It ushered in a new era of sustainability and communal living, changing the face of Nimbin, but Peter Derrett's recollections of the 1973 Aquarius Festival differ from the popular narrative. The famous festival was the fourth and final of a biannual series of festivals organised by the National Union of Australian University Students. It served as a cornerstone moment in the counter-cultural revolution. Fifty years on, its legacy is being celebrated with a new festival from May 12-21. Former teacher and photographer Peter captured the festival's most enduring images, now part of a State Library collection. Fifty images have been framed for an exhibition at the Nimbin School of Arts from May 12-20, coinciding with the anniversary festival. While most people associate the festival with free love, music and plenty of nudity, the 74-year-old Lismore resident said the perception was far from the reality. "Of the 180 photos I took, I think six were topless (women)," he said. "The festival, as I remember it, was largely about talks and seminars about self sufficiency, how to build houses, toilets, showers and how to use land effectively." "All this has been twisted now and people think it was like Woodstock. It was nothing like that, it was a union festival about self-sufficiency. "There were communal showers, communal toilets and that freaked a lot of people out." He said Graeme Dunstan and Johnny Allen - who organised the festival, secured a federal grant allowing them to bring some live music to the festival. An experimental Theatre Troupe featuring alternative culture artists, singer Paul Joseph, Donny McCormack, The Larrikins and Ian Farr, Indigenous group the Mornington Island Dancers, Indian street performers the Bauls of Bengal, South African pianist Dollar Brand, classical-ambient musician Lindsay Bourke and tightrope walker and unicyclist Philippe Petit all performed at the festival. Peter said this was where the similarities to a music festival ended, but the festival's image in mainstream media, even at the time, was one of hedonism. He said some people were known to have taken buses out to Nimbin at the time just to see naked women. He said another common misconception was that the festival drew huge crowds of people, maintaining it was quieter and more sparsely attended than the common narrative suggests. In addition to being asked to photograph the festival for the University of New England's Nucleus newspaper, Peter also co-developed and presented a stage show at the festival in collaboration with students from Lismore High School. Titled Images of Man, the show was based on Stewart Brand's book The Last Whole Earth Catalog. Peter said the festival and counter culture had an enduring impact on the students - following performances which took place on its first day, many of them stayed on for the entire duration. "My enduring memories are the effect it had on my students," he said. "Some went on to do sustainable living, others went on to standard careers, but kept in touch with the music and visuals of that period." Equally profound was the impact the festival had on the area as a whole. "We suddenly had communes being built around Nimbin. Tuntable (Falls Community) was the first, but there were lots that were formed afterwards." As for Peter, after the festival he continued to teach, travel the world and earn acclaim for his photographic work. He has published five photography books, and worked on major artistic projects such as Bangkok Mechanics, which saw him photograph the same Bangkok street over a period of 22 years. He won Monash University's Australian Fine Art Photographer of the Year award in 1999. He also formed Theatre North - a theatre company which ran for 23 years with his wife following the festival and has received an Order of Australia Medal for his work with youth theatre. Taking place at locations throughout Nimbin, the festival is featuring talks, workshops, nostalgia, performances and celebrations of First Nations people. For more information on the exhibition call (02) 6689-1577. For more information on the festival click here.