There is a room in our little house full of books at the moment… they are sitting in piles, waiting for a solution (shelves… but where?!). Things I have had in storage for years. It is wonderful to find books that I adore, flicking through their pages, looking at photographs that are burned in me.

I came across my little collection of Dombrovskis books a few nights ago. I reached for Wild Rivers, and retired to a table to marvel at what this man accomplished before his death in the Arthurs in 1996.

Peter Dombrovskis pointed his camera at the Tasmanian wilderness with a cutting gaze and a deeply held belief that his celebration of what was there could help shape debate and conversation (which it did!). Unlike so much ‘landscape photography’ of the last 20 years (oh god, can we bare another saturated pano of sunrise/sunset over the Aussie geography?!), Dombrovskis made pictures that functioned in so many arenas. His tight little studies of stone, flora and fauna are gorgeous things. Some friends of mine (the Catfords) have a stunning print of his on their wall, complex and subtle, without the ‘look here’ drama of so much calendar ‘art’.

And there is the conundrum, as much of Dombrovskis’ photographs existed in the public arena as just that… pictures in an annual calendar.

The books that he was alive to produce are stunning. Wild Rivers contains many images that he made while fighting to stop the damming of the mighty Franklin River in South West Tasmania. The most famous image from this period (and one that is burned in the collective Australian psyche – both social and political) ‘Morning Mist, Rock Island Bend’ is simply part of a greater body of work rather than the stand alone piece it is often approached as. I am always gob-smacked by ‘Pebbles and pothole’ on page 108, a rich picture full of golden, bronze and copper hues that is without trick or fancy photographic “I’m an artist” silliness. Still, ‘Morning Mist’ had such a profound effect on the national debate that it is often cited as pivotal in the change of government and the rise of environmental awareness in our political discourse.

Reading Bob Brown’s account of one of the early trips down the Franklin in small rubber rafts lights the fire in the belly and makes me want to grab a pack and hump back out to Frenchman’s Cap, to sit on top and gaze down at the path of that great river as it snakes its way around the gleaming white mountain.

Dombrovskis’ second wife Liz sold his archive to the National Library of Australia in 2009. Some 3000 of his pictures are now held in this great collection.

2 Responses to Wild Rivers

  • Jason says:

    So when are we leaving for Tassie? I know a few others that will join us, however be warned I will need the odd day out on two wheels enjoy the bitumen side that Tassie has to offer.

  • Jason says:

    BTW I forgot to mention (and this was pointed out by Mr Catford) that they are very happy with their Hempenstall that hangs next to the forementioned Dombrovskis.

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