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Stephen Harrop

b. 1955
United Kingdom

Stephen Harrop grew up on Sydney's northern beaches and studied graphic design at Randwick Tech followed by film studies and photography at the City Art Institute (now CoFA) over 1980-1982. His early film work and photography used found and acquired images, re-contextualising them and translating them into new forms. His experiments with the technical limitations of domestic film media (Super 8) led to an interest in reusing gestures and tropes to make new meanings, both deliberate and by chance. Techniques he used included: multiple exposures on frames, recording material off home TV, re-winding film inside the cartridge, using rewired calculators to count frames. He enjoyed un-tethering synchronous sound to enlarge further possibilities of meaning. Films made during this period were Blind (1980), Room to Romp (1980), Itteth Bound to Be Bathkervilleth (1981), Hoard (1981) and Square Bashing (1982).

Square Bashing was composed solely from found images and sound, re-filmed off a domestic television screen. Reviewed by Ross Gibson in “Films We Love – Personal Favourites” in Cinema Papers, August, 1994.

“The ‘affect’ of the film is disturbingly paradoxical, and, whereas paradoxes usually challenge our thinking, it is in the sensuous patterning of mood and desire that Square Bashing conjures its most productive contradictions.”

In 1982, Stephen began a fruitful collaboration with Stephen Fearnley, a fellow filmmaker and photographer. Together they made Down Diablo Way (1982) in which they starred as two hapless cowboys, miming to the soundtrack of a vintage children’s radio serial, “Hopalong Cassidy and the Haunted Goldmine”. Filmed in black and white and with the addition of musical tracks sourced from 78 rpm records, the film went on to win the Most Creative Film at the Caracas Super 8 World Festival, Venezuela, in 1986.

In 1990, Stephen Harrop and Stephen Fearnley teamed up with Andrew Traucki to make the 20 part series for SBS television, Rocky Star. An Australian radio serial of the 1950s – re-edited into a new narrative – formed the soundtrack, against which actors mimed their performances. Once again, found-sound musical numbers were inserted into the action to drive the narrative forwards. The series starring Christopher Morsley, Kerry Fox and Stephen Fearnley, is firmly located in 1950s Australia, and imagines a future in which space travel is commonplace. Although originally meant for children, its new context exposed the Cold War sentiments of the time, suburban Australian anxieties, xenophobic posturing and 1950s gender politics. Some of the series' humour was also derived from the way the radio characters narrate and describe what they see, giving a surreal and melodramatic overlay to the story. It must be the only Australian television series shot entirely on Super 8. Rocky Star was broadcast on the BBC and on Finnish television and went on to win both Golden and Silver Hugos at the Chicago Film Festival in 1993.

Stephen worked as editor with John Gillies on his video work Techno Dumb Show and various films with Mark Titmarsh. From 1985-1987,

Stephen also worked at UTS in the Communications Department, assisting lecturers and students with film and editing. He was a guest lecturer in Super 8 techniques, both at UTS and CoFA.

He has worked as an online editor at various post-production facilities in Sydney. In 1993 he joined SBS Television where he works as a senior online editor, working on programmes such as Dateline, Insight and Living Black. His expertise is called on to assist editors and programme-producers learn new technology in a technically-challenging environment.

Stephen's films have been shown at numerous film festivals both in Australia and internationally. He has had many photographic exhibitions and his work is included in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia and in the National Library in Canberra.

Stephen Harrop and Stephen Jones
Birth place
United Kingdom
Fearnley & Harrop - WHY, Stephen Fearnley and Stephen Harrop discuss the making of 'Down Diablo Way' – via Vimeo 
Fearnley & Harrop - WHO, Stephen Fearnley and Stephen Harrop discuss their biographies – via Vimeo 
Stephen Harrop - Aus art history, Stephen Harrop gives his perspective on media art history – via Vimeo 
From Room to romp, via d'archive
From Room to romp, via d'archive – from Room to romp, via d/Archive 
– from Hoard, via d/Archive 
– from Square bashing, via d/Archive 
Fearnley & Harrop - HOW, Stephen Fearnley & Stephen Harrop discuss the making of 'Down Diablo Way' – from Down Diablo Way, via Vimeo 
high camp Sci Fi musical made for TV
Rocky Star, high camp Sci Fi musical made for TV – from Rocky Star, via YouTube