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.

Bob Hawke. Rhonda Senbergs photographic collection.

Bob Hawke. Rhonda Senbergs photographic collection.

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.

George Baldessin and Michael Leunig. Rhonda Senbergs photographic collection.

George Baldessin and Michael Leunig. Rhonda Senbergs photographic collection.

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.

Lewis Miller. Rhonda Senbergs photographic collection.

Lewis Miller. Rhonda Senbergs photographic collection.

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.

Rhonda Senbergs

Rhonda Senbergs

The Library is currently digitising ‘The Rhonda Senbergs Collection’, and you can see some of the images scanned so far via this link.

This article has 6 comments

    As one of Rhonda’s close friends who delighted in her and her creative warmth and mischief, I am so grateful you are doing this.

    My memories of her, and her slide shows are vivid and so happy, and are enhanced by tapes of her songs that she put together for me personally, which I still play…

    Thankyou again!

  2. Alan Henderson

    A fitting tribute to my ‘drop in sister’. Well done on the exhibition girls.

  3. Barbara Poliness

    A wonderful memory of a radiant person. Rhonda understood the importance of this visual literacy and the moments in which she lived.

    It was a lovely surprise to find these photos online. I am sorry I will not make the slide show night. Best wishes to my dear friend Jes.

  4. Wonderful memories of Rhonda, her slide shows, luncheons, her lust for life, so glad SLV, Jes and Selena are sharing these images. So fortunate to be her Williamstown friend.

  5. I’ve just published this about Rhonda, as I say here, she was a star! Her work was intensely human, spontaneous and humorous – just as she was.

  6. Once you were a member of her audience, who could forget the automaton, the slide projector, that spoke in clicks, separated asymmetrically in time and audible above the playing of an appropriate three minute record. She captured my magic persona in her camera for her routine after I performed my floating cigarette routine for one of her ladies’ tea parties and over some years of being a neighbour. I was ‘The Wizard Visir’. The sound track she chose was Olivia Newton-John singing ‘,…Magic…’ Rhonda’s sad death occurred before I had a chance to see it at the Roller Skating Rink Flagship Studio in Thompson Street. I hope the chance will come

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