Photographers conserving wilderness

Rock Island Bend by Peter Dombrovkis

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) & Peter Dombrovskis (right)

Olegas Truchanas (left) and Peter Dombrovskis (right)

Lake Pedder by Olegas Truchanas

Lake Pedder by Olegas Truchanas

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.

Great Ravine below the Cauldron, Franklin River, by Peter Dombrovskis

Great Ravine below the Cauldron, Franklin River, by Peter Dombrovskis

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:

Brief video clip from the award-winning Wildness documentary and the film’s official website

Inside Story article about Olegas Truchanas

Official website for Peter Dombrovskis

ABC Radio National interview & slide show about the power of photographers to motivate change

ABC Radio interview with Natasha Cica, author of ‘Pedder Dreaming’ 

Book: Pedder Dreaming by Natasha Cica

Book: Wild Rivers by Peter Dombrovskis & Bob Brown

8 thoughts on “Photographers conserving wilderness

  1. What a wonderful post! That first photograph really touched my heart – it is absolutely stunning! These men were special and talented human beings that used their talents for something bigger than themselves. Wow! Thank you for sharing this with us. I unfortunately don’t know a whole lot about Tasmania, but I’m definitely going to find out more. 🙂

    • I’m delighted their story resonates with you too, Zelmare… they were inspiring men whose photographs made a real difference. Thank you for your interest and for taking the time to view and comment!
      Best wishes,
      Susie 🙂

  2. I love that Morning Mist photograph too. Wonderful information Susie! I just started a blog and my first post was about the Nature Photographers who inspire me including Peter Dombrovskis. I included a link to your blog:)

    • Thanks so much for your interest and valued feedback – and of course for linking back to my blog; it’s much appreciated! I look forward to browsing yours when my new modem arrives – browsing on my phone is not very satisfying! Susie 🙂

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