Photographers, Politics and the Environment

Esther BeatonConservation, Tasmania


One of the most significant environmental events in Australia occurred in 1983. And I was there. It was January, I was on my honeymoon with my French photographer husband, Jean-Paul Ferrero and I was on a mission to try my hand at my first ever photojournalism piece. We cruised down Tasmania’s Gordon River and camped in old fishermen’s huts. I photographed and interviewed protestors as well as the beauty of the fog-shrouded landscape.

Back on the mainland, I nervously wrote up a story and submitted it to Natural History Magazine. I completely expected them to refuse it. I was dazzled beyond belief when they not only accepted it, without subediting, but even made one of my shots the cover photo. It was also a lucky coup that it came out just about the same time as the High Court’s┬áruling which halted the damming of the magnificent Gordon River and turned the governments of the day upside down.
Today, July 1st, is the 25th anniversary of that ruling. I would like to honour that date by publishing the cover of that magazine issue. I realize now that the role of a photographer can be an effective one, even when it might not seem so at the time. Thanks to all the ordinary people involved, whether in-your-face protestors or behind-the-scenes supporters, that pristine environment of huon pines, king billy pines and cold, soaking rainforests is today a World Heritage Area and a testament to the power of the people. Right on photographers!