Got back into Canberra late today after a few days rolling back up in the old hometown snapping pictures and staring at things familiar (yet familiar only through old foggy memories rather than recent direct experiences).

I’ve become fascinated in the last few years with what I can only describe as a transient landscape (it’s a terrible description at this point, but one I’m using as a reference till I get my head around it). It’s the land that I identify or label through the experiences of family (or direct past personal experience) but that are now no longer linked in our contemporary existence. Whether it’s a number of sites through Central and South Bougainville or small parts of Nth QLD or the sandstone country on the western edge of the Blue Mountains in NSW… I’m peering out into (now) foreign bits of land that have seen either my feet or those of my relatives stomping across them. Places that have shaped my little mind through stories, tales and adventures.

Just yesterday I was quietly photographing in a stand of young eucalypts that have sprung from the dirt that used to support my father’s office in a small demountable building. Without the rough roadway cut into the hillside and the little bits of telephone wire in the stony ground you’d be hard pressed to believe that within recent memory there was a carpark, multiple offices and primary industry thundering around it. I can remember being up there on the raised pad, looking down at the frontend loaders below, the washery and bathhouse… seeing men preparing to scoot underground towards the face and a shift of work… counting sticks of gelignite with dad and him cracking a few blasting caps to keep ‘the kid’ interested (could there be any cooler afternoon with a father figure?!).

And yet yesterday all I could hear as I stood amongst the young trees was bird calls and the distant rough gurgle of dirt bikes on the ridges above. How can I continue to identify this ground through its (brief) recent industrial history when the sandstone and ancient timber looks down at it as before(?)… when the new growth does not remember the people and reclaims its space to bask in the sun and drink the water… am I the last generation to refer to that parcel of land by the name of a business that no longer operates there?

So I think I’m looking at the hills and valleys through a mechanism that does not create human identity through ties to land… rather I’m somehow concerned with the temporary nature of our naming of place, of land forms and of the soil’s use (let alone our own transient nature)… then again maybe I’m just confused and am in some delusional desperate race to track down the ghosts of experience lost.

Either way I’m having what could be described as fun (though lugging the big old Kodak and film holders can at times become tiring when it’s hot).

 

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