Use advanced navigation for a better experience.
You can quickly scroll through posts by pressing the above keyboard keys. Now press the button in right corner to close this window.


'Night Roster' from Central Queensland Project 2012

Currently living, studying and working in Brisbane, documentary practitioner Kelly Hussey-Smith is interested in sharing human experiences through photography and storytelling. Kelly regularly exhibits work nationally and internationally and has won numerous awards and grants for her work including the Churchie National Emerging Art Award, and was selected for the Institute of Modern Art’s Fresh Cut show for her Caged series in 2010. Currently completing post graduate study at the Queensland College of Art - exploring the impacts of removal on the lives of those who grew up in institutional and out-of-home care in Australia, she is also working on a photographic exploration of the the mining boom in Central Queensland.

Lynette interviews her in regards to her recent collaborative project with fellow photographer and partner Alan Hill, her background in photography and her future photographic endeavours. 

'Cooling Tower' 2011 from the series Hull

‘Cooling Tower’ 2011 from the series Hull

How did you develop an interest in documentary practice?
After finishing school and working a few different jobs, I moved to Europe for three years with a Pentax and a backpack. I look back at the images I made during this time and while they described mood and place, they lacked story and narrative. On my return, after beginning studies in linguistics, politics and history, I enrolled in Art College where I studied photography and discovered many wonderful storytellers and artists. In my first week I discovered the work of Martin Parr, which was a turning point. I connected immediately with his social observations and commentary on contemporary western society. His projects helped me understand the power of visual language to communicate a position or politic. He wasn’t making decoration but was showing us a version of ourselves we may not always see. I could relate to his work rather than just admire it. While I am constantly immersed in the work of many artists, I continually return to the conventions of documentary storytelling in my own practice. As a process of enquiry, it encourages me to look deeper into worlds I participate in. Every project is a re-education.

My work usually begins with an honest and simple question about why we have adopted a certain behaviour, practice, system or social ritual, which in turn usually opens up a plethora of bigger, more challenging and contradictory questions. Navigating this path often puts me in a very intense space of listening, watching, reading, reflecting and questioning. I still find the visual a remarkably challenging medium to work in. I suspect this is a part of the appeal.

‘Motel, 5am’ 2012 from Central Queensland Project

You are currently working on a collaborative body of work with Alan Hill titled Central Queensland Project. How did the idea for the project arise?
My entire family are from Bundaberg which is really on the cusp of the Central Queensland region. When time permits, Alan and I have been visiting my 97-year-old granddad Fred and listening to his stories. My grandparents Fred and Kathleen moved to Duaringa in the 40s to start a new life. Fred describes the region as one offering opportunities to those who had limited choices and were willing to take a risk. It struck us that despite the constant references to the mining boom, the region was still largely invisible.

As a precursor to the project we made a small artist book on Bundaberg titled Discover our Spirit – directly relating to the City of Bundaberg’s slogan (and their famous brand of rum). We were really interested in the idea that Bundaberg and many of the surrounding cities and towns were experiencing a transition. Booming ocean front-real estate expansion, shopping centres on the fringes of the city, and traces of new and old industries spoke to this transition. As always, there was a generational change, but the question of an ideological change existing simultaneously became something we wished to explore through the work. We eventually became so curious that we moved out of our flat, purchased a camper-van, and took off for a few months over summer. Perhaps we too were drawn to the idea of taking a risk in the land of opportunity.

What strategies did you employ when shooting and editing to maintain the collaboration?
We had to learn strategies as we went along. As habitually solo practitioners collaboration was enlightening and challenging, particularly in the early stages. Making images together in-field was surprisingly fluid. Collaborative image making meant both contributing to a dialogue that eventually prompted an idea for an image. Editing the work is more difficult. The editing process requires a different level of commitment to the ideas under interrogation – in many ways it lacks the fluidity of making. We have different ways of processing our responses to images and ideas so although it has been a slow process, we have come to know each other a little better. The last time we edited the work we had to call a time out. We baked a chocolate cake and placed it on the table as a peace offering. It worked.

'Cane Cutters Bar', Bundaberg 2012 from Central Queensland Project

‘Cane Cutters Bar’, Bundaberg 2012 from Central Queensland Project

Do you believe there is a continuing issue occurring outside this body of work that you would potentially explore overtime and furthermore, what did you seek to discover/learn through the process of working on this project?
We see this project as a book that will evolve over a period of years. Given the complexity of the modern economy, and the insularity of city life, many of us are becoming blind to the reality of what lies beyond the city limits. We’re interested in the invisibility of economically powerful regions and the ideological transitions taking place in communities and regional towns, for example the mobile workforce (FIFO workers including miners, security guards, sex workers and agricultural workers), changing dynamics in communities, new mining towns and cycles of boom and bust. Interestingly many of these contemporary issues are actually not too dissimilar to many of the issues affecting the region historically. We are also interested in following some of the young people as they make their transition into adulthood. Many live in mining towns that have no elderly due to the town’s establishment only 20-30 years ago. We’re interested in how their lives unfold from this point.

It’s not for us as outsiders to speak for those living in the region, but to include some new voices into the dialogue, and of course our own observations. We are expecting a baby in August, so we will need to adapt our practice and approach (or at least make the seats in the back of the van legal).

What has been the most valuable aspect/s of working on Central Queensland Project?
Meeting individuals and families who have generously contributed their perspectives and stories is humbling and inspiring.

Being in the open landscape, or even just on the road, is wonderful therapy for a busy mind.

Witnessing the amount of planning, energy, problem solving, and resources that go into coal extraction was eye opening. The lack of connection to the source of some of our privilege allows us to take it for granted. When we take something for granted, we see it as infinite and feel a sense of entitlement. This was a valuable experience in terms of thinking about a bigger picture.

Hippopotamus, Beijing Zoo, Beijing, China, 2009 from the series Caged

Another significant project you worked on is Caged. Can you explain some of your motivations behind this body of work?
Caged was developed in response to the way we use animals for entertainment and decoration, and by extension, the changing nature of their role in our lives. Primarily developed around the subject of animals in captivity, the work really asks questions about our own species. In Why Look at Animals, John Berger argues that the felt knowledge (often not expressed) that we take away from zoos can be attributed to the sensation that the animals viewed were less than we had imagined. As such, he suggests animals in zoos are ‘living monuments to their own disappearance’. This work pushed me to the edge of my comfort zone, but it was exactly this expression of discomfort that forced me to invest in the questions the work raised. I think this was often the case for audiences of the work.

Do you have any other projects you are working on at the moment or will be pursuing in the near future?
I am currently working on a post-graduate project collaborating with individuals who grew up in care in Australia in the 20th century. The work is only just emerging out of the mountains of data collected, and as I begin to refine my approach I find myself working in entirely new ways to honour the contributions of collaborators. The practices of institutional and out of home care, and forced adoptions, are starting to become part of an Australian narrative. However, I think generally these practices are seen as issues of ‘the past’. But these individuals are all around us. I’ve come to focus on the ongoing impacts of removal on the individual. The less expected, quieter, impacts are for me, the legacy of these practices.

Future Exhibitions:

Occasionally as the Light Changes at the End of the Day, is being shown at The Webb Gallery, Griffith University, July 22-27

Central Queensland Project is being shown at the Brisbane Powerhouse, 22 July – 18 August, and Bundaberg Regional Gallery, 26 November – 02 February.

An image from the project is currently being shown at the CLIP (Contemporary Landscapes in Photography) Award at the Perth Centre for Photography.

To see more of Kelly’s work, please visit her website, and the Central Queensland Project blog.

Lynette Letic is an emerging artist based in Brisbane.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.



Based in Los Angeles, CA, USA, the American Aperture Awards (AX3) competition is a relative newcomer to the growing number of international photography competitions. Launched by Fa[...]

Hoda Afshar from the series


Emil Canita interviews Hoda Afshar. Hoda is currently a PhD candidate at the Department of Art at Curtin University since 2010. She finished a Bachelor degree in Fine Art – Photog[...]



QCP is taking the works of twelve Australian photo-media artists to Photo LA (15 - 18 January 2015) and Photo Contemporary (1 - 3 May 2015). This series of focus interviews gives a[...]



Laura Seeds is a recent graduate of the Bachelor of Photography at the Queensland College of Art, and recipient of the QCP Graduate Award, for innovation and experimentation in the[...]