‘Morning Mist, Rock Island Bend’, Tasmania, by Peter Dombrovskis
source: National Library of Australia
Through their images, photographers can play a prominent role in increasing public awareness about the importance of conserving wilderness for future generations.
For instance, on my island home of Tasmania, photography has played a hugely influential role in the campaign to conserve the Tasmanian wilderness, particularly the work of prolific photographers Olegas Truchanas and his protégé Peter Dombrovskis, who each hailed from The Balkans and together shared a bond like that of father and son.
Olegas Truchanas (left) and Peter Dombrovskis (right)
In 1972, pristine Lake Pedder in Tasmania’s untamed south-west was flooded to build a hydroelectric dam. Olegas, who for many years campaigned passionately to save the stunning glacial lake, had lost his battle. But the campaign, the first of its kind in Australia, paved the way for later conservation successes, and Olegas became a Tasmanian legend.
Tragically, that year Olegas drowned in the Gordon River after slipping and falling into the current. His body was found, trapped beneath a log, by Peter Dombrovskis.
Later, Peter’s Rock Island Bend image (featured at the top of this post), proved to be iconic during Tasmania’s contentious ‘No Dams’ environmental campaign of 1982 by highlighting the beauty of the wild Franklin River ecosystem which was to be submerged, like Lake Pedder, by a proposed hydroelectric dam.
Peter’s photograph became the standard bearer for The Franklin, converting an international audience to its cause. Ultimately, a High Court ruling put paid to the dam’s construction and thankfully the plans have never been revived.
Sadly, Peter died in 1996 while photographing in the Western Arthurs mountain range of South West Tasmania.
Today, thanks to the dedicated work of photographers like Olegas and Peter, a wealth of fabulous photographic images are testament to Tasmania’s precious wilderness.
In the words of Olegas:
If we can revise some of our attitudes towards the land under our feet; if we can accept the role of a steward, and depart from the role of the conqueror; if we can accept the view that man and nature are inseparable parts of the unified whole – then Tasmania that is truly beautiful can be a shining beacon in the dull, uniform and largely artificial world.
If you’d like to learn more about the extraordinary legacies of Olegas Truchanas and Peter Dombrovskis, be sure to check out the following additional resources:
ABC Radio National interview & slide show about the power of photographers to motivate change