I met Scott Duncan at Yuendumu in 2000 when he came out to shoot a short film on the local painters for the NBC Olympics coverage and I was working at the local art centre.
Yuendumu is pretty much in the centre of Australia on land belonging to the Warlpiri and Anmatjerre people.
Scott came out to shoot a short film on the local painters for the NBC Olympics coverage and I was working at the local art centre.
I’d never seen so much film equipment in Yuendumu before. I think there were about 35 cases of gear! The drive out to Yuendumu was pretty rough back then and Scott’s crew had a bit of an accident on the drive out, so when they arrived they were all pretty dusty and fit right in.
The light in Central Australia can be pretty special and when you travel the desert country with Warlpiri people it comes alive with the stories they tell. Scott got that right away. I remember him talking about how ‘juicy’ the sunsets are out here, and all the ‘epic’ shots he was going to get. I’d later come to really appreciate and learn from Scott’s unique approach to capturing the world around him as he engages with it.
At the time, I was working on a book about one of the local elders and after Scott’s visit I was inspired to buy a Nikon F100 and explore some of the things he had taught me about photography. I travelled to China and shot way too many rolls of Kodak, Fuji and Agfa film (remember them?) around the Tibetan border trying to see what each could do. As I was in Sydney during the Olympics working on a doco, Scott gave me a whole lot more cool film to play with.
I found myself shooting everything on this retro Kodak slide film Scott had put me onto and cross-processing it. It made the clouds blow out crazy, gave this beautiful blue gritty look to dark skin, and bled purple or orange on silhouettes. I ended up buying bulk rolls of the stuff and still have some cooking in the fridge in Yuendumu. Now that I’ve gone digital all I have is this Photoshop action – it’s not the same, you know.
Back to the film Scott shot – I was really impressed by what he managed to capture in only a few days and the sensitive way he dealt with people and presented the film. Everyone in Yuendumu loved it and we still watch it!
I think meeting Scott and getting to share that first visit with him in Yuendumu really opened my eyes to what was possible creatively with photography and encouraged me to take the book project I was working on to another level.
To see some Yuendumu paintings, visit www.warlu.com
Now it’s time to watch Scott’s film. Keep an eye out for the awesome shot of the southern sky captured on a time lapse camera that sat out in the bush carefully watched over by scrub bullocks.