Caterpillar days for clarity

Planning Table – June Perkins

Art and deadlines must mix when exhibiting, and yet arts practice doesn’t always want to conform to a deadline.  It takes time to sort out creative thoughts, and most artists need ‘daydream time.’  In this time we appear externally to be doing ‘nothing.’  We pace, weed the garden, in my case watch the Ulysses butterflies and cockatoos fly past in the late afternoon. No one can rush me, not even me. Internally in daydream mode artists are shaping, creating, moving, transforming and generally trying to surf the waves of creativity into a cohesive piece to share with others.

Everyone works differently to a certain degree and I started out with the impulse to photograph a journey- either back to normality or as faraway from cyclone Yasi as possible, I don’t think I knew at the beginning.  However now as I reflect on my processes I was attracted to joy, light, nature, happy people, glimmers of hope and the rebuilding of lives and our towns.  Sequences of events, like regreening, and Prince William stepping out of a helicopter to meet a crowd evolved around me and I captured them as best I could with my camera. I was open to events around me that seemed to plot a journey through creativity, gardening, people and much more.

Above is a picture of my planning table, taken this morning.  I am making my final selection of photographs and words ready to print it and mount it all.  I have not been able to rush this process but left my table sitting last night like a slow cooker meal.  Today the clarity is on its way and I then need to head off to the printers in the next couple of days to bring it to the boil.

Blogs can be approached in the same way as I describe above, for they need not always be fast, quick draw and contemporary.  They can have that dreamy, reflective – approach that show the passing of time has mellowed their words.

On the flip side of the coin is the need to meet deadlines, to forever dream and never put pen to paper, or photograph to print and frame is to be one who only speaks of creation without ever completing.  Day dreaming for me however needs absolute calm, and quiet – and space.  It’s like a caterpillar needing a cocoon to become what it is destined to.

Caterpillars – by June Perkins

Interestingly, yesterday when I was in the midst of playing with thoughts on my planning table, a kind soul came to let me know there were caterpillars outside that I might like to photograph. The sign of someone who knows the heart of me well and yet I haven’t known her long at all. Although I can’t contain my love of photography and it bubbles out to both old and new friends, so she had observed me on clean up day at the school when having a break from weeding chasing butterflies, well trying to be still and chase them with my camera eye and had logged it in her memory bank. She also knew I had a good camera. I hadn’t been out to explore the day so much as I was stuck at that planning table – I had forgotten to give myself true daydream space. The little ‘daydream’walk to video and photograph the caterpillars gave me some peace and calm and it was soon after this that I was able to pull my thoughts on the upcoming Smile Within Exhibition into a cohesive shape. It’s all about learning to trust the creative cocoon, but also trusting how to build it.

(c) June Perkins, words and images.

Circle of Recovery

circle of life
Circle of Life – By June Perkins

Recently my family went to visit Edmund Kennedy National Park.  Like so much else around us it has been ravaged by Cyclone Yasi and is showing scars.

The scars include stinking dead fish on the beach – and trees alternating between neatly piled to chaotically strewn around depending on where they are in relation to the access road.

My children rolled hoops along the beach as I thought about the circle of nature’s distruction and renewal, the circle of life, a circle of weather patterns and a circle of recovery.

Looking forward I could see that the national parks would recover and that it would take ongoing patience to see a beauty in their stark branches which allow one to see the sky so clearly.

The day before our trip to Edmund Kennedy my eldest son presented a personal knowledge pursuit project on physics of guitar.  He was so nervous.  Yet he had enjoyed the study of the year and his control of his time immensely.  He likes to know everything about his guitars and spend a lot of time with them.  I have a photograph of him playing his guitar the day after the cyclone as he walks down the road outside our house.  I will always remember him playing it in the candlelight as the storm began to build up.

I wrote a post for abcopen about guitars and their part in our cyclone experience Legend of Five Guitars but the funny thing is we now have more guitars, as a friend Omid gave a bass to my eldest son (which was also used in his PKP project.)

Galeanos – by June

Early this week I went to visit Pam and Joe Galeano to do some more work on the video story series I am doing on them.  Pam took me for a drive around their property.  We had a great time looking through her old albums too.  This bought up so many more stories.

I think Pam and Joe could write a very interesting memoirs but they are pretty modest people.

As we drove to the very end part where they have a little patch of rainforest she related how usually there were thicky leafy overhangs from the canopy that cross over the road and in a high 4wd they would crash into you.

However now there is no canopy.  I looked up to the sky and could see the tufts of green on the end of peeled trees and – it was then that Joe’s words from earlier in the day came to me.

”nature will recover, it always does – it’s people that mourn when it is damaged.”

Although he does think Yasi was a particularly tough cyclone and it make take many human years for that recovery to fully show itself to locals.

Thinking of photography I know I like to take portraits of people that come with a story.  I admire people who can do weddings and families that they don’t know and can build an easy rapport with the people involved quickly.

Yet for me intimate storytelling photography which requires longer to pull off holds special appeal.  I like to know that story behind the face I photograph and to have the time to hear it, retell it and convey it with an image.

Interesting faces which say something in every crease or twinkle of the eyes, or locations where the people usually reside (not studios) then hold special appeal.

I took several pictures of Pam and Joe in their country – environment and was very happy with quite a few of them.

My circles of recovery come from conversations that lead to these photographic moments – and writing them reminds me of how far myself and others have come.

I was delighted to learn one friend yesterday  finally had her roof back, but sad to learn another has to wait until January 2012.  Other friends are having watershed years where special amazing things are happening.  They take on new jobs and challenges and have already been able to leave Yasi behind.  Yet not everyone can.

I’ve been having interesting facebook chats on the recovery process too.  Thanks to all those who take the time to chat and understand that some of us still need to unpack the recovery process.

Yesterday we had an amazing end of year surprise – we won the Christmas shopping vouchers that all the small businesses sponsor with the Tully Times.  You fill out a form everytime you shop with a local business and go into the Christmas draw – it is an amazing prize.

It’s such a variety of vouchers – the butchers, bakery, seafood, photographic stuff, and the uniform shop and hairdressers.  Amazing as I have been cutting the whole family’s hair to save money.  I wonder who will use that voucher.    It could be me?

Another surprise was having a blog with ABCopen make it onto another abc site for North Queensland.  Originally it was featured here and of course the video is on vimeo.

I love making mini documentaries and taking photographs that tell stories –  it feels like a vocation.  Now I need to find more stories and more teams of people to work with.  Heck maybe even a career path.  Time for ebook and documentary bootcamps!

(c) Words and Images June Perkins, all rights reserved.

Following the road to Wallaman Falls

We have always seen the sign when we are in Ingham (usually for medical appointments we can’t have in our own town) Wallaman Falls 49km and thought maybe we should go have a look at it.  I love waterfalls, especially when they are in flow.  Somehow we never quite have the time.  But this time is different.

Where do you want to go?

Cryptically I answer, ‘there’s a sign,’ directed us to the sign and then our journey begins.

The road to Wallaman Falls begins as 30 km of roads past (and almost through) the cane fields punctuated by cattle wandering the roads.  If you like seeing cows up close that’s a highlight.   This is followed by 19 km of winding road which has just been newly repaired.  Road work signs are a little bit off putting and we did hope we weren’t going to go up all that winding road and find it closed before we reached the waterfall.

The trees overhang the road the more the journey progresses until you know you are going into the heart of nature.  Shadows dart on the road from these overhangs and they and trees that cast them are very tempting to take photographs of, although it is not safe to stop except in two or three designated look out areas on the way back (so don’t forget to plan for this on the way back down that windy road or you’ll go straight pass those spots.)

There are hook signs, and the suggested speed limits are for 40 to 20 km around certain bends.  This is a good road for a skilled driver to tackle not a learner.  One can only imagine the intrepid builders and repairers of the road.

Our kids, ranging from 9 to 15, keep doing the obligatory ‘are we there yet?’ ‘what is the time’ chant as we set out on our windy upward part of the journey.  Youngest becomes a little excited as the road thins and winds higher and higher.  Eldest skeptically says, ‘why would you drive into the middle of nowhere, what is the point’ and ‘well there’s a waterfall, ’ are not convincing to him at this stage.

Some of the 19km windy road is unsealed, but at the beginning and end of  the unsealed road, the road is bitumen.  We surmise, as a family, that this is because the mud at the end of the road is being kept from the car park by a nice clean road when people end their journey.

Arriving at our waterfall trip – the waterfall does not disappoint.  Gasps from even my eldest and we know we have a winner for a family day trip.  My eldest asks for my camera to take photographs of his own, whereas usually he tends to avoid the camera behind and in front of. We share the camera between me, hubby and my eldest.  I am a bit wary of the height, but then I am a bit sensitive to heights.   There are railings and it is perfectly safe as long as you stay on the path.

Curious young children do need supervision as it’s a long way to the bottom of that waterfall, but it is breathtaking and they will always remember seeing it.

‘Just imagine Niagra — if this is so great,’ says my newly enthused teenager son.  A few more visitors turn up whilst we are there, and like us feel it has been well worth the trip.  They live in Townsville and have never seen the falls before.

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We take a short walk to one of the look outs – to admire the areas around us.  A few more photographs and then it’s time to head out.  For practical parents there is a picnic area and toilets so definitely use them before heading off down that hill as you won’t be stopping until you are back in Ingham.

Returning down that long windy hill we stop twice more for views.  It is worth those stops and helpful the road engineers and designers have put these in with photography in mind.

When we refuel for our trip home we mention the trip to the falls to the petrol station owners.  ‘Only been there once, in all my time here, hate the road’ says one, and another says ‘we used to be able to swim up there, but they changed it all, occupational health and safety.’   They ask how our cyclone ravaged town has been going, and it turns into quite a chat.

We comment that we haven’t yet been to Dunk, ‘But we’ve been twice,’ they laugh.  It seems quite common that people go to more distant tourist sites than what is around the corner.  This is something to change I think.

I for one though am glad that we took the beaten road and headed up to the falls.  So are my kids, my eldest even comments ‘it was like something out of Lord of the Rings.’ There are no complaints on the way home; they even let me indulge in a sunset stop to take the sun setting over the cane as we left Ingham.  This has been a special family day.

(c) June Perkins

What comes after – after…. dealing with disasters.


Photo Credit: June Perkins

What comes after, after?  That is after a tree is damaged, a cyclone happens, you see the immediate effects(like in the picture above) but what next?

After comes in stages – where first of all you deal with immediate safety and shelter concerns.

Then you move onto confirming the situation,  letting family know how you are, and branching out into recovery, little by little. You find some things have to be done staight away – like move your belongings very quickly or cut down that dangerous tree, or put a tarp on that roof.

Then it becomes increasingly complex as you find out about how you will receive help and register for lots of things.  But then you often have to follow things up, especially if everyone is hearing back and you are not.

And whilst the physical things are being dealt with, and often have priority, there are lots of emotions bottled up as you get on with recovering.  Everyone deals with this part differently.

I could not talk about the actual cyclone night straight away.  Yet my husband recounted it in more and more detail.  I had to leave the room or ignore the story as it felt too raw.

Gradually however it became easier for me to confront that night! I did it through keeping a journal and my blog.  Whilst I wasn’t keen to talk about things – I could write about them.

What else did I do?

I’ll blog that here in short snippets and with ABC Open so watch this space.

I am keen to hear what you have been doing to deal with the Aftermath of natural disasters where-ever you live.

(c) June Perkins, all rights reserved