Martyn Jolly

Tragic Drowning Fatality

Martyn Jolly

Tragic Drowning Fatality by Martyn Jolly

​The double tragedy of the drowning of Kenneth Mackenzie and his daughter Helen at Bundanon in 1922 is retold through 19th century magic lantern slides.


This magic lantern show tells the story of an actual double drowning in the Shoalhaven River at Bundanon. Local actors will read newspaper reports and give the testimony of eyewitnesses that were published in the Shoalhaven Telegraph on Wednesday 1 February 1922. The original magic lantern slides Martyn Jolly will project through two nineteenth century ‘dissolving-view’ magic lanterns which date from the 1870s were made between the 1880s and the 1920s. Some were made by amateur Australian photographers, while others were manufactured in the UK and the US and exported to Australia to be used as part of popular melodramatic, musical, instructional or comic entertainments. The slides will be accompanied by live music and electronic samples from Alexander Hunter and the ANU Experimental Music Studio. Travelling magic lanternists had been visiting the Shoalhaven region since the 1870s, but by the time of the drowning they had largely been displaced by the movies. If Helen MacKenzie and her father Ken MacKenzie hadn’t died that day perhaps they may have gone to see an Australian silent picture, The Blue Mountains Mystery, which was showing that week at the Nowra School of Arts. This thriller, directed by Raymond Longford and Lottie Lyell, is now lost, but we know the plot involved murder and a mistakenly identified corpse. The price of admission was a shilling, or a shilling sixpence for the gallery


Lanternist: Martyn Jolly
Musical Director: Alexander Hunter
Performers: Clare Jolly, Kerry Thompson, Liberty Thompson


Dr Martyn Jolly is an artist and a writer. He is Head of Photography and Media Arts at the Australian National University School of Art. He completed his PhD on fake photographs and photographic affect at the University of Sydney in 2003. In 2006 his book Faces of the Living Dead: The Belief in Spirit Photography was published by the British Library, as well as in the US and Australia. His work is in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria and the Canberra Museum and Gallery. In 2006 he was one of three artists commissioned to design and build the Act Bushfire Memorial. In 2011 he undertook a Harold White Fellowship at the National Library of Australia and a Collection Scholar Artist in residence Fellowship at the Australian National Film and Sound Archive. In 2014 he received an Australian Research Council Discovery grant along with Dr Daniel Palmer to research the impact of new technology on the curating of Australian art photography. In 2015 he received an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant to lead the international project Heritage in the Limelight: The Magic Lantern in Australia and the World. He is also researching Australiana photobooks.

ANU Experimental Music Studio is a collective of staff and students interested in experimental sonic and multimedia collaborations, directed by Dr Alexander Hunter. Formed in 2014, the EMS have performed at festivals, conferences and concerts across the ACT and New South Wales, and are currently working towards the release of an album of large group improvisations. Students in the EMS are encouraged to combine and redefine the traditional roles of composer, performer and audience in fluid and innovative ways which reflect a search for egalitarian models of collaboration.