Peter Dombrovskis (1945–96) was one of the world’s foremost wilderness photographers. His powerful, reflective and deeply personal images of the unique Tasmanian wilderness had a lasting impact, changing the way Australians think about their environment by making remote nature accessible through images.
Shown for the first time in Victoria, Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild draws together a vast sweep of nearly 80 images. The exhibition was initially developed by the National Library of Australia from their comprehensive collection of Dombrovskis’s work.
Through their use in environmental campaigns, Dombrovskis’ images have become shorthand for environmental concerns in Australia. Particularly memorable was the image Morning Mist, Rock Island Bend that Bob Brown (later to become Leader of the Greens Party) used in the ‘No Dams’ campaign to save the Franklin River.
Seldom in the history of photography has there been as clear an example of visual culture bearing such political sway and prompting such passion in communities.
“Dombrovskis’s ability to capture the sublime beauty of the Tasmanian wilderness led to his work becoming synonymous with the Tasmanian Wilderness conservation movement,” said Anouska Phizacklea, MGA Director. “Dombrovskis once commented “photography is, quite simply, a means of communicating my concern for the beauty of the Earth.”
“His work was his voice and it powerfully evoked his passion for the environment which inspired the nation to work for its protection. MGA is thrilled to have an opportunity to showcase Dombrovskis’s practice to Victorian audiences, and to inspire a new generation to embrace his unique vision and celebrate his legacy.”
Alongside Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild is an exhibition of intense and evocative photography by contemporary Australian photographer, Katrin Koenning.
Swell highlights our current state of urgency in the environmental field. In this new body of work, seen for the first time here at MGA, Koenning avoids expected tropes of disaster-imagery, offering counter-narratives in order to focus on what is at stake and to decipher how humans and nature impact on each other.
The artist has had a long involvement with photography through photojournalism and long-form documentary projects, investigating and deciphering the ways that humans and nature impact each other.
“Katrin’s work sits at a beautiful and curious intersection between documentary and personal narrative photography,” said Pippa Milne, MGA Senior Curator. “Her photographs offer an intimate view of what it means to live in a fragile environment, and I think visitors will be intrigued and beguiled by what they find.”
“I’m particularly glad to be showing this body of work for the very first time and for part of the exhibition to enter the MGA collection. This is a topic and series very close to the artist’s heart and a brilliant opportunity for Victorian audiences to see one of our brightest early career photographers.”
Koenning’s exhibition sits as a contemporary response to tradition of environmental photography of the 1970s and 1980s. We now live in a world where wilderness photography can be captured by drones and with new technology. The access that Koenning seeks to nature is psychological rather than technical. Her work is alluring and unsettling, giving a sense of the beauty of the earth as well as nature’s precariousness.
Image: Peter Dombrovskis, Cushion plants, Mount Anne, Southwest National Park, Tasmania, 1984 (detail). Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis