The Beaten Track is a photographic essay showcasing country Australia’s former rail communities, in the wake of industrial decline and social change.
I am at the very beginning of this work, trying to identify key locations around the country that would be good to visit and photograph. I’m also keen to find local people to speak to, those who have seen the changes that have come with the times.
Looking at the map of possible sites, I am already beginning to get a sense of the scale of what I am trying to do. Getting to travel across Australia, have time for photos and interviews, alongside my normal occupation (I work full time) is going to be a challenge in itself.
There are a lot of considerations in the project. There are issues of logistics, equipment, travel, promotion, and developing an effective visual narrative. I fully intend for photos to be the main part of the story, but it’s equally possible that other unexpected stories will grow off the work. I must admit that when I first had the idea for the Beaten Track I had not fully realised the difficulties in the undertaking.
A new idea
Back in 2011 I moved from the UK to live and work in Australia. Fresh employment saw me move very quickly to Mount Gambier in South Australia. It was there I developed my serious interest in photography, and a sense of my style and approach to taking photos. Mount Gambier had a number of eye-catching locations, but one that drew me was the old train station. In days gone past, the trains ran regularly throughout the region. At the time I was purely interested in the photographic qualities, and gave little thinking towards the wider implications of what once was.
Moving forward a few years, and I was in Western Australia. I moved to a work in a small town called Manjimup. One distinctive aspect of the local area was the old train line that had been in place, back in the days when the timber industry was thriving. Now abandoned, it ran through the region, a marker of a different time in the region. Signs of the timber industry remained, but talking to colleagues I found intriguing stories of how farmers used the train system to sell their products, particularly potatoes. Others took the train as a de facto passenger service to Perth.
My time in Manjimup reminded me of Mount Gambier, and made me think of different parts of Australia I had sen, where old abandoned tramlines criss-crossed the land. Some were ancient, others clearly in recent use. All of them told of old stories of people, and how communities must have changed over time. It was easy to realise how much different these towns must have been in the advent of industrial change.
Although I had the idea, it was a few years before it grew into active work. Now, here I am, trying to realise the dream, so to speak. I really am not sure how this will pan out, but already, looking through the various spots around the country, I am intrigued at how wide ranging this can be. With the exception of the ACT, I have identified potential spots in all states and territories. In some cases, more than one region. I might need some time to do them all.
There will be lots to consider in terms of logistics, and how to fund it. While I earn enough to fund myself, I think I will need to examine options for grant funding. The burden of flights, newer equipment and time off work will take its toil if I’m not careful.
Over the course of the project, I intend to blog regularly, updating on my progress. My hope is that as I build networks and contacts my audience will start to grow, but it will require work and integration across different social media.
Ultimately though, this project is about passion; for photography, country, and community. I have never regretted coming to Australia, and I take every chance I get to explore more of this beautiful country. Having a project that matches my personal goals is vital, and this is a project that is ready to get on track.