I was particularly concerned with the after effects of fire and the burnt bush. The controlled burning of the coastal tee tree by the park’s rangers provided the opportunity for my interest in using this material to represent fire in relation to the contemporary landscape. Australia has become the burning frontier of a warming world.
The background context is one of climate warming from a fossil fuel economy drying out the country in south eastern and south central Australia, and this now means that bush fires are more frequent and more intense. They have become firestorms indicating that as far as bushfire in Australia is concerned, history is no longer a guide to the future. Black Summer, the cataclysmic firestorms of 2019-20 in NSW and Victoria, in which the smoke circled the globe, indicated that the contemporary landscape is a pyroscape. It is a a belated warning of planetary peril.
Fire was the creative art project on these walks in Wilsons Promontory. Not red fire per se but the black after effects of fire in the form of frequently burnt landscapes whilst moving away from nationalist narratives.
This is a word of unstoppable fires, fire deaths and fire refugees, smoked-in and incinerated cities, damaged watersheds and postburn floods, economic crunches from lost tourism, bankrupt businesses, neglectful government. The land has responded by degrading ecologically. Stephen J. Pyne says these are the contours of a planetary fire age; they are the fire-informed equivalent of an ice age. We have a Pyrocene. This is not the new normal — it is just the beginning. The future will be worse than Black Summer, much worse, unless we swiftly address the cause.
Photography, albeit one historically informed, needs to become a part of the ongoing conversation about global warming; rather than being silent a participant in the contemporary debates that contributes to the dialogue about the sea rises and temperature changes caused by global warming.