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.
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.
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
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.
One of the four photographers asked to participate in this project is Les Walkling. An incredibly nice guy who is passionate about photography in its purist, artistic form. A stickler for pushing quality in photography to the limit and an amazing communicator.
I have included what I thought was a typical Les response to my question. “Les, why aren’t you taking any photo’s” Only Les could of come up with such an intelligent reasoned response.
He was blown away by the Pilbara. It was his first trip to this region and it left an indelible impression on him.
See the clip here
Our trip out to Pardoo Station offered up all sorts of cool stuff. The best thing was it delayed us enough to capture that amazing storm seen in Peters earlier post. I never thought I would like a pile of old tyres but this is kind of nice. That is laymans terms for s#*t hot. Ok, I was never good with big words. Les help me out here!!
Feb. 1, 2010. Today is my first day of work. I recently joined the team at FORM out of desire to work in regional Australia. However, my prior experience traveling in Western Australia hasn’t brought me further North than the beaches of Dongara, further East than the farming communities surrounding Northam, or further South than the wineries enveloping Margaret River.
Previous to making Australia my home, I lived for a couple years in the Northern desert region of Mexico where I taught art at a University in Hermosillo. When I first entered Mexico, I considered myself primarily a painter, with photography playing a supporting role. After months of struggling to find my way with paint, photography soon became my dominant means to interpret the world around me. The sublime landscape was filled with contradictions, bending my logic of space, colour and texture. But rather than try capture what can’t be contained, my lens would find its way to the periphery, the small edges and ruptures appearing on the endless horizon.
Now after living in Australia for a couple years, the smell of oils and turpentine once again pervade my studio. We will soon see if the Pilbara air has the same affect on me as the Sonoran Desert.
Day 1: Not long after we landed in Port Hedland, the group of photographers and filmmakers spread throughout the port. The group includes Peter Eastway, Les Walkling, Tony Hewitt, Christian Fletcher, Michael Fletcher and local P.H.otography graduates Nicole, Simon, Faye and Judith.
Day 6: My first trip up to the Pilbara is beginning to wind down and this is the last day of shooting. I will be spending much of the day in the Courthouse Gallery, surrounded by the brilliant P.H.otography exhibit (‘I Took The Time To Look’ Perspectives of the Pilbara), which had a grand opening last night. Hopefully we will see a great showing for the ‘Meet the Photographers’ event tonight as well.