Pamela Inverarity’s approach to photography is something we can all learn from. Her philosophy is very much focused on never losing your sense of awe and wonder and getting to know your local area intimately.
And, of course, this is reflected in Pamela’s work. Outback roads with outback fences, golden light dancing across desert hills and ancient mountains. Flowers blooming in seemingly desolate areas or majestic Eucalypts bathing in floodwaters.
These are the timeless stories of life that play out on a daily basis. These are stories that Pamela tells which many overlook or simply don’t notice. And the good news is that any photographer can become attuned to these stories by simply slowing down and taking the time to notice them.
1) Can you tell me the story of how you first became interested in photography? Did growing up in the Flinders Ranges have anything to do with it? 🙂
Funnily enough, it wasn’t growing up in the Flinders Ranges that originally inspired me to be a photographer, not directly anyway.
My parents have a huge collection of National Geographic Magazines and other books of photography, and it was while vicariously exploring the world through these photos as a kid that I dreamed of being a photographer and travelling to exotic and beautiful locations very different to the dusty red landscape I was used to.
I’d always loved nature and I had a huge amount of freedom to roam and explore as a kid. My home town, Leigh Creek, was surrounded by a vast communal space of hills and native bush called the Buffer Zone. When I was little I’d meet my friends out there to build cubbies and play make-believe.
As I grew older I went out there to explore or just enjoy the thrill of running down the hills at full pelt, leaping over rocks and obstacles as I went. Looking back on it, I realise how incredibly lucky I was to be able to have that much freedom and independence to enjoy nature on my own terms.
I loved it and the landscape felt like home to me as much as the house I grew up in. But it wasn’t until I left my home town to go to university and then on to travel and other things that I started to fully appreciate just how beautiful and unique it all was.
When I went back to Leigh Creek in 2007 to finally realise my dream of being a photographer I wanted to capture that beauty and show others. Not just the classic grand scenes that other photographers had taken, but also the places where no one had bothered to stop and truly look. I wanted to show the people that lived there how beautiful their home really was.
2) What was the inspiration for your book Child’s Play In a Timeless Land? What advice would you give to others who are considering releasing a book?
My childhood and my son were my biggest inspirations for my book. Each nation has myths and legends that form the backbone of their national culture, and in Australia when we think of the bush, and the outback we think of weather-beaten men in Akubras, explorers and jackaroos surviving off their wits in harsh conditions.
But to me, it was a place that allowed kids amazing freedom, with huge open spaces where you could imagine you were an adventurer, an explorer or anything you wanted. So that was what I wanted to show in my book. I wanted to enrich the Australian image of the bush with the limitless imaginations of the children that grow up there. The result was a book which juxtaposes landscape photographs with imaginative portraits of local children at play in that landscape.
While I love the tough and resourceful image we have of people who live out bush, I wanted to add to it an appreciation of its beauty and the magic that you sense when you’re a kid with this place at your doorstep.
My advice to anyone who wants to make a book is that it’s a big and expensive undertaking and you have to be really determined that it’s what you want to do before you go down that path. It was always a dream of mine and I’m glad I did it, but it did teach me that many things are not as easy as they look.
3) How much importance do you place on living local and having in-depth knowledge of a subject or location?
I think living local has had a huge influence on my photography of the Flinders Ranges.
In somewhere that’s remote, living there helps you be in the right place at the right time to catch beautiful light or extreme weather events. But more than that, I think my affinity for that landscape which goes all the way back to childhood has been a big influence on my ability to capture what makes it beautiful, at least to me.
In-depth knowledge of a subject or location often comes from a real passion for it, and that passion is bound to show in your in photos. I’ve now moved to the Clare Valley and I’m starting to get a feel for the local landscape and that’s really starting to show now in my photography.
But living somewhere or knowing something well isn’t everything to my photography. I’m an adventurer at heart and I also love to capture what I find when I explore new places. If something looks beautiful or inspires me one way or another, that’s when I want to take photos.
4) What is one piece of kit that you absolutely cannot live without?
Seriously, if you asked if you could take any of my kit away I’d be pretty upset about it.
That being said, a lot of my photography is spur of the moment rather than planned so I’ve learned to be resourceful and improvise if there’s something that I don’t happen to have with me at the time. This includes taking photos on my phone because I don’t even have one of my cameras on me.
5) Is there a particular message you want to communicate with your landscape photography?
Just like in my Instagram tag line – “the world is an amazing place”. I think sometimes we forget to see the beauty around us and we end up taking our world for granted.
In my 20’s I had a work and rock-climbing friend whose outlook never ceased to inspire me, and when I tried to pin down exactly what it was, I realised that she had never lost the awe and wonder at the world that she had when she was a kid that so many of us lose when we grow up.
It hadn’t occurred to me until then how valuable that really was but it was a big inspiration to me. I want to inspire others to re-find that awe and wonder in the world around them, to show them that where they live is really amazing and beautiful, and that we’re all a part of it.
6) Who are some of the photographers you admire, and why?
There’s a huge list of photographers I admire, for lots of different reasons. I love the epic landscape photography of Ansel Adams and he’s been a significant inspiration for my landscape composition.
I admire the way that Ken Duncan and Peter Lik have paved the way for the acceptance of landscape photography as a valuable art form in Australia and how their photography has made places into instantly recognisable icons. I was also very impressed by Ken Duncan’s generosity when he agreed to write the blurb for the back of my book and even travelled to Leigh Creek to take photos with me.
The story of how the landscape photography of Peter Dombrovskis helped save the Franklin River is one I find pretty inspirational and a great example of the power of photography to help people recognise the value in the world around us.
There are also so many brilliant and talented photographers right here in South Australia that inspire me that if I began to name a few I’d feel bad for the ones I didn’t, however I think I should at least mention a couple of family members.
My brother Ian Inverarity whose passion for astrophotography really shows in his incredible shots of the night sky and my cousin Stuart Milde whose dedication and skill at bird photography never ceases to amaze me. I actively follow over 400 photographers on Instagram and it doesn’t just inspire me, it helps me feel like part of a community.
7) Nature is a common theme in your work, do you have any tips for photographing birds which can be frustrating to deal with?
I wouldn’t say that I’m an expert in wildlife photography but I’m always happy to share my best tips. As a landscape photographer, I’m always thinking about light and composition, and these things are important in wildlife photography too.
Getting up early is probably number one for me because dawn is often the best time to find all sorts of birds and other wildlife out and active, plus the light looks great at that time of day.
The main things that have helped my wildlife photography are investing in a good long lens, setting a fast shutter speed and applying a good deal of persistence and anticipation. But having said that, a lot of my shots are serendipitous rather than planned so I guess my last tip is to just go somewhere with your long lens and see what you can find.
The more places you go and the more you try to get some shots, the more likely you are to end up with at least one good shot you’re proud of.