Point & Shoot: an exhibition of understanding

RSL Queensland 12 April 2023
  • ANZACspirit
  • Ideas & info

As RSL Queensland launches its partnership with the 2023 Point & Shoot exhibition, we spoke with Point & Shoot founder Mark Direen to learn about the positive impact of sharing visual stories of veterans for their communities.

Tell us a little about the man behind Point & Shoot 
I joined the Army as soon as I turned 18 and served for 16 years: six years in the Infantry Corps and 10 years in the Australian Special Air Service Regiment (SASR). While in the SASR I worked in domestic counterterrorism at the Sydney Olympic Games and did one tour to East Timor and five to Afghanistan. During this period, I was trained in photography as part of reconnaissance operations. 

Mark Direen

After I left the full-time Defence Force in 2009, I started my company, Point Assist, so I could work as a security consultant for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Two years later, I added a trekking arm to the business and in 2016 I moved to expedition and adventure travel guiding full-time. When COVID-19 hit, with travel and adventure on hold, I shifted my focus to documenting and sharing the experiences of others, which I’ve found a very rewarding space. 

How did Point & Shoot come to life? 
My own experiences as a soldier were the impetus for this exhibition. Working in high-threat environments is both physically and mentally demanding. For me, taking photos helped me to not only document my experiences but also to process them. As I shared these images and their stories with those closest to me, I began to wonder about all the other stories that were out there, and so Point & Shoot was born. 

Mark Direen

How has the exhibition grown since you first started? 
People’s reactions to Point & Shoot have blown me away. Our first event launched in my hometown of Hobart in 2020 and I included a few of my own photos because we didn’t have many submissions. With both public and veteran support, we then toured across the state in 2021 and last year, we ran our first national exhibition in Canberra and attracted almost 200 submissions. In 2023, we’re showing in Brisbane and Townsville, which has already received great interest. I’m ecstatic that RSL Queensland is now involved as a partner too. I’m a big advocate for the RSL; they do a lot of good for veterans and try to represent them the best they can, which is great. 

What can exhibition patrons expect from the collection? 
Point & Shoot isn’t about displaying the best photos, but to share stories of everyday service personnel. The thing that resonates with me the most is that to the veterans, these are just everyday photos. However, to the public they represent extraordinary stories of courage and sacrifice. I have seen many powerful moments where members of the public have come to look at the images, and you can see the penny drop as they begin to better understand some of the sacrifices that veterans have made. 

Mark Direen

How has the exhibition helped the veteran community? 
There’s such a small percentage of the Australian population who have served in the military and sacrificed for their country. When veterans share their stories and talk about their experiences, that’s when a lot of healing can take place if they have had difficult times either during their service or post-service. Being able to share with their family, friends or the public is good for veterans’ mental health and for moving forward with their lives. 

Likewise, what effect has the exhibition had on the Australian public? 

Mark Direen

Connection is an integral part of the human experience, created through shared understanding. Therefore, having communities understand what veterans go through is hugely important. At each event we continue to be thanked by members of the public for putting the Point & Shoot exhibition together because they walk out with a better understanding of what it really means to serve and sacrifice for our country.  

The stories are coming direct from the service personnel and not filtered by Defence, the media or other organisations, so it really is the authentic experience of our people. For community leaders, it might also influence their decision making in the future. We hope every viewer finds it a worthwhile experience. 

How far are you hoping to take Point & Shoot? 
My partner, Sam, and I work together on the exhibition, and our ultimate goal is to tour it nationally across the country. Providing the opportunity for more people to view the exhibition and grow understanding in communities is something we are passionate about. There’s a lot of work that sits behind every exhibition, but we love sharing these stories. 

Mark Direen

RSL Queensland is proud to partner with the Point & Shoot exhibition, which is touring Brisbane and Townsville in October 2023. Photographic submissions are open until 28 May. For more information, visit pointandshoot.online.