From the 2017 catalogue essay
. . . ‘I decided to move down to the southern forests, to work in a really quiet and contemplative way. But when I moved into the forest I found the truth about it.’ The battle to save the south west old growth forests from large scale logging wasn’t on John’s radar until he moved to the tiny timber town of Quinninup. ‘There was nothing quiet and contemplative about it all,’ he said. ‘It was mayhem. It was like a battle scene.’
John instantly took a side, despite his documentary maker mates and mentors advising him against partisanship - in order to document all forces at play in the political upheaval. ‘I thought, “well, actually I can. This is my stance and my work will be better for it.”’
I asked him, did he think it was disingenuous for photographers and journalists to claim impartiality?
‘If they are, then how can they be engaged?’ replied John. ‘If you engage with a conflict, then I think you cannot be impartial.’ He wrote on his website, ‘To make pretty pictures without subject engagement is theft, whether landscapes or people' and I feel this is where John was coming from when it came to the landscape and people of the forest conflict. As war correspondent Martha Gellhorn wrote, ‘I don’t have time for that objectivity shit.’
Dr Sarah Drummond essay, John Austin Survey II.i Bunbury Regional Art Gallery, Western Australia 2017
- Forest Threnody