May 07, 2012

Conversations with the Mob - Artsite Gallery Camperdown

Last night I attended the opening of Megan Lewis' exhibition, 'Conversations with the Mob', which was opened by Ray Martin.

Megan spent more than two and a half years living with the Martu Aboriginal community in Rudall River National Park in Western Australia near Marble Bar, documenting their lives. This area of Australia has one of the harshest climates, with temperatures soaring past 50 degrees Celsius in summer. It is literally in the middle of nowhere. Dry, hot, sparse and foreign for us city dwellers. 

The trust and friendship she developed with the 'mob' has resulted in an extraordinary body of work including the book 'Conversations with the Mob', a book that on first glance may be thought of as a coffee table photography book. But it is so much more. This book delivers powerful insights into the Aboriginal culture and the Martu people with honesty, compassion and humor and will help to bridge the gap of understanding that still exists in Australia today between its indigenous peoples and the western culture. This project has given the Martu people a mirror at which to look at themselves also and make better decisions for a healthier, happier future, something all human beings aspire to. Megan has become so invested in this community that she has gone beyond the role of photojournalist, to work with the community to improve the health of the children as well.

In her book Megan talks about how she almost lost her resolve to continue with the project just three months in, the flies, the heat of the desert, the cultural divide overwhelming. In the end she decided the only way to live with the Martu was to forget her western ways and embrace the desert life. She threw in her full time job, left behind worldly possessions (other than her camera gear) and threw herself into desert life. This largely self-funded project clearly became a personal journey and the resulting works are rich with emotion.

Megan's exhibition, which is part of the Head On Photo Festival,  is on until 20 May at Artsite Gallery, 155-157 Salisbury Road, Camperdown.