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Powerful drought photos in social media project show farmers strength during tough times

Cattle in drought

A portrait of drought: This photo is one of a collection taken by Anne Smith, a Whitsunday-based photographer who toured an exhibition “Drought … what next” that first launched in Longreach. The CentacareCQ project aimed to raise awareness and keep the ongoing issue of drought in the minds of townspeople and politicians. Photo: Anne Smith

A PROFESSIONAL photographer with a keen eye for the outback is working with volunteers in one of Queensland’s hardest hit drought regions on a project showcasing their resilience during hard times.

Anne Smith, from Airlie Beach, is working with volunteer photographers in the Barcaldine region – locals capturing their own images of the drought, these volunteers are participating in a PhD project researching the potential impact of images in building resilience, wellbeing and capacity during crisis events.

The images and stories have been uploaded to a Facebook page, Our strength during the drought.

“These images and stories present the voices of the Barcaldine regional community,” Ms Smith said.

“People are asked to visit and comment on the images and their own experiences as they potentially connect and strengthen community and connect with people beyond their region.”

 

Wedding photos in the drought

Hope in trials: This photo, Love finds a way, shows life still goes on in spite of the ongoing drought qand hardship experienced by people living on the land. Photo and description: Aaron Skinn.

hope springs

Hope: Life in the cracks of Drought shows a single plant managing to grow in a field of dry, cracked mud. Photo: Aaron Skinn.

Barcaldine Regional Council mayor, Rob Chandler is full of praise for the project.

“Those images speak louder than words. They show the reality of the situation out here at the moment,” Cr Chandler said.

“In this region the drought is the worst in history. Rainfall records show it is the driest period in over 120 years.”

Cr Chandler said some parts of the Barcaldine region had gone eight years without rainfall, others have not had rain for six to seven years.

“This is the stark reality of Australia. The best way people can help is get in your car and come and visit, spend money at local businesses, talk to the locals and feel what it is like.

“The city is losing it’s affinity with the bush.”

Cr Chandler said he’s hoping the uploaded photos and the collected comments will tell the plight of the Barcaldine region, and help him to lobby state and federal politicians for greater support.

A few years ago Ms Smith teamed up with CentacareCQ to produce an exhibition called “Drought…what next?” – as a visual tribute to life on the land during drought in Queensland’s central-west.

The exhibition “Drought… what next?” toured successfully across Queensland and even featured in Brisbane City Hall.

It showcased images shot by Anne Smith on three drought impacted properties in the Longreach Regional Footprint..

Ms Smith is using her latest photo project as part of her doctoral research into the power of images – by collecting photos from drought-affected communities and interviewing the volunteer photographers throughout the image making process.

“It’s important to understand the potential impact of images in building resilience, wellbeing and capacity during the ongoing drought crisis,” she said.

“It’s fascinating, photography – it’s potential therapeutic effect through a crisis event.

“Taking images could potentially make people feel better. You start looking for beautiful things even in a drought.”

Cr Chandler praised Ms Smith for empowering volunteers and working towards her Phd project.

“I commend her. She really has a passion for the bush and people doing it hard,” he said.

Donations can be made directly to the Western Queensland Drought Appeal: BSB: 034 194 Account No: 238 468 or visit www.facebook.com/wqdroughtappeal

St Brigid’s parish, Longreach also has a drought appeal, and donations can be transferred to: BSB 034210 Account No: 000194

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