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MA Scholarship Project: Wendy Catling

Wendy Catling.OliversHill-4_NightshadeWendy Catling.EvonAve-4_Nightshade

Master of Arts Photography


Domain: Identity and Culture


Project #4: Nightshade


Nightshade was a photographic installation and photobook project that was externally assessed for the Master of Arts Photography program in the middle of Covid lockdowns.


Nightshade delves into themes of family violence and intergenerational trauma exploring my mother’s experiences during her relationship with my father. Over twenty tumultuous years, she endured hardship and terror, frequently moving home to escape my father’s stalking, violence, and coercive control. The pattern of domestic violence, marked by my father’s charming public facade, and private cruelty, is symbolised by the black nightshade - an attractive but toxic plant.


Despite the relentless pressure of family care and an unstable living situation, my mother found sanctuary and personal power in her passions for gardening and environmental regeneration. Since their separation in the 1980s and my father’s death in a car accident, she has dedicated herself to volunteering in suburban natural bush reserves, tirelessly removing environmental weeds to promote native plant growth. Now in her 90s she maintains a beautiful, meticulously weed-free garden.


The project parallels my mother’s battle against weeds with her resistance to domestic abuse and coercive control. In creating this work, I mimicked my father’s obsessive stalking by tracking environmental weeds in our area and scrutinizing neglected family photographs. My conflicted role as a traumatised witness and confidante to both parents is conveyed through the relationships between contemporary and archival images and documents. Through this process, complexity and ambiguity are revealed, aiming to repair a traumatic history.”


The project was subsequently printed as a photobook by important Melbourne publisher M.33 and designed by Kim Mumm Hansen.




Wendy Catling is a first-generation Australian of New Zealand-British parents, living and working on the unceded lands of the Wurundjeri people. Her visual arts practice is informed by an interest in memory, relationships, power and conflict. Working with photomedia, text and archives, the artist probes her place in the world. She explores the representation of post-traumatic experience, and the way memories shape us. Wendy completed her Master of Arts Photography project at PSC in 2021 and is presently teaching in the third year of the Bachelor of Photography and Digital Imaging program.


Project Website

Project Instagram



The photobook is available here

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