Claudia Sangiorgi Dalimore and Michelle Grace Hunder are humbly still coming to terms with the enormity of the project they have just launched. Her Sound Her Story is a narrative exhibition, documentary and live performance that spans generations and has taken two years to compile.
As a focal point of an ongoing conversation it features interviews and photographs of 50 Australian musicians with a unifying factor: they all happen to be indomitably talented and hard working members of what Claudia affectionately refers to as “the mob” – the mob of women reclaiming space and utterly killing it in the music industry.
Michelle Grace Hunder: Claudia’s the most creative person I’ve ever met. If she wasn’t creating she would probably be dead.
Claudia Sangiorgi Dalimore: Michelle is all about process. She’s methodical and will be like “cool, here’s what we need to do first and then after that we’ll do this.” Where as I’m more like “cool, so we’ll do A and then B, and then Z! And then J!”
MGH: We’re very different in our styles of working, and because of that we’ve really pushed each other to go to the furthest places we could go in this.
CSD: We’re very lucky to be able to work together and to be such good friends. We’ve brought out the best work in each other and had someone along the way we could be honest with and talk to about how we were actually going.
MGH: I had just finished RISE, which was a project documenting Australian hip hop artists. Out of 180 artists I’d photographed there were only 10 images of women, and it was just so obvious that that’s what needed to be brought into a wider conversation. That’s when I asked Claudia to be involved.
CSD: And I, of course, said yes! IT was a basic format, Michelle took a portrait and I sat down to have a chat, it all went from there. Very early on I just had this vision for this concert where there was a row of women on stage together; all standing there holding space and being powerful together. We just began working towards bringing that vision to life.
MGH: It was mostly just making a list of women I was listening to at the time. Musicians who inspired me and spoke to me; artists who I was interested in.
CSD: Initially most of the artists were all of a younger generation and so when I started I was like “right, lets get some multi-generational conversations happening,” and that’s when we asked artists like Tina Arena, Renee Geyer and Kasey Chambers to be involved.
MGH: NONE! We had no budget at all. The artists were just so incredible about that. I mean we photographed Nyne in my cupboard!
CSD: It was just us tethering off our phones to our laptops in a rental car somewhere in Sydney to send these really important emails!
MGH: The car was our office.
CSD: The women were just so on board with us. Some of them are incredibly well seasoned artists too. I mean women like Julia (Stone) who played her last gig in Melbourne at Margaret Court Arena. To go from that to playing at what was essentially a pop-up venue in the State Library for this project is just incredible. There was no headliner on the bill for our concert, no ego, all the women just showed up and played together. I have to step back from it all in those moments and really soak it all in, it’s truly amazing of them
MGH: I’m a very outspoken feminist, and I just felt like it was time to stop talking about doing something and actually do something to start a conversation around it.
CSD: I don’t know how many of these women would have ever had an interviewer actually ask them to just tell their story. Music interviews are mostly just “what you’re doing now? where are you going on tour?” This was about asking how these women felt. Real conversation, it’s so important to contribute to the world. Plus all these artists, they already have a platform, and their voice and reach is just so much greater for these messages to be able to spread.
MGH: So many. Especially now the project’s out there. One of the artists involved, Dawn (Laird)…
CSD: God, she was amazing in the pool…
MGH: When the exhibition opened she came to see it and a friend of mine saw Dawn’s reaction to her photo. She’s not from a background where she’s necessarily thought she was beautiful, and I think this image was the first time she’s seen herself portrayed like that and she was just amazed. She couldn’t believe it. She was taking photos of the photo on her phone and sending it to her family being like “look! I got a big one!”
CSD: Another favourite was just being sung to. At the end of each interview we got everyone to sing a line from a song by an Australian artist.
I’d forget when you were interviewing them how talented they were and then they’d pick a song to sing and get their phones out to quickly Google the lyrics and just start singing and the sound… it was incredible. It was one of those moments where I had to look down on myself in the situation and be like “Claudia, you have to take all of this in right now because you are so lucky to be sitting in this seat.
MGH: Of course we made mistakes!
MGH: We did an entire interview with Ella Hooper and didn’t record it!
CSD: Part way through the interview someone started jack-hammering outside, so we paused the recorder but didn’t press the record button on it for long enough when we started talking again. When we checked later there was just nothing there except the first part of the interview.
MGH: She was great about it though. She just said “It’s k, lets just do it again”. She was so cool about it.
CSD: The process has actually changed the way I look at my relationships with women. I’ve never really had lots of close female friendships and always had lots of close male friends. I sometimes think it was from a place of needing to prove something.
MGH: I agree. It’s almost like I rebelled against that idea of having lots of close female friends because I was “the tomboy,” or whatever.
CSD: Yeah exactly but that’s completely changed. Now I’m just like “YES. Women are amazing.” I don’t think there’s a superior gender or anything but oh my god women are incredible.
MGH: A holiday. We’re going to get burgers, and tans!
CSD: Yes! We want to tour the live show, and we’re looking at having the exhibition travel as an installation and being set up in new spaces. The full documentary will come out next year, and that will be an extension of this conversation that’s just begun.
Photography by the enigmatic Elly Freer