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In Conversation with Photographer Lisa White

"I have never believed that portraiture is about seeing a face. Everything we do or don’t do, speaks about who we are – how we hold ourselves, how we dress, sit, present."

We speak to Lisa White – The Social Photographer, about her contributions to ‘Never A Crime’, a photographic exhibition and workshop series created in partnership with Alice’s Garage.

Never A Crime Exhibition is now exhibiting at St Heliers Street Gallery until Sunday 4 February 2018.

How did you reach out to people to participate in Never a Crime?

We developed an advisory board with Switchboard Victoria, Human Rights Law Centre, Vintage Men and Jamie Gardener. Ro Allen, the Gender and Sexuality Commissioner, is the project patron. It was decided that we would do a call out through our social media networks.

How did you come to work with Alice’s Garage, and what was the collaboration like to deliver the exhibition?

I have worked with Dr. Catherine Barrett from Alice’s Garage on other social projects. We are very driven and likeminded when it comes to engaging communities in real change for social justice. Never a Crime is the fourth Barrett-White collaboration, and my third Midsumma Premier exhibition – In Bed Project, Beautiful Women and Never a Crime.

Shooting a portrait of somebody without seeing his face or head must make your job difficult. How did you try and communicate the essence of the person through the photographs?

I have never believed that portraiture is about seeing a face. Everything we do or don’t do, speaks about who we are – how we hold ourselves, how we dress, sit, present. I didn’t have to try and communicate the essence of the person, they did that just by being. My job was waiting for and capturing that moment.

For a younger generation, the notion that laws prohibited consensual homosexual sex in Victoria as late as 1981 is hard to believe. How important is it to remind us that these discriminatory laws were in place not that long ago?

I don’t believe in dwelling in the past, but while our collective history continues to impact on present-day lives, I think it is vital that we are reminded of our past, so we can rally together to right the wrongs.

In 2015, the Victorian Government introduced the scheme to expunge historical convictions of homosexual sex. Had all of the portraiture participants gone through that process? Did they speak with you about what that meant to them?

We had hoped that men unjustly charged would take up the workshops and work through the process of the Expungement Scheme – for whatever reason that didn’t happen. Instead we had participants wanting to participate and send messages of support to these men. The primary focus of Never a Crime is to raise awareness of the Expungement Scheme and most importantly to celebrate pride and negate the shame these charges would have brought upon the men.

One of your subjects, 86-year-old David Morrison, a Catholic and former air serviceman, said his youth was tainted with fear and shame about his sexuality, and only recently has he had a sense of pride about being gay. Was that an all too common theme among the portrait subjects?

It’s not everyone’s experience but it most definitely is a known experience in the LGBTIQ community.

‘Never a Crime’ doesn’t end with this exhibition though. There will be a series of mask-making workshops throughout the first half of the year. How can people take part?

There will be four workshops in 2018: 25 February, 22 April, 20 May and 17 June. To participate please email Dr. Catherine Barrett at or visit

What else do you have planned for 2018?

Besides continuing my creative work with Never a Crime , there’s Marriage Equality to celebrate. When I’m not working on creative projects, I’m a professional event and wedding photographer. I can’t tell you how excited I am that we can finally get married. I love that my calendar is fast filling up with big fat LGBTIQ weddings. I love that our community is slowly but surely righting the wrongs of past injustices.