Balmain-based photographer Digby Duncan, for several decades a keen documenter of the city’s gay and lesbian history, will present an exhibition of her recent photographs at Syndicate Gallery in Waterloo from October 26.

The exhibition, a joint exhibition with David Smyth titled After Dark, will feature the photographic fruits of Digby’s recent stint as an artist-in-residence at a gallery on the outskirts of Beijing.

“Down the road from where I was situated was this very Third-World village which really came alive at night, so I started photographing down there,” Duncan told the Star Observer.

“I didn’t want to concentrate on the poverty, because what I saw was a real energy — the village seemed to buzz with energy each night.”

Adding to the poignancy of the images is the fact that the dilapidated village will soon be demolished, a victim of the Chinese government’s relentless quest for progress.

“Apparently the Chinese authorities don’t give people much warning when these things are going to happen. There were other villages in the area that had just been razed to the ground, and others that had been fought for,” Duncan said.

“But this is the progress of China. It’s interesting — under that communist rule, things get done so quickly. Things that would take us years can happen in an instant, whether it’s demolishing or building something.”

While the exhibition’s subject matter isn’t queer, Duncan said her identity as a gay artist and historian (stretching back to her role as producer of the groundbreaking 1979 documentary about the first Sydney Mardi Gras, Witches, Faggots, Dykes and Poofters) informed every project she pursued.

“I’m interested in preserving history, and I think it’s really important to document things that are in danger of ‘falling off the side of history’, shall we say.

“I think that belief informs a lot of what I photograph, even when the subject matter isn’t gay and lesbian.”

INFO: After Dark, October 26 – November 12, Syndicate at Danks.

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