© Michael King (
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created on 31-07-2010
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5 photos comment(s)
PROJECT DESCRIPTIONOn 7 February 2009 the worst bushfire in recorded Australian history cut a crimson swathe across much of central and eastern Victoria. A deadly ring of fire consumed millions of hectares of bushland, farms and forests, caused the deaths of nearly two hundred people, displaced thousands more and wiped out a dozen towns and hamlets across the state.
Eighteen months later, an independent inquiry established under the auspices of a Royal Commission handed down its findings on the causes, effects and adequacy of planning and response by government and emergency services. In the lead-up to the report, I headed northeast to the town of Marysville in the Yarra Ranges, about ninety kilometres from Melbourne. This once sleepy and picturesque hamlet on the road to the snowfields was completely destroyed in the fires, along with much of the surrounding forests which included an impressive collection of Victorian "mountain ash" eucalyptus, one of the tallest trees in the world. The town is determined to return: many businesses operate from temporary buildings and tents and there is much reconstruction taking place.
The surrounding forests too have been busy: peel away the charcoal bark on any gum tree and one will find a forest that is very much alive and slowly regenerating. Ferns and young gum trees sprout from the rainforest floor, exposed to the sky where they once would have been covered by a dense canopy of mountain ash gum leaves.
It was only fitting that one of the rivers which passes through this area is the Acheron, presumably named after the same river featured in ancient Greek mythology as the "river of pain", that which represented the threshold between life and life after death.
I do not normally mix colour and black and white images together in a deliberate theme but when I was organising the first batch of photographs, neither the colour nor the black and white on their own could capture fully the two moods I wanted to convey; the horror of the devastation, on the one hand, and the defiance and energy of the regrowth on the other. So, in the end, I kept both in and I hope the work well together.