Growing (in)visible – an upcoming exhibition embracing our elderly community

By February 11, 2019 Other News 8 Comments

When Bellingen residents Bruce Jacups and Nicole Hind connected to explore creative ways to celebrate the elderly community members of the Bellingen Shire, they knew that collaboration & flexibility was key. The result is their upcoming exhibition around ‘growing (in)visible’. On the eve of Seniors Festival (13th – 24th February), we to spoke with them to understand how this journey evolved, what they have learned along the way, and what shape the exhibition will take.

Can you give us a frame of reference for this collaboration?

Nicole: “A mutual connection put us in touch, although I had never met her! One of the beautiful things about living in a small creative town like Bellingen is that people know what you’re up to even if they don’t know you. And they’re willing to reach out. I reckon it’s a ‘yes’ town, as in most people say ‘yes’ before they say ‘no’ and are open to possibilities (quite a different experience from the busy-ness of the big city which can sometimes get in the way of creativity).”

Bruce: “Both Nic and I have been dreaming up different versions of this exhibition in the past – mine came from watching these photographic stereotypical portraits of elders and not hearing a story behind the crinkled faces. I’m 50 this year and surely joining the ranks of the elderly. And I suppose I also feel, like many have, that growing older puts you at risk of slipping outside of the community’s radar. So I asked some friends if they knew any storytellers. A friend, Lilly Isobella, mentioned Nicole. So we met and formulated ‘growing (in)visible’. I’ve been living here for 22 years and have seen and met many oldies and heard some stories too.”

How was the seed of this idea sewn?

Nicole Hind and Bruce Jacups discuss their upcoming exhibition celebrating Bellingen Shire's elderly communityNicole got on board having had conversations with older friends about how they experienced being less ‘visible’ over a ‘certain age’. Literally being bumped into all of a sudden, not considered as important or worthy of respect. We also noticed that there can be a tendency to infantilise elderly folks, not considering their stories and knowledge to be of much value. We wanted to address that notion by collecting interesting tales of our locals in the 75+ age-group, and sharing them. The stories we’ve heard so far lend real weight to the saying that life begins at 30… or 50… or 70!

What form will your exhibition take?

It’s an exhibition that will be at a location central to Bellingen town. We plan on sharing portraits where permitted; images from the life and passions of each individual; vocal soundscapes of the stories we’ve captured from 1-2 hour long conversations; and plaques of some of the more surprising anecdotes. If we’re really lucky, we may even do a live interview at the opening night.

Does each of you have a defined role in this creative process?

Bruce Jacups photographer and Nicole Hind storytellerBruce takes photos and Nic does conversation. But in the room it’s more like facilitation: we want people to feel safe sharing their stories with us, and we want to ‘go with the flow’, which is when you capture those candid special moments. Sometimes those moments arise when one of us has been caught up in the yarn. At the outset we just hung out a lot, talked about the ‘whys’ of this project, and brainstormed ideas before we decided to proceed and apply for a grant (thanks to Bello Council). Doing any kind of artistic project involves positive relationships and a helluva lot of trust – in the other person and the process, but also in how they’ll handle our subjects and their stories.

How many interviews/stories do you think the final exhibition will filter to?

There will only be 8 to 10 subjects, so the idea is to be able to really engage with each person and their story on a deeper level. Perhaps though, as different themes emerge in this project, it may grow into something else after the initial exhibition. Watch this space!

What are you learning along the way?

That it really doesn’t matter what other people think of you: the folks we’ve approached and connected with don’t say yes or no or do just anything for the sake of it in order to please us or to be polite. They take a lot of care in deciding if they’d like to be a part of our project and how. They carefully consider how they contribute.

What would you like the audience to take away from their visit to your exhibition?

That older people have awesome stories, ideas, passions and advice. That we can form genuine friendships with people across all generations. That getting old doesn’t have to be scary or sucky. That life is for living: what’s important at different ages may change, and to pay attention to what is important when you get to the age of 75 coz you can’t really go back and change any of it (and what we’re seeing so far is that most people don’t wish they’d done anything differently – but that could be a reflection of our Shire). That our elders are so bloody valuable and that what they have to share with us matters. Perhaps it will inspire people to gather stories from their own family or members of our community. An emerging theme in our interviews is the importance of friendship, a relationship that is often under-represented but vital for happiness and good health. That we are all connected even though some of us may not often hear from or see our elderly in our day-to-day life. And that they have hugely fascinating stories to tell… think drugs sex n rock n roll!

Bruce & Nicole are hoping their exhibition will take place around the end of March/early April. We will keep you posted on this.

Bruce Jacups Photography

Nicole Hind: Unveiled Stories

NSW Seniors Festival ‘Love Your Life’ 2019 is being celebrated between February 13 and 24. Bellingen Shire Council is hosting an event – free to seniors – at North Beach Bowling Club, Mylestom on Thursday 21st February. CLICK HERE for the details.


Photo credit: Liam Conway


  • Jill Kelly-Williams says:

    This sounds wonderful. Can’t wait to see/hear what these two come up with!

    • Nicole Hind says:

      Hi Jill. Thank you so much, we’re actually finding that ‘what we come up with’ is evolving as we do our interviews, in co-creation with our subjects. Watch this space!

  • Jerome Speekman says:

    If you are looking for a 69 year old artist with a little difference you might be interested in me.
    Check me out on Facebook to see my work.

    • Nicole Hind says:

      Hey Jerome, I love your work! Certainly different, vibrant, local and full of stories. This may surprise you, but you’re actually a bit too young for our project. I think the youngest person so far we’ve spoken to was 78? But I have no doubt you are full of wisdom, passions, stories and inspiration…

  • Nikki Simler says:

    This project is timely and inspiring. Thank you
    Hopefully the project will be inclusive of Indigenous Australians

    • Nicole Hind says:

      Thanks Nikki for the support. We are doing our best to seek willing elders who are located in different parts of the Shire and representative of the diversity across the shire such as immigrants, LGBTI folks; people of colour; disabled folks; refugees. And we are most definitely trying to connect with Gumbaynggirr elders and Aboriginal or TSI elders in the community. If you know of anyone who might be interested then please do give Bruce or I a shout!! We are very open to adjustments in order to be respectful and inclusive when collecting these precious stories.

  • rosemary lees says:

    Hi Bruce and Nicole, I’d be interested in hearing more about this exhibition? Can you email me, as I may know certain people you may like to interview etc?

  • Nicole Hind says:

    Just to let you all know Growing (in)Visible will be at The Stables in Bellingen town centre. We will have a special opening starting at 1pm on Sunday 9th June and the exhibition will run for 10 days. We’d love to see as many visitors as possible engage with these folks and their stories, and perhaps even share a message. Love Nicole and Bruce.

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