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6 June 2005

A striking photographic essay which features the faces of Bougainvilleans - young and old - opens at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra next week.

The exhibition is being launched just after the island has voted for its first autonomous government after a decades-long secessionist battle, a bitter civil war in the 1990s and a complex peace and reconciliation process. Within 10 years, the island will be independent.

The 28 black-and-white pictures are the work of photographer Jon Lewis, who travelled to Bougainville in the southeast of Papua New Guinea when it was largely ignored by other photojournalists.

Lewis made two trips there in 2002 and 2003. He lived mostly in North Bougainville, travelling widely in the area on trucks, boats, and by helicopter. He survived an assault by raskols and a virulent strain of malaria - and made friends among Bougainvilleans. The results are on show publicly for the first time in the National Museum.

'I'm not interested so much in observing with my photography, more in connecting with people,' said Lewis. 'The Bougainvilleans portrayed here are more important than the photographs.'

Portraits of Bougainville: Facing the Place is sponsored by the Friends of the National Museum.

The exhibition will be opened on Wednesday, 8 June, at 6pm in the Friends Lounge at the National Museum by Simon Pentanu, a former Bougainville chief ombudsman and current adviser to PNG's national Parliament.

It will be on display in the Friends Lounge and along the Museum's Administrative Corridor until 31 July.

'We are pleased this new display area in the Museum is being launched by such an arresting exhibition,' said Friends of the Museum executive officer Tom Layton.

Jon Lewis began exhibiting his photos in 1974, and has had many solo exhibitions in Australia and France. He has worked as a photography teacher in Australia and overseas. His work is held in public and private collections throughout the world, including the National Museum of Australia, the Art Gallery of NSW, the National Gallery of Australia, and the Bibliotheque Nationale, France.

For interviews or images please contact Sandy Forbes on 02 6208 5351, 0409 916 481 or Leanda Coleman on 02 6208 5338, 0438 620 710 or email For further information on the event, contact Tom Layton, Friends of the Museum, on 6208 5048.

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