Esther Beaton


Marysville, Healesville, Kinglake: Names Burned into Our Minds Forever

In 1999, as I sat at this cafe in the centre of Marysville, I had no idea of the consequences of my upcoming assignment. David Lindenmayer and I were outlining the chapters of a new book, Life in the Tall Eucalypt Forests, and planning my shooting schedule for the next 12 months.

Over the following year, I toured the ranges and forests beyond the pretty little towns and photographed the giant Mountain Ash trees which were so susceptible to fire. Wherever I went, the terrors of ‘Black Friday’ which took 71 lives in 1939, were still visible. At sixty years old, the regrowing Mountain Ash youngsters still had a long way to go before they reached their mature age of 300 years. The phrases ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Ash Wednesday’ were still spoken in a serious voice as locals recalled the human losses as well.

I stayed at Healesville and Marysville, using these places as a base. I bought my groceries, drank at the pub and shared yarns with the locals, never realizing these towns would be devastated so soon in the future.

Now, ten years later, I can turn the pages of the book and travel again into the heart of the Yarra Ranges, admiring the resourcefulness and beauty of nature as it recovered and grew out of those losses. I hope that my collection of photographs, as published in the book, has some value in not only preserving the once beautiful landscape, but in stirring hope in the hearts of the communities that it will once look like that again.

As photographers, we have a mission far grander than just pretty pictures. When you assign yourself the task of travelling deep into a region, getting to know it at a core level and recording its wonders with iconic imagery, you are contributing far, far more. You are leaving a legacy. As nature photographers, our job is to use our skills plus our determination to create majestic bodies of work. One day, that might be all that remains.

You can give money to the Victorian Bushfire Appeal by calling the Red Cross on 1800 811 700. Or you can contribute in another way. You can donate your time and energy to the preservation of our planet by taking memorable photos.

6 thoughts on “Marysville, Healesville, Kinglake: Names Burned into Our Minds Forever”

  1. I agree with the thoughts in your recent blog.

    It is such a tradgedy, and from our experiences in Canberra, and losing my old office and all of Stromlo, dashing about with garden houses to fill the gutters of our and my daughter’s house, and watching the burnt embers land on the house and garden, we have some little inkling of what it must have been like in Victoria.

    Just yesterday I got this email from a friend with a collection of someone’s shots around the fires and the devastation….

    Thanks for the blog,


  2. As an ex Victorian I knew Marysville well as my family enjoyed camping and guest house holidays there way back in the 60s but I also visited during the 70s and 80s when going to the snow or for bushwalks. Such a lush green area it was with its special places such as the Fruit Salad Farm and the scupture gardens – both now gone.

  3. Hi Esther,
    I was googling photographic guidelines for OUTBack magazine, and you.

    I look forward to following your journeys, as I embark on mine.

    It’s a lovely blog.


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