So it was Jack who took the photograph.
So it was him behind the camera.
Twas Jack who developed the contoured map.
Twas him who squared the circles of Canberra.
It’s through Jack’s lens our city came to light.
It’s through his eyes our city was revealed.
Jack of all trades who gave this city sight
Jack himself citified an open field.
May not have built the house, but he was there…
May not have cut the stalks, but so he’d been…
Jack was at the opening, Jack was at the fair…
Jack be nimble, Jack be quick … to the scene.
. What Jack saw yesterday, we see today;
. Jack’s people at work, Jack’s children at play.
© Tim Grace, 4 August 2013
To the reader: Jack Mildenhall was Canberra’s first official photographer. His active years (1920s and 1930s) captured our social and physical integration into the landscape. In 2013, his vast collection was digitised and put online as part of the city’s centenary activities. For young Canberrans, the Mildenhall Gallery is now an accessible treasure trove of archaic revelations; distantly familiar and curiously connected. The separation of decades has sharpened the contrast of these black and white images.
To the poet: A teacher’s poem, an advertiser’s jingle…oh no! The temptation to make a story rhyme is sadly irresistible. The trouble is, people are kindly and encouraging; too polite to say stop. And so, with ‘vim and vigour’ we would-be-poets merrily sentence to death a perfectly good story; death by enthusiastic strangulation. With the next rhyme being paramount we lunge desperately to its match; overlooking all other creative courtesies and considerations… that’s nice, but unreadable.