Nick Moir: The Burning. Tuggeranong Arts Centre. Until 14 March
The Burning is the centrepiece in a suite of exhibitions that have opened the 2020 season at Tuggeranong Arts Centre.
The centre has adopted 'Solastalgia' as its creative theme for this year. Coined by Australian environmental philosopher Dr Glenn Albrecht in 2005, solastalgia describes the sense of loss or nostalgia we feel when our homes or environments change irreconcilably in the face of climate change or natural disaster.
It is about something we have all been impacted by in recent months.
Three questions are being posed by the creative theme. As our homes and environments disappear in the face of destruction, dispossession and climate change, will art be a tool for action, a witness to desolation, or merely a salve for our anxieties?
Sydney photographer Nick Moir has spent 25 years photographing extreme weather events. He has covered several of the worst fire seasons Australia has seen in addition to dust storms, thunderstorms, floods and droughts. He has also undertaken six storm-chasing expeditions in the US.
Through his photography, Moir endeavours to capture various weather phenomena as living entities; some such as storms only living a few hours, others such as our bushfires and droughts continuing for months or years.
He describes Solastalgia as "the home you have when you're still at home and your home is leaving you".
This exhibition is a collection of large-format rag prints of photographs taken during the 2019-20 fire crisis in NSW. The prints clearly document aspects of the desolation.
Given Moir's experience and expertise, it was not surprising to see high quality images on display.
However, over the last several months, I for one have struggled somewhat with seeing so many images of the bushfire crisis. On social media I have found it very difficult to 'Like' excellent images when they reveal the anxieties that all of us have felt.
The exhibited images include people running through embers in the Green Wattle Creek fire, aspects of the Mt Wilson backburn which turned into the Grose Valley fire, and the raw power of a full crown fire.
There is also a dramatic image of a fire truck silhouetted before a fire tornado or wall of flames, one of a jet aircraft dumping pink fire retardant directly overhead, and an almost classical shot of a boat burning in the Hillville fire.
We've seen still and moving images of all those fires on our TV sets, in newspapers and on social media. So, I asked myself, did I need to see more?
Art comes in various forms, photography included, and can expose and assist to resolve issues of social justice. Photos can help humanise our emotions when we need to voice our concerns.
As an illustrative and journalistic tool, the best photography can inspire us to action. It can elicit an instinctual reaction.
A photographer's images should be an expression of her or his self, and images taken can convey a message to others seeing them.
We need no knowledge of the photographer's methods to receive the message.
Moir says the best photojournalism makes something beautiful out of something horrible. He is hopeful that his images will have an impact and, perhaps, sway other people's views.
So, I encourage you to go and look at these images with an educated eye and think about what you and your friends might be able to do.
Don't just look hoping to salve your anxieties. Don't only see a record of what Moir experienced.
Think about the idea of his photographic art being used as a tool for action to make our world a better place.