This book had a preface by the then Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke. I was a co-photographer on a book entitled SYDNEY- DISCOVER THE CITY with text written by Robert Treborland. Major Mitchell Press was the publisher. Also for two years I was the photographer for calendars celebrating Sydney’s multicultural communities. The two calendars were entitled MULTICULTURAL SYDNEY. My work appeared in a group exhibition held at Sydney’s Town Hall pertaining to the diversity of life in South America to raise money for orphanages there. I have over one hundred photos stored in the New South Wales State Library archive. I had a solo exhibition held in 2007 entitled Ben’s Lens at the Sydney Jewish Museum which celebrated the vibrancy of the Sydney Jewish community. Some of these photos are on the Museum’s permanent display. I have exhibited internationally firstly at the Spruill Gallery in Atlanta Georgia, united states, and in an exhibition entitled Kosher and Co at the Jewish Museum in Berlin. Currently I am a regular contributor to J-Wire and this esteemed publication.


Two of the main protagonists in this third installment of the Marble Comics are Thor himself and the Hulk. Their earthly counterparts Chris Hemsworth and Mark Ruffalo strode the Red Carpet at the Entertainment Quarter last Sunday.

It was a very glitzy Sydney premiere with gold painted models and statues of Thor and the Hulk. Also in attendance was the New Zealand Director Taika Waititi and producers Brad Winderbaum and Chelsea Winstanley. Among the local celebrities who made an appearance was ex Home and Away star Johnny Ruffo, fresh from a life saving operation for brain cancer, who attended along with his girlfriend, Tahnee Sims.

A major difference in this film is that, at his insistence, Chris Hemsworth refused to wear the long blonde hair wig. Also with the inclusion of Taika Waititi, the film has more comedic touches. Filmed on the Gold Coast, Chris Hemsworth declared that he wished he could film more of his films in Australia.

THOR RAGNAROK opens in cinemas on the 26th October.

Featured image – Taika Waititi and Chelsea Winstanley. All images By Ben Apfelbaum.


Featured image – Baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes by Yvonne East.

The Salon Des Refuses was initiated by the S.H.Ervin Gallery in 1992 in response to the large number of works entered into the Archibald Prize which were not selected for display in the main exhibition.

Each year the Salon Des Refuses is invited to go behind the scenes of the judging process for the Archibald Prize for Portraiture and the Wynne Prize for Landscape Painting and figure sculpture at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The Salon selected 54 works that did not make the main exhibition and presented these works at an alternative exhibition at the S.H. Ervin.

This year’s Salon panel comprised James Dorahy, art advisor from the Michael Reid Galleries, Elizabeth Hastings, curator and author, Kevin Connor monograph writer, and James Watters, director of the S.H. Ervin Gallery. Continue reading SALON DES REFUSES 2017 @ S.H.ERVIN GALLERY


Beautiful. Not only was the musical beautiful but so were many of the celebs who walked the Red Carpet. Here are some of the best pics that Ben Apfelbaum took. Enjoy!

Featured image. Left to right- Director Marc Bruni, Writer Douglas McGarth, Producers – Michael Cassel and Mike Bosner.


Featured image – Camp Dog 2002-03.

Lena Yarinkura was born in 1961 and works in Ankabadbirri, a small coastal town in north-east Arnhem Land.

Lena first learned the technique of string bag weaving and pandanus basketry from her mother. In the early 1990’s Lena moved away from creating purely functional domestic objects out of pandanus fibre and started making sculptural forms that represent both the physical embodiment of ancestral beings and animals observed such as camp dogs, bandicoots, spiders, bush pigs and bush mice.

This exhibition is curated by Clothilde Bullen, Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collections and exhibitions.




Featured : Senne Mestrom ‘Soft Kiss’ 2011.

Drawn entirely from the Museum’s Collection, TODAY, TOMORROW, YESTERDAY considers the impact of the past and the influence of history on artistic practice today. From contemporary interpretations of ancestral stories to the continuing effects of early to mid twentieth century ideas, each room presents a different perspective on the history of the present.

The title and exhibition reference the circular timeless wonderment of TODAY, TOMORROW, YESTERDAY celebrating the different artists deep and ongoing interest in different social, political, cultural and aesthetics histories.

The exhibition is curated by MCA Senior Curator Natasha Bullock. The exhibition runs until 31 December, 2017.




Featured image – The Pretty Face Of Domesticity 2014 (c) Jenny Watson 

Jenny Watson is a leading Australian artist whose conceptual painting practice spans more than four decades. Curated by MCA Curator Anna Davis, this survey exhibition features works from the 1970’s to the present, including examples of Watson’s early realist paintings and drawings and a number of key series of works on fabric.

Inspired by both punk and feminism, she has travelled  widely since the 1970’s and utilises textiles collected on her travels as the surface of many of her paintings, which also often include collages materials  such as images  from magazines, horse’s hair, ribbons, bows and sequins.

Many of Watson’s works feature self portraits and altar egos, a cast of long haired women, horses, rock guitarists and cats who enact life’s ongoing psychodramas.

This exhibition is on until 2nd October, 2017 at the MCA.



Ben Apfelbaum and Mustafah Abdulaziz with the backdrop of the Sydney Opera House.

If you find yourself near the Opera House gates of the Botanical Gardens you will see a vivid yet sobering group of photographs about the crisis in water supply in various parts of the world photographed by New Yorker Mustafah Abdulaziz.

To avoid being categorised into a certain type of photography, Mustafah relocated to Berlin to feel less constrained. As a result he came up with a Water Stories photography project as one of the few unifying themes of mankind, especially as we are made up of  80% water. What started out as a limited project has blown out to 15 years and at this stage he believes he is a third way through. His principal sponsors are HSBC and EarthWatch. Continue reading WATER STORIES : A PHOTOGRAPHIC EXHIBITION BY MUSTAFAH ABDULAZIZ


Photography by Ben Apfelbaum.

The Cherry Blossoms were out in full bloom at the Auburn Botanical Gardens and  surrounding streets. As they were designed to simulate a Japanese garden, the Japanese community came out in force, mingling with other people of ethnic origin.

As a result there were kimonos aplenty, manga and cos players, sumo wrestlers and even a geisha  girl.

Sydney’s Cherry Blossom Festival was on display at the Auburn Botanical  Gardens between the 18th and the 27th August 2017.


Photography by Ben Apfelbaum.

Sydney’s sweet tooth shone brightly at the recent Chocolate Festival in the Rocks.

Chocolates of all shapes and sizes and ethnicity were consumed by happy hordes of of cocoa nuts.

Our photographer Ben Apfelbaum took a large photographic bite from the Festival.


Featured photo- Esther Hannaford who will play Carole King. Photography by Ben Apfelbaum.

Rehearsals have begun for the Australian premiere production of BEAUTIFUL : THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL, starring multi-award winning leading lady, Esther Hannaford as Carole King.

BEAUTIFUL is a celebration of Carole King’s rise to stardom including her relationship with husband and songwriting partner Gerry Goffin and their close friendship and playful rivalry with fellow song-writing duo Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.

Written by Douglas McGrath, directed by Broadway Director Mark Bruni and choreographed by John Prince it features a song list jam-packed with hits including ‘You’ve Got A Friend’, ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow’ and many more of classics. Continue reading REHEARSALS BEGIN FOR ‘BEAUTIFUL : THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL’


Photography by Ben Apfelbaum.

Opera Australia Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini, Australian theatre producer John Frost and leading UK theatre producer David Ian yesterday announced that Australian icon, singer, songwriter and musical theatre star Tina Arena will play the role of Eva Peron in Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s EVITA.

This follows the announcement last week that EVITA, one of the most celebrated classical musicals of all time, will return to Australia next year, playing at the Joan Sutherland Theatre at the Sydney Opera House, with tickets on sale from 31 August. This production will continue Opera Australia’s 5 year tradition of mounting popular Broadway and West End musicals. Continue reading TINA ARENA TO PLAY EVITA FOR OPERA AUSTRALIA NEXT YEAR


Featured photo- Christopher Langton and his sculpture ‘Shoe’. All photos by Ben Apfelbaum.

SCULPTURE AT BARANGAROO, presented in partnership with Barangaroo Delivery Authority and Sculpture By The Sea, opened last Saturday.

Official launch proceedings were held a day earlier with speakers David Handley, Founding Director of the Exhibition, Geoffrey Edwards, Exhibition Curator, and Barangaroo Delivery Authority CEO Craig Van De Laan.

The exhibition showcases 14 artworks by 9 established and emerging Australian artists.

Exhibiting artists include acclaimed Australian sculpture Michael Le Grand who is celebrating a mini retrospective of six works, Richard Tipping, Nicol Monks, Cave Urban, Andrew Rogers, Adam King from the Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Cooperative, Teresa Trevor, Christopher Langton and Elyssa Sykes-Smith.

SCULPTURE AT BARANGAROO is on display at the Barangaroo Reserve until the 19th August.

Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes : Art Gallery Of New South Wales

Featured image – Archibald Prize winner Mitch Cairns  and wife Agatha Gothe-Snape in front of his winning portrait of his wife. All images by Ben Apfelbaum.

To the delight of Sydneysiders and I suspect the Board of Trustees there was the usual post Archibald and Wynne controversy.

Distinguished veteran John Olsen opined words to the effect that the winner of the Archibald Prize was not a portrait but a decorative Matisse like painting. A Herald letter writer said that she would no longer paint in the European tradition but would paint dot paintings.

David Gonski, the Director of the Board of Trustee, announced the Prize winners at midday last Friday with a huge media contingent present.

The Archibald Prize, worth $100,000, went to Sydney artist Mitch Cairns for his portrait of his artist-wife Agatha Gothe-Snape.

The Wynne Prize, worth $50,000, went to Betty Kuntiwa Pumani for ‘Antara’, her portrait of her homeland.

The  Sulman Prize, worth $40000, went to Joan Ross, for her painting, ‘Oh history, you lied to me.’

Jun Chen was highly commended for his portrait of former gallery owner Ray Hughes.

The  Young Archies finalists are on exhibition until 22nd October with the announcement of the winner taking place on 16th September.

The Archibald, Wynne and Sulman exhibitions are on display at the Art Gallery of New South Wales until the 22nd October.

The ANZ People’s Choice Announcement will take place on Wednesday 4th October.

The Salon-des- Refuges exhibition will be on display at the SH Ervin Gallery until Sunday 15th October.


Featured image – Paulini, Fijian Australian pop and rhythm and blues singer, songwriter and actress.

The 17th annual Helpmann Awards ceremony was held at the Capitol Theatre on the evening of Monday 25th July. The Helpmanns, the equivalent of the Tonys (Broadway) and the Oliviers (West End) honour far more categories than the later two awards.

Being often clothed in striking costumes the nominees graced the red carpet with style and glamour. The Red Carpet carried a diverse range of people from the up and coming young cast of The Book Of Mormon to promoter Kevin Jacobsen, Rhonda Burchmore and Ita Buttrose.

The Ceremony was broadcast live on Foxtel and will be screened on the ABC this coming Sunday at 9.30pm.



Featured photo – Patti Smith and Bluesfest Touring 2017 won the Bobby for the Best International Contemporary Concert. All pics by Ben Apfelbaum.

The 2017 Helpmann Awards Ceremony featured excerpts from the Musicals The Book Of Mormon, Velvet, My Fair Lady, Green Days American Idiot, Aladdin, Beautiful:The Carole King Musical and the Ballet construct.

Ably hosted by Jan Van De Stool (Queenie Van De Zandt) and Tim Draxl the big winners were the Belvoir’s The Drover’s Wife, written by and starring Leah Purcell, and the Adelaide Festival’s production of the opera Saul, directed by Barry Kosky. Continue reading THE WINNERS CIRCLE : HELPMANN AWARDS 2017


Victorian Watercolours were the first works of Art purchased by the fledgling Art Gallery Of New South Wales in 1874. For the following three decades British watercolours by living artists were actively acquired. Greatly prized in their day and more affordable than oil paintings, watercolours were viewed as highly appropriate additions to emerging colonial galleries, as well as providing an educational role for students and aspiring artists. Continue reading WATERCOLOURS EXHIBITION @ THE ART GALLERY OF NEW SOUTH WALES


Featured photo – Lisa Wilkinson AM, retiring Head Packer Steve Peters and behind the winning entry Peter Smeeth’s portrait of Lisa. Pic Ben Apfelbaum.

‘High drama’ this was. This was the last time Steve Peters, after forty years on the job, selected the Packing Room Prize worth $1500. Peters has handed the reins to Breet Cuthbertson who will judge this coveted prize for the foreseeable future.

As the winning prize was announced, the sitter, Lisa Wilkinson, suddenly strode into the room. She was told that her portrait had won just as she emerged from surgery  on her right arm three days ago, due to a fall in Italy. Groggy after the operation she thought it was the Kerry Packer prize! The occasion was the first time that she had seen the portrait and she was absolutely delighted with it. ‘He got me’, she told the gathering.

Adding a touch of poignancy to the prize giving the artist, Peter Smeeth, was at the same time delivering a eulogy for a very dear  friend  in Yass. Lisa said. ‘This is the mark of this man.’

In the background of this portrait is a reflection of her family who were all present at the function.

Gallery Director Michael Brand noted that no Packing Room Prize winner has ever the Archibald Prize. Furthermore, the Prize had never been won by a reclining subject. He advised that if you are an arts punter don’t bet on Peter Smeeth’s portrait to win!

Finalists for the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes were also announced at the ceremony, as were the finalists for the Young Archie competition.

The announcement of the winner of the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes will take place on Friday 28th July at noon.

The 2017 Young Archie winners will be announced on Saturday 16th September and the People’s Choice announcement takes place on Wednesday 4th October.


Established in 2013 by Richard Gill AO, Rachael Beesley, Nicole Van Bruggen and Benjamin Bayl, the Australian Romantic and Classical Orchestra (ARCO) has adopted a thematic approach to its repertoire. This was exemplified by its recent concert Italian Romance at the City Recital Hall  which featured works by Beethoven, Hugo Woolf and Mendelssohn.

In the first half of the program the Orchestra was a smaller ensemble and stood. Beethoven’s Corialanus Overure was a particular choice as an example of Romantic Music. The work is not based on the Shakespeare play but on the equally gruesome story of a Roman General. The piece was played with precision and wonderful rhythm by the Orchestra. It was very much a  ‘Sturm and Drang’ experience.

Beethoven’s Romance for Violin and Orchestra No 2  featured Rachel Beesley as the soloist. Beesley played with tenderness and warmth, and created a wonderful dialogue with the woodwind section.

The next work which the Orchestra played was Beethoven’s 12 Contradances for Orchestra. Most of the Contradances were just 32 bars in length and the Orchestra glided through each dance to create a seamless whole. The joyful music was however made more poignant with Gill reading out extracts from a letter which Beethoven wrote to his brother about his impending deafness.

The Orchestra’s performance of The Italian Serenade by Hugo Woolf featured a delightful conversation between the violin and cello.

The Orchestra reconvened after interval with a larger ensemble and delivered an impressive performance of Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony. The remarkable, glorious wall of sound that this Orchestra achieved was in spite of the fact that it was about half the size of a full Orchestra.

The success of  this pleasing concert can also be attributed to the concert’s guest conductor Benjamin Bayl. His relaxed yet disciplined conducting brought out the best in the Orchestra.

ARCO performed its concert Italian Romance at the City Recital Hall, Angel Place on Saturday 25th March.



Until only a few years ago the Irish Australian community held an annual parade in Sydney second only in size to the St Patricks Day Festival held in New York.

Unfortunately a shortage in financial support has resulted in the Parade being disbanded.

This, however, has not stopped the Irish community from celebrating the day in various venues around Sydney including a lovely event that took place in Martin Place.

Pics by Ben Apfelbaum (c).


Featured image – Mark Speakman SC and Attorney General addressing the congregation. All photos by Ben Apfelbaum.

Although Church and the secular judiciary are supposed to be constitutionally separate, it is a tradition that the various religions bless the judiciary so that their decisions are wise and just.

On the 8th February it was the Jewish faith’s turn to place a benediction on the legal fraternity at the Great Synagogue, in the presence of the Chief Justice of New South Wales, the Hon. T.F.Bathurst AC.

Justice Stephen Rothman, President of the Great Synagogue, welcomed the legal profession to the service and outlined the contribution Jewish lawyers had made to New South Wales.

Mark Speakman SC, Attorney General, representing the Premier delivered a message on behalf of the Government of New South Wales, emphasising how the rule of law sustains democracy. Continue reading THE GREAT SYNAGOGUE SERVICE FOR THE OPENING OF THE LAW TERM


The Chinese community usually holds a huge parade down George Street but due to the construction of the light rail their substitute cultural expression is manifested in a display of lanterns depicting the Chinese signs of the Zodiac.

As it is the Year of the Rooster the lantern took pride of place by the Opera House and there have been various sculptures of the Rooster throughout the city including the QVB.

The Rooster always has its beak facing east towards the dawn and so Chinese people born under the sign of the Rooster look to the future with optimism and confidence.

Images by Ben Apfelbaum (c).


PASSENGERS has met with critical hostility overseas. The previews concentrated on the action scenes in the film which in fact form a minor part towards the end. This created certain action movie expectations which were not met. I have to say that I did not mind the film, and stayed quietly engaged throughout.

This sci-fi film, directed by Morten Tyldum and written by John Spaihits, commences with a Star Ship Avalon transporting over 5,000 commuters to a commercialised planet called Homestead 2 which requires the passengers and crew to sleep in hibernation pods for one hundred and twenty years.

An asteroid hits the Avalon which causes a malfunction in mechanical engineer Jim Preston’s (Chris Pratt) pod. He awakens after only thirty years of the journey. With only an android bartender Arthur (Michael Sheen) for company Jim tries to overcome his loneliness by exercising and talking at length to Arthur.  Continue reading ‘PASSENGERS’ FAILS TO REACH ANY GREAT HEIGHTS


This is is a quiet gem of a film that slipped almost unnoticed  through the Christmas/New Year holiday period. It is dedicated to director David MacKenzie’s parents – David John MacKenzie and Ursula Sybile MacKenzie who both died during the making of this film.

The phrase ‘hell or high water’ has two meanings in the States. The typical interpretation is that one does what it takes no matter what. However in an American lease, hell or high water means you must continue payments no matter what obstacles you encounter. The later meaning is similar to what in Australia we call a force majeure clause, although in Australia this  can often be an excuse for non payment. Both meanings apply to this film.

HELL OR HIGH WATER deals with a divorced father played by Chris Pine and his ex con, older and volatile brother played by Ben Foster, who resort to robbing banks. Hot on their heels is soon to retire Texas ranger Marcus Hamilton, accompanied by his ‘Tonto’ Alberto Gomez, a half Indian/Mexican deputy, played by Gil Birmingham.

The film is confidently directed by MacKenzie who elicits an evocative ‘Robin Hood’ like performances from Pine as the measured, conflicted, haunted quieter brother and from Ben Foster as the reckless, homicidal yet loving older brother.

If you want grisly, the go to man is Jeff Bridges. As the crusty but wise Sheriff, he provided the humanity and wit of this film, even as he makes constant, politically incorrect, very funny Indian jokes at the expense of his Deputy. Even with his attitude, Bridges still manages to convey the affection and respect his character has for his sidekick.

The film is populated by oddball characters that small towns seem to contain. Many of the extras were local residents of the towns in which the film was shot.

The cinematography by Giles Nuttgene is stunning. Nearly all colour is bleached out, evoking a harsh and unforgiving landscape where heat sucks the hope out. The accompanying haunting and sometimes forlorn score is by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. The sensitive, humorous yet tragic screenplay is by  Taylor Sheridan.

This movie has been called a  neo Western with elements of High Noon in the plot. Given the neglect the West Texan setting demonstrates (albeit the film was actually shot in New Mexico), it makes comprehensible why people in these rural slums voted for Donald Trump.

The film premiered at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard section. It has received four Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Bridges), Best Original Screenplay and Best Film Editing. I have not seen the Oscar nominated films but I hope that this superior film  is not swamped by shallow, vacuous, poorly sung and danced Welcome To La La Land, a film that people either love or hate. Discerning cinephiles should hopefully love Hell or High Water. I believe HELL OR HIGH WATER has done whatever it  takes to win an Oscar or four.