I am finding that many of the non-drought images of the River Murray and the Coorong in my archives are representations of natural beauty. This seems to me, when looking back on these images today, to be an inadequate way to photograph the River Murray and its various wetlands, given the damage to their ecological health from both the lack of environmental flows and the Millennium Drought.
This damage is particularly noticeable in the Coorong’s South Lagoon, and as this lagoon is currently in a stressed ecological state, so the conventional landscape style photographs of natural beauty are inappropriate.
The problem with conventional landscape photography in Australia is that is usually about the beauty of the landscape as a natural wilderness, whilst the River Murray and its various wetlands are manufactured landscapes. Since the 20th century the rivers in the Murray-Darling Basin have been engineered for irrigated agriculture and these rivers have been, and are, managed for the benefit of irrigation and water for the various cities.
The above photo of the Murray Mouth, for instance, is aesthetically pleasing: it is a harmonious composition within the picturesque landscape tradition. What is not shown in the photo is that the Murray Mouth can only remain open if it is being constantly dredged, due to the lack of environmental flows. Continue reading