Visual storytelling and the case for radical empathy

First Nations artist Hayley Millar Baker foregrounds herself as a storyteller, blurring the formal conventions of photography to construct probing narratives that mine contemporary empathy and language.

Hetti Perkins, an Arrernte and Kalkadoon writer and curator, calls Hayley Millar Baker’s imagery ‘encrypted’. Viewing her exhibition There we were all in one place at UTS Gallery – which comprises five photographic series, composed between 2016 and 2019 – I think about the significance and enigma of ‘keys’ in this context, and the unselfishness of Millar Baker’s standing invitation to viewers to gain entry to these works via multiple access points.

The ‘core of my practice’, Millar Baker writes, ‘is to be able to story tell in a way that makes whoever is looking at [my work] directly reflect on their own story or try and link it to themselves. I leave it as closed or as open as possible for somebody to connect it to a story in their family or their lives, to be able to empathise’.

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Anna Westbrook
About the Author
Anna Westbrook is an interdisciplinary queer feminist storyteller, critic, creative producer, poet, and freelance educator, currently working on her second novel and a collection of essays. She has a PhD in writing from the University of New South Wales and is the author of Dark Fires Shall Burn.