2003: ‘Re:Issue – The Face of Big Issue Vendors’

'Kylie & Paul', 2003

‘Kylie & Paul’, 2003

nb. scroll to bottom for the image gallery


Re:Issue – the face of Big Issue vendors was an exhibition aimed at stripping back the typical ‘street corner’ view of the vendors to reveal their individual character and to highlight the common humanity that connects all people.

It is a series of portraits of Melbourne-based ‘Big Issue’ vendors. ‘The Big Issue’ is a fortnightly current affairs magazine sold on the streets of Australia and around the world by homeless and unemployed people.

The exhibition also included a research component. Surveys were conducted throughout the city to ascertain whether the general public holds a stereotypical view of Big Issue vendors. Excerpts from the surveys were incorporated into the show alongside celebrity style interviews of the vendors themselves. Also, the main large-scale black and white works were juxtaposed against small colour polaroids taken from the common street-corner perspective.

The show was initially exhibited at ‘first site’ gallery in Melbourne in 2003 before then being displayed in digital form on the outdoor screen at Federation Square and at the regional festival, ‘Art is…’ in Horsham. Thanks to the following organisations for their involvement and support: Lab X; Bond Imaging; The Big Issue; Bimbo Deluxe; The Adidem Group; first site gallery; Inpress Magazine; 3CR; 3RRR; Whirlwind Print; and Federation Square.

Artist Statement

“Re:Issue – the face of Big Issue vendors is an exhibition about people. They could be you or me or some other friend or foe. There is very little that separates us all in this world. Circumstances and luck play a significant role and one person’s luck is another’s misfortune. There but for the grace of G go I. And that’s not to say that the vendors depicted here do not lead happy lives – these individuals are simply dealing with day-to-day issues which affect us all in some way.

In many ways the process leading to this exhibition is about what I have left out not what I have included. I wanted to steer as far away from stereotypical representations as was possible. I have therefore dispensed with the typical street corner/train station perspective and have instead stripped it back to head shots against a white background in studio.

The lighting in this series has been kept relatively even. I did not want to present a series of clichéd ‘moody’ images where half the face is in shadow and half is in light. I wanted to present them as they are so that you can create a relationship that is not pre-directed by the lighting set-up.

Colour has been stripped away from one reality to give us another. I feel that the black and white shots have a timeless, simple yet powerful feel. Colour on the other hand tends to speak of an ‘era’ and distracts from the timeless core human element.

Larger than life prints and a shallow depth of field help to create a strong connection between subject and viewer where eyes become the connector.

As part of the production of this exhibition in excess of seventy surveys were conducted with members of the public in order to ascertain whether the general public holds a stereotypical view of the vendors. These took place over several weeks during peak hour at various CBD train stations. I will leave you to draw your own conclusions – the surveys are included in their entirety as part of the exhibition.

I am also intrigued by the general public’s fascination with celebrities. Why is it that many are so fascinated by the ‘favourite dish’ of the latest soapie star? Or what kind of brand-name clothes they wear? Check out the vendor surveys in the exhibition and you will find that a good roast dinner is still a favourite of many folk.

Finally I would like to thank all the wonderful vendors who gave up their time so willingly to be part of this project. And also the sponsors who, without ever having met me or having seen my work, simply liked the concept and were eager to be involved.”

Charlie Sublet, October 21, 2003

All images and text Copyright Charlie Sublet and available for purchase. The exhibition images are Limited Edition.

All images and text Copyright Charlie Sublet and available for purchase. The exhibition images are Limited Edition.

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