Portrait Project – Day 3

Posted: February 3, 2011 in Portrait Project
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Johnson – Taxi Driver

One criticism often voiced by European travellers to Australia is that it’s vastness is not quite matched by variation. A town in rural Victoria isn’t too different from another about more than a 5 hour plane journey away in Western Australia. Certainly not the kind of difference you would see in Europe going from Madrid to Moscow. I spent a lot of time back in 2006 fruit picking in Northern Queensland and flew back to Sydney with a similar impression. There were similar structures, the familiar green of a Woolworths, a local Hotel (pub) on the street corner and people still hated AFL!

However today, it is different, as Queensland recovers from the horrors of a category 5 cyclone it’s difficult to image what they have gone through up there and what they still have to go through. A tragedy hitting even closer to home with practically everyone in the country knowing of friends and/or relatives  in and around the danger area. Yet on the street of Sydney life doesn’t miss a beat as this taxi driver dropped off a fare at a busy shop forecourt, while the patrons of the pub beside it boisterously celebrate getting one day closer to the weekend.

It’s the inevitability of life but all the same it leaves a lingering and uneasy sensation of how disconnected we all are. Even in the picture there is familiarity, the street lights giving the photographic scene a distinctive tungsten hue, the same hue that’s being emitted through our TV sets amongst the fragmented images of the storm at its worst last night, but the two pictures exist worlds away. The only similarity now is the comfort to be found from the compassion and reassurances articulated by Queensland Premier Anna Bligh whose presence over the last few days, and before that with the flooding crisis, has stood up as a symbol of Australia’s unbelievable strength and readiness for dealing with such disasters. Her role as much for those feeling powerless to help by geography as those powerless by human limitation against the forces of nature.

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