I was working in Sydney and receiving regular mail packages from my home, in Perth, when I heard about The Great Walk. The walk was to cover some 600km from Denmark in the lower southwest of Western Australia, all the way to Parliament House, Perth.
The route was to follow existing sealed roads, back roads, and logging roads, from the karri forests in the south, passing paperbark swamplands and then up through the jarrah forests just south of Perth.
The aim of the walk was to bring public attention to the need to take greater care of our remaining native forests and voice concern for our overall environment in general.
Self directed projects
I have never been convinced that logging of our native forests for wood chips was ever a wise use of this precious resource. As I was heading back to Perth for a few weeks, I wrote a letter to the Walk organisers, expressing my interest in attending the Walk and photographing it. Sue Tynan, the Walk coordinator wrote back saying yes, come along and photograph the walk. My aim was to write and photograph an article for print publication.
A few months later I was back in Perth, catching a lift from some fellow walkers to Denmark for the launch of the Walk.
I was flying solo, learning about the issues as a photographer trying to cover such events without vehicle support. To tell a story that extends over several weeks you need to plan to cover key events. Yet you also need to be available to immerse yourself in the experience. That’s a tricky balance when you need to be in two places at once.
As I was aiming for print publication of the photographs, I was using Kodachrome transparency film. Photographing handheld with a film speed of 64 ISO, the shutter speeds were pretty low and the f stops wide-open. I didn’t have any flash. The images here are scans from the film.
Images from 1988
Promised end to Old Growth Logging
I walked for about 5 days and then caught a lift back to Perth with a newspaper photographer from The West Australian. There was at least another week or so of walking, but I couldn’t stay due to other commitments – I was in the process of moving to Tasmania. However, I did manage to catch up again at Dwellingup and once more, at the walk’s finish at Parliament House, Perth.
In September 2021, the McGowan government announced an end to Old-Growth Logging from 2024. Looking back at events of over 30 years ago, I hope this goal is finally achieved. We must preserve our last remaining stands of old-growth native forest for the future.
Self-directed photography assignments such as these are an important step when starting out on a career in photography. Looking back after three decades I can see the continuity of an environmental theme throughout my body of work. Through my photography, I share my personal vision of the West Australian landscape. I think I do my best photographic work when I am alone, immersed in my subject.
But, like anyone, I am partly a product of my time, influenced both consciously and subconsciously by my own environmental factors. I grew up in a time when Australian environmental activism, demonstrations and desire for alternative lifestyles where possibly far more prevalent than they are now, at least on a local scale. There were anti wood chipping protests in state forests, the closing of the timber town at Shannon, movements such as the Campaign to Save Native Forests, the WA Forest Alliance and May Day marches in the city.
Global warming, climate change, melting of the icecaps, or greenhouse effect are now the familiar phrases permeating the main stream media, social media and international politics. They are warnings of environmental problems of global scale, and their roots were exposed in the environmental movements of the latter half of the 20th century.
You can view an interesting video of the 1988 Walk with interviews on Basil Schur’s website. An out shoot from the 1988 Great Walk is Great Walk Networking.