Sunday, 3 July 2022

Paramontage showing No. 2 - 'On the way to New England' (a type-2)

Like the last paramontage featured, ‘On the way to New England’ focuses on the Myall Creek massacre commemoration, this time the one held in 2008. My first time there so there’re lots of photos, in fact I walked around during the proceedings snapping away with my camera as if there were no tomorrow.

Politician Peter Garrett was there, you can see him in the central photo of mourners near the memorial rock as speakers addressed the gathering. He attended to present a document to the committee regarding heritage listing of the site. The sonnet goes like this:

Hugging the vast bulk of the continent
the range extends its fat botanic paws.
Their scrubby sides are thick with such ancient,
grey species of kindling as follow laws

inscribed in larval marks on peeling trunks.
They softly swoon amid peals of bell-birds,
an aural liquor that may make you drunk.
You steer your big machine by cautious thirds

up the road to Cunninghams Gap; past that,
you shoot through the tablelands, retracing
passes forged by hardy knaves who worked flat-chat
to fashion them into the bones we sing. 

The squatter’s curse was once lord of the realm,
a safer pair of hands at nature’s helm.

Cunninghams Gap is shown with its descent to the coast, in the top-left photo, which was taken on a different journey in the same year. The dark, brooding photo at top right was taken – also in the same year – during a trip from Melbourne to Brisbane on the Newell Highway, and while strictly it sits outside the “New England” theme I wanted it to add drama to the blackness of the central photo. Black and white dominate in this paramontage where green was the main colour in ‘Return’, which featured in showing No. 1.

In 2008 I stayed I think in Inverell at a motel and driving back to that town after the ceremony I stopped next to a field of sunflowers, that had turned brown, to take more photos. The sky had by afternoon come over cloudy in parts, mixing a sombre note reflecting the suppressed emotions of the event I’d recently participated in, though my fluttering around like a butterfly taking photos was at odds with the rest of the group.

I’d learned about the ceremony on TV when during an episode of ‘The First Tuesday Book Club’ Peter Stewart’s ‘Demons At Dusk’ had featured, historian Peter Fitzsimons adding colour in a way that at once appealed to me. On the strength of his observations I jumped in the car one Friday after work and motored north to New England. 

I did a lot of driving that year for reasons I can’t quite fathom now, the distance created by time erasing the remnants of feelings that the photographs summon up like magicians, I can still remember standing on the path as clumps of people filed past, there was something about the curve of the track that appealed to me. It still seems appropriate at this remove the way the walkers go in one direction then, coming around the bend, change to face the opposite way while still attaining the same goal.

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