In their first book, Australia’s The Light Collective, a group of five landscape photographers claim their objective is “to explore modern interpretations of Australia’s immense and unique landscapes to invite deeper reflection on the immeasurable value of our wild places.” In Kati Thanda – Lake Eyre, this intention is fully realized in the ethereal beauty of these images.
Lake Eyre is an important part of the Aboriginal Dreamtime of the Arabana people. Located 700 kilometres north of Adelaide in the South Australian Desert, Lake Eyre is the world’s 13th largest, and Australia’s biggest, salt lake. On average floodwaters cover the Lake every eight years, and it has only filled three times in the last 160 years. When there is water the Lake becomes a breeding site for waterbirds, and when it is dry it presents a vast, seemingly endless expanse of white that stretches as far as the eye can see.
Numerous photographs of Lake Eyre were shot from the ground, but these images from the air are striking in their rich texture and complexity and the fact that there is no reference point – no horizon, no sky – enhances the abstract imagery. Here Lake Eyre is at once a palette of pastels, an artist’s canvas dripping with vibrant hues, an etching seemingly carved from the earth. Deep rivets run through the landscape, shorelines become the sweep of the painter’s brush, waterways spread like capillaries across skin, algal blooms are marked by iridescent blues and greens and shifting colours in the salt, soil and rocks create almost otherworldly vistas.
The power of nature is evident in these images. There is something about seeing the Lake from above that sparks one’s imagination for it is a view that few of us have the opportunity to see first hand. In some images the landscape seems like a giant jellyfish floating across a vast sea, in others abstract shapes take form, evoking ideas of birth and renewal.
When you shoot in a remote location like this there are often wonderful anecdotes like the bidding war the photographers found themselves in with two pilots in one of the small towns bordering the Lake. As the prices for a two-hour flight soared, the photographers took their business further down the road finding a couple of pilots that wouldn’t break the bank. And pilots who were also happy to remove the doors from the light planes, and to fly at varying altitudes, to accommodate the photographers’ needs.
Each of the photographers in this volume – Adam Williams, Luke Austin, Ignacio Palacios and Paul Hoelen – present different perspectives on the way they see the Lake. They also share their personal thoughts on Lake Eyre in text, adding to the experience of seeing this remote and foreign land through their eyes. Yet the images by their abstract nature are open to interpretation making the viewing experience enormously satisfying. It’s a wonderful debut and the works is on show in Sydney at Black Eye Gallery.
Alison Stieven-Taylor is a writer specializing in photography based in Melbourne, Australia.
Kati Thanda – Lake Eyre
Through January 29, 2017
Black Eye Gallery
3/138 Darlinghurst Road,
Book available from The Light Collective