After Disaster: A Photographic Inquiry Into the Recovery of Place 

Artist Statement

On the 4th of January 2013, the fire danger rating in many parts of Tasmania reached ‘catastrophic’ (Interim Action Plan, 2013, p. 2). High-speed winds, low humidity and the highest temperatures on record triggered more than forty fires across the state over a period of four days (ibid). One of these fires ran at ‘great speed’ south of the Forcett neighbourhood, destroying homes, infrastructure and property over an area of more than twenty thousand hectares (ibid).

This photographic investigation is an attempt to answer a series of questions that surfaced in my response to the fire and its impact. Can trust in an environment be restored after violence, tragedy and disaster? Is it possible for an outsider to expressively communicate the condition of such bonds? After Disaster: A photographic inquiry into the recovery of place endeavours to evoke the memories, grief and capacity for renewal that dwells within one place, in the months following its destruction.

Informed by studies by Frank Vanclay, Jeff Malpas, Mae Proudley, Yi-Fu Tuan and Peter Read, this body of work seeks to acknowledge the strong bond that exists between the land, its inhabitants, and the grief experienced following the destruction of one’s home. I have met victims, witnessed heartache, and have been invited to experience the aftermath in which they live. This project readily acknowledges the sheltered position from which I have observed tragedy and loss. Photographic works by Frank Gohlke, Sebastiao Salgado, Trent Parke and Richard Misrach have been influential in the formal development of this project. Each artist deals with themes of trauma, aftermath of disaster and the connection between people and place.

After Disaster: A photographic inquiry into the recovery of place intends to portray my own encounter with the aftermath of the 2013 Tasmanian bushfires, on a property that has been loved by another. This body of work aims to represent my own understanding of life before, during, and after the fire, informed by the eyewitness accounts that have been shared with me.

 

Tasmanian Bushfire Recovery Taskforce, 2013, Interim Action Plan, Department of Premier and Cabinet, viewed 29 September 2013

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