29 April 2021

Unveiling the Humdrum Façade of Small Town Australian Suburbia

29 April 2021 - Written by Laurence Cornet

Using constructed realities and a cinematic aesthetic with rich colours and strong contrasts, Tajette O'Halloran’s series In Australia offers a deeply moving portrait of a generation shaped by life in a hippie utopia.

Australian photographer Tajette O'Halloran grew up in the Northern Rivers of New South Wales, precisely in Nimbin where the legendary counter-cultural arts and music festival Aquarius took place in 1973. “It's the most well-known alternative community in Australia. It’s surrounded with these ideals of free love, living off the land, along with drugs and so on”, she explains.

She herself grew up in a hippie commune before moving to a suburban area, spending her teenage years hanging out aimlessly with friends, gathering a few bucks to buy a bottle of alcohol to “get a charge, having probably way too much freedom for [their] age in a place with not much to do”, as she puts it. In her long-term personal project In Australia, she is looking at the flip side of the idealistic hippie movement and at the disservice it did to the generation that came out of it. “I’m thinking about it as a generational trauma”, she says.

Reflecting on her own memories, she loosely re-creates - with herself or with a person she casts - scenes evocative of her teenage years. And while she draws on social issues such as teenage pregnancy, addiction, and lack of opportunity, her photographs spread an intimate, warm feel that brings in some nuances. “I wanted those photos to show that real hanging around, that boredom, but also the bonds that form when you're all together and you've all come from families that are not the most functional”, she explains.

The light, usually that of the end of the day, contributes to distill a soft nostalgia. “It always felt very anti-climatic to me when I was a child. The day builds on and on, and in the end, nothing much happened. It’s the hope of an opportunity that fades into nothing. It used to be a really anxious time for me”, she remembers.

In this mild limbo, her characters play a role that is not that far from their own reality. A portrait of herself and of a side of Australia not often depicted, her series blurs the fine line between fiction and conceptual documentary, bt mainly, it’s a deeply personal retrospection. “For many years, it was hard to think back about that time but it's been so cathartic to look back and turn something that was traumatic into something meaningful and beautiful”, she says. “It’s been a way to make peace with those and value that story of mine.”


All photos © Tajette O'Halloran from the series In Australia


Tajette O’Halloran is an Australian artist whose work is centered around her immediate family and the complexities of relationships in Australia’s suburban landscapes.

Laurence Cornet is a writer and curator based in Paris focusing on cultural and environmental issues. She is also the editorial director of Dysturb.


This article is part of our feature series Photo Kernel, which aims to give space to the best contemporary practitioners in our community. The word Kernel means the core, centre, or essence of an object, but it also refers to image processing.

Written by

Laurence Cornet

Reading time

4 minutes