Outback & Country
The term ‘Outback’ is usually considered colloquially as the name applied to the vast, unpopulated and mainly arid areas that comprise Australia’s interior and remote coasts. ‘Country’, another colloquially used word, is also applied variably. As a significant publisher of Australiana over the decades, I have always thought of both words ‘outback’ and ‘country’ as more applicable to the relationship between open spaces and human endeavour. Outback, more attuned towards arid remoteness and country perhaps more rurally connected; of course, no rules apply. And so throughout my work as a roving image-maker of all things Australian, I have, over many years, enjoyed writing about photographing and publishing those social and historical elements – pubs, trains, paddle-wheelers, colonial buildings and so on – as well as human land-based endeavours – agricultural and livestock-related images – broadly under these categories. These are just a few pieces that awoke the artist within.
Australian Horse Culture
Many storytelling themes can be applied to photographing Australians, but perhaps none is more obvious or more visually appealing than that of Australia’s working horse culture.
These images are from an assignment I carried out early in my career. It was to photograph the outback Australian way of life and the book simply titled OUTBACK. I spent a year wandering the back blocks, but sadly the publisher who commissioned the contract went broke. Two years later, in 1986, I published Photographing Australia, which contained many of the images. As a city-bred boy, I was fascinated with the silent bond these men, women, and adolescent children had with their horses and with the often very harsh lands they occupied. Since that trip, I have seen horse musters fade as helicopters, quad bikes, trail bikes, and drones have taken their place. Nonetheless, horses remain central to the cultural and social events you will encounter as you travel the Australian outback.
While I was travelling I read and reread Mary Durack’s famous book Kings in Grass Castles. This iconic book, now a TV series, recounts the early European settlement of the Australian outback by cattle graziers. The underlying theme was how Mary’s father, Patrick Durack, regarded the role of women and families in the pastoral industry and the collaboration and respect that developed between the pastoralists and local Aborigines. This was a period in Australian history when settlers were responsible for some of Australia’s darkest history – a history of many massacres and displacements of entire Indigenous communities.
Queenslander architecture is a term for the type of architecture of Queensland. Also found in the northern parts of New South Wales it shares many traits with architecture in other states of Australia but is distinct and unique. The Queenslander style was developed in the 1840s and is still constructed today, displaying an evolution of local style. A term that is primarily applied to residential construction, although some commercial and other types of structure are identified as Queenslander. This beautiful old Queenslander is located at Maryvale. The land around Maryvale was first occupied by white settlers in the early 1840’s and the land around Maryvale was acquired by Arnold Weinholt in 1849. In 1853 Maryvale is recorded as having an area of 20,000 acres and a carrying capacity of 6000 sheep.
Denningtons Cottage was constructed in 1858 and is part of the department’s Conservation Lease Program, where members of the public submit proposals to conserve the property in exchange for a long term lease. This property is Denningtons Cottage is a quaint historical house of Hill End that has become a haven for ceramic artists. Originally built in 1858 as a miner’s cottage, it withstands as a historical snapshot of the living conditions of those seeking their fortune during the gold rush period of the late 1800s.
Homes, once filled with love, laughter and I am sure tears, provide alluring subjects.
These elegant old buildings are very much part of Australian cultural heritage. The pub was, and in many places still is, the pivotal meeting place of any community. Pub bulletin boards function as their own “bush telegraph”, alerting locals to events, announcements, sales, and notices for the wider community, which sometimes stretches hundreds of kilometres.
Murray River Heritage
While there are many localities along the River Murray boasting heritage displays, even entire recreated historical village attractions, as far as the world of paddle wheelers is concerned, none rival Echuca. Abandoned, refurbished, and replica vessels present lovely subjects for artists of all disciplines. Echuca was founded by one of the most enterprising characters of the early colonial days, an ex-convict named Henry Hopwood. In 1850 he bought a small punt, which operated across the Murray River near the Campaspe Junction. Originally known as “Hopwood’s Ferry” the name was changed to Echuca as the town grew.
Heritage Towns & Settlements
Australia’s 200-plus-year colonial history is recorded in country towns, museums around the country. You will find everything from National Trust and government-funded museums to privately owned historical bottles, clocks, clothing, lighting, and car collections.
Above left: Tanunda is a town situated in the Barossa Valley region of South Australia, 70 kilometres north-east of the state capital, Adelaide. The town derives its name from an Aboriginal word meaning water hole.
Above right: Richmond Bridge and St John’s Church Richmond are both historical icons in Tasmania. Richmond Village is one of Tasmania’s most popular destinations, located just 20 mins from Hobart and renowned for its beautifully preserved Georgian architecture, including Australia’s oldest bridge.
The blacksmith was a very important tradesman in the 19th Century and would often be a ‘Jack-of-all-trades’ in townships. Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village in Warrnambool is a beautiful place to inspire artistic work.
A rich tapestry of early Tasmanian history is encapsulated at Brickendon, one of World Heritage Australia’s finest pastoral and agricultural industry properties.
Although much of my landscape work has focused on the natural landscapes, the vast “in-betweens” pass-through country towns, endless rural properties, swathes of the outback, and heritage-listed reminders of nationhood.