Home is where her art is
BY ANNA YATES
Beth Taylor, Online Content Producer at the NFSA, loves a creative project. Her many artistic endeavours include filmmaking, art installations, sculpture, writing and her first love, photography.
Given her first real camera at the age of 10, she quickly found she loved taking photos of people and places. At 14 she received her grandfather's old film camera and staged fashion shoots using her friends as models and innovations such as crushed alfoil for backdrops. Undertaking a TAFE course in Year 11 she learned she enjoyed working in the darkroom and playing with filters.
Good marks in high school, coupled with a liking for public speaking and a desire to 'change the world', led her to begin an Arts/Law degree but she soon realised it was not for her ('too much reading!'), and switched to a Bachelor of Media majoring in Video Production and Cultural Studies at Macquarie University in Sydney. It was during this time that she fell in love with documentary filmmaking.
After graduating Beth worked in a number of production roles at Film Australia on a range of documentaries and dramas including the acclaimed documentary series Under One Roof.
She completed a Masters of Arts in Documentary Writing/Directing at the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS). During her time there she made the 10-minute short Insecurities, a response to the 9/11 attacks, and the half-hour Maybe Mum’s Not the Word, an examination of various women’s feelings around motherhood. That film won her the SBS Independent Award for Documentary as well as confirming for her that she did want children of her own, something she had previously questioned.
Following graduation Beth worked as a researcher and producer at Beyond Television Productions and in 2006 moved to the Australian Film Commission, working on screen education website australianscreen online (ASO).
Before marrying, Beth and her partner spent a year on a working holiday in Canada where she worked as an assistant to nine medical lecturers at the University of British Columbia. A complete departure from her work in film and television, she felt it was important to try something different. Her experiences in Vancouver inspired some of the community projects Beth was later involved with on her return to Australia. In 2008, ASO moved to the NFSA and Beth joined us as a production coordinator, the first of several roles at the NFSA.
In between working and raising her two children Beth is always working on a project. She describes herself as driven and, with the added bonus of a supportive partner, has managed to put together two solo exhibitions. Breadtag World (2012) was a sculpture using 12,000 melted breadtags – yes, the little plastic things that hold bread bags closed! Finding them beautiful and also being mindful of waste, Beth decided to turn them into art, clipping them together and melting them down. She confirms 'the fumes were pretty intense!'
Her second exhibition was a website and giant installation of around 1,000 photographs, entitled Home. A part of the exhibition was a series of photos of homing pigeons Beth discovered in her local neighbourhood in the Inner West of Sydney while out walking. A man who observed Beth taking photos told her the pigeons were his and invited her to come and 'check them out'. She accepted and, true to his word, the man had the pigeons fly in formation and Beth got some beautiful shots.
Following the birth of her second child and in partnership with her husband, Beth crowdfunded and self-published the book, You’re Doing Great, Baby. She describes the book as 'For parents of young babies that don’t mind what’s being read to them, but you need to read to them because you need to be a perfect parent! It’s actually a book for the parents to remind them that they’re doing a really great job when they might think that they’re not.' The original print run is nearly sold out.
When I mention to Beth there seems a clear recurring theme of home and family in her work she agrees. She admits a lot of her feelings around home and community stem from moving from her native New Zealand to Australia at the age of eight. Within her own neighbourhood she has worked on a verge garden project and community library. 'It’s kind of become my mission to make sure that my children feel very embedded in their community', she says.
For the NFSA Beth has worked with the sound collection as an Audience Development Officer, written blogs and used social media to promote the collection and recently has been creating online exhibitions and curated collections, a job that seems perfect for her given her penchant for 'putting things together'. She loves her job and feels very privileged to work with the NFSA’s vast collection.
Do you have a favourite item in the collection?
Ticket to Sydney from 1971 is a 10-minute observational documentary with no dialogue or narration of the morning traffic build-up in Sydney as workers get about by train, ferry, bus and car. It comes from the Film Australia Collection which Beth describes as 'the gift that keeps on giving'.