SEE / Photo op
From Melbourne-based Iranian Ramak Bamzar’s series Moustachioed Women and Rhinoplastic Girls, 2022.
There’s something joyful about wandering down a laneway, noticing a series of photographs printed directly onto the red brick walls, then learning, thanks to a bright yellow sign, who created them. Then walking towards a cinema, or restaurant, or wine bar, or indeed the Art Gallery of Ballarat, seeing the same happy yellow signs and going inside to see more works by more photographers gracing the walls. The Ballarat International Foto Biennale takes over the Victorian Goldfields city for 60 days every two years, its current exhibition – its 10th – winding up on October 22.
Australia’s Stephen Dupont shows black-and-white work from more than a dozen countries, including Afghanistan and China; New Yorker photographer Platon underlines his skill at capturing something essential in the powerful and well known, including Vladimir Putin; and photographers from regional Victoria remind us that creative talent often eschews capital-city life for good reason. Don’t miss, too, the images by Melbourne-based Iranian Ramak Bamzar, who depicts the quiet power and pride of women living under a repressive regime. Katrina Strickland
WATCH / The Penn is mightier
Slightly vain? Yes. A little cringe? Sure. But Penn’s doco puts the focus back on the war still raging in Ukraine.
Sean Penn might get it wrong occasionally (his interview with Mexican drug kingpin El Chapo in 2016 was a serious misstep), but you can’t fault the bloke for trying to make a difference. Penn could, like many of his A-lister buddies, be flogging Nespresso coffee or Rolex watches, but here he is in Superpower, his two-hour documentary on the war in Ukraine (airing now on Paramount+), donning a flak jacket to meet soldiers on the country’s eastern front.
For leading-lady attention: Zimmermann’s snaking ear cuff of crystals and cubic zirconia.
Does the film occasionally scream “vanity project”? Yes. Is Penn’s voice-over cringeworthy at times? Also yes (“Love is proving itself to be the most powerful weapon” – urggh). But it does refocus our attention on a war the world is starting to forget, and Penn’s revealing tête-à-têtes with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky elevate Superpower beyond mere celebrity hubris. Deborah Cooke
PARTY / Get your rocks on
Marilyn Monroe’s character Lorelei Lee in the 1953 classic movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes would approve of Aussie label Zimmermann’s approach to party-season jewellery. “I just love finding new places to wear diamonds,” Lee says after discovering the joy of tiaras. Imagine the ecstasy that would be sparked by the label’s solitary right-ear cuff with its crazy conga-line of rocks snaking from lobe to temple ($550). Here, crystals and cubic zirconia are the best friends of girls who welcome a little leading-lady attention; shy types can follow their unadorned left ear into the room – or stick to their subtle diamond studs. Damien Woolnough
Lauren Groff’s story of a servant girl fleeing her famine-hit colony in 1610: not to be read on an empty stomach.
READ / Deliverance
From The Last of Us and Station Eleven to Alone, survival stories are everywhere at the moment – but you’d be hard-pressed to beat Lauren Groff’s The Vaster Wilds ($35), about a servant girl who flees the colony of Jamestown, Virginia, as it’s plagued by famine and disease in 1610. The story hurtles along at breakneck pace, with language so visceral you’ll find yourself shivering with cold and your stomach groaning with hunger. Groff is probably best known for her 2015 domestic drama Fates and Furies, but her move to historical fiction, which started with 2021’s Matrix, about a medieval nun, has shown the full extent of her authorial powers. One of the year’s must-reads – just make sure you have a snack handy. Melanie Kembrey
SHOP / Footnote
Sneaker brand Golden Goose offers a customised graffiti service on your new kicks.
Looking for a prized souvenir – or just wanting to express your personal style? Not only do Golden Goose sneakers stamp the location of your chosen store on your shoe’s interior sole, Sharpie-wielding illustrators, known as “sneakers makers”, can customise your new kicks according to your instructions (“Ball Star” in grey and black leather pictured, $830; customisation fee, $150). Known for their intentional scuffs and distressed finishes – applied by Italian craftsmen in Venice – these globetrotting limited editions blend Californian cool, European workmanship and your personal aesthetic. Frances Mocnik
EAT / Slow but sure
Mushroom Shoyu: a light, umami-rich soy sauce sparked from growing “weird moulds” in a spare room.
Victorian chef Oliver Edwards (Bar Merenda, Daylesford) has long been into fermenting – and lockdown closures gave him an opportunity to play. “I took over the spare room to grow weird moulds,” he says. When his friends at Unearthed Co Mushrooms had 200 kilograms of gourmet product going begging, Edwards said: “Send it over and I’ll make something.” Two years later, that “something” is ready. Edwards’ Mushroom Shoyu is a light, umami-rich soy sauce, perfect for use in broths or stir-fries or to dress spring vegies ($24 for 200ml). Dani Valent