15 February 2013 to 07 April 2013
You and your friends and family are invited to the opening night of Pilbara Stories at the Port Hedland Courthouse Gallery, Friday February 15 from 6pm to 8pm.
Pilbara Stories turns a lens on the Pilbara’s people and community, through a photographic and social documentary project that aims to capture stories of people living in Port Hedland and surrounds. Pilbara Stories features portraits that celebrate the diverse heritage, individuality and experiences of everyday life in the Pilbara with a focus on Port Hedland and surrounds. Over two years FORM has supported leading international photographers Martin Parr, Bharat Sikka, Ketaki Sheth, Annet van der Voort and John Elliott to a develop a multi-perspective and globalising encounter with the region.
Before I arrived into Port Hedland, I was given many warnings. It’s dirty; it’s ugly and all covered in red dust. The reputation of Port Hedland is not good, to say the least. So you can imagine my very pleasant surprise when I arrived and found it to be one of the most interesting, engaging and surreal towns I had ever experienced. Martin Parr, (UK) Pilbara Stories Magnum Photographer
Landscape has been a persistent theme in the history of representing the Pilbara. In Australia’s cities we often see the Northwest as a wilderness; distant and remote. Through artistic and creative engagement, Pilbara Stories creates a special intimacy between a place like Port Hedland and the rest of the country, cutting across the divide between the regions and metropolis.
FORM undertook interviews and recordings with the subjects that were photographed, lending another dimension; one that tells the personal stories of people living and working in this region. Pilbara Stories unveils a new way of seeing and knowing the Pilbara, through its people, their hopes, dreams and desires as they make Port Hedland and the wider region their home.
The short experience of photographing the people and the landscape of the Pilbara is etched in my memory. I can vividly recall the faces, the conversations, the landscape. Flashes of unmarked territory, a stark and staggering landscape, a people so compelling and generous with their time in a light so harsh. Ketaki Sheth, (Indian) Pilbara Stories Photographer
More than 52 different nationalities live in Port Hedland, which owes its unique identity to its rich heritage and culture. For many residents, this cosmopolitanism is Port Hedland’s appeal; a place they feel is built on strong foundations of community, and friendship, where diversity is embraced.
The photographs concentrate on the simplicities of the human interactions: the nourishment of family, the camaraderie of friends, the initial suspicion of strangers that can be turned into trust. Most of the portraits are shot in homes or places of work, so the familiarity with place enhances a feeling of comfort and an atmosphere of honesty. The photographers record the nuances of body language and the pride conveyed in daily labour and peaceful coexistence. In this way, the project is about globalization, but one that has nothing to do with telecommunications and the circulation of capital but instead, everything to do with the commonality of human experience. The photographs, like stanzas of a poem are fragments that form a visual narrative, shaping a new awareness of place, lending a sense of heritage and a deeper understanding of the people who live in the Pilbara. Each photograph represents a piece of the story constantly unfolding in the Pilbara, as well as an insight into the regions past.
Port Hedland means to me, home, more than home, everything. This country has given us so much. The freedom we were expecting was small, but now, the country has given us much more than what we were expecting. Erzabest Katai, Hungarian Refugee and Port Hedland resident for 24 years.
You meet a lot of hardworking people; they weren’t here to impress anybody, they were just here to work, to make a better life for their families or themselves. They were from everywhere, all around Australia; you meet people from places you’ve never heard of. Danielle Aggis owner ‘Dig, Feast, Laugh’ South Hedland.
The longer I stayed in Port Hedland the more I came to realise that entire town, was an imaginative space for its residents —restless, dreamy, perpetually reinventing themselves. Only outsiders romanticised Port Hedland as a brutal frontier or a rugged, timeless heartland. Piers Kelly, writer and former Port Hedland resident.
Annet van der Voort was born in The Netherlands; she currently lives and works in Drensteinfurt, Germany. She has been represented in the Rencontres d’ Arles, France; National Museum of Photography, Bradford, England; Kunsthal Rotterdam, Netherlands; Mois de la Photo, Montréal Canada; Museet for Fotokunst, Odense, Denmark; NGBK, Germany; and Getxo Photo Bilbao, Spain. Her work can be found in numerous books, international publications, public and private collections.www.annetvandervoort.com
Bharat Sikka has a rare mercurial creativity; he photographs landscapes and portraits; moves between the studio and the street; from high-end commercial photography on assignments for magazines such as, Wallpaper, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, I.D, Vogue, Vogue Homme International, Details and Time Magazine to directing advertisements in a cinematic style as a Creative Director. Sikka’s distinct mode of visual storytelling lures the viewer into an illusory world that collapses boundaries between art and life. Bharat Sikka studied at the Parson’s School of Design; he has exhibited in the USA, Europe, India and Australia.www.bharatsikka.com/
Ketaki Sheth was born in Mumbai, 1957. She began taking pictures on the streets of Mumbai, almost twenty years ago, under the guidance of renowned Indian photographer, Raghubir Singh, and influenced by the work of photographers André Kertész, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Eugène Atget, Walker Evans, Lee Friedlander, and Helen Levitt. She has received the Sanskriti Award for Indian photography (1992) and the Higashikawa Award, Japan (2006) for Best Foreign Photographer. Her works have been exhibited in India, UK, France and Japan. www.photoink.net
Martin Parr is a Magnum photographer who has developed an international reputation for his innovative imagery and social documentary style. The Barbican Art Gallery and the National Media Museum initiated a large retrospective of Parr’s work (2002), Parr was Guest Artistic Director for the Recontres D’Arles (2004) and curated the Brighton Photo Biennial (2010) he was awarded the Erich Salomon Prize (2006) and Parrworld opened at the Haus de Kunst, Munich (2008). www.martinparr.com
John Elliott is an Australian photographer, writer, creative producer and social documentary maker. His work has focused mostly on Australian culture, the bush and music. He has compiled Australia’s most extensive country music photo library and has authored a definitive pictorial history of Australian Country Music. John has been regularly exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery Queensland Art Gallery Canberra, and has been accessioned into major national collections. www.elliottcountry.com
Pilbara Stories will run at the Port Hedland Courthouse Gallery from February 15 to April 11 and at FORM Gallery, Perth February 8 to April 20 2013.
Image: Chelsea Churnside, Wickham