Bushranger Blue

Rory King

2020 - Ongoing

Australia; New South Wales, Australia; South Australia, Australia; Northern Territory, Australia


Occupying the hybrid space between documentary practice and personal narratives fleshed out through ambiguous visual imagery, Bushranger Blue is both a documentation and poetic interpretation of a lifestyle on the fringes of society. Fuelled by a documentary impulse and inspired by the equivocal nature of poetry and aesthetics, the images in Bushranger Blue call upon an elusive and arcane rhythm in an effort to evoke feeling over fact.

For the past year, I have lived in isolation on a rural property in the Southern Tablelands of Australia and in my car, travelling from outback New South Wales, through the ancient Flinders Rangers and up to Walpiri Country in the Northern Territory. What started out as an open-ended documentary project, following the length of the Murray Darling Basin, Australia’s largest river network, rapidly transformed into a far more, lengthy, emotional and introspective quest.

Whilst trying to unpick an incredibly critical and complex water-management situation, paired with an examination into my own identity and fallibility, the world erupted into a cataclysm of medical and socio-political chaos. As such, this period of my life, as with so many others, was punctuated by isolation and observation from the perimeters of society. My initial project seemed out of reach and so out this typhoon of collective anxious and uncertain energy, I began making pictures from the vantage point of a silent witness, trying to make amends to my own nervous energy by focusing on the consolation of being immersed in nature.

Equality challenged by this solitude, psychologically rejuvenated by a nomadic pace and ignited by the global sanctions on self-isolation, I began to question where the individual motive for self-removal from society arises from. Using my camera, I attempted to examine the advantages, ramifications, and my personal reactions to a nomadic and socially dismembered way of life, an increasingly more attractive pursuit for so many amidst ubiquitous disorder.

By way of pairing landscapes of my immediate environment, intimate moments of deep repose, and images suggestive of global disruption, Bushranger Blue attempts to form an alliance between the tranquility of a marginal lifestyle and the chaos of a currently perturbed society. Plaited throughout the series are intimate moments enriched with spirit, honest representations to the realities of a natural environment, and glimpses of insight into the majesty and richness of the Australian bush. All three of these constituents working in synergy to summon a lyrical investigation suffused with both serenity and tension. Occasionally challenging the viewer through unfaltering representations of death, Bushranger Blue gives credence to the value of decay in symbiosis with life and re-birth. This serves as a metaphoric fulcrum throughout the series, reminding us that for new life, death must be foundational be that physical, psychological or social.

At it’s heart, Bushranger Blue delivers a hopeful message. A photographic guide as to how we may find solace, flanked by fear and uncertainty. It makes an appeal for self-reliance in the face of adversity and suggests for us not to disavow our sorrow, anxiety or grief, but to embrace them at the junction where pain is hope.


Use of funding and further development:

If accepted for the PHMuseum Photography Grant, I’d be thrilled beyond all measure to further expand on Bushranger Blue. Admittedly, after reviewing my initial prints, I was disappointed with the lack of portraits I was able to take. This is in part due to my anxiety around approaching strangers with an imposing and foreign looking camera but more so my introversion whilst trying to reconcile the challenges and unfamiliar demands of life on the road.

Although briefly disappointed, I don’t regret this outcome at all. The images I did manage to take feel like a powerful representation of the sublime, melancholic, aloneness that defined my experience. With the PHMuseum bursary, I would immediately embark on another trip, this time narrowing in on telling individual stories held by the incredible characters that live in rural Australia. My intention would be to find people who have escaped to the city in search of life beyond contemporary society. A removed, self-reliant and off-grid existence. My first locations would be the opal mining towns, Lightning Ridge, White Cliffs, Coober Pedy and Andamooka, rich with drifters, miners and ex-convicts in search of a quieter life.

The means of distribution for Bushranger Blue is another crucial factor, and for the entirety of the project I’ve felt that a book is the best medium for the message. I feel as if a book is a way in which I can share the work with the greatest volume of people, in turn acting as a sort of poetic visual guide for emotional solace and survival in the wake of crisis. Although I’m primarily focused on long form photo projects and the further development of these images over time, I enquired with a local book printing company who have provided me a number of quotes to help guide the physical size (number of pages, images, book dimensions) of the work.

Considering these financial and physical parameters and clarity as to the direction I wish to take the rest of the work, the PHMuseum Grant would be deeply encouraging in the continued development of Bushranger Blue, allowing both a generous financial incentive and valuable notoriety amongst the photo community. I’m so grateful to have this opportunity for review and especially by some of my greatest photographic inspirations. I look forward to hearing back from you!

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  • A tiny bird rests in the branches of a dead Eucalyptus tree, surrounded by invasive thistles.

  • The lush banks of Stewart River, an isolated refuge amidst chaos.

  • Confined to isolation and limited social contact during the COVID restrictions, Amarina stares out her window in a moment of introspection.

  • Old industrial mining equipment in Broken Hill, NSW. Seemingly untouched for decades.

  • Masked protesters gather in solidarity for the humongous Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Melbourne, fighting to dismantle police brutality.

  • An abandoned sheering shed outside of Lightning Ridge, NSW. Home to a multicultural population of 2000 people from over 40 countries, most of it's residents have come in hopes of finding the Australian opal.

  • A couple lovingly embrace after being separated during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

  • A local farmer in New South Wales dresses up in his best leather for a night on the town.

  • The Melbourne, Black Lives Matter protests were heavily discouraged by the federal government and criticised for potentially encouraging the spread of the COVID virus. No cases were traced back to the gathering of over 100,000 protestors.

  • A River Red Gum holds on to the banks of the legendary Murray River at Kinchega National Park. Although slowly beginning to refill after years of critical drought, the native flora and fauna are still tentative to fully return.

  • An almost dry river runs cuts blistered landscape at Anna Creek Station, the largest cattle station in the world. At it's capacity the station can hold up to 16,500 head of cattle however as a result of exceedingly dry conditions, the station is running at less than half.

  • A man skins a roadkill kangaroo in a field of native wallaby grass for it's pelt and meat. In the depths of the outback, self-reliance and industriousness is foundational.