In this guest post, Jes and Selena Senbergs share the story behind the remarkable collection of photographs taken by their mother, Rhonda Senbergs.
Rhonda Senbergs photographed Melbourne’s art world scene for three decades (1970 – 1998). Remembered as vibrant and inquisitive, Rhonda found her creative energy behind the lens of her 35mm camera.
Married to artist Jan Senbergs until 1977, Rhonda photographed artists, writers, actors and politicians within their social circle at various openings, parties, picnics, lunches and other gatherings. She also photographed children, neighbours, street scenes and everyday life from this era.
Her cheeky sense of humour, warm and loving nature, and her curiosity towards others gave her a natural rapport and connection with her subjects, most of whom were her friends. Those in front of the lens were completely relaxed and trusting of Rhonda, as she was with them. Her outward look on life, as completely accepting and tolerant, allowed her to capture diverse occasions and moments in time. She took close to 16,000 photographs recording the various events and people of Melbourne’s cultural scene.
Rhonda used her images to create “slide shows,” which she then choreographed to a range of music, This included pop music, iconic musicals, country and western or songs from the 1940s. The slide shows were created to entertain friends, who were often the subjects.
Created before the age of digital media, they were unique in their presentation. The slide shows were regularly screened as events in her backyard theatre, complete with old original 1940’s velvet theatre seats. With the music loud and the images blown up on the big screen, it was an engaging audio-visual experience. This was then followed by a ‘rock & roll’ party in the house. Occasionally Rhonda presented her slide shows at commercial galleries, and at one time for the staff at the National Gallery of Victoria. The famous slide shows are vividly remembered by those who saw them.
The Library is currently digitising ‘The Rhonda Senbergs Collection’, and you can see some of the images scanned so far via this link.