Pilbara Project Exhibition opening at FORM Gallery

On February 10, the Pilbara Project launched its first exhibition “52 Weeks On: A Pilbara Project Exhibition” at the newly renovated FORM Gallery in Perth.  The exhibition also opened the following night at the Courthouse Gallery in Port Hedland, details shown on the previous blog post here.

Tony speaking along with the rest of the artists

The exhibition features new photography and film by renowned artists Les Walkling, Tony Hewitt, Christian Fletcher, Michael Fletcher and Peter Eastway.  It is curated by William L. Fox, Director of the Art + Environment at the Nevada Museum of Art.  More details on the exhibition can be found here.

Squeezing in to see Michael's film launch

Les talking with filmmaker Curtis Taylor

Hon Troy Buswell MLA opening the exhibition

The book launch for “The Pilbara Project: Field Notes and Photographs Collected over 2010” was also a great success, with the artists on hand for signing.

Photographs by Michelle Taylor

Pardoo Station

I lived and worked at Pardoo station back in 2008. I had the time of my life while there.  I wish I could tell you every little detail about it, as every day was the most amazing adventure, but I’m gonna have to just pick a few of my favourites…

The gate coming back into the homestead from the tracks out to the rivers

At the station we had a small shop which sold just the essentials ie milk, bread, fishing tackle, soap etc.  Every day we had Aboriginal communities come in to buy goods.  The little children would run into the store with the biggest smiles on their faces!  My partner and I became quite friendly with one particular community who were in every day. They taught us what we could make out of every tree we pointed to, which goanna to eat, and how to hunt and track. They were always so happy and friendly, Always up for a laugh. I learnt alot about the Aussie outback, and myself with all of their visits. I am so eager to get back to the station and see if they remember me.

These cows walked for 2 hours to get to the water trough

Each day at the station was always completely different. When I tell someone I worked at a cattle station their first reaction almost all of the time is, what could you have possibly done there to make you love it so much, it’s a big dry patch of land, in the middle of nowhere…  But it was the most amazing thing I have ever done. We had many different people coming in every day who we would sit and talk to all night, and hear their amazing stories. The weather was mostly hot and humid, but on the odd occasion we’d be treated to a storm, or an amazing sunset, or rain in amongst the clouds, that would never reach us. We went fishing pretty much everyday, at Pardoo river or Baningarra river. Which always brought something new and amazing to my attention. One day while at Pardoo river I saw a huge stingray jump out of the water! and Baningarra I saw my first sea turtle and Jabiru! When it was low tide we would take some new friends down to Pardoo river and show them how to Mud crab. Which was always so fun. Running through the clay mud and having to climb and jump over big splits made from I guess the mangroves and mudcrabs. where there was one of these big splits in the mud, there would be a mudcrab hole at the end in amongst the mangroves. tiny little bright red crabs with one little claw and one giant one would scatter into their holes when they saw us coming, and all the little mudskippers would jump their way into the water, or into crevasses in the mud.

A mud crab thats missing both his claws

The wildlife at the station always blew me away. I have never experienced anything like it.  All in All Pardoo station is amazing and I believe that everyone needs to experience working on a station. No words can explain working up north. It’s something ya need to see to believe and understand. It’s so peaceful and calming and simply perfect.

"Pardoo Store"

Christian Fletcher Clip

The last and probably most widely known, in these parts anyway, Christian apart from being my twin brother is passionate about photography and being a leader in the craft that is creating a beautiful landscape image.

An inspiration to me and someone I can always rely on to capture the moment like no one else I have witnessed.

Christian has been involved with FORM for a number of years now and is responsible for getting this group of photographers together for such an amazing journey

You can check out his website at www.christianfletcher.com.au

Cast of Characters (Belated Observations)

I wrote this a couple weeks ago, intending to post it, and just today realised that I neglected to do so.  As many of you know, a group of professional photographers and students traipsed through the Pilbara maniacally taking photos – some of which have been appearing on this blog the past couple weeks.

It has been very humbling traveling with the group of photographers including Peter Eastway, Les Walkling, Tony Hewitt, Christian Fletcher and filmmaker Michael Fletcher.  It allowed me to not only see through my own eyes, but also over the shoulder and through the viewfinder of these great imagemakers.  I am trying to decide if it is a comfort or discouragement that even they at times had difficulty capturing what lay before us in the Pilbara.

Christian Fletcher, the fearless leader, is well known to many in the Hedland community from his workshops and many trips to the area.  Knowing the area well, he brought together a superb group of photographers for this project.  While there was great camaraderie and banter between the artists, there was definitely friendly competition as well.  However, Christian was always there to make sure things didn’t become either too serious or silly.  Forever the teacher, he would talk his way through the photographing process, with the students hovering around picking up his knowledge.

Les Walkling, scientist and intellectual, saved his energy by avoiding frivolous banter.  But when he spoke, everyone listening dropped their jaw in either amazement or incomprehension.  A great teacher like Christian, he navigated the balance between technical prowess and conceptual thinking more than anyone else I have worked with, and was more than happy to share this knowledge. When he took a photo, he also became a photo, striking an epic figure in the landscape.

Tony Hewitt was the hardest for me to photograph.  Being primarily a portrait photographer, he would restlessly move in and out of the other people.  Unlike the landscape photographers who set up in a prime vantage point, he would look for the stories in the land as though he were taking a portrait.  A consummate mediator and generous of spirit, he always made sure the group was happy.  This is why he is one of the most sought-after photographers and public speakers in Western Australia.

Like Tony, Peter Eastway was also difficult for me to track.  He would immediately disappear when we reached a new location.  After a bit of searching, he could  be found in a prime location away from the others, discovering a sublime panorama or a gentle image of solitude in the vast horizon.  He  knew when he had a good picture, and didn’t waste his time if the light wasn’t perfect or the feeling wasn’t there.  These skills of discernment help make him one of Australia’s best photographers, as well as publisher of two of the most important Australian photography magazines.

Michael Fletcher, like most great filmmakers, studies how the scenery unfolds.  He can predict when something interesting is about to happen, and be at the perfect place to capture it.  Always watching, silently listening, he looks for the subtle moments or dramatic events that a single frame cannot interpret.  Working with manual focus, which is unique to many filmmakers, he is able to articulate the point between the vastness and intimacy of the landscape.

What reminded me I haven’t posted the above thoughts yet was that Mags from FORM just left for the Pilbara today with a new batch of professionals – two writers, a poet, a painter and another photographer.  I look forward to seeing and reading what they experience.  However, we will not forget the above mentioned photographers (and filmmaker), all of which promised to return to the Pilbara again soon.

Iron Clad

Where else would could you go and expect to find the winter Olympics on the TV, miners, construction workers, families, old timers, and a Scottish bar maid? If you guessed the Iron Clad Hotel in Marble Bar you would be right.

The Iron Clad, looks like it has seen many a year, and is frequented by all. The hamburgers were good and the drinks were cold, an important thing in the hottest town in Australia.

Burnt Trees and Red Dirt

Everything out here reminds you of the constant struggle for water and fertile soil, but to add to trials, there is the constant threat of fire.

This was on the return journey from marble, and panorama from 9 vertical images. The temperature only reached 44 according to the car yesterday, but changing the flat tyre was still no fun :)

The Pilbara Project Part II

Well following on from the outing on Sunday with Nicole, we have managed to put together the sequel to Michael’s teaser, while it may not be in the same league (yet) it was a bit of fun whilst out taking some stills.

The Pilbara Project Part II from Chris Fox on Vimeo.

The Pilbara Project Part II, not quite as good as Michael’s work, but you have to start somewhere

Any comments or pointers appreciated, this was the first movie attempt, with footage from Nic’s 5D and from my D5000, and put together with iMovie.

Stills to follow later :)

The Pilbara Project Teaser

The Pilbara Project from Michael Fletcher on Vimeo.

Well here it is. A post at last. In my defense editing video is a longer process than editing one still image at a time. Those stills guys, Tony, Les, Christian, and Peter have it easy.

It was a real honor to be involved with “The Pilbara Project” and many thanks go to FORM for giving me the opportunity to hang out with some amazing photographers and not just the professional ones. It was also great to see the graduates of the previous photographic courses enjoying the experience of shooting with the pros and not being intimidated by their experience.

This clip though short took a lot of time to produce and I am already seeing ways I could of done it better but it’s just a taste of what is to come. I have hours of footage and audio to sort through and hope to add to the project in future visits to the Pilbara with my new mates Les, Tony, Peter x2, Carolyn, Linda, Jane, Faye, Judith, Nicole, and Simon. Christian didn’t get a mention because he’s my brother not my mate (too long sharing the same room hehe!!) but I must say that he is instrumental in all of us being here and for that reason I think we all cant thank him enough.

Cheers for now guys……

Mike Fletcher

Chinaman’s Pool

When we visited Marble Bar last week I told the guys they have to see Chinaman’s Pool.  I described to them this beautiful water hole with green grass to the water’s edge.  I even mentioned the couple of resident horses who always turn up when you go there.  (They even chewed on our car mirror one time). 

Imagine my shock and horror when we arrived at the pool to find it all but empty.  The green grass was now dust and there was not a horse in sight!  I said to Peter & Judith, “these guys are never going to believe anything I tell them now”. 

So I had to post this photo to prove I really did see what I said I saw haha.  It was taken in 2007 and you can even see the horse in the centre of the photo towards the back.  Thanks for being so great about it everyone :)


*I sat down and wrote this one for my blog as well*

Remember there are many ways to tell a story, even one story can have many takes. Well, this story along with its vastness will always going to be enchanting, exciting and above all unique.

When invited to be part of the Pilbara Project late last year, I was ecstatic to even be selected amidst lots of enthusiastic photographers and I am so honoured to be chosen. Like any other person who first arrived in this town, the thought of spending days in the heat and dust wasn’t very appealing, I soon got distracted after buying my first SLR camera months after we arrived. The view through my lens was much more intriguing and exciting than the heat and red dust. And that was nearly 7 years ago.

Last week was a blast, as the photographers arrived to start The Pilbara Project. It was exciting seeing the town again from fresh new eyes; Eyes that have been honed for decades to see beauty, colour and light. We started with a tour of the town and just minutes after we took off driving around town, I could already sense the excitement the town is bringing to the group. A drive to a very familiar street took new meaning as I study the light that is hitting the buildings and structures. The camera started clicking non-stop until the harbour cruise at sunset.

An early morning shoot kicks off on Monday and a drive to Roebourne took on a new twist as we stop to every photographic location possible, thanks to the pros. Tuesday seen us taking the BHP tour, who is a major sponsor of this project, thanks to their generosity, this project is possible. The next two days were spent driving to and from Marble Bar and experiencing the coming of the thunderstorm first hand (well, more like right there happening in front of me). Thursday also was the opening night of the “I took the time to look” exhibiting photos from last year P.H.otography workshop as well as “From Somewhere Else” painting exhibition from local artists. It was a great night showing all the very talented people in Hedland. We finished off on Friday with a tour of the Port Authority and Dampier Salt as well as a night with the photographers.

It was a week that is truly an experience to be treasured. You remember the time when something happens to you and you know that it will forever stay and be a part of you. I felt that way, I knew my experience last week will shape the kind of photographer I will become in the future. I have learned heaps from each of the photographers and I will always be indebted to them for freely sharing their knowledge to me.

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