Sally Symes (1945-1995)

OBITUARY Sally Symes 1945-1995

The death of Sally Symes late last year has left PhotoForum bereft of one of our most dedicated members and a valued friend. Sally died peacefully on 27 December 1995 after a brave two-year battle with cancer. She had been a vital, nurturing force in PhotoForum since she joined in 1978. Following structural changes that replaced the former position of President, Sally was appointed our first Director in 1989, and spearheaded the activities of the Society until 1993. It was due to her that Fay Godwin's memorable visit became a reality in 1990, and that ambitious exhibition and publishing initiatives that sorely tested PhotoForum's financial and human resources, were successfully carried out. Because she had so often put her own art work on the back burner while nurturing the art of her friends and students, it was particularly moving to see a small but powerful set of Sally's photo-etchings on display at her funeral service, which was attended by over 300 friends and relatives. These life-affirming self-portraits - about mortality - were completed, with great determination, just before she died. Along with a small selection of favourite books, they were her final, moving, testimony to the importance of art as a means of communication and expression.

Born in Christchurch, Sally trained as a teacher after completing a Dip.FA at the University of Canterbury in 1967. She married jeweller and sculptor Wallace Sutherland and they later spent five years travelling and working in Australia, South East Asia, East Africa, Britain, Europe, the Middle East and India. She studied photography at the Elam School of Fine Arts in 1977, and started her ground breaking documentary project on Te Hapua, the northernmost Maori community, in collaboration with Hana (Saana) Romana Murray. (PhotoForum 55, December 1984) shows a small portion of her essay, which was the basis of an unpublished book). Sally was a founding councillor of SPENZ (the Society for Photographic Education in N.Z.), and a committed and much-loved art teacher at the Diocesan School for Girls, Epsom. PhotoForum offers condolences to her husband Wallace and their children, Alexander and Chloe.

- John B. Turner, 1996

 Poster for "Toward Becoming - Sally Elizabeth Symes 1945 - 1995" exhibition at The Drawings Gallery, Ponsonby, 10 -20 November 1996
PhotoForum  55, (December 1984). Cover photo by Sally Symes

PhotoForum 55, (December 1984). Cover photo by Sally Symes