Saturday, 18 October 2014

The Long Road to Broken Hill

This year's three-day photo workshop in Broken Hill kicked off on October 17th.  But before we could get started we had to get there.  Five drove and one flew the mail run via Mildura.  Natalie and I drove - it's only 1200 kms.  We chose to travel via Newcastle owing to unseasonal snow (!) hampering drivers crossing the Blue Mountains.   These are a few pictures we shot in Wilcannia, a small predominantly Aboriginal settlement 950kms west of Sydney.  It's so small there's not even a decent medical service in town - the Royal Flying Doctor Service flies in three times a week to hold clinics. 
Much of the town appears to be somewhat dilapidated, and run down.  The pub on the main road through town looked like it had been under siege - many of the other houses and shops were either boarded up, for sale, or burned out.  Or a combination of all three.  Despite the fact that it is on the beautiful Darling River it comes over as being the sort of place most just drive through on the highway to Broken Hill, two hours to the West.
 However, its history is impressive. During the 1880s, Wilcannia reached its peak with a population of 3,000. It claimed 13 hotels and its own newspaper, the Western Grazier. It was one of the major Murray-Darling river ports (the third largest in New South Wales after Sydney and Morpeth) and played a vital part in the transport of goods, notably wool and wheat, in the days of the Murray-Darling paddle steamers.  At its height there were 90 steamers plying their trade on the river.  Because the river height was uncertain in those days, the banks of the river were lined with huge warehouses used to store materials for the farmers, plus of course, the wool and wheat that brought immense wealth to the inland. Now you can only see vestiges of this history with a few beautifully restored buildings like the Court House and the police station (and the gaol).

'Keeping it alive'.  103.1FM in Wilcannia. HDR shot.

Wanna buy a pub? Here's the Queen's Head up for grabs but with the current economic climate, I doubt that there'd be any customers...
Former Athenaeum library from 1883 - shot by Natalie Hitchens.
HDR shot of a local butcher shop, now boarded up and moved elsewhere...
I missed seeing this contradictory sign altogether - too keen to get a front-on shot. 
Interesting visual comment by Natalie Hitchens.
More social dilapidation in Wilcannia. 
I thought these boarded up shop fronts made good subjects for the HDR treatment
Interesting colours in Wilcannia.
Corrugated iron now covers many of the unused buildings in what was once an impressive and very successful country town.
Natalie's shot of a window in Wilcannia's historic court house.
It looks very like an electrical outlet!
Another great HDR shot by Natalie Hitchens
Sign of the times: graffiti smeared over a boarded up shop in Wilcannia's back streets

1 comment:

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