“In the cattle yard, the sun is almost on top of our heads. For most photographers, harsh top-down sun like this is anathema … Much to my surprise, I find that here, in the dry, hot north, the heavily contrasted light and shadow works. It is true to the place. The sun reveals all it touches, but leaves mystery in the harsh shadows.”
So reads Dust, a book of images and words by photographer and Curtin student Daniel ‘Matsu’ Craig, which captures the lives and personalities of the hardworking men and women of Australia’s North-West.
Published by Fremantle Press, Dust chronicles the colours, movement and landscapes of Australia’s outback through the omnipresent dust-filtered light. Craig took the series of photographs during a spur-of-the-moment visit to De Grey Station – a cattle station sitting at the mouth of the De Grey River in the Pilbara. His personal insights and perspectives are also documented, combined synchronously with the images and offering a rare insight into the story behind the lens.
For Craig, who has spent the last two years photographing the local music scene, the book evolved organically from a desire to find another community to explore.
“One of the greatest pieces of advice was given to me by Canadian photojournalist James Wiley,” Craig says. “He said to focus on your local environment and not feel like you need to travel the world to be a great photographer.”
“His words were a big part of my motivation for heading up North to the cattle ranch. I wanted to photograph a unique part of Australian culture that was completely foreign to me.”
Craig’s interest in photography came about by accident. Previously a semi-professional Kung Fu artist, the physical wear and tear of a martial arts lifestyle had begun to take its toll on him, necessitating some hard decisions.
“After a few setbacks, I had to stop my training,” he recalls. “It really left me struggling for direction. I was in my early 20s and suddenly everything I knew changed.”
“I was in quite a dark place when a friend of mine suggested I buy a camera and shoot his gigs. I slowly began to teach myself and as time went by I began to find a place through images. The passion and dedication I had for martial arts began to leak into my photography. As that passion grew, so did I.”
After spending a couple of years photographing the music scene exclusively, Craig began to experience the boundaries of a self-taught approach.
Looking for a way to mature and challenge himself as an artist, he applied to Curtin to study Photography and Illustration Design. Now in his second year, he is using his study as an opportunity to explore new ideas and techniques.
“The great thing about university is you can be as ambitious as you want without the burden of a client,” he says. “Sure, there is failure but at least you get told why you fail.”
“Last year I worked on a project titled ‘Too Much Human’. It consisted of 15 Photoshop composites consisting of at least five images each and about 30 hours edit time. It was an ambitious project and just managed to get it over the tine thanks to my tutors. This kind of support doesn’t really happen in the freelance world.”
Dust is available in stores or online at Fremantle Press.
Name: Daniel Craig