'The Ballarat Avenue of Honour' by Magda Keaney

At 22 kilometres the Ballarat Avenue of Honour is the longest avenue of honour in Australia and one of the earliest known memorial avenues to have been planted in Victoria during the First World War. Begun in May 1917 and now comprising 3,801 trees, the avenue was planted to honour the service of the men or women of Ballarat who enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. 

In 2014 Australian photographer Trent Parke was invited to participate in the international exhibition The First World War now. This was presented by the renowned Magnum Photos agency in Bruges, Belgium, to mark 100 years since the German army’s invasion of the city. In response, Parke produced the series WW1 Avenue of Honour, comprising 22 images made at the Ballarat Avenue of Honour.

Parke, who describes himself as a storyteller, was drawn to the Ballarat Avenue of Honour because it is a living memorial where each tree stands for a particular life. In selecting and photographing a particular tree he sought to explore both tangible and abstract parallels between the natural forms as he encountered them and the fate of the individual whom the tree commemorates. Parke undertook detailed research, drawing on the Red Cross Wounded and Missing files, to find links between biographical records and the appearance of the corresponding tree’s planting position, size, shape, texture, irregularities of growth, setting in the landscape, or silhouette. His photographs capture these visual forms as an act of contemporary commemoration.

Curated by Magda Keaney