Dampier Salt

Here’s another couple of shots taken from the early morning shoot at Dampier Salt on Day 2 of the photography trip. Not exactly sure what Peter Eastway is up to, but Christian appears amused.

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.

Pilbara Time

T-shirt modified by A.B.

When it comes to Port Hedland I wear my heart on my sleeve.

Over the past two years or so Hedland has become such a  part of me that I’ve become immersed in this surreal place – so different from anything I’ve ever experienced. It’s ingrained in all of my senses: red dirt, mammoth skies, searing heat, sea breeze, the horns of  trains and ships sounding in the dark, a horizon flecked with lights.

The pointed intersection of sand, red dirt, industry and sea fascinates me. As does the notion of the weather dictating everyday life – from November to March air conditioning becomes a luxury that we cling to as best we can, and come winter there’s barely a moment spent indoors as we try to soak up as much of the outdoors as possible.

For me the Pilbara engages an unabashed mix of beauty and brazenness that can leave me exhausted but always wanting more. Most people come here with the aim to leave but find themselves enveloped in an unlikely comfort that seems to make time go by with the blink of an eye. Perhaps this is the true meaning of ‘Pilbara time’ – the phrase originally coined to reflect the laidback attitude and diregard for real time that Pilbarians frequently display.

All I know is I came to Hedland for six months and more than two years later I’m still here…

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

Opening night

Tony Hewitt addresses the opening night crowds in the Gallery gardens. Photo by Rob Cameron.

The Courthouse Gallery was the place to be last Thursday as a 550-strong crowd turned out for the opening of ‘I took the time to look’: perspectives of the Pilbara and From Somewhere Else.

Both exhibitions showcase the wealth of local talent in Hedland with ‘I took the time to look’: perspectives of the Pilbara featuring images captured throughout the 2009 P.H.otography program and From Somewhere Else showing artwork by local artists Nicole Yardley, Leny Davis, James Reus and Pam Armstrong.

The night kicked off with attendees taking in the stunning works whilst enjoying a glass of bubbly or two – and squeezing into the photo booth in the Gallery gardens provided by BHP Billiton Iron Ore principal supporter of the Gallery and P.H.otography program.

Speeches by John Slaven Chief Development Officer BHP Billiton Iron Ore, renowned Western Australian photographer Tony Hewitt and Hon Norman Moore MLC highlighted the sense of town pride and appreciation of the Pilbara region that both exhibitions had captured with Tony urging the crowd to ‘take the time to look’ at their surroundings.

We always look forward to our opening nights at the Gallery – the chance to share the creativity of others with the wider community is an absolute pleasure and definitely a highlight in my time spent in the Pilbara. The Gallery becomes a hive of excitement and the positive energy of the experience is electric. 

Since opening night we’ve had an amazing response to the exhibitions with people travelling from across the Pilbara to take in the stunning images and artworks on show.

Pilbara After Dark

Pilbara evenings are never dull. Amidst the humidity is the constant undercurrent of adventure and the lure of the unknown. Once the sun sinks beneath the red earth the moonlight holds court, your surroundings melt away and the possibilities seem endless.

Throw your arms around some of the most amazing people you will ever meet. The air is thick with heat and the scent of the sea. Mix up a Finucane Island Ice Tea, potent lovechild of too much fun and whatever’s in the kitchen. Clear some space for a makeshift dance floor. Let your hair stick to your skin. Pile in for a midnight road trip out bush.  Swim in dark waters. A stubbie holder is essential.

There’s an unspoken camaraderie that can only be experienced by those living in the Pilbara – a ‘we’re in this together’ bond that ties each person to the next. It’s an inexplicable affinity that embraces you and leaves you breathless, wondering how you could have ever lived anywhere but here.

A New Pilbara Experience

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.

I lived in a new development on the outskirts of Hermosillo where cinderblock houses were erected daily in the liminal space between the city and the 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 1: Peter Eastway shooting around Port Hedland

Day 1: Harbour tour of Port Hedland

Day 2: Making our way to Karratha

Day 2: Stopping at every panoramic view along the way

Day 2: Les Walkling in Cossack

Day 2: Michael Fletcher and P.H.otography graduates

Day 3: Tony Hewitt and Christian Fletcher touring the Dampier Archipelago

Day 4: Storm chasing on the way to Marble Bar

Day 4: Evening shoot at Marble Bar

Day 5: Morning shoot at Marble Bar

Day 5: Les at Marble Bar Pool

Day 5: Michael filming near Comet Gold Mine

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.

The past week has been an amazing experience.  Although we travelled non-stop, it only showed me how much more is out there.  It has been very humbling traveling with this group of photographers.  I am trying to decide if it is a comfort or discouragement that they even at times have difficulty capturing what lay before us.  I am traveling light as usual, using the Olympus E-P1 with the collapsible M. Zuiko 14-42mm lens.  Further observations on each of the photographers will be posted soon.

Day 6: Tony giving advice after the 'Meet the Photographers' event

Day 7: Final thoughts at the airport

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