In selecting an artist to undertake this commission it was important to ensure that it was someone who understood the scale of the building and the scope of the work that is performed within. Anne Zahalka is one of Australia’s leading photographers and during a thirty year practice she has produced some of the most iconic images of contemporary Australia, often working in a large panoramic format. The grand scale of her works and the fastidious detail they contain made her the logical choice for this commission and we thank her for realising this commission so beautifully.
In 2013, Parliament House celebrated its 25th anniversary with a program of activities and events that celebrated the history and heritage of the Parliament.This commission and the resulting exhibition are a fitting conclusion to a year of special events as we celebrate through these images, the many people who support the work of the Parliament, and ensure that the building and the important activity that takes place within it, functions effectively.
Everybody wants a behind the scenes tour. Documentary filmmakers and photographers have always catered to this desire to lift the hood on an institution and see how the human machinery underneath works. We all remember seeing documentaries about, for example, the ‘below stairs’ bustle of majestic mansions, the below decks drills of mighty warships at sea, the behind the scenes dramas of great opera houses, or the backroom machinations of political campaigns. Our Parliament House combines all of these aspects — from the aristocratic to the bellicose to the operatic to the Machiavellian — in the one magnificent site that virtually every Australian has visited, or will visit, at one time or another. And even when we aren’t there in person — trailing through the public level in school groups, queuing for a spot in the public galleries, or attending a function in the Great Hall —we still see one or another of the several tips of the Parliamentary iceberg every night on TV: a shouting match in the chamber, a doorstop interview on a chilly Canberra morning, or the forced chit-chat of caucus or cabinet before the doors are closed on the cameras.”