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Bibliophile | Kristy Iltners’ ‘Depth of Field’ won the 2023 Dorothy Hewett Award

Depth of Field
By Kirsty Iltners
UWA Publishing

Our personal point-and-shoot photographs capture moments and can trigger memories. As Dr Seuss once said, sometimes you don’t know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory. And photographs are often more reliable than memories, which have proven to be flawed.

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It is when photographers manipulate things like shutter speed, aperture, light sensitivity and depth of field that the real magic happens.

In Kirsty Iltners’ debut novel, Tom notes that when photography went from being a hobby to a job, it was less about capturing things as they are and more about the mechanics of a flawless image.

Tom’s girlfriend Adeline introduced him to photography, but she is just a memory when he realises that his love of photography had dwindled getting an income by taking photos of houses to be sold by real estate agents.

Tom is haunted by his memories and what happened to cause Tom and Adeline to become estranged is an underlying mystery as the reader spends time with Tom as he struggles through his days.

Randomly, also struggling through her days is 17-year-old Lottie who lives in a one-bedroom flat on top of a fish and chip shop with her 6-month-old daughter Coral. She doesn’t have an answer when the woman at the welfare office asks about her career plans, but she makes a list of things she needs but can’t afford.

The reader gets to know both Tom and Lottie quite intimately as they struggle with social isolation and self-recriminations. It is what lies outside the frame that the reader is searching for, and the two disparate narratives eventually collide.

Depth of Field won the 2023 Dorothy Hewett Award and casts a new light on recollections. Amongst the lies we tell ourselves and others, it exposes we choose to remember and what can we never forget.

Lezly Herbert

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