Monthly Archives: May 2011

Hot photography…

While in Perth a couple of weeks ago, I had the dubious pleasure of being on the other side of the camera when I was photographed by Nic Ellis, a photojournalist with the West Australian newspaper. He had generously organised a foundry for me to shoot in for my long-term project, This Working Life and had also deemed my project newsworthy enough for the paper.

For a photojournalist, being photographed from time-to-time is probably good for the soul, a pin-prick to the balloon of our vanity and certainly good for understanding of what we often put our subjects through. Now I’ll do anything to help a fellow PJ get the picture they want, but I found this particular instance especially uncomfortable.

This was nothing to do with Nic. He is a sensitive and highly skilled shooter. It was more to do with the particular subject matter we were dealing with. It was hot in that foundry. After all they were melting steel. To get the particular effect he wanted meant placing me very close to several furnaces. The peculiarly pained expression on my face is just that: pain. I was waiting for my shirt to start smouldering and smoke to curl around my head.

Portrait by Nic Ellis © West Australian Newspapers 2011

Don’t get me wrong, Nic. I’m not complaining. It really was a great experience being photographed by you and it added to my fund of anecdotes from this trip to Western Australia. That foundry also provided be with some fine pictures for my project. Thank you, and I hope to return the favour when I come back in September. Maybe you could pose for me up to your neck in freezing water at an oyster farm, or something like that?

For the full story in the West Australian go here.

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Filed under art, Australia, Australian, Autobiography, Digital photography, documentary photography, Photographer, Photography, Photojournalism, portraits, Rob Walls

Some postcards from Kal’…

Have been less than 48 hours in the vibrant gold mining city of Kalgoorlie and already have pictures to post:

It takes an hour for these giant ore trucks to drive from the bottom to the top of the Superpit at Kalgoorlie © Rob Walls 2011

A family watching work below in the Superpit © Rob Walls 2011

Kalgoorlie is famous for the pubs of Hannan Street. The Exchange Hotel in the late afternoon light © Rob Walls 2011

Bar staff at The Exchange © Rob Walls 2011

The Palace Hotel has a constant update on the gold price on its facade © Rob Walls 2011

The top end of Hannan Street, Kalgoorlie © Rob Walls 2011

The facade of the Questa Casa bordello in Hay Street © Rob Walls 2011

No longer quite the rip-roaring town it used to be, a resident takes his dogs for a quiet walk on Hannan Street at sunset. I did note though, that they were a matched pair of Dobermann. © Rob Walls 2011

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Filed under Australia, Australian, Digital photography, documentary photography, Photographer, Photography, Photojournalism, Rob Walls, Stock photography, travel

What’s the best thing that happened to you today?

About three years ago, while travelling in Borneo with my son, Kim, we befriended a Canadian couple, Carol Mah and Warren Duggan. We hung out together for a few days, bonded by a shared love of music and cold beer. Carol introduced us to a delightful custom. As we raised the first large beer at the end of the day, we would each, in turn, tell each other what the best thing was that had happened to us that day.

Well, today, I was photographing the huge open cut gold mine at Kalgoorlie, known as the Superpit, when an African childrens’ choir disembarked from a large bus to view the mine. Beautiful children; the boys with shaven heads and the girls with tightly-braided hair, they chattered happily as they gazed down into this enormous hole. Well, Carol and Warren, the best thing that happened to me today, was when their choir-mistress called them together and they gave an impromptu performance to the dozen or so of us gathered on the viewing platform.

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If you would like to share my delight and hear the Watoto Childrens’ Choir go here.

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Filed under Australia, Australian, Biography, Digital photography, documentary photography, Music, Photographer, Photography, Photojournalism, Rob Walls

Postcards – travelling West to East…(Part one)

A kitchen hand takes a smoke break outside Gino's in Fremantle © Rob Walls 2011

I thanked the owner of this 1978 Mustang for providing this visual treat © Rob Walls 2011

High risk activity © Rob Walls 2011

Wave Rock. One stock shot I can claim is model released © Rob Walls 2011

Life is stranger than fiction in Corrigin © Rob Walls 2011

They love their dogs out Corrigin way © Rob Walls 2011

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Filed under art, Australia, Australian, Digital photography, documentary photography, Photographer, Photography, Photojournalism, Rob Walls, Stock photography, travel

Taking the high ground…

What do you do when signs like this condemn you to staying in heavy metal suburbia? Acres and rows of caravans, SUVs, Winnebagos and mobile homes?

© Rob Walls 2011

I’m getting the impression that every morning in Australia entire tribes of grey nomads uproot themselves and move off in a clockwise direction around Australia, like those great swirling schools of fish that are rounded up by dolphins. Millions upon millions of dollars, entire cities on the move each day.

The night before last, I complied for a single night for $45 for a “powered site”; a place to pitch my swag, park my truck and charge my computer, take a shower and walk 150 metres every time I wanted to take a piss. Faced with those kind of options, there is only one choice for me, become an outlaw.

Suburbia on wheels © Rob Walls 2011

In Exmouth, Western Australia, the tourist guide books recommended watching the sunrise falling on the ridges at Shothole Canyon in the Cape Range National Park. After doing a recce during the day, I calculated both sunset and sunrise would be good,. But risking driving in the dark over several miles of rough gravel road regularly crossed by kangaroos and stray livestock seemed a logical justification for ignoring the law. So, I found myself a well-concealed little campsite, well off the road, a few hundred metres from the canyon and pitched my swag to wait for the light.

My campsite at sundown © Rob Walls

I know which of these two campsites will linger in my memory.

Taking the high ground in Cape Range National Park © Rob Walls 2011

Late afternoon sky Shothole Canyon, Cape Range National Park, Western Australia from my elevated ridge © Rob Walls 2011

The brightest stars of the Southern Cross linger in the morning sky above my campsite as the sun begins to comee over the ridge © Rob Walls 2011

My camp at 6.30am, Cape Range National Park WA © Rob Walls 2011

The morning sun clips the range tops, Cape Range National Park, Western Australia © Rob Walls 2011

The irresistible self-portrait of every solo travelling photographer at sunrise © Rob Walls 2011

I could write a lengthy diatribe about loss of freedom, the shrinking of our horizons, the nanny state, but if I did, I’d have to admit that part of the enjoyment is in defying the restrictions that would corral us all in fenced-off, controlled areas where one’s wallet is captive to the conventional.

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Filed under Australia, Australian, Digital photography, documentary photography, Photographer, Photography, Photojournalism, Stock photography, travel

Objects in the landscape…

While driving along this morning on my way to Exmouth (for some odd reason pronounced X-Mouth, not X-muth) I was listening to that jingoistic ABC program “Australia all Over” delivered by the irrepressible Macca (a man who seems to prefer to be known by this puerile diminutive; Macca, rhymes with okker). Anyway, amongst all the syrupy Mother’s Day filler that was supposed to bring a lump to our collective Antipodean throats, he threw in Dorothea McKellar’s reading of her own poem, “My Country”Ah, patriotism, the last refuge of the scoundrel, as Samuel Johnson once claimed.

Most Australian and many non-Australian children have at some time had this sentimentally dreary doggerel pushed down their throats and it was with highly conflicted emotions that I drove along Highway One to the educated and rather un-Australian tones of dear old Dot as she recited her most well-known verses. On the one hand I was moved by passing through the “sunburnt country, the land of sweeping plains”, she described.  On the other hand I saw that poem as the anthem of those who would wrap themselves in the flag while pushing away the boats of refugees, reluctant to share the love of this “wide brown land” with anyone other than those born here.

I had been increasingly experiencing the narrowing horizons of this wide brown land. “No overnight stopping”, “No camping except in official campsites”. No this, no that, no entry, no cameras, no fires,etc etc.  McKellar, in the final lines of her poem says,

“Though earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.”

There will  soon be sign that says “No homing thoughts without a permit”

Well that was a somewhat discursive rant as I sit here in an “official” campsite in Exmouth Shire surrounded by the monster 4WDs and caravans of the grey nomads. I know where I would rather wake up and that is where I was yesterday and this morning. In the lee of some white barked eucalypts watching the rising sun colour the nearby ranges, in an “unofficial” illegal campsite I had found for myself on the banks of the Fortesque River, far enough from the road to make the sound of the passing road trains no more than a sibilant surfing whisper.

So finally, here are a few objects I discovered by the roadside in McKellar’s sunburnt country…

No loaves? © Rob Walls 2011

Obviously someone doesn't love this sunburnt country © Rob Walls 2011

A symbol of progress or oppression? © Rob Walls 2011

And finally, one for the family. Yes I'm OK. With one of the hundreds of termite nests that stand like sentinel terracotta warriors on the approaches to Exmouth, Western Australia © Rob Walls 2011

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Filed under art, Australia, Australian, Digital photography, documentary photography, Opinion, Photographer, Photography, Photojournalism, Rob Walls

Visual musing on the Great Northern Highway…

Set off from Perth three days ago. First stop, the Benedictine monastery at New Norcia. Spent two nights camped in the bush, as I covered the 1650 kilometres to the iron-ore exporting town of Port Hedland in the Pilbara. Here is a set of pictures from my exploration of this out-of-the-way part of Australia. For those of you who feel that there are just too many pictures of me, this IS my blog, and it’s my way of keeping in touch with family I miss and haven’t seen in over a month.

Checking in to the New Norcia Hotel connected to the old Spanish mission and Benedictine monastery at New Norcia © Rob Walls 2011

All things to all people. Facade, Mt Magnet © Rob Walls 2011

Some meaty alliteration in Mount Magnet © Rob Walls 2011

My camp about 30 km north of Meekatharra © Rob Walls 2011

I guess in a landscape where is the custom to shoot-up roadsigns, this might be considered an intelligent diversionary tactic © Rob Walls 2011

Crossing the Tropic of Capricorn © Rob Walls 2011

Visual poem from the Auski roadhouse in the Pilbara © Rob Walls 2011

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Filed under art, Australia, Australian, Digital photography, documentary photography, Photography, Photojournalism, Rob Walls, Stock photography, travel