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.


TIKKUN OLAM with its sub theme ‘my place + your place = a better place’ is a multi-cultural exploration and exhibition co-presented by Jewish Arts and the Shir Madness Jewish Music Festival with B’Nai B’rith as its principal sponsor.

The underlying theme of this exhibition embraces all of the values required to make the world a better place. These core values include social justice, friendship, generosity, peace and the environment. The exhibition, curated by Estelle Rozinski, recognises the universal significance of the family in every culture. By inviting artists of Aboriginal, Korean and Jewish communities to share in the exploration of their personal experience through Art, Rozinski has begun a significant and beneficial  multi-cultural conversation.




Music  from Samba to funky jazz, through to rap, ukuleles, piano music and folk greeted Bondi Beach strollers along Campbell Parade.  The Music on The Streets event took place on Sunday 31 July.

This was the third and final installment of the Bondi Winter Magic Festival. However, in a few weeks time, on August 14, there will be more festivities at Bondi Beach when the City to Surf runners cross the finish line.



An operatic moment from the Bank sketch.
The winning team enjoying their moment.
The winning team enjoying their moment. Production photography by Stephen Reinhardt.

Judging Celebrity Theatresports held at the Enmore Theatre last Saturday night is like trying to critique a box of Smarties. We were assaulted by a barrage of colour and humour to suit all tastes.

Improvised theatre is just that, made up on the spot but it is a competition and therefore subject to a few rules. At this performance there were 23 performers split into six teams.

A team has 3 minutes to complete their skit and it must include the subject or theme that is spontaneously  provided by either the host or a member of the audience.

The adjudicators Professor Larissa Behrendt, Pastor Ray Minniecon and Anne Wilson scored each team out of a possible five points based on technique which means a clever line is offered to the next team member and how inventively she or she accepts it. Next, teams are judged on narrative; that is if it is a rattling good yarn and finally on entertainment, meaning its comedic value. Continue reading CELEBRITY THEATRESPORTS @ ENMORE THEATRE



Production photography by Brett Boardman.

Twins are washed up after a shipwreck onto the shores of Illyria, both unaware of the others survival. Like A Midsummers Nights Dream,  there seems to be a dream like spell over Illyria, where everyone is in love with the wrong person, girls are boys and boys are girls, where knights are ignoble, puritans become lustful, drunks are philosophical and the Fool is the wisest of all. Every character is an oxymoron.  

Shakespeare deeply understands one of our greatest frailties, the capacity for self delusion. In his tragedies the delusion leads the protagonist to a blasted heath or even worse, death. In his comedies scales of delusion fall from characters eyes, everybody has their proper place in the universe and they are in love with the right person.

To add to the confusion manifested in the play, TWELFTH NIGHT is not about Twelfth Night. It could be ‘WHAT YOU WILL’. The twelfth night after Christmas was traditionally the Greek Orthodox festival of the Epiphany but medieval Anglicanism turned it into a night of revelry where the lower classes could for  twenty four hours let off steam from their feudal or meagre existence. Peasants became lords and washerwomen became dames, often mocking the upper classes. Continue reading TWELFTH NIGHT @ BELVOIR STREET



IMGL3381Artist EKO NUGROHO belongs to a generation  of contemporary Indonesian artists who emerged during ‘Reformasi’, a period of democratic reforms that followed several months of economic turmoil and the collapse of the Suharto dictatorship in 1988. Based in Yogyakarta, the artistic and revolutionary capital of Indonesia, Nugroho is  deeply engaged with his local community.

His work reflects a commitment to addressing the social and political change that Indonesia has experienced over the past two decades.

The current exhibition, LOT LOST at the Art Gallery Of New South Wales, is a finely layered and darkly humoured portrayal of everyday life in Indonesia today. The exhibition  runs till early next year.



Images (c) Ben Apfelbaum.





Drag queens, fashionistas, Patsy and Edina look-alikes trod the pink carpet at the Australian premiere of ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS : THE MOVIE at Sydney’s State Theatre.

There was a large throng of fans to greet the stars of the movie, Jennifer Saunders and Joanne Lumley, who were also greeted by a foyer with flowers and their ‘portraits’, as well as a glistening media wall. 

All images by (c) Ben  Apfelbaum.


A number of Sydney’s most distinguished artists were in attendance at the recent announcement of the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman winners, both to support the event and in the hope that they may win one of the prizes.

I took the opportunity to photograph the artists at in some cases with the sitter themselves.


This is my photo montage featuring some of the winners from the recent Helpmann awards, Australia’s premiere performing arts awards night, held this year at the Lyric theatre, the Star. The Tim Minchin musical MATILDA dominated the night taking a whole swag of awards. For the full list of winners –


Artist Fracesco Clemente with exhibition curator Mia Niall.

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Artist Fracesco Clemente with exhibition curator Mia Niall. Images by Ben Apfelbaum.

Carriageworks is presenting the first major exhibition in Australia of work by acclaimed Italian contemporary artist Francesco Clemente.

Presented free to the public from July 30 until October 9 Francesco Clemente’s ENCAMPMENT will include six of Clemente’s large scale tents, transforming thirty thousand square feet of exhibition space within Carriageworks into an opulent tented village.

For this exhibition, Clemente has collaborated with a community of artisans in Rajasthan, India over three years from 2012- 2014 to create a series of tents, with individual tents measuring up to 18 feet wide and 10 feet high. Viewers will be invited to walk around, amongst and inside the tents to explore the works from different perspectives.

Exhibited alongside the artist’s tent are four altar-like vertical sculptures- titled Earth, Moon, Sun and Hunger– which marry references to contemporary life with archaic forms. The exhibition also features a suite of nineteen erotically-charged paintings from a series entitled No Mud, No Lotus (2013-2014) which draws on traditions of a MUGHAL miniature painting.

Francesco Clemente came to prominence in the mid nineteen seventies and is widely recognised as one of the most remarkable and evocative artists working today, with work from his four-decade long career being collected by major museums and private collections around the world.



Jonathan Jones, choreographer Stephen Page, philanthropist John Kaldor
left to right – Director of Dry Skin and Bones Jonathan-Jones, Choreographer Stephen-Page, and philanthropist John-Kaldor. Image by Ben Apfelbaum.
Bangarra Dancers (1)
Bangarra Dancers. Image by Ben Apfelbaum.
Arts philanthropist John Kaldor
Arts philanthropist John Kaldor. Image by Ben Apfelbaum

Kaldor Public Art Projects recently announced Bangarra Dance Theatre will develop a site-specific performance for Jonathan Jones’ barrangal dyara (skin and bones), the 32nd Kaldor Public Art Project to be held in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden from 17 September until 3 October 2016. Wiradjuri/Kamilaroi artist Jonathan Jones and Artistic Director of Bangarra Dance Theatre, Stephen Page, will collaborate to present a performance reflecting on the loss of Sydney’s 19th century Garden Palace Building – along with countless Aboriginal cultural objects – to fire in 1882.

The performance will take place within the footprint of the original Garden Palace building along Macquarie Street in the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney, demarcated by a new major sculptural and sound installation created by Jones. The project connects with many Aboriginal communities and cultural practitioners, and Munaldjali/Nunukul man, Page will respond to the themes of the work, collaborating to shed light on Australian History.

This special collaboration with Bangarra Dance Theatre will be performed free of charge on the evening of the anniversary of the Garden Palace Fire, 22 September 2016. The performance will be part of the wider barrangal dyara (skin and bones) project program, presented free to the public from 17 September – 3 October 2016 in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden.

The project is Jones’ response to the immense loss felt throughout Australia due to the destruction of these culturally significant items. It represents an effort to commence a healing process and a celebration of the survival of the world’s oldest living culture despite this traumatic event.



Featured Image- left to right- Jackie Chan, young cast member, Nana Ouyang, Acting Premier Troy Grant, Director Leo Zhang, Erica Xia-Hou and Tess Haubrich

Nana Ouyang, Charlie Chan, Erica Xia-Hou and Tess Haubrich.

Mega film star Jackie Chan was anything but a bleeding heart, in fact he was in very high spirits and joking with the media throng, at his press conference in the  Utzon room at the Sydney Opera House celebrating the announcement that shooting has begun in Sydney on his new  film  BLEEDING STEEL, directed by Leo Zhang.

The press conference was emceed by the redoubtable Lee Lin Chin. The film represents his first sci-fi film and he is hoping that the opening scene will be a spectacular stunt by him from the top of the Opera House.

BLEEDING STEEL will be his fourth film to be made in Australia. His last Australian film was MR NICE GUY made in 1996 in Melbourne. Chan  joked that he could be an excellent tour guide for his young Chinese cast members, Nana Ouyang and Erica Xia-Hou. Also present was the film’s female villain, Australian actress Tess Haubrich.

BLEEDING STEEL is going to be the biggest budget Chinese production ever to be shot in Australia.

Australia is where Chan – born Chan Kong-sang- was given the nickname ‘Jackie’ whilst he was working on a construction site. Chan spoke about how he lived in Canberra for two years where his late parents lived for some 46 years. Chan’s father working as a head chef at the United States Embassy before opening a successful local restaurant. In 2008 he funded and opened the Jackie Chan Science Foundation in Canberra as a tribute to his late parents.

Chan’s film career extends back over fifty years, and after all these years with his dangerous stunts he is still very much standing.  He perhaps facetiously,  remarked that he would like to be in a romantic film, as action films were too exhausting!

The scenario to BLEEDING STEEL sees Chan play a hardened special force agent Lin who fights to protect a young woman who is an important witness in a major conspiracy case. 

On Saturday evening 6th August Chan  will appear in conversation at the Concert Sydney Opera House as part of the year long Sydney Opera House Talks and Ideas program.



The Botanical Gardens  gave itself a birthday present on its 200th anniversary in the form of the Calyx, billed as Sydney’s newest attraction.

The Calyx replaces the pyramid hothouse with a donut shaped appearance. Furthermore it has added a exhibition space and a ‘moat’ containing an island of topiary monkeys.

Currently showing at the exhibition space is an exhibition entitled the Sweet Addictionthe Botanic Story of Chocolate– about the Chocolate Plant.





Senior Labor figure Anthony Albanese.
Senior Labor figure Anthony Albanese. Image (c) Ben Apfelbaum.

The Archibald Prize announcement was topped and tailed in a sea of red.

In the morning  red caped protesters, hoping to catch the Archibald media pack, demonstrated against the merging of the Sydney College of The Arts and Sydney University Fine Arts Department.SCA

Senior Federal Labor figure Anthony Albanese showed up to lend his support.

In the afternoon the red carpet was laid out for the Trustees, Art Gallery members and guests who were to attend an Archibald Gala in the evening.


Featured image- Leah Bullen standing in front of her prize winning entry. Pic (c) Ben Apfelbaum.

This year’s Trustees Watercolour Prize went to Leah Bullen for her work Conservatory no 2.



Esther Stewart in her studio in Daylesford. Photo- Penny Stephens
Above Esther Stewart working in her studio in Daylesford. Photo- Penny Stephens. Featured image – An admirer views Esther’s award winning entry.Photo copyright Ben Apfelbaum

Esther Stewart won the 2016 Sulman Prize for her painting Flatland Dreaming. Taking its title from an Edwin Abbott’s 19th-century novel that drew comparison between dimensional geometry and Victorian social mores, the painting considers domestic spaces through the dimensions of abstraction and minimalism.

“Winning the Sir John Sulman Prize is an incredible honour and I am extremely delighted,” said Stewart.


Featured image- Ken family sisters in front of their award winning entry.

The Ken sisters at the podium. Looking on is Mark Nelson, the deputy Trustee of the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Five sisters from the Ken family – Tjungkara Ken, Yaritji Young, Freda Brady, Maringka Tunkin and Sandra Ken – who live in the remote Aboriginal community of Amata in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, won the 2016 Wynne Prize with their collaborative canvas entitled SEVEN SISTERS.


“We are very proud to see our painting here in Sydney and to win the Wynne Prize. I am happy to be here with my sisters and for my family in Amata to see our painting win this big award,” Tjungkara Ken said upon winning this prestigious award.



Louise Hearman views her Archibald Prize winning entry.
Louise Hearman views her Archibald Prize winning entry simply titled Barry. Image (c) Ben Apfelbaum.

Melbourne artist Louise Hearman has won the 2016 Archibald Prize with her electic portrait of iconic Australian Barry Humphries.

Painting entertainer, satirist, artist and Dadaist, Barry Humphries, this is the first time Hearman has been a finalist in the country’s most famous prize.

Best known for his alter-ego Dame Edna Everage, among other comic characters including Sir Les Patterson and Sandy Stone, Barry Humphries is a perennial favourite sitter for the Archibald Prize, this being his sixth time. His first appearance in the Archibald Prize was in 1969 as Dame Edna Everage. Continue reading ARCHIBALD PRIZE 2016 WINNER : LOUISE HEARMAN



Packing Room Prize (22)
George Calombaris
Packing Room Prize (35)
Bettina Fauvel-Ogden
Packing Room Prize (93)
The Packer Prize winning portrait of George Calombaris.
Packing Room Prize - George Calombaris, Steve Peters, Betina Fauvel-Ogden
Left to right – George Calombaris, Steve Peters and Betina Fauvel-Ogden

Featured image- George Calombaris and Bettina Fauvel-Ogden. All images (c) Ben Apfelbaum.

A huge media contingent turned up at the Art Gallery of New South Wales for the unveiling of the Packing Room prize valued at $1,500. It has become an Archibald Prize institution soon it was first awarded in 1988.

The Award  is judged by the Gallery’s unpacking staff who are the first to see the entrants, with 51% of the vote going to Steve Peters, the Head of the Packing room.

Peters stated that for this Prize there were three criteria as far as he was concerned. Firstly, the painting had to realistically look like the person portrayed, then the subject had to be in the public eye, and finally the painting had to be good. Continue reading PORTRAIT OF MASTER CHEF WINS PACKING ROOM PRIZE


Lead actor Sam Neill amongst the Festival throng. (c) Ben Apfelbaum.
Director Taika Waititi
Director Taika Waititi (c) Ben Apfelbaum

Based on a book entitled Wild Pork and Watercress by the late New Zealand folk hero/author Barry Crump, HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE  was the first New Zealand movie to gross over a million dollars in its opening weekend there.

It follows the familiar movie tropes of a road journey (in this case the bush) and the cute kid melting the heart of a grumpy old man. However this does the film a great injustice as it mines these movie conventions with originality , humour and a lovely warmth combined with the extraordinary photography of the North Islands east coast wilderness. Continue reading HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE



BenLens11All images by Ben Apfelbaum.

Sergei Prokofiev was undertaking a successful tour in the US when he was asked by the Chicago Symphony to compose an opera. In 1921 it was performed in the States and in 1926 in Russia. Because it had an unappealing script for the time, it was the antithesis of Puccini’s realism and contained no arias, and it was poorly received. However, this opera reflected the art movement of the time absorbing the fragmentation of Picasso and the surrealism of Dali.

Thank goodness it was revived in 1949 in the States by which time public taste had caught up with its avant garde satire and since then the opera has been regularly performed by a opera companies around the world.

The plot defies a short synopsis but in the Opera Australia production suffice it to say, it is a combination of nineteen twenties movie star allusions, the commedia dell’arte and Alice In Wonderland.

There is a cranky witch Fata Morgana played by Antoinette Halloran who looks like Gloria Swanson, and  a clown Truffaldino played by Kanen Breen, whose warm bass added extra comedy to his zany character. There are characters dressed as cards and harlequins like those encountered by Alice, a  princess with a rats head, and dancing cacti.

The multi hued set design by George Tsypin combined with the crisp direction of Francesca Zambello facilitates the speed and ever nonsensical absurdist passage of the piece to its happy ever after conclusion.

Zambello’s set and the costumes by Tanya Noginova are a riot of colour and the singers sometimes perform from impossibly awkward positions without any diminution of volume and quality.

The farce is overseen by a Lord Of The  Rings type eye or perhaps it is a reference to the eye in Luis Bunuel’s and Salvador Dali’s UN CHIEN ANDALOU.

Rosario La Spina as the hypochondriacal and obsessive Prince is unexpectedly  comedic (due to his casting in more solemn operas) and brings a warmth to his character with his lovely tenor voice.

Julie Lea Goodwin’s sweet soprano complements her character beautifully as the heroine Princess Ninetta.

I mentioned Kanen Breen’s extraordinary clown performance,  but really all the Company must be congratulated on the excellence of their acting abilities which ranged from an S and M dominatrix through to a humongous fat cook.

Like last years’ A Turk In Italy and this years’ Barber of Saville, both by Rossini, this superb production  is a comic triumph.

Running time is 2 hours 15 minutes including one twenty minute interval.

Prokofiev’s FOR LOVE OF ORANGE is playing the Joan Sutherland theatre, Sydney Opera House until July 9.





All images by Ben Apfelbaum.

This year’s NAIDOC Week theme Songlines – the living narrative of our nation- seeks to engage the wider community to know more about The Dreamtime- when ancestral spiritual beings shaped our rivers, lakes, plants, land formation and living creatures.

NAIDOC Week is a great opportunity to recognise and celebrate our indigenous cultural fabric.

NAIDOC in the City was staged at Hyde Park and included areas highlighting indigenous culture including the FOOD ZONE, MARKET PLACE, KIDS’ CULTURE, KNOWLEDGE AND CULTURE, and MAIN STAGE AND ENTERTAINMENT.

NAIDOC IN THE CITY- HYDE PARK on Monday 4 July was the inaugural public event kicking off NAIDOC 2016 with events continuing  until Thursday 14 July.

The remaining NAIDOC events are three events this Wednesday 13 July- A NAIDOC Celebration with Matthew Doyle at Woollahra Library between 10 am and 11 and Underexposed : Shelling Workshop at Waverley Library between 10 am and 12 pm, and a Women’s Weaving Workshop at Hillsdale Community Hall between 10.30 am and 11.30 am, and Thursday 14 July- Underexposed : Art, Health and Community- Public Talk at Waverley Library between 6.30 pm and 7.30 pm.