Lonely Planet Writer

Aussie beach culture captured in this candid exhibition

A new exhibition by acclaimed photographer Rex Dupain is making waves at Bondi Pavilion Gallery in Australia. Dupain has spent the last 20 years witnessing Bondi Beach’s popularity grow as a must-see tourist destination all while capturing amazing portraits along the way.

'Sand Yoga' Bondi, 2016
‘Sand Yoga’ Bondi, 2016 Image by Rex Dupain/Waverley Council

His images of families, lifeguards, lovers, and swimmers resonate with Aussies across the board. The exhibition “Sunscreen Celebrities” captures the beach culture that they are famed for as well as international tributes to the obsession with the sand and sea.

Uncovering places like Coney Island, Barcelona, and Sorrento in his work; despite the changes in locations, his depictions of people’s innate attraction to the water’s edge remains consistent.

“Who could think of a better location than Bondi Beach for an exhibition which captures local and international beach culture, a culture by which we often define ourselves and even our national identity?” Mayor John Wakefield of Waverley Council said. “Rex has made an undeniable contribution to the medium of photography and our understanding of who we are as Australians.”

'Walking Man' Barcelona, 201
‘Walking Man’ Barcelona, 2016 Image by Rex Dupain/Waverley Council

Dupain has been a finalist in the Art Gallery of NSW’s Sulman, Archibald and Wynne prizes. Since the mid-1990s he has developed a comprehensive body of work that pays homage to Sydney and its people.

“There’s something wonderful about installing exhibitions in relevant locations, especially when visitors arrive in flip-flops and Speedos (and occasionally with surfboard) to view the work alongside well-dressed photography enthusiasts,” said Cherie McNair, Director and CEO, Australian Centre for Photography.

“People really identify with this series of Dupain’s works, it reflects the summer experience just out the front door of the gallery and shows the great diversity of beach life.”

'Silk Shawls' Bondi, 2016
‘Silk Shawls’ Bondi, 2016 Image by Rex Dupain/Waverley Council

“Not so long ago candid photography was deemed unlawful,” says Dupain. “‘Free range’ photographers, like myself, were restricted to photographing people under consensual agreements. So, the unrehearsed images that brought magic to gallery walls vanished. This hysteria has now cooled off thanks to the influx of the selfie generation. According to my experiences, the public has wilfully encouraged me back onto the sand.” 

The exhibition at Bondi Pavilion Gallery is free to attend and closes on 28 January.