Inside the Collection

Meet the curator- Alysha Buss

Curator Alysha Buss
Photography by Sotha Bourn © Powerhouse Museum, all rights reserved

Name: Alysha Buss

What is your specialty area? At university I completed a Bachelor of Arts where I majored in Archaeology (Classical and Near Eastern) and Heritage Studies, and also studied Art History and Anthropology. I have recently graduated with a Master of Museum Studies. However, at the Powerhouse Museum, I am most familiar with the Bruno Benini photography archive, which I have been working with exclusively for over a year now! This archive contains photographic prints, negatives, transparencies, contact sheets, proof prints and newspaper clippings covering fashion, portraits, flowers and nudes, as well as biographical material, from the 1950s to 2001.

How long have you been working at the Museum? In April 2009 I began as an intern working on the Bruno Benini archive as part of the Master of Museum Studies course, and after my internship ended I continued on as a volunteer. Due to my familiarity and experience with the archive, I was extremely lucky to be employed as a temporary Assistant Curator working with Anne-Marie Van de Ven on the Creating the Look: Benini and fashion photography project. This exhibition will open soon, in conjunction with the 2010 Sydney Design Festival.

Favourite object in the collection? There are too many – every time I open a box from the archive, I find another photograph to love! As I look through the boxes of prints and negatives, I am now recognising favourite models, locations, props and styles which Bruno Benini and his wife Hazel used over and over, and they almost feel like old friends.

However, my favourite object in the archive, for its sheer beauty and sophistication, is a photograph taken by Bruno in 1956 of Pauline Kiernan, about which I wrote a ‘photo of the day’ blog post. I first saw this in Parade: the story of fashion in Australia by Alexandra Joel (1998) when I was 14, and have loved it ever since. I didn’t remember it was by Bruno Benini, and so I was shocked when I saw the physical photograph in the transit room for the first time! Each element of the composition, such as the model’s graceful pose, the use of an elegant sofa as a prop, and the high contrast between the deep black background and the model’s luminous face and gown, all work together to create an incredibly glamorous image.

Working with the Bruno Benini archive and photographs, such as this one, has definitely increased my interest in photography, and fashion photography, in particular.

Alysha Buss
Assistant Curator (Creating the Look: Benini and fashion photography exhibition)

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