LOWER Clarence photographer John Ibbotson can see why his collection of lighthouse photographs has been chosen to promote the work of a group battling mental illness.

Mr Ibbotson, who lives in Gulmarrad, has joined forces with the mental health advocacy group Light Up the Darkness, to present an exhibition of photographs of Australian lighthouses at the Yamba Museum next week.

"Lighthouses shine a light into the dark to help sailors reach their destinations safely," Mr Ibbotson said.

"Linking that idea to the group's work with mental illness provides some synergies."

Photographer John Ibbotson with his exhibition of lighthouse photos at the Old Kirk at the Yamba Museum raising money for the Light Up the Darkness program.
Photographer John Ibbotson with his exhibition of lighthouse photos at the Old Kirk at the Yamba Museum raising money for the Light Up the Darkness program. Adam Hourigan

He said these photographs have been the basis of three books, which have become the definitive reference guide to Australia's lighthouses.

"They have also been used around the world in magazines, newspapers and books, advertising, calendars, the National Archives of Australia Beacons by the Sea exhibition, on three sets of Australia's lighthouse stamps and in solo exhibitions," he said.

Mr Ibbotson has also been a major participant in the completion of the replica of Yamba's original lighthouse.

Light Up the Darkness committee chairwoman Sue Hughes said the lighthouse metaphor of showing the way for sailors to safety also resonated with the group.

Ms Hughes said Light Up the Darkness will hold raffles at the exhibition opening and during the exhibition.

"We will also have a brochure a the exhibition telling people what Light Up the Darkness is all about," she said.

"The exhibition came about when the museum's curator approached us about having an exhibition linked to mental health issues, so we agreed to collaborate with them."

Photographer John Ibbotson with his exhibition of lighthouse photos at the Old Kirk at the Yamba Museum raising money for the Light Up the Darkness program.
Photographer John Ibbotson with his exhibition of lighthouse photos at the Old Kirk at the Yamba Museum raising money for the Light Up the Darkness program. Adam Hourigan

Mr Ibbotson's journey to becoming a photographer has taken some surprising turns. He studied metallurgy at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Melbourne.

In 1963 he converted to computing and six years later moved to New York to design computer systems for American Airlines.

After starting his photography career in NY he visited Alaska in 1975 for a month and stayed for 17 years.

North Reef Lighthouse - 100km east of Gladstone.
North Reef Lighthouse - 100km east of Gladstone. John Ibbotson

His photographs along with articles were used in publications such as Alaska Magazine, Alaska Geographic, Alaska Outdoors, Adventure Travel and National Geographic Books. He also printed Cibachrome Art Prints, and was represented in local, state and regional exhibitions. He was one of the original photographers for Alaska Photo, which is now part of Getty.

In 1992 John moved back to Melbourne and started building up a library of Australian stock images. While doing this he decided to photograph all of Australia's Lighthouses.

The exhibition opens in the Yamba Museum Old Kirk on March 17 at 5.30pm. There will be drinks and nibblies available.



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