Our little town has been in the headlines lately, due to a flood. Rockhampton sits on a river with a huge catchment area. This summer a monsoon tough streched from the soouthern part of Western Australia, up along the coast, across the top, and then down along the east coast, actually ending in the Southern Island of New Zealand. The flood in Rockhampton is the fourth largest on record, which is not incredible, but as far as I know the extent of the flooding throughout the state of Queensland is unprecedented. I’m away in South Australia, and as things stand there is no way home by road, rail or air.
Even though this is not a flood of historic proportions, the size of the Fitzroy River in a major flood is staggering. Have a look at the NASA photo below (and click on it for nore details). You can see the normal course of the river through the town, and you can see what it has become:
While this is a blog about photography, not media, I’d like to point out that if you look carefully you can see that only a portion of the town is under water. This is not the impression you get from the media, even the public ABC. The flood has inundated a couple of suburbs, and this is very sad as often these areas cannot be insured for flood damage. It has covered farmland, closed mines, shut businesses – it will have a major impact. But we’re not all getting our feet wet.
Some of my local photographer friends have been busy, producing some really quite beautiful images from the circumstances.
Isn’t this curious? A tragic natural disaster, and people scrambling aboout with their cameras trying to capture the most aesthetically pleasing images…
The only thing stopping me from doing this, of course, is that I’m 2500km and many closed roads away. I want to be there too, snapping away with my Holga and my digital!
The following images are taken by talented Rockhampton photographers. These images are posted on Flickr, and I encourage you to click on each image and explore the photographers’ streams. You’ll find some really great stuff.
The image I’d like to start with is by Bron T. I was very struck by this image, as it mirrored some shots I posted here in an earlier post about the alleyways of Rockhampton – but this is a better photo, and is in flood conditions.
Flooded Alley by Bron T
This is a really interesting image. I like the milkiness of the water. I know from first hand experience that the water is not milky, it’s silty, and leaves a very fine, sticky coating, as well as presents such as dead fish and rats.
I also like the fringe of clear water here, and the unnatural reflection. Not to mention the anonymous but historical setting. If this shot had been taken in 1956, it would be nearly identical.
flood plains (south) by Bron T
These are extraordinary sights.
In a situation like this. it can be the details that are the hardest hitting. There’s also a tension between the disturbing content of a photo and the aesthetics of phpotography, which is about instilling visual pleasure. The photo above is beautiful, whether or not you understand the significance of that flooded land for the local community.
What about photos that focus more on details? I find the image below to be at once beautiful and unsettling, as it takes a disturbing image (disturbing if you know this is a shot from your town) and frames it in a very formal composition:
things that come with the flood (4) by +gaby+
I think simplicity is essential in photography – particularly Holga photography. There is no Holga photography in this post, unless you count the Holga 120WPC pinhole shot at the beginning. Nevertheless, the next photo, also by +gaby+, is square in format, and an example of the sort of composition that works beautifully in the Holga. Specifically, it mixes two contrasting elements in a simple and uncomplicated manner – in this instance placing an iconic Rockhampton image in a starling context:
things that come with the flood by +gaby+
It’s hard to know where to stop with this post – so I’ll stop now.
There are so many good flood photos by Rockhampton photographers. However there are none by me, and I don’t think I can go on indefinitely putting other people’s photos in my blog.
There are also some specific photos I’d like to have included but they either aren’t yet on Flickr or I haven’t yet been granted permission to post them.
Just go to Flickr.com, search for “Rockhampton” and “Flood” and have a look at some of the great work there.
If you have any flood photos you’d like to readers to see, let us know by commenting and giving us a link.
As usual, I’d like to pose a question: Just what does it mean to get the camera out and put an aesthetic gloss on a tragic situation? What are we photographers doing?