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For my friend Meg who was a warrior for the Franklin

I first met the photos of Peter Dombrovskis as postcards thirty-odd years ago. I used to have a bundle on hand in the days when I still communicated by snail mail. I wonder now whether his splendid closeups of lichen, moss, seaweed and pebbles influenced my own image-capturing once I started to photograph obsessively.

Dombrovskis came to the fore in the Australian consciousness in the 1980s, during the fight to save the Franklin River from damming. His iconic photo Morning Mist, Rock Island Bend, Franklin River was used by the Wilderness Society in a campaign that unseated a Federal government, rewrote relations between state and federal governments, and prevented the construction of the dam. It didn’t hurt that the area was placed on UNESCO’s world heritage list about the same time.

Now, finally, I have seen his photos large scale, in an exhibition at the National Library of Australia, and I am astonished. They are splendidly textured, three-dimensional, and the detail, every last shred of it, is sharp and focused. The composition is stunning: water leading to middle-ground rocks, leading to faint mountains; rounded moss-covered rocks leading to pines, leading to misty mountains; foreground of giant kelp (three quarters of the image) leading to rocks in the sea, leading to a sliver of ocean; orange flowers leading to an eroded mountain top. Then there are the closeups: coils of seaweed; the striped bark of snow gums; the swirls of ice patterns; the bright circles of fruiting lichen; a curl of driftwood and a slab of black rock amongst brightly coloured shells. Perhaps my favourites are the misty monochrome ones: a twisted tree against a background of mist and in front of the pale silhouettes of other trees; reflections of the straight thin lines of reeds in misty water; and more reflections amongst nebulous river boulders.

It would be insulting to post my photos of Dombrovskis’ photos, severely compromised as they are by reflections in the glass, the darkness, an unfamiliar camera, and a lack of skill. So let me direct you here, or suggest you search google images. This seaweed is a taster, snaffled from an NLA article.

As you may guess, Dombrowskis’ statement expresses my own feelings about taking photos.

Read a lively account by Bob Brown to mark the 30th anniversary of the Franklin campaign, including bizarre elements that make it seem, in parts, like a comic opera.

Thank you Annette for sending me this article.