June 21, 2013

Friday Round Up - 21 June

This week Friday Round Up features storm chasing photographer Nick Moir, new work from Claire Martin and a new gallery opens in Melbourne. Also please check out the images on Tim Page Unpublished where legendary photojournalist Tim Page shares more photographs from Cuba. Have a great weekend.

Due to technical issues with blogger, Friday Round Up will feature on the Home page of this blog for the moment.

Nick Moir - Confessions of a Storm Chaser

Few show the kind of fascination and enthusiasm for major climatic shifts that Sydney photographer Nick Moir does. This self-confessed storm chaser has been documenting the power of Mother Nature for the past 14 years watching with intent the development of super-cell storms and other weather-driven events like bushfires and locust plagues. His interest in all things meteorological stems back to his childhood - storms, cyclones, tornadoes, fires, he likes them all.

His desire to find storms that few witness has taken Moir across the world. He’s photographed Tornado Alley in the US, a strip of land that is fated as the point on the planet where the most tornadoes are likely to hit. And he’s travelled into the Australian outback to central New South Wales, where storms are dramatic in contrast; red earth; angry, dark sky; endless horizon.

On his ‘storm days’ he experiments with his camera, “trying to make mistakes,” he states. I encourage him to expand on that thought. “I like photographing storms or weather events in a bizarre way, such as using a really slow shutter speed during the day. Out there (outback) you tend to get amazing light and strange imagery. My aim is not so much to capture pretty pictures, but to reflect the atmosphere at that moment”.

He says 99 per cent of what he does is the “unsexy stuff”; the forecasting and driving. He’s tapped into numerous underground storm-watching sites. “When a storm breaks and you are the only one out there with your camera, that’s when the whole thing comes together,” as was the case in southwest Queensland in 2007.

“I was on a storm chase out near Cunnamulla. It was a big risk, as it was only a maybe it was going to happen. Sydney to Cunamulla is about a 12-hour drive flat out, so it’s a two-day return trip to get an hour’s worth of photos. I knew there would be weather, I just didn’t expect a storm of the quality I got”.

Leaving Sydney before daybreak Moir drove straight through stopping only for fuel. “I arrived just as this fantastic storm, a super cell thunderstorm, a very US style storm, erupted ahead”. He smiles at the memory.

At the time that area of Queensland was in the middle of one of the harshest droughts. The landscape was littered with the skeletons of kangaroos, emus and sheep. “I got a shot of the scattered remains of a kangaroo with a fantastic, photogenic storm in the background. It was super dry on the ground and the contrast of this with the storm was visually interesting. For me I guess it is about finding contrast”. 

From a photography perspective Moir seems to be in a niche of his own with very little competition, in Australia anyway. “There are lots of storm chasers and there are lots of photographers, but there are very few who do both things well. A lot of the people who photograph storms do so in a standard way with lightening behind their city’s icon, for example. But the pictures I am focused on, are the ones that haven’t been taken. I want to show how massive nature can be”.

Bushfires are another area of interest for Moir, but are a significantly more dangerous subject than thunderstorms. He recounts the time he was photographing bushfires around the country’s capital Canberra and was caught in the fire’s path. 

“You try and always avoid putting yourself in a position where you can’t pull yourself out or you don’t have a refuge, but there have been a couple of times when I’ve put myself in situations where I got lucky (read: escaped death). Near Canberra I came in behind a fire, which normally would be a smart thing to do as you are in burned out territory and only have to watch out for trees falling and other debris rather than actual fire. But on this day I unexpectedly found myself in an unburned area of grasslands. Fortunately I knew where I was, but the smoke got so thick I had to open the car door to watch the white lines go past. Suddenly a big glow came up on the right and I just went oh shit. I could feel the real pings of panic then”.

In his four-wheel drive he headed towards a field he remembered was on his left - luckily he’d been on this road previously. “I drove through a fence, and kept going. Eventually the smoke cleared and I was all right. But when you don’t know where you are in a fire, you are in deep shit. Even being in front of a fire, if you can see where it is you can place yourself so it can pass you. But if you don’t know your location and are stuck in smoke, you lose that sense of direction. A lot of people died in Victoria (Black Saturday) because they got lost”.

Moir has strong views about the way the Victorian bushfire was reported. He doesn’t believe there is an accurate photographic record of the catastrophic event, but concedes perhaps there can’t be. Conditions were deadly as the nation learned on that day in February 2009.

“Bushfires is a personal one for me because there are some amazing pictures to be captured. I still have not seen a single image of just how ferocious a bushfire can be. I rate some of my best pictures two out of ten, when I think about what you could get if you were lucky, and did it well.” He says in a situation like Black Saturday “you need to draw on all the knowledge and skills you have to actually keep it together on the day and stay calm. You really have to know what you are doing and know when to pull the pin and get out”. He likens photographing bushfires to combat environments; “you are never certain where the danger will come from”.

He ruminates about what it must have been like on Black Saturday and says it is clear why there are not more photographs depicting the ferocity of the firewall as there would have been massive, towering fire tornadoes 100 metres wide with 400 kph winds. “In that scenario you haven’t got a hope of surviving”.

(C) All photos Nick Moir. To view more of Nick's work visit his website here.

New Work: 
Claire Martin  

Australian photographer Claire Martin, who won the Inge Morath Award in 2010 for her photo essays depicting those who live on the margins of society – Downtown East Side Vancouver and Slab City California – has created a new work on the same theme in Nimbin, Australia forming a triptych collection.

“These three photo essays came together through looking at the culture of stigma and disadvantage in modern society,” says Martin who studied social work before turning her talents to documentary photography.

Nimbin, which is in the picturesque Summerland coastal area of New South Wales, Australia, is a village community that is founded on the counterculture that grew out of the sixties. Inhabitants here live in an environment where “drugs are not demonized, but seen as mind expanding, and not participating in the capitalist economy is viewed as positive. A lot of gay, lesbian and transsexual people who escaped the bigotry of the larger cities have made Nimbin their home since the seventies,” said Martin. “Stigma here is seen to be positive,” although Nimbin is not without its own societal problems either.

(C) All photos Claire Martin

To see more of Claire Martin’s work visit the Oculi website.

New Gallery:
Strange Neighbour - Fitzroy

Strange Neighbour Gallery opens tonight in Melbourne’s Fitzroy with its inaugural exhibition Creep Show, featuring works by Polixeni Papapetrou, Pip Ryan, Heather B. Swann and Tony Woods. Strange Neighbour is a new venture by former Colour Factory Gallery curator Linsey Gosper. Creep Show “explores the strange and yet strangely familiar. The works engage in part reality, part fantasy, where recognizable childhood motifs are combined with surreal horror aesthetics. The characters in Creep Show are at once playful and dreamlike, however, just like our childhood memories there is an eerie, dark undertone of the uncanny”.

(C) Heather B Swann

(C) Pip Ryan

(C) Polixeni Papapetrou

(C) Troy Woods

Opens today and runs until 13th July

395–397 Gore St

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