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Drought from the inside looking out: How farmers' amateur photography adds new perception

Charlie McKillop, Wednesday November 14, 2018 - 17:05 EDT
Audience submitted image
Photographers were encouraged to gain unique perspectives of scenes from their everyday lives. - Audience submitted

When your our own backyard is a massive drought-stricken landscape, telling your own story through photography can be great therapy.

Taking the dogs for a run and checking troughs, Kerry Davison looked up and reached instinctively for her camera.

"It was a wild, windy Saturday morning and the clouds were an incredible formation and I just stopped and looked. I knew I had to take a photo of it because that was my backyard," she said.

"Every day's that little bit different. We don't have cloud too much so when we do have cloud we get a little bit excited and look for it."

These days, the camera is never far away as she goes about her daily routine on her four-wheeler.

Ms Davison and a dozen other neighbours, colleagues and friends in the tight-knit community of Hughenden have, for the past six months, been working together on a project entitled My Backyard.

With drought support funding from the Flinders Shire Council, professional photographers Cathy Friel and Roslyn Budd were enlisted from 400 kilometres away in Townsville to teach workshop participants how to use their cameras and get the most of out of their shots.

Online support was also provided to get the budding photographers to the point of editing, managing and printing their own images, culminating in an exhibition launch last week.

"They needed to start being more evaluative about their images," Ms Friel said.

"Working out what made a good image and what made an image not work so well is a big step forward.

"And I can see the joy they're getting from the prints tonight [at the launch]. I think they're going to be highly motivated now."

Ms Friel grew up on a cattle property at Torrens Creek, not far from Hughenden, and has experienced firsthand the pain of drought.

But she said the driving force behind the project was giving Flinders Shire residents the opportunity to tell their own story.

"I would've been portraying my impression that I get from the outside looking in, and the really exciting thing is this is from the inside looking out," she said.

"These images are beautiful and they're full of joy and there's a lot of reflection and a lot of messages about what they love about living in this area.

"It's really different to what I, or any other professional, would have focussed on."

Beauty in the landscapes

While drought might be an underlying theme, My Backyard was able to capture a unique insight into the complexity of the landscapes, relationships and personalities of the town.

"There's a lot of beauty — whether there's water or not. You learn to see it," said amateur photographer Olivia Price.

As a young mother raising her son on the family's property, Ms Price's interest in photography has been taken to a new level.

These days, an encounter with a species of finch on a routine water run takes on new meaning as she crouches for hours in the dirt, stalking her target through the lens of her camera.

"They're super fast and a bit hard to capture, but I finally got a few good ones," she laughed.

Back on Nocoleche Station, as the scorching ball of the sun sinks below the horizon, Kerry Davison surveys the landscape. This is her 'happy hour'.

As the cattle leave water troughs and head out to graze in the cooler twilight hours, she said it was easier to contemplate the possibilities of a new day after seven years of relentless drought.

"Yeah, middle of the day's not much chop," Ms Davison said.

"But the end of the day, and the beginning of the day, it just gives you a bit of heart that there's something a bit softer about the land rather than the harshness that gets you down."


© ABC 2018

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