The Weekend Australian - Review - - Profile -

DUR­ING a lunchtime ad­journ­ment, bar­ris­ter Sarah Huggett sits at her com­puter in a horse­hair wig, breast­feed­ing her in­fant. Crown pros­e­cu­tor Frank Holles bursts out of the hatch of an army fight­ing ve­hi­cle, his horse­hair wig half cam­ou­flag­ing his eye­brows.

Anna Katz­mann, pres­i­dent of the NSW Bar As­so­ci­a­tion, kicks a mus­cle- bound bloke in the chest, undeterred by her wig and black silk robe, vaguely rem­i­nis­cent of the Mus­lim chador.

Th­ese lawyers guest star in Le­gal Chameleons, a pho­to­graphic ex­hi­bi­tion that fea­tures some of the coun­try’s best- known bar­ris­ters in their le­gal re­galia do­ing em­phat­i­cally non- lawyerly things ( box­ing, breast­feed­ing, moon­light­ing with the Army Re­serve).

The ex­hi­bi­tion is the latest by Mark Tedeschi, NSW’s se­nior crown pros­e­cu­tor by day and a driven pho­tog­ra­pher with an eye for cheeky jux­ta­po­si­tion by night. Through the ex­hi­bi­tion, which opens later this month at Syd­ney’s Jus­tice and Po­lice Mu­seum, Tedeschi seeks to over­turn com­mon per­cep­tions of bar­ris­ters, to show that th­ese highly trained, highly paid, of­ten highly stressed pro­fes­sion­als have lives, pas­sions and in­ter­ests out­side the for­mal, of­ten ar­cane tra­di­tions of the courts.

Tedeschi ex­plains: ‘‘ Bar­ris­ters are al­most never pho­tographed in their work en­vi­ron­ment and are rarely pho­tographed in their pro­fes­sional robes, ex­cept for for­mal por­traits on cer­e­mo­nial oc­ca­sions. I was cap­ti­vated by the chance to ex­plore real peo­ple who are bas­tions of the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem, but who also have a num­ber of dif­fer­ent facets to their lives . . . I have also tried to show that be­neath their pro­fes­sional robes my sub­jects ex­hibit a highly de­vel­oped sense of hu­mour and hu­man­ity.’’

From his cor­ner of­fice at the less glam­orous end of Syd­ney’s cen­tral busi­ness dis­trict, Tedeschi agrees peo­ple tend to have a nar­row, stereo­typed view of bar­ris­ters: ‘‘ I think the pub­lic per­ceives bar­ris­ters as be­ing stuffy, con­ser­va­tive mem­bers of the es­tab­lish­ment whose lives are dom­i­nated by the law and I think this ex­hi­bi­tion shows that they’re not stuffy, they’re not con­ser­va­tive, they’re not two- di­men­sional.’’

Al­most all 20 por­traits in the ex­hi­bi­tion — which in­cludes a self- por­trait by Tedeschi — fea­ture lawyers who have worked in crim­i­nal law. Col­lec­tively, they have de­fended or pros­e­cuted some of the coun­try’s most no­to­ri­ous of­fend­ers.

‘‘ The crim­i­nal law is recog­nised as be­ing the most stress­ful arena in the le­gal world,’’ Tedeschi says. Un­like other ar­eas of the law, one mis­take by a lawyer can see a trial aborted. Not sur­pris­ingly, many of Tedeschi’s sub­jects de­fine their pas­times in terms of stress re­lease.

Crown pros­e­cu­tor Luigi Lungo un­der­cuts the stress of mur­der tri­als with yoga; he ap­pears in the ex­hi­bi­tion bare­foot and be­wigged in the lo­tus po­si­tion. Re­tired bar­ris­ter Ch­ester Porter QC is pic­tured in his court clob­ber hold­ing a goose; he raises poul­try in his spare time.

The sub­jects have writ­ten first- per­son de­scrip­tions of their por­traits, which carry tongue- incheek ti­tles. The kick­box­ing Katz­mann jokes: ‘‘ One of my il­lus­tri­ous pre­de­ces­sors as pres­i­dent of the NSW Bar As­so­ci­a­tion, the honourable R. P. Meagher, claimed not to see much point in phys­i­cal ex­er­cise. He claimed not to see much point in women bar­ris­ters, ei­ther.’’

Rod­er­ick Meagher, a for­mer judge now back at the bar, ap­pears as an ar­dent art col­lec­tor or, rather, art hoarder. He writes: ‘‘ De­spite the bar­barism preva­lent at both bench and bar, I col­lected works of art, any­thing I could lay my hands on, re­stricted only by age, ill health and poverty.’’

Ni­cholas Cow­dery QC, the out­spo­ken Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Prose­cu­tions in NSW, is cap­tured in a small boat in his gown, wig and bib. This por­trait is called Rock­ing the Boat : as Tedeschi points out, Cow­dery ‘‘ seems to rock the boat quite of­ten with the politi­cians and the ra­dio talk­back hosts’’.

Tedeschi wanted to snap one bar­ris­ter who re­minded him of Ho­race Rumpole in a pub but ‘‘ he thought I was go­ing to por­tray him as a soak and he wasn’t very happy about it’’. His self­por­trait proved one of the hard­est to shoot. ‘‘ I have to con­fess that I had four goes at my own im­age,’’ he chuck­les. One at­tempt ‘‘ in­volved me dig­ging in the gar­den, but it looked too much like I was bury­ing a body’’.

Fi­nally he set­tled on a shot of him­self in a pedes­trian tun­nel un­der a court­house, his cam­era lens jammed into one eye like an over­sized mon­o­cle. ‘‘ To me the back­ground is like a gi­ant neg­a­tive and that is why I called it Framed which, of course, has some con­no­ta­tions in the crim­i­nal law.’’

Tedeschi, fa­ther of prom­i­nent pi­anist Si­mon Tedeschi, has been heav­ily into pho­tog­ra­phy since 1988. Al­though he acts in high- profile tri­als and over­sees 90 prose­cu­tors, he man­ages to spend as much time on his images and ex­hi­bi­tions as he does on the law.

To date he has had nine solo ex­hi­bi­tions and his work is in­cluded in the col­lec­tions of the Na­tional Li­brary, the Mu­seum of Syd­ney and the Art Gallery of NSW. His sub­jects have in­cluded Syd­ney’s Cabra­matta ( or Lit­tle Viet­nam), an in­ner- city court­house, fem­i­nin­ity and vis­ual artists Wendy Sharpe, Euan Macleod and Ron Robert­son- Swann. One of his first ex­hi­bi­tions fo­cused on the Block, the in­dige­nous precinct in the in­ner- Syd­ney sub­urb Red­fern. Al­though this area was as known for ri­ots and crime as it was for its com­mu­nity spirit, Tedeschi set out to re­flect the lat­ter. For three years he turned up on Sun­days and asked if he could take pho­to­graphs and ‘‘ was very well re­ceived’’.

‘‘ I saw the Block as be­ing a unique lo­ca­tion where you had a very co­her­ent, vi­able, ac­tive in­dige­nous com­mu­nity right in the cen­tre of Syd­ney,’’ he says. ‘‘ Al­though it had its prob­lems, it was also an ab­so­lute mag­net and source of pride and iden­tity for Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple.’’

Th­ese por­traits ‘‘ are now his­tor­i­cal doc­u­ments be­cause the Block has been largely knocked down’’, he says with steely dis­ap­proval. In­dige­nous peo­ple in Red­fern ex­pected their homes would be pulled down to make way for new in­dige­nous hous­ing. In­stead, ‘‘ the sit­u­a­tion is now in limbo’’. That, the pros­e­cu­tor says, is a great shame.

Tedeschi’s Holo­caust ex­hi­bi­tion, a vis­ual es­say of sur­vivors and peo­ple who res­cued Jews from the Nazis, was shown in Syd­ney for sev­eral years from 1992. It is still tour­ing coun­try ar­eas.

He de­scribes how he was con­duct­ing a trial at the same time as he was tak­ing sur­vivors’ por­traits. He heard sto­ries ‘‘ of the most aw­ful vi­o­lence’’ dur­ing the day and ac­counts of mirac­u­lous es­capes and al­most unimag­in­able de­struc­tion of hu­man life in his time off. He re­minded him­self that for ev­ery sur­vivor he pho­tographed, ‘‘ there were prob­a­bly a thou­sand who did not ( sur­vive). It was very mov­ing.’’

Pic­ture: Mark Tedeschi

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