1 August to 31 August 2013

'To the Sea' by Trent Parke and Narelle Autio

Australia floats like a good looking stain in the middle of an ocean of blue. For the most part we who live here have chosen to live around its shores, close to water. We seem more comfortable there. I am more comfortable there. Close to water, closer to life and its beginnings. The rest of us live further in. The population dwindling as the roads that take us to the centre, grow long and monotonous. Black fingers that stretch and quiver, reaching off in to the distance. Trent and I enjoy car travel much more than any other ways of travel. There is a sense of place and distance that you don’t get hopping off a plane from one town to another.

Trapped in a metal box speeding across the country can seem to some like torture but for us there is a freedom. The freedom and time to think and feel and understand where you are and where you are going. The hot windows of the car become portals to alternate worlds, daydreaming is inevitable. Time stands still and flies by all at the same time. It is hard not to imagine that you are in actual fact watching your life pass by. And it goes past altogether too fast, way too fast. Every mile bringing you closer to the unknown as the landscapes rush alongside. Like you see in the movies, as the dying gasp their last breath. Those moments of love and chaos and chance that define your life, rushing you towards oblivion, showing you the way as you move from one world to another. Wrapping up all that means most to you in a neat package that you might understand because the real understanding of that last journey is altogether much more scary.

And the landscapes keep on changing but the feeling of loss does not and the roads go on and on and on.

And then you arrive where you want to be. Or have you? It is dry, dusty, hot and fly blown but everywhere there is magnificent beauty. Heaven or hell? Who knows but we are here and we know we are somewhere very different and a long way from anywhere, but particularly from the sea. We try and blend in but never do and the wariness is always there. We know the stories. Everyone who has travelled in the outback has a story or has heard a story. Fantastic and bizarre, I am sure these tales are exaggerated or embellished as time goes on, but many are exquisitely true and almost always they involve something horribly frightening.

And the reality is, life can be terrifying out here. The animals are dangerous, the climate murderous and the people, well they are just a bit different and worryingly capable. Out here in this vast, unforgiving, secretive landscape, it seems anything is possible and almost anything could be got away with. Australia has a dark history of death and misadventure waiting around every corner. Alone on a dark night in a secluded, campsite, a long way from anywhere, it is inevitable these stories wander in to haunt you. They bump in, slowly at first, growing stronger with every unknown sound and call. Our little tent glowing in the night like a beacon, signalling life in a deathly dark landscape. We listen, blinded by the dark and wait for something to happen and nothing ever does. Or does it and no-one is there to see it.

These photographs have been collected over years and years of travel across the country, along dusty roads to nowhere in particular but on roads that always lead always back to the sea.