The craziest natural disaster I've ever seen.
This past few days we had the first rain here on the south coast of NSW for what has felt like months! The fires are being contained and the smoke is beginning to dissipate. The skies have been grey and toxic here for months, business is not as usual. Everyone’s suffered to some degree, some worse than others. I’ve got away lightly compared to many, and despite the despair that many have faced, it’s been inspiring to see so much kindness and generosity from communities around the nation and the world, giving resources and funds to help those in need. We have a long road of recovery ahead of us here in Australia but together as a nation and with humanity as a whole, we will rebuild, and be stronger and more unified than ever before. That's the thing about disaster, although it has its destructive ways, it also provides an opportunity to see the goodness of humanity first hand. The nature of people is generally good, I acknowledge that there are a few problematic and confused souls that bring the average down but for the most part, people are kind and willing to give and help one another. I've seen this. Communities nation wide are banding together to help and support one another in this challenging time, and funds are pouring in from all over the world to organisations that are dispersing it where it needs to go, it's truly is a testimony to the goodness still present in humanity. Just goes to show what the people can achieve outside of politics when we work together and focus on what must be done, instead of complaining about what hasn’t been done.. Despite the loss, there is still much to gain..
As a photographer, I wish I could have documented more of the event around my home, the ferocity of the fires in my surrounding suburbs was incredibly intense, but also astonishingly fascinating. Nature is truly a force to be reckoned with. Despite my attempts to get close to the fires several times, I learned that without the proper training and media passes, the frontline was restricted access patrolled by the authorities, which I've come to terms with now. Police barricades were on every road and highway which is understandable but also kind of crazy because we were all basically trapped. The fire surrounded a lot of south coast towns with no power, no service and no way out for days. This spooked a lot of tourists and locals, turning towns into scenes that you'd see in a war movie.. Everything was shut but the local supermarkets and people were lining to get what was left. Desperation combined with self preservation is a scary, scary concept, and having whole communities so dependant on the system, makes it disturbingly relevant.
Anyway, we were spared from going down that path due to the epic effort of the fire brigades and people working to restore power and contain the blazes, another reason why I would haveliked to be out in the field; to capture those heroes in their element. My approach to photography has always been more artistic than journalistic anyway but nevertheless it would of been something to witness and shoot in my own way. For now, I'lI keep creating in the ocean where I have full access.. ;)
Having said that, many people out there were actually in the fire zone and hundreds of families have suffered. Ultimately, I am grateful that my family and I narrowly escaped the fires path, on more than one occasion..
In light of this historic event, as an artist, I decided to do a print giveaway as a fundraiser to donate to the cause. It was my first one and hindsight would say it could have gone better but we're proud to have raised, together with over 70 generous and kind souls; $2150, that was donated between the NSW Rural Fire Service who's fire fighters and volunteers have fought tirelessly to protect homes and sacrifice their time and safety to contain the out of control fire fronts, and the Salvation Army Australia who have provided on the ground support and relief to the affected communities. Thank you to all the contributed, you have made a real difference! Congratulations to Eric and Tracy from Washington DC, USA, a fresh print is on its way to your home. If you contributed, you should have by now a personal thank you email in your inbox with a little gift from us :)
I've recently gone out after the fires, many roads are still closed but I managed to document a bit of the aftermath. A lot has been burned, totally burned. Not the healthy undergrowth burn that the forest loves and needs each season, but a very devastating wipeout of a lot of flora and fauna. An impact that may take a long time to recover. I grew up down here and it's quite a shock to see entire rainforests that were once dense, green and rich, reduced to blackened sticks and a feeling of desolate barrenness.
In many areas though, there is already regrowth and after a little rain, it is beginning to shoot up (almost) everywhere which is encouraging. The stark contrast between black and orange and the vibrant fresh greens is incredible. It's like miracle life from the ashes. Did you know, fire actually cleanses nature and is a necessary part of a healthy ecosystem, many native flora species actually require the heat and smoke from a bushfire in order to crack open the seeds and bring forth new life. The problem in a lot of areas though is that the fire burned too hot, taking life instead of renewing life. This was mainly caused by the amount of dry fuel on the ground from the lack of back burning during the past few winter seasons.. a whole other topic that needs to be addressed and most likely will after this. Nevertheless, many areas will be covered in green in the weeks to come and it is a beautiful and encouraging sight..
Now there's a lot of opinions and conflict out there regarding the reason for such a catastrophic event of this scale, but I honestly try to keep a realistic and open mindset toward it. My advice is to do your research, educate yourself, the information is out there, so broaden your understanding on the topic and don't be too quick to accuse and fuel the uproar of negativity on why it happened and who's to blame for it. Smart people with healthy hearts and attitudes will create a positive future, we each have a responsibility to make conscience decisions and steward our own healthy convictions. Out of the heart, the mouth speaks, so clean the heart before you open it, and that's myself included.. The human heart instinctually knows right from wrong and now is the best time to use our individual voices to be a positive influence for change, however far our influence reaches. There's more humans on the earth than ever, and it's important that we all learn how our own footprints, consumerism, voices and attitudes impact the people and environments around us.
All the best, see you in the water,