I have been invited by Lars Heldmann to participate in a project of selected photographers who are being asked to respond to selected images in the Godson Collection of the State Library of South Australia. The project’s working title is called Our Waters, and it is being driven by Lars Heldmann acting as a de facto curator. This approach is one way to deal with the vastness and complexity of the Murray-Darling Basin.
It is early days: the photographers are still to be selected; no exhibition venues have been selected; no grants have been applied for; and no curators selected. It is envisaged that the exhibitions and the associated website would act as a hub for conversations about art, history and the rivers in the Murray-Darling Basin. One possibility for the first exhibition is 6 photographers responding to 6 images from the Godson Collection.
Whilst the project gets off the ground I have decided to kick things off by going back through my archives to look at the images that I’ve made of the River Murray. This is Pt Sturt.
The Sturt Peninsula juts out into Lake Alexandrina, which is one of the Lower Lakes near the mouth of the Murray River. The Ngarrindjeri name for the end of Sturt Peninsula is “Tipping”, which meant “the lips”. This picture was made in 2008, which was just before the Millennium Drought broke and prior to the formation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
This was a period of low flows in the River Murray. Suzanne, the standard poodles and myself, had gone to Point Sturt as part of exploring the area around the Lower Lakes. I remember that it was extremely windy that day and we wondered what the land would be like without the fresh water flowing through the Lower Lakes to the mouth.
At this stage it is unclear whether these archival pictures of the River Murray, the Lower Lakes and the Coorong would form a part of the Our Waters project. They may or may not be included. One possibility is that the archival images –in the form of a blog– could become an associated side project. Hence the Our Waters Our Country title of the blog.
I photographed the lake by standing on the cliffs over looking Sturt Point. The water has receded from normal lake edge by more than 200 metres and we were looking at the exposed lake bed. This area is this area is normally covered by 1.5m of water:
I recall thinking that this situation had been caused by both the over-extraction of water in all the Murray-Darling Basin states and the mismanagement of the system. This had then been exacerbated by the drought and not enough water being allocated to retain the health of the river system.
I may include some featured photographs from the Godson Collection in the blog–to give a sense of the visual history of representing the Basin’s rivers. If I do so, then the photos would be ones that resonate with me, or have some connection to my archival pictures.