Project 45

These two photographs of hay stables in Valais, Switzerland, are 45 years in the making.  I took the first image in 1972 during a school camp with my first camera, the fabulous Kodak Instamatic. This started my lifelong fascination for photography. When I received the prints from this film, I was annoyed at the glitch in this one image. However, four decades on, I feel that this imperfection makes the photograph perfect for me.  It showed me that with a camera, it was possible to capture a sense of time and space that could last a lifetime.

This year I returned to the region for the first time since I made this photo and I was excited to recapture this moment.  Of course that is not possible, just like standing in the same river twice. However, I managed to make a photo of a past moment, which is now destined to become a new memory.

Both photos were taken in the Fiesch region, Valais, Switzerland, 1972 & 2017

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Fabulous 2016!

Photography helps me to make some sort of sense of the world!  With every photo that I make, I take small steps in interpreting and connecting with my environment and the people that I encounter. In the last year I have experienced some major lifestyle changes. I moved interstate and am now back living in a city.  After almost fifteen years in a small coastal town, I love the vibrancy of living in a more multicultural place – it feels like home.

I have been a regular visitor to South Korea for many years and 2016 was no exception when I spent five weeks photographing and exploring the east coast from Busan up to the North Korean border. Korea continues to be a favourite place to visit and photograph.

During my stay in Korea I received news that my eldest daughter was going to have a baby!  The happy thought of a new member in the family has warmly coloured the feel of this last year and we are looking forward to greeting our first grandchild later this month!

The past twelve months seemed to be dominated with kids and dogs.  Despite the old warning to ‘never work with children and animals,’ this was exactly what we seemed to have done for a big part of the year.  Not only did my youngest daughter come home with a rescue dog, hello Maxi!, my wife and I finished the year off with a ‘Healthy Dogs, Healthy Peoples’ project in far north Queensland.  Working in a remote aboriginal community was a rewarding and challenging opportunity and for us another chance to use storytelling and photography as a form of  communication.

Every year I try and select a set of photographs that best reflect the past year. Here are 16 from 2016.

Deadly Dogs!

From the moment I took my seat I knew this flight was different to all the previous ones I had flown on.  For a start, the first class passengers were wearing high visibility vests, not suits, half of my fellow travellers wore embroidered polo shirts or sporting team regalia and a small minority were on crutches. There was no mistaking, I was on a regional flight heading to one of Australia’s remote regions, to be precise, Lockhart River, a coastal Aboriginal community situated on the eastern coast of Cape York Peninsula in Queensland, Australia.

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The Great Barrier Reef

 

This is also the northernmost town on the east coast of Australia and together with my wife Morgan, I am travelling there to start an arts based education program.  The ‘Healthy Dogs, Healthy People’ project aims to raise awareness about the importance of animal care as a key element in achieving a healthy community.  I have been employed to use photography as a way to communicate this message.

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Storytelling Session

The town’s population of approximately 600 people consists of a mix of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and a small number of non-Aboriginal people working primarily in the service and education sector.  There are also about 1000 dogs in the community! There were some initial ‘eye-rolls’ when we introduced ourselves as artists promoting animal de-sexing, de-worming and de-bunking some myths around caring for dogs.

However, after our first week in the community we have established some trust with key people and are now part of a team of dog champions.  We’ve sung some *deadly songs, and told dog stories with the kids and lined up models for a photo shoot.`

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Puppy Love!

Added to this we have managed to not get bitten by or catch any diseases from the dogs and most importantly not run over any. When it’s 35 degrees, dogs (and puppies) hang out underneath cars!

We are now back in Brisbane for a week to plan the next course of action.  Our original plan of a dog show and a book have now given away to a calendar and a mural, but we are still working on that killer rap and deadly photo!

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The Kids Club in Lockhart River

* ‘deadly’ is an aboriginal expression for cool, excellent or top.

The Ghosts Of Okpo Land – Abandoned Amusement Park In South Korea

I am a regular traveller to South Korea. On Geoje Island, I learned of an abandoned amusement park overlooking the town. The fun park, called Okpo Land, had been closed down in 1999 due to a series of accidents, the last when a young girl tragically fell to her death from a ride.

The park, perched on top of a hill, was in the process of being reclaimed by the surrounding bushland. Although it was deserted, graffti, rubbish and empty beer bottles were evidence that it was still being used as a ‘fun park.’ On that day, I was the only person there, but I had an eerie feeling that I was not alone. Was it my imagination, or was there really a restless spirit inhabiting the area?

I have since returned to Geoje Island but Okpo Land has now been demolished to make room for a hotel. To honour the people who died at this site, author and storyteller Morgan Schatz Blackrose, and I have published a book dedicated to the lost souls of Okpo Land. You can download it as a PDF file for free here:  carousel

Suburban Masters

Test your knowledge of a few 20th century artists and their works.  On a recent walk around a typical Australian suburb, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a host of hitherto unknown works of 20th century masters. Now my appetite is whetted I shall endeavour to unearth more of these lost treasures.

Merci Marc!

There he was, climbing up a wall with a ladder to get a better view of what was on the other side. A quote stated something along the lines of ‘there are times you have to change the viewpoint to get the right image’.  This small image of photographer Marc Riboud demonstrating how he created some of his iconic photos, struck a chord with me.  I was in China visiting the 2010 exhibition: THE INSTINCTIVE MOMENT – A Retrospective, at the Shanghai Art Museum.  I was aware of his more famous photos, the Eiffel Tower painter, the woman placing the flower in the gun and the fabulously framed antique shop dealer photo from Beijing. These images by the renowned Magnum photographer were all there to see.

Shanghai was about to host the World Expo and the city was busy’ cleaning up’ its urban spaces.  This translated to, among other things, the destruction of many old, traditional neighbourhoods, the so-called Longtangs.  The homes were bulldozed and the occupants moved into new high-rise buildings.

Prior to seeing the Riboud exhibition, I snuck into an old Longtang neighbourhood that was in the process of being demolished.  To my surprise, there were still people living among the rubble, refusing to move. I spend a couple of hours taking photos and got out before I ran into trouble with the local authorities.

Having seen Riboud’s photos, many taken in China between 1957-2002, I kept thinking about that little photo of him looking over the wall.  This was a metaphor for me, to look beyond the obvious and to take some risks in my photography.  The next day I went back to the Longtang to take more photos.  As I wandered among the rubble, I saw it, a wall that prevented me from seeing what lay beyond it.  Instinctively I climbed it to look over.  The moment I had reached the top I saw a lone man cycling past a grand old house that was still standing. I lifted the camera and captured a photo that to this day I will remember as my Marc Riboud moment.

Merci Marc, you inspired me to focus closer on the moment and the emotions that can be found within that reality.

“Seeing is the paradise of the soul.”

Marc Riboud
(24.06.1923 – 30.08.2016)

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‘Merci Marc’ by Roman W. Schatz, Shanghai 2010