The Oodnadatta Track

The Oodnadatta Track images were captured on a road trip that saw me return to an area I had travelled through 10 years earlier, while working on an outback sheep station. The 617km all-dirt track follows a traditional Aboriginal trading route through the semi-desert of South Australia. In 1872, the historic Overland Telegraph Line was constructed along the route, and in 1891 the original, and now abandoned Old Ghan Railway Line was completed. Together they opened up communication, travel and trade to Europe. The last train left in 1980, and with it this already remote and sparsely populated area lost one of its remaining connections to an outside world.

I travelled alone, staying locally along the route; an approach I've found to be the best way to form a relationship with prospective subjects. These relationships are integral to my working practice and I will often spend many hours with people before taking any pictures.

The images were shot on a large format 5”X4” film camera. The process of shooting in this way, which has changed little since the inception of photography, brings a formality to the portraits. The sitter is very aware of being photographed and the images are a result of the collaboration between subject and photographer. Rarely are more than two shots taken of any one person. The same process has been used for the landscape images, with the final image pre-visualised before setting up the camera. In this way the work is removed from the traditional notion of reportage.

Today the population of outback Australia is said to be fewer than the number of Australians who visit Bali each year. Along the Oodnadatta Track you will find two towns – William Creek (population 10) and Oodnadatta (population 166). The work is not intended to be a commentary on life in outback Australia, but a visual record of a place seldom seen closely from those outside.

Using Format