It is with a smile of fond recognition that photographer Patricia Niven recalls the party days of gay Sydney of the 1990s.
“It was not quite Weimar cabaret, but it was definitely a feeling of anything goes and people were expressing themselves creatively through their lifestyle. It was such interesting times, at clubs like Kooky on William St, and it was not just about boys with their shirts off,” she said. “I just remember the amazing fantastic-ness.”
Brisbane-born Niven, 32, lived in Sydney from 1995 to 1997, before she moved to London to pursue her dream of becoming a photographer.
She has since shot covers for Diva magazine, campaigns for lingerie house Agent Provocateur and for the Victoria and Albert Museum.
But early last year, Niven decided she wanted to come home to be a part of the 30th anniversary celebrations of Mardi Gras, and so put together her exhibition as part of the Mardi Gras Art Gallery at TAP Gallery.
Her exhibition consists of 10 self-portrait photographs taken in the 10 years since she left Sydney. It is also her way, she says, of paying tribute to the inspiration the city gave her to follow her dream.
Among the self-portraits are pictures of her off the coast of Cornwall, bewildered among deer shooters in upstate New York and in her London apartment after a relationship break-up.
“I wanted to explore what we look like at different times of the day and at different ages, and in different moods,” she said.
“It is also about how in your 20s you are working out who you are and how you might express that through the way you look.
“I have taken about 300 self-portraits and an idea was hovering for a show, and so I decided Mardi Gras was the right time do something with that imagery.”
Niven currently lives in London with her actress partner Sarah, and has just opened the agency, ContainerPlus, a design company for commercial and creative art.
But she says Sydney continues to have a place in her heart. “This city is so beautiful and this exhibition proved there is still such creativity still here. I had not been back for a while, and this was very refreshing.”
info: Mardi Gras Art Gallery at TAP Gallery, Burton St, Darlinghurst, until 1 March 2008.