Artist Profile
Your friend the enemy

Photographs from the past unearth lost stories and connections

As we approach the centenary of the Gallipoli campaign in 2015, the commemorative project ‘Your Friend the Enemy’ has been inspired by many personal stories and connections, starting two years ago.  


For artist Idris Murphy, it was only after returning from a trip to Gallipoli and acquiring The Lost Diggers did his connection to the ANZAC legend deepen.

The Lost Diggers is a powerful and emotive book  of photographs that documented Australian soldiers passing through Vignacourt, France, a small village behind the front lines during World War I. Amongst the hundreds of mostly anonymous Australian soldiers, Idris Murphy discovered a familiar photograph – his grandfather.  Taken in Vignacourt, France during the war this previously unknown photograph has since been officially recognised as his grandfather Idris Charles Pike.

Around the same time Idris discovered correspondence between his grandfather Idris Charles Pike and grandmother Violet Clapson – love letters from 1914 to 1918.  It was the stories from the front, particularly how the Australian troops threw preserved beef and jam to the Turks, and in exchange the Turks threw tobacco and papers to the Australians signing off in French “your friend the enemy”, which resulted in the title to the project – ‘Your Friend the Enemy’.

With the bundle of letters and the aid of The Lost Diggers, Gallipoli holds added significance for Idris and his family, and the key reason for his return to Gallipoli as part of Your Friend the Enemy to paint and draw.

Accompanying the book is a current exhibition Remember me: the lost diggers of Vignacourt, showcasing the photographs at the State Library of NSW. Taken by the Thullier family, the photographs were captured on glass, printed into postcards and posted home. Whilst their initial purpose was to maintain a fragile link with loved ones in Australia, the recent discovery of these photographs continues this tradition – linking the past with the present.

Both this current exhibition and Your Friend the Enemy evoke the abiding links between contemporary Australian’s and the past ANZAC diggers. The photographic exhibition is a snapshot of the individuals and their stories, a personal inspiration for Idris, and poignant beginning to the commemoration next year of 100 years since the Gallipoli campaign.

In 2015 Your Friend the Enemy will showcase works that paint a living history, ever relevant in the Australian imagination today. Join us on this journey by visiting The Lost Diggers exhibition to gain insight into the lives within the campaigns. We look forward to celebrating the ANZAC legend with our exhibition and publication next year.

Remember me: the lost diggers of Vignacourt
1 November 2014 – 18 January 2015

State Library of New South Wales
Free admission

Image 01: The Lost Diggers, Ross Coulthart, book cover
Image 02: Band of the 2nd Australian Pioneer Battalion, November 1918. In the middle row, third from right is Private Stanley Walter George Thorpe of Norward, South Australia. Photograph by Louis Thuillier 

Images courtesy the State Library, Kerry Stokes Collection and the Louis and Antoinette Thuillier Collection

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