The Near East

At a bit of a loose end we decided to go out on the Goldfields Road to Tammin. The town’s sole raison d’être is the transportation of the surrounding areas grain crops. The grain bins and railway siding around which the town is built are the key features of the town. With the increasing industrialisation of modern agriculture farms have got bigger and bigger and employ less and less people so like many rural areas although generating a lot of wealth the town is in decline.

 

Derelict by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Abandoned farmhouse on the Goldfields Road in Western Australia. Olympus Pen EP-5 with Olympus 12-50mm f3.5-6.3 lens. Exposure: 1/640 sec, f5.6 at ISO 200. Converted to monochrome in AlienSkin Exposure 4.

When I first got interested in photography I was living in the South East of England which is a very verdant and prosperous region. Naturally the first photographers who caught my eye were British ones like David Bailey, Snowdon, Patrick Litchfield and Terrance Donovan.As I went on I discovered more socially aware photographers such as Chris Killip, Graham Smith and Don McCullin. I  remember going to see Killip and Smith’s exhibition “Another Country” in 1985 and being absolutely blown away by the subject matter and the quality of the work – it was one of transcendent experiences and it altered my perception of what photography could be dramatically. It was quite a while before I turned my attention to non British photographers. When I first saw the work of Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Joel Sternfeld, Stephen Shore, and Robert Adams I couldn’t really relate to the subject matter. Their vision and representation of the USA was one that was completely foreign to me and outside that which the mainstream media presented. It wasn’t until I migrated to Australia and started to explore the rural areas seldom visited by tourists that the penny finally dropped. I started to see similar scenes and over time I have attempted to capture them. I’m never quite sure whether it should be in black and white or colour so I find myself fluctuating between the two mediums and never quite happy with the results.

 

Tamin by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Tammin grain bins and railway station. Olympus Pen EP-5 with Olympus 12-50mm f3.5-6.3 lens. Exposure: 1/800 sec, f5.6 at ISO 200. Converted to monochrome in AlienSkin Exposure 4.

Which brings us to the photos in this post. They are just a small sample of the photos that I took on our road trip to Tammin. At first I processed them as colour and felt that the colour detracted from the starkness that I saw and felt. I then tried monochrome. When I worked in the darkroom I liked to use Ilford Multigrade  FB warm tone glossy paper and that is a look I try to replicate with my digital images albeit without much success. When Ilford’s digital media arm Harman Technology introduced their warm tone gloss baryta inkjet paper I thought that my prayers had been answered and I used it for a couple of exhibitions I did. It was a sad day when it was discontinued – I still have 5 sheets of A3+, not enough to do any proper work. So now I try to replicate the look in AlienSkin Exposure 4 which is what I have done with these photos. The problem is that while it looks OK on screen when you translate it to printed media it does work as it is not subtle enough. Perhaps the photos should have stayed in colour after all.

 

Closed by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Empty shop front in Tammin, Western Australia. Olympus Pen EP-5 with Olympus 12-50mm f3.5-6.3 lens. Exposure: 1/100 sec, f5.6 at ISO 200. Converted to monochrome in AlienSkin Exposure 4.

 

The New Normal?

Normal? by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
A young aboriginal girl lies sick on the pavement outside Royal Perth Hospital as nursing staff have a smoke and check their phones. Olympus Pen EP-5 and an Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 45mm f/1.8 lens. Exposure: 1/100, f8, ISO 250.

I don’t shoot “poverty porn“. Photographers shooting the marginalised in society just for entertainment makes me uncomfortable – it kind of reminds me how people in the Elizabethan era would visit Bedlam and pay to money to be entertained by the inmates for something to do on a Sunday afternoon. But this time I was quite angry at was happening, or more precisely what wasn’t happening, and I felt I had to share it.

I was attending an outpatients appointment at Royal Perth Hospital when I stumbled across the scene above. The young aboriginal girl under the blanket was sick and on the pavement outside Perth’s main accident and emergency facility.In the background are nursing staff having a smoke and checking their phones acting like this was a perfectly normal situation. So when did sick people lying on the pavement outside an accident and emergency facility become normal? Has our society become so hardened that we are impervious to the suffering of our fellow-man? Something has definitely gone wrong somewhere.

 

Looking Up

Looking Up by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Looking Up. Perth, Western Australia. Olympus Pen EP-5 with an Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 45mm f/1.8. Exposure: 1/100, f8 ISO 500

I don’t go into Perth very often and when I do I’m constantly aware of the changes that have taken place. I spotted this the last time I was there. The undercover parking of a new hotel has a mirrored ceiling. I thought it was only a certain type of short stay hotels that had mirrored ceilings and they didn’t extend to the car parking. Perhaps it is catering to some sort of car fetish?

The Hidden Danger Of The Bush

Memorial bears for the victims of Drop Bears. York, Western Australia

As I have been tramping around the local woods this spring photographing orchids and birds I noticed something that I’d never seen before. That something was teddy bears tied to trees in odd remote locations. At first I thought it was strange game being played by the local kids, but after I saw my tenth one I decided to ask about and find out what was going on. It took ages to find someone who would answer my questions. Eventually an acquaintance told me to go and see Cliffy. 

Memorial bears for the victims of Drop Bears. York, Western Australia

 

Cliffy wasn’t that easy to find. The directions up to his shack in the wandoo forest were very vague – turn off the Great Southern Highway onto Talbot Road, drive for 10 Km and then take the third track on the left. Turn right at the dead tree that looks like an “excited” Tony Abbot in Speedos and then right at the big rock. I found the shack. When I say shack that really sounds better than it is. A few sheets of corrugated tin and some bush poles was all it was. When I saw Cliffy it was plain to see that he’d had a hard life. He is a compact sinewy man with skin the colour of tanned leather and hair like iron filings. His hands were a testament to hard physical labour – even the callouses had callouses. As to his age, well if you told me he was 100 I’d believe it and if you said he was 50 it wouldn’t surprise me either. So after the usual “Howz yer doin’?” Followed by a quick discussion about rainfall and rain gauges* I asked him about the bears. Cliffy sucked his single tooth and rolled a couple of strands of tobacco in some paper that looked like it had been torn from a pocket Bible. Slowly and quietly he says in a voice that sounded like he’d been gargling on razor blades “They’re memorials to victims of Drop Bear attacks”. He lit up and took a long drag and then told me the strangest tale. I scurried home to do some research.

Memorial bears for the victims of Drop Bears. York, Western Australia

 

Most people throughout the world know about the Koala Bear or to give them their proper scientific name “Phascolarctos cinereus”. Well firstly they are not a bear but a tree-dwelling marsupial that feeds on eucalyptus leaves. Secondly they are relatively harmless because all they do is eat and sleep. Occasionally you come across a grumpy one but all you’ll suffer is a few scratches. Well apparently the koala has an evolutionary cousin, the Thylarctos plummetu. Most animals in Australia are known by their Aboriginal name, but this one hasn’t got one as the Aboriginal Peoples are so scared of it they refuse to talk about it. Colonial settlers came to refer to them as Drop Bears for reasons that will become apparent later. Few people have seen the animal, and of those that have only a couple have lived to tell the tale. I’ll quote the Australian Museum’s description:

Identification

“Around the size of a leopard or very large dog with coarse orange fur with some darker mottled patterning (as seen in most Koalas). It is a heavily built animal with powerful forearms for climbing and holding on to prey. It lacks canines, using broad powerful premolars as biting tools instead.”

Size range

“120kg, 130cm long, 90 cm at the shoulder.”

Habitat type

“Vegetation Habitat: closed forest, tall closed forest, tall open forest, tall open shrubland”

Feeding and Diet

“Examination of kill sites and scats suggest mainly medium to large species of mammal make a substantial proportion of the animal’s diet. Often, prey such as macropods are larger than the Drop Bear itself. Drop Bears hunt by ambushing ground dwelling animals from above, waiting up to as much as four hours to make a surprise kill. Once prey is within view, the Drop Bear will drop as much as eight metres to pounce on top of the unsuspecting victim. The initial impact often stuns the prey, allowing it to be bitten on the neck and quickly subdued. If the prey is small enough Drop Bears will haul it back up the tree to feed without harassment from other predators.”

The Australian Geographic magazine did an article in 2013 about a University of Tasmania (UTAS) research project looking at who were more susceptible to attacks. In 2012 there was a research project looking to track Drop Bears in bush and see how many there actually are. An excerpt from that paper can be read here. I even managed to find online an old public announcement film for new migrants dating from the 1950’s warning of the dangers posed by Drop Bears.

 

When Cliffy had finished his tale of horror I had to lift my jaw up from the floor. “But why oh way don’t the government send in the police or the army to do something about it?” I say incredulously. This sent the old man into a fit of hysterical laughter. After ten minutes he managed to regain his composure. “Yer dopey pommy bastard, don’t yer know nothin’? The last time the Australian Army was called in to deal with an animal problem was in 1932 when Emus invaded Western Australia and that was a complete fu*king fiasco and made them look like complete idiots. It would be too dangerous to let that mob loose in the bush. The bloody pollies are all too busy guzzling at the trough to care about a few bushies goin’ missing.” 

So if you venture into the Australian bush and see teddy bears tied to the trees be aware that Drop Bear attacks have happened in the area and you’d be best advised to leave.

* All conversations in this part of the world follow this pattern. It’s considered very rude not to ask about someone’s rain gauge.

Hanging Around

Hanging Together by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Hanging Together. High rise window cleaning. Perth, Western Australia. Olympus Pen EP-5 with Olympus m.Zuiko 45mm f1.8 lens. Exposure: 1/8000, f2.8, ISO 400.

 

COLOURFUL UMBRELLA INSTALLATION by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Colourful Umbrella Installation, part of the Perth Winter Arts Festival. Hay Street Mall, Perth, Western Australia. Olympus Pen EP-5 with Olympus m.Zuiko 45mm f1.8 lens. Exposure: 1/500, f8, ISO 400.