Photographer Noni Carroll was overawed by the incredible diversity and culture of Narren Lakes and takes us on a stunning visual journey of her experience at the Moorambilla Artist Immersion 2015.
Having grown up on the land I have always felt a strong connection to country. The opportunity given, to learn more about the Aboriginal culture and history of the Narren Lakes, was a real gift. In ways that on some levels I have yet to fully realise.
Upon entering Narren Lakes, one of the first things I saw were the small cypress pine trees. The bottom half had been stripped of foliage by goats during the drought and therefore the trees were not that pretty! All I saw though were possibilities. I couldn’t get out of the car quick enough! I wanted to experiment with shape, colour, form and movement.
Tying the landscape together with a very moving smoking ceremony conducted by Ted Fields, gave me my first two images. My third abstract image was taken at dusk – a small Cypress pine sapling against the red earth.
A highlight for me was stepping away from the condensed woodland landscape and out into the open. I got a real sense of just how small we all are, merely a speck on the landscape. I was extremely happy with my decision to buy a new wide angle lens the day before the trip. It enabled me the width I needed to convey this in my images. Nothing can compare to being on the land itself but I always hope to give people a feeling of the real essence of the landscape. And I have to say that the panorama function on my phone also came in handy. I have to be honest!
On the first afternoon, I walked around on the clay salt pan which was covered with beautiful white silt. I dug into the soil and held the soft dirt in my hand and asked the spirits of the land to help me each day to photograph what was important. To help me document our experience to share with others and give a sense of the beauty of the area. I felt that I was being guided each day to see different aspects of the landscape. Not just the wide angle view but also the smaller details. The shapes of the earth, the traces of existence, past and present.
Can you see the kangaroo head in the picture below?
There are centuries of mussel shells in the local middens.
What animals are these?
From a photographic perspective, I was very fortunate with the weather. Its affect on the landscape was totally different on each of the three days we were there. The first day brought a smattering of cloud, which was perfect in adding balance to the landscape shots in particular.
The second day was bright blue sky coupled with wind. I wanted to shoot some abstract shots of leaf movement in some of the local trees. The Mimbil Box especially, with its beautiful large round leaves which sparkled in the sunshine, plus the Beefwood and its gorgeous structure.
The third day brought RAIN! The wind, the build up of darkening clouds, and the softening of the light added yet another dimension to the landscape.
Another highlight for me was stepping out onto a small drying lake for our first sunset. The receding water and consequent cracking mud was a photographers delight. The colour, texture and shapes of the mud clay puddles reminded me of Aboriginal artworks. I could see exactly where the Aboriginal people drew some of their inspiration. The fact that there was a crocodile-shape puddle, which tied in wonderfully with the creation story of Narren Lakes, was perfect!
I must say that one of my true highlights isn’t a photographic one but more of an emotive one. On our last evening I asked everyone to share their favourite experiences of the trip. Hearing what each person had to say was an amazing heartfelt moment for me, one that brought tears to my eyes. We all saw and felt different things and had differing perspectives, yet had the one common chord. We had all connected to the land. To the timelessness.
We all felt that we had lost a true sense of time while we were on Narren Lake country. A sense of having being there for far longer than we actually were, imbibing all Narren had to offer.
The Moorambilla Artist Immersion was facilitated by the Narran Lakes CoManagement Committee in particular Moorambilla Voices Indigenous Cultural Consultant and Gamilaroi elder Aunty Brenda McBride from Lightning Ridge (watch Aunty Brenda at Narran Lakes and also here).
It was also facilitated by National Parks and Wildlife Service Ranger Michael Mulholland, Rhonda Ashby, Lightning Ridge Language Nest Language Consultant and Ted Fields Jnr from Walgett, who welcomed the team with the smoking ceremony.