Award-winning photographer Petrina Hicks, best known for her large-scale surreal images, was studying journalism at the Australian National University before deciding to switch to photography.
Now, in the first major survey of her work at the National Gallery of Victoria, the Sydney-based artist unveils more than 50 photographs and video from 2003 to 2019.
She works closely with a model named Lauren who has albinism, and uses animals in her photography as well.
Hicks lives by the sea in Mosman – in a studio apartment that is minimal, bright and filled with objects she has found on her travels or used in her photography. “I love being close to nature and the water and serenity it brings,” says Hicks, who has lived here for two-and-a-half years.
Hicks blurs the line between the feminine and animal world in her work. “Artists, since the beginning of time, have explored their identity through animals,” she says.
A few of Petrina’s favourite things
Embroidered Otomi cloth from Mexico
I purchased this in Mexico in 2017 while participating in a three-month artist residency in Puebla. I have used this as a couch cover and bedspread. During this residency, I was researching the many mythical creatures featured in Mexican traditional and folk art. The cover has many hybrid animals on it; it takes these artists up to three months to make one.
Olmec stone mask
I found this in a vintage shop in Los Sapos (Alley of the Frogs) in Puebla City, Mexico in 2017. There are many antique shops lining this street. I originally purchased this as a prop for a photo shoot, now it hangs on my wall. The Olmecs were the earliest known settled civilisation of Central America, predating Aztecs and Maya.
Linhof Technika large format (4×5”) camera
This is a beautiful large format German-made camera and in impeccable condition. I have always shot on medium format Hasselblad film camera or 4×5” film camera. I love having a practice that is rooted in traditional photographic film techniques, and not influenced by digital technology.
I have to sit in my bathroom in the dark to load the film because my home is so bright. I bought it from a friend from Barcelona for $4000 around 10 years ago.
Collection of seashells
I purchased these shells originally as photography props, but now they’re decorative items in my apartment. I love the symbolism of shells. The conch shell is a spiritual symbol that has been used in many cultures throughout history. Together with the circle and the spiral, it is perhaps one of the oldest symbols used for esoteric wisdom.
The conch shell also features the Fibonacci sequence, the so-called golden ratio that is found in many forms of nature. I like objects that have symbolism and history.