Over the months of May and June, Customs House at Circular Quay is hosting an amazingly powerful and heart-warming exhibition of the work of photographer Gary Heery, writes Alex Hargraves.  


Entitled ENDANGERED, it consists of several black-and-white portraits featuring current endangered species.

Heery, a world-renowned Australian photographer, published ZOO in 1996, a collection of striking black and white studies of wild animals kept in captivity. The photographs for that project were taken at Taronga Park and Western Plains Zoo’s in NSW.

According to Heery, the “behind the scenes” action was just as entertaining and endearing as the final portraits themselves, and was not without its challenges.

Since completing that project a large number of those animals are now listed as endangered species. The list of extinct and endangered species is shockingly long and distressing to read.

ENDANGERED is an extraordinary exhibition, and a tribute to six of these precious species: the Southern Square Lipped Rhino, the Southern Elephant Seal, the Pygmy Hippo, the Tapir, the Chimpanzee and the Orangutan.

Heery’s photographs are technically superb, especially when you consider what an achievement it was getting all these animals to sit still, make eye contact and stay in focus all at once. According to Heery, the “behind the scenes” action was just as entertaining and endearing as the final portraits themselves, and was not without its challenges.

The rhino apparently attacked the backdrop with its horn, a lioness peed on it, and the Southern Elephant Seal struck a rather seductive Marilyn Monroe-style pose in front of it.

This superb exhibition of large-scale black and white animal portraits is open daily and free to the public, and the ground floor Red Room space in Customs House Library is a perfect venue for such an essential and heart-warming exhibition.

Exhibitions held in this space are always of the highest quality and this is no exception. AT gives it a hearty thumbs-up – it should be an essential stopover for every visitor and resident of Sydney.

What // ENDANGERED – Photographs by Gary Heery.
Where // Customs House Library, 31 Alfred Street, Circular Quay
When // 29th April – 4th July
Contact // www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/customshouse/whatson