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Photo: Yavuz Erkan and Sancintya Simpson

Yavuz Erkan and Alan Edgecomb discuss ‘Beneath the Ridge: A photo documentary of Lighting Ridge, NSW’

Beneath the ridge is a group exhibition of photography and e-journalism students from Queensland College of Art. It was put together after two weeks of condensed shooting and editing for the In-Field Social Documentary course. With such fieldwork opportunities happening again in the future, emerging photographers are encouraged to learn and translate their experience through photographs on a public level. The experience was a significant opportunity for the students to develop their professional practice. This and similar projects also benefit the rural communities of Australia, allowing their stories to be heard by a broader audience.

The following interview has been conducted with one of the course participants, Alan Edgecomb.

What did this fieldwork consist of and why was Lighting Ridge chosen as the location?
The In-Field Social Documentary course consisted of a week in a rural community and a second week back at class reviewing all our photographs, sorting them, editing and culling them down to a few images that would tell a story.
After covering the basics in outdoor lightning and the practicalities of social documentary photography we spent the first day in Lightning Ridge to get some initial impressions and to look for some aspect of the community to document. There is a story somewhere let’s find it! We each found some thread that we felt would be worth further investigation. We discussed this with the lecturers and agreed on an avenue to follow. We did not want one person to be bombarded with requests for their story and photographs. Some ideas went nowhere. Some when where we did not expect.
Each day was spent scouting for locations and people, talking to the locals (which was easy as most knew we were in town), photographing and talking and drinking coffee.
Lightning Ridge was chosen by the lecturers, it is “unique” and that is possibly why it was chosen – this was a fantastic choice.
What have you taken away from this experience and how do you think it would reflect back on your future photographic practice?
Not all people want the intrusion into their lives, some want to remain hidden, but once you build up some credibility and gain their confidence, they will open up. Having another photographer along was also very helpful as one could engage the subject while the other was at times almost invisible and could capture the subject more naturally.

Beneath the Ridge

How did your experience impact your view on Australian culture? What was the most memorable experience?
Coming from a city background it was refreshing to have the locals accept us into their life and take time to talk to us. Many went out of their way to assist us. They do not seem to be in a hurry. Amigo (town resident) had an appointment with the Bank Manager that day (the only bank in town) and yet was happy to show us around. Strangers would approach and we would have a long conversation. There were certainly aspects of life that I did not expect, like the break in at the Bowling club, reported domestic violence, theft of solar panels, ratting of digs etc.
All my experiences were memorable, from the humble John Murray, the friendly Black Queen, the wonderful Victor, Amigo and his amazing castle, Butch, Target, the ex prisoner and others. The entire group from QCA all made the exercise worthwhile.

Did you find it difficult to adapt yourself to other people’s lives? Were there any restrictions in accessing certain areas of the community?
Yes, originally felt that I was intruding and felt guilty that I was taking too much of their time.
Besides some mining camps having signs that it was private property, we did not have any restrictions. If we could find them and talk to them we were welcome. No one refused to be photographed.
Are you planning to exhibit the photographs in Lighting Ridge, NSW? How do you think the community would respond to the exhibition?
I would love to return to Lightning Ridge with the exhibition to show our work. I believe this is a very important part of building on the reportage we have with this community. They gave freely to us so we should return the complement. If we are going to continue this subject next year, and I believe we should, it would be good PR to show them our work. As to how they would view the photographs, I am not sure. Looking at the images in the exhibition I feel that we did justice to the community, we have told the story well. I would like to think they would say the same thing.

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