Rachel Byron has just completed her second year in a Bachelor of Visual Arts at the Australian National University, School of Art.
This semester Rachel has been experimenting with self-portraiture using a hand-held remote to create a series of photo booth images.
Letter to a Loved One was inspired by the National Museum's Australian Journeys gallery, in particular the convict love tokens exhibit. It details a series of letters written by a young war widow wishing to bring a little bit of happiness to the darkness that the soldiers still serving were experiencing. It relates to the convict love tokens exhibit because they both served the same purpose. To bring love, hope, and to keep the memories alive. To let the soldiers momentarily escape into a dream world where everything is normal and how it should be.
Letter to a Loved One is a series of self-portraits taken in a photo booth, set during the time of World War Two around the 1940s.
Title: Letter to a Loved One
Medium: Digital prints
Dimensions: 232 images in total, each image is 55 mm x 80 mm
Date: October 2010
My Darling Little Sweetheart, Just few lines hoping that my letter will find you in the best of Health. I am very well myself at present and my family is the same.
Well Lovey, you see I am faithfully thinking of you and not anyone one else only to you. You know I love you very well my Little Husband. I will never love any body else. If you get killed I stay every time with my little Baby. If you give me one. I hope to see you very soon. Darling I dreamt about you last night I see you married with one else. I don't think you [illegible - looks like 'daw date'.]
So will close now with the best Remembrance from all my family and me. Best Love and Kisses XXX from your ever Loving Little Sweetheart. Wife to be very soon.
I gained most of my inspiration from the great Christian Boltanski, whose works are influenced by death, loss and the missing. Something, I thought relevant to the Australian Journeys exhibit, the convict love tokens. Other artists that helped to inspire and influence this piece are Annette Messenger, Christian Baltanskis' wife with whom he sometimes collaborates, Anne Ferran, Tracey Moffatt, Jeff Wall and Sally Smart — all amazing artists who are my absolute favourites. If you ever have a bad day have a look at them and be amazed.
Convict love tokens
Some 160,000 convicts were sent to the Australian colonies from 1788 to 1868. One of those convicts was Thomas Lock. He was convicted of highway robbery and sentenced to 10 years' transportation to New South Wales. Before Lock left England, as he waited in prison for his sentence to be carried out, he used a penny to make a token of remembrance to leave behind.
The inscription reads:
WHEN / THIS YOU / SEE / REMEMBER /
ME WHEN / I AM FAR / FROM the[e] /
THOMAS / LOCK / AGED 22 / TRANSPed /
Lock gave this memento to a loved one when he sailed for Australia. He arrived in Sydney in September 1845. It is not known if he ever returned to England.
Collector and consultant Peter Lane detailed his research on convict tokens in a presentation at the National Museum on 13 June 2009. The talk also covered the Alexander Mussen ambrotype and the Muriel McPhee trousseau.