February, 7 2010
Port Hedland
Les Walkling
Photography

What about the idea that I am photographing altered landscapes, both real and imagined. The (concept of the) landscape is both altered by my understanding (or lack of), my research, and my presence. It is also the result of aboriginal husbandry and ancient cultures that remain opaque to me, and essentially unknowable. But instead of mythologising this relationship, perhaps I should question it, and highlight or foreground my introspection.

I am fascinated by the Pilbara in the broadest sense that I can describe, but also appalled by my ignorance and insensitivity to it. What do I really know about the Pilbara - very little except that it is a remote and ancient place of extremes, both climate and distance, and cultural affinities. I would therefore argue that I should be working from the 'bottom up' rather than imposing from the top down (as is my cultural inheritance). For all I know some of my photographs of the Pilbara could be of places of great Aboriginal significance, yet also be highly offensive to Aboriginal cultures. As I rush through the Pilbara consuming it as an image or entertainment, though not indifferent to its authenticity, I nevertheless impose myself, my values, my stories and my displacement everywhere I venture.

If my work in some way acknowledges this dislocation, or sense of displacement, and my fascination with 'this problem', while not trying to come up with answers or other simplistic notions, but instead allowing myself to become entangled in these complexities, as evidence of such complexities and their cultural significance, then I think I might be able to make a worthwhile contribution. Not only to my (white) understanding of the complexity of the Pilbara, the conflicts and contradictions, and the sensitivities, but also my acknowledgement and experience that I am in a strange land, not my country, and what it means to engage with such strangeness 'in my own back yard'. To be both at home (inside my head) but also lost in this land.

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