The series I am currently working on for my thesis is based on research into massacres and murders of Aboriginal people by the early Colonial settlers.
My step-family are from the Taungurung clan from the Yea- Kilmore area and they have stories of such traumas handed down through the surviving generations.
I was never taught about this side of history at school, and many people I’ve talked to have no idea of these events.
I wanted to find these hidden parts of history and create an awareness that they did indeed happen, and that we should be acknowledging them and confronting what has happened, and not trying to erase history or change it.
My technique involves initially a lot of research.
I’m using some modern research available to give me initial places to begin, which then leads to searching through old newspapers, journals and books to find records written at the actual time.
The records are quite vague generally, so narrowing down locations to an exact point are impossible in most cases, so once I have a general vicinity narrowed down as much as I possibly can, I’ll google maps the area and find a location within it that has something in it that calls to me. I then travel to this area and photograph it using an old-style camera and special techniques that cause the photograph to take several minutes to be taken.
In this time, rather than just obtaining a snapshot, a snippet of time itself is recorded.
Trees sway, water rushes by, birds and sheep disappear into the landscape, sometimes even a car or person will go through and have disappeared in the final image.
The images are processed in a traditional darkroom using chemicals and water in a special formulation which gives the unique texture and stains to the images.
From start to end the whole process is random as to what I’ll end up with. It can be nerve-wracking hoping I’ll end up with something usable!
The finished images fit into the genre of aftermath photography.
This is a new genre and one which I’m focusing my research on significantly as there has been little done within the area in Australian photography.
Most so far has been centred around Germany and the landscapes where concentration camps once stood.
The main aspect of it is to show past traumatic events through landscape photography, where no sign of the event, no people, no violence, is actively shown.
It’s a way of breaking through the sense of detachment we’ve built up from the constant stream of violence and horror we get shown daily, by making the viewer confront the trauma by having to put themselves into the image and imagine the event – to see the invisible as it were.
Using my techniques, I feel that this invisible world is there on the image, just waiting to be seen from the corner of the eye, and it’s my hope that it will start a conversation where we can face the realities of our past and the wrongs that were done.