Coppice shadows the dissolving ground of ‘place’ in Djanduk country. The exceptionally biodiverse box-ironbark woodlands of central Victoria were cleared and the earth beneath churned ‘upside down’ for gold mining in the 1850s. Slow regeneration since has produced an overstorey of thin multi-stemmed coppiced trees with patchy undergrowth and few native animals quite unlike the mature old-growth forests once stewarded by the Dja Dja Wurrung people. Today, climate change threatens continuing recovery of the forests and the well-being of its human inhabitants. These digital reiterations of gelatine silver images recorded on an old ‘5×7 inch’ format wooden field camera is analogue technology not unlike that in use before the forests were felled, but of which no photographs are known to exist. They report a wounded landscape where preconceptions about what is natural and what is anthropogenic are confounded. These images of place ask us to question whether country needs to be returned to its pre-colonial condition to be experienced as valuable, beautiful or sacred and, even if not, is a disturbing sense of injury, contamination or absence unavoidable? Coppice is a work in progress.
Photographer with camera, Mount Leanganook (Mount Alexander), Victoria, 2020