It’s a Mardi Gras moment, funny, sexy, outrageous. This performer snapped at a 1999 Mardi Gras comedy night is one of the many images from the archive of Sydney’s premier lesbian photographer C. Moore Hardy. Hardy is collaborating with artist and writer Cath Phillips to produce a night of slides and commentary to celebrate lesbian participation in Mardi Gras. It’s an idea that was born over a game of topless tennis.
We were playing topless tennis at a friend’s place, Phillips tells me with a mischievous laugh, and talking about what we would do for Mardi Gras because Mardi Gras has been in such trouble this year.
They started talking about the thousands of images in Hardy’s archive. The idea for Girls Girls Girls was born.
Over the last few months Hardy and Phillips have sorted through thousands of images culling them into a set which showcases the funny, the sexy, the unusual, the famous and the everyday lives of Sydney lesbians celebrating what Hardy calls our Christmas.
Phillips reckons that at one level Hardy’s work is a sure-fire gamble.
Most photographers work on the National Geographic principle that, if you take enough, some of them have got to be good and she has just taken so many that there are so many good ones, says Phillips.
But of course there’s more to good photography than that and at another level the real magic happens in the relationship between Hardy and her subjects.
She’s also a very likeable character and people react to that positively and she ends up getting anybody practically to let her take their photograph and they enjoy it and that shows in the pics, Phillips notes.
For Hardy it’s been a rewarding if exhausting process reviewing her archive but for her the importance of the project is about documenting lesbian visibility.
It will show all the lesbians, which is the perspective that hasn’t been shown ever. That for me is a really important benchmark for the gay and lesbian community, Hardy says.
I really wanted to focus on lesbians because we have been an important part of Mardi Gras. There’s still that issue about the word lesbian: people choke on the word and say -˜my gay lady friend’ still. Newscasters don’t want to say the word lesbian -“ they’re happy to say the word gay. So it’s important to say lesbians have been there as well. Lesbians really need to have a little -˜ye ha, we’ve been there’.
Hardy’s Mardi Gras archive dates back to 1987 which is the year when she and Phillips met. Phillips curated Hardy -“ then a young art student -“ into one of Sydney’s first exhibitions of lesbian art. The 16-year friendship forms the backdrop to the show. There’s obviously a spark between the two and that is bound to come through in the lively commentary that the pair will provide for the night.
Girls Girls Girls is on tomorrow night and Saturday, 7.30pm at Starfish Studios, 37 Burnie St, Clovelly. Admission is free.