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.

Soundtrack To My Youth – Part 6

In a new ancient land

It’s 1983 and I am having to speak English all of the time but that’s good, because now I can!  Three years earlier I had packed my bags, plus one wooden box filled with records, and moved to Australia. I did this all by myself, I left my mother and my younger brother in Switzerland, promising, that I would do all I could to ensure them a visa to migrate as well.  They would join me five years later. I remember my English teacher in Switzerland telling me, that once you dreamt in another language you had mastered it.  It actually only took me about three months to have my first English language dream, I was amazed!  Mind you, I still couldn’t understand a bloody thing.  I think it was more a case of culture shock, rather than me being a language genius.  Besides, when I got off the plane in Melbourne, I first thought that I had travelled to the wrong country. As far as I could work out, no one spoke any recognisable English here!  Australian lingo was a long shot from the nice Oxford style English they tried to teach me in the evening school back in Switzerland.

One of my first jobs was as a delivery driver for a French bakery, the place was run by an erratic, always hung-over French man who simply gave me the job, because I wasn’t an aussie.  Suited me just fine plus, I learned to drive a small truck on the wrong side of the road in a big new city.  What could possibly go wrong!  Besides managing to have a small crash on my first day, all went well! In fact I really loved the job, I was out for most of the day driving around and taking in my new world.  And then there was the car radio, I discovered a small public station, that was obviously the cities lefty voice.  It not only helped me to hone my language skill, I also received an education in humanitarian issues.  And if it wasn’t for 3CR I may have never have heard of Ivor Cutler, the great Scottish poet.  I had been a reggae fan for a number of years but there was one sound I had never heard of before; contemporary Koori music. A mixture of reggae, rock and protest music all held together with the ancient sound of a didgeridoo!  This was a real eye and ear opener for me.

Melbourne had a great live music scene and I was fortunate enough to live only 5 staggers and 3 rolls from a wonderful music venue, run mostly by Maori bikies.  It was here that I discovered my soundtrack for most of the early 1980’s.  I saw this band a couple of times and loved their energy, commitment and passion.  No Fixed Address are now considered an iconic Australian band and this song is bonafide Aboriginal anthem.

No Fixed Address ‘We have survived’

I am here!

I have never really been a nature photographer, actually I don’t even like to classify myself as any ‘kind’ of photographer.  I just take photos of the world around me, wherever I am at the time. When I am not travelling, I live in a small coastal town in Australia.  It’s very easy to go for long walks here and not see another person, but I do encounter a lot of wildlife in the natural environment, so that is what I take photos of.  Every photo I make receives the same attention, whether it is a sentient being, an object or a landscape.  In the end, it’s all part of the same reality.

Photo: Where I was this week!IMG_1776

Walking my camera

One of the most important piece’s of equipment I need as a photographer is a good pair of hiking boots! While the right camera gear ensures I can create the image I want, the boots are essential for reaching my shooting destination comfortably. We have had a lot of rain lately and today’s walk to a nearby wetland rewarded me this image.

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The Compromise

Sometimes it’s difficult for me to decide if an image works better in black and white or in colour. Generally, the colour has to add something to the narrative. When I get an image like this, I don’t have to choose! This is my idea of a coloured black and white image.

Mid North Coast, NSW, Australia.SONY DSC