Since 1995 I have been living and working on World Heritage Listed Fraser Island as a guide and photographer. Frazer Island is located of the east coast of Australia and, with an area of 184,000 hectares, it is the largest sand island in the world. (http://www.derm.qld.gov.au/parks/fraser/index.html) It is also the only sand island in the world that has rainforest growing on it, has the oldest sand dunes in the world, the purest strain of dingoes left in the world and over half of the world’s perched dune freshwater lakes.
The task of photographing Fraser Island is an endless one. My goal is to capture some distinctive essence of a scene or an object. Often though just when I think I have succeeded and I take a few steps back or forward, left or right, some other distinctive feature reveals itself. It is as if beauty is hidden in everything or maybe trapped and it is my purpose to release it from the prison of ordinary things. Large and small things in nature are beautiful, but sometimes our business in the world leads us to trample over masterpieces without notice. By walking just a little bit slower than normal and stopping just before that fatal step, I hope to capture this beauty. Sometimes I wander in the forest searching for something and almost by surprise or mistake I notice the unexpected. Calling out through a single red leaf on a green, gold or black background. A perfect example is the bark of Eucalypts and Angophoras trees (Figure 1, 2).
When walking through nature it is difficult to decide which photo to take. Which way of looking at beauty do we choose? The photograph singles out one tiny fragment of the multifaceted crystal of existence almost like a spotlight illuminating a single object in the darkness of too much that is interesting. By framing one piece of time it allows the onlooker to wander through a world within a world. We can step out of time and wander within a moment contemplating something that may never have existed otherwise. The photos I have taken over the last 13 years are just a small collection of frozen moments that point not only at themselves, but at infinite other possibilities that have faded into the past, because no one photographed them. The mixture of sadness that they were missed and joy that they existed sharpens awareness into the everyday world in which we live.
On 2nd October 2011 a wildfire raced through several thousand hectares of bushland and burnt everything in it’s path. On the day of the fire it seemed no plant or animal could have survived. There were no leaves on any plant and no wildlife to be seen (Figure 3). However, Australian Fauna and Flora has been adapting to recurrent catastrophes for millions of years, in particular since the continent has been subject to the effects of a weather pattern known as the El Niño.
The El Niño is a climate cycle that oscillate every 2-10 years. It is greatly affected by a very large body of warm water moving back and forth along the equator between Australia and South America. This oscillation affects the weather on a global scale. When close to the Australian continent this warm body of water can produce great flooding as seen in Queensland, Australia at the beginning of 2010. Two years prior, while the mass of warm water was close to the South American continent, Queensland saw a great drought. For example, Fraser Island received only 2 days of rain in 8 months. Organism trying to survive in this type of environment must be able to adapt to recurrent conditions of extended drought, fire and intermittent flooding. The majority of plants and animals in Australia have adapted to these extreme weather patterns.
Two days after the fire had passed in October 2011, I began to document the regeneration of the forest of Frazer Island. The resilience and rapid recurrence of the fauna and flora has been a unique experience (Figure 4).
Disclosure: The author declare no conflict of interest.