Capturing a way to heal

Thousands of random images capturing fragments of life highlight one clergy abuse survivor’s pathway to healing and understanding his world.

Peter Blenkiron’s photographic exhibition, consisting of images taken through the lens of his smartphone during more than a decade, resonated deeply with Archibald Prize finalist Daniel Butterworth. When the acclaimed artist viewed Mr Blenkiron’s photo essay in 2016, he immediately felt an onslaught of emotion.

“(The feeling) was sorrow, it was happiness. It was all different types of emotion – you felt all the different stages of healing,” Mr Butterworth said.

“My first thought was – I want to create a portrait of Pete but after speaking to (Mr Blenkiron) I realised this isn’t just about Pete. The portrait can’t just be him."

Mr Blenkiron’s story of traumatic sexual abuse at the hands of disgraced Christian Brother Edward Dowlan when he was just 11-years-old is one of thousands of similar stories across the world.  

Mr Blenkiron was one of 12 Ballarat clergy abuse survivors who traveled to the Rome hearing of the Royal Commission in 2016.

His exhibition, curated by Vanessa Beetham and now showing for a second time at the Art Gallery of Ballarat, highlights how he used to photography as a way to heal. 

Mr Blenkiron wanted Mr Butterworth’s portrait, which is now part of the exhibition, to reflect the impact of abuse on the wider Ballarat community and its growing response.

The result was 26 portraits of abuse survivors, family members, advocates and supporters interwoven with Eureka flags for those who did not survive the abuse.

“The portrait represents a greater than Ballarat response, “ Mr Blenkiron said.

“We were trying to capture the ripple effect of damage, the ripple effect of healing and the people supporting (survivors).

“I hope to get the message across that there is hope no matter what … and get the message to the community that if you think you’re trying to be tough by not asking for help - then that’s part of the problem.” 

BEHIND THE MASK: Artist Daniel Butterworth and clergy abuse survivor and photographer Peter Blenkiron at the exhibition. Picture: Lachlan Bence

BEHIND THE MASK: Artist Daniel Butterworth and clergy abuse survivor and photographer Peter Blenkiron at the exhibition. Picture: Lachlan Bence

Picture: Peter Blenkiron

Picture: Peter Blenkiron