Photography inspiring conservation: Rock Island Bend

From the early days of photography the natural world has provided inspiration, providing the viewer a glimpse into remote and exotic places. Intrepid photographers have hiked in kilograms of photographic gear to capture the first static image, but are these images really that static? Have they inspired conservation or ecology? In this series we will explore some of the images that have inspired us to think about the world around us, well at least for me.

For me the natural world is fascinating. From an early age I collected bones, rocks, and insects, amongst other things from my grandparents farm. Closer to home, I spend countless hours in the local National Park. Even to this day I have a proud collection of biological curiosities that intrigue or disgust friends. So when I first picked up a camera it was obvious where I should point it.

I find it interesting how people interpret the images I take. What do they mean for them and do they feel a similar way to me when I composed the shot?  Perhaps not physically – the uncomfortable angles, the cold mornings to catch a sunrise, the sleepless nights gather enough data for an astrophotograph, but can images make people feel something deeper, and inspire change? Perhaps, as part of an organised campaign they can.

Peter Dombrovskis. Source

Rock Island Bend by Peter Dombrovskis. Source
An image that became an icon for Australian conversation.

In the early 1970s the Tasmanian Wilderness society lost the fight to save Lake Pedder and the natural lake was dammed by the Hydro Electric Commission of Tasmania. It caused a stir in Tasmania and the mainland. In 1978 the Hydro Electric Commission of Tasmania turned its sights on the Franklin River. Learning from the Lake Pedder experience, the Tasmanian Wilderness Society (now the Wilderness Society), along with the Tasmanian Conservation Trust and the Australian Conservation Foundation mounted their campaign against the Franklin Dam. What resulted next was a historic win for conservation in Australia. By 1983 governments had fallen, political careers were born and one image had helped galvanise national support to save the river – Peter Dombrovskis‘ Rock Island Bend. See here and here for more.

Peter was an amazing wilderness photographer. He would hike in all his photographic gear and then carefully compose the shot. If there were any imperfections, he would take it again. This was no small feat. Peter used a large format 5X4 Linhof Flatbed field camera and a heavy tripod. In 1979 he bought an inflatable raft and set out for a trip down the Franklin River. One misty morning he captured Rock Island Bend. The sense of movement in this image was beautifully captured and it flowed on to help save the river.

For more of Peter’s images see International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum and the National Library of Australia.

Please let me know what images have inspired you.

Next in the series is something out of this world…




About Aaron Greenville

I'm an Ecologist investigating how ecosystems respond to climate change and the introduction of exotic species.
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