Tasmania: Thoughts and Images
By Tom Harvey
9 Oct 2011
Australia's island state is a place of beauty and tragedy. From the earliest days of European colonisation of the island it has been a place of hardship and sadness, established as a penal settlement on the fringes of the vast British Empire in the early 19th century, the beginning of the horror story of Tasmania began with the mistreatment of the island's Indigenous population by the racially motivated policies of the colonial government.
From the outset, the Indigenous people were viewed as a threat and were forced off their lands, killed without punishment, rounded up and moved to offshore island reservations. The establishment of the penal colony at Port Arthur provided the impetus and the workforce for much of the development around the island. At Port Arthur, once known throughout the Empire as one of the harshest prison colonies in the world, convicts were punished not just by the cruel prison guards but by the isolation and harshness of the antipodean environment – baking summer days, freezing winter nights, food shortages. As if the horrors of the colonial past were not enough, the Port Arthur massacre, in which 35 innocent lives were taken by the bullets fired by lone gunman, Martin Bryant, in the April of 1996, adds to the torment the area has witnessed.
Despite the tragedy, the beauty of the cultural and natural landscapes of this small island is simply beyond compare. As a photographer from North Queensland, where the harsh light almost has a physicality of its own, I was drawn to the softness of the light in the Tasmanian winter and spring. I wanted to capture the quality of light, the soft shadows, the darkness, which added a surreal tinge of sadness.
The following images represent the mood I discovered in Tasmania, where the rocks and bricks and mortar provide a tangible link to the past and seem to speak and resonate with the sadness they have endured.