This doctoral submission is comprised of two parts: a studio research component in the form of North of the Border – a book of photographs and interview-based narratives – and an exegetical dissertation that speaks to the ethical, conceptual, methodological and practice frameworks informing the studio outcome. Both were made possible by the collaboration of eight lesbians, currently middle-aged, who lived in Queensland during the years of Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s government and who were willing to participate in a project in which they would be named and photographed in documentary and portrait modes; in which they would share their personal memories as well as their current feelings; and in which they would share photographs from their personal collections that refer to their histories and the histories of others. How I have drawn on and rethought theories of documentary photography, and thus how I have undertaken my photographic practice during the project, has been informed by a range of feminist and queer theory. My methodological choices have been reflexively shaped in response to the intersections between those theoretical terrains. A central aim of my documentary exploration of these eight situated histories has been to value and give agency to middle-aged lesbian women. I began this documentary research project in 2008. First I had to find a number of lesbian participants willing to go on the visual and narrative record about the question: “What was it like living in Queensland during the particularly conservative socio-political era of the mid to late twentieth century and how do you interpret that experience to have contributed to who you are today?”
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