Story By Ken Eastwood
Growing up on Sydney’s infamous Oxford Street, Peter Elfes has always been surrounded by hordes of people. But in the past three years his photographic eye – that has seen his shots hung in the National Gallery of Australia, the Powerhouse Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art – has been drawn to the stark arrival of floodwaters in the 10,000 square kilometre Lake Eyre Basin.
He’s packing his swag again. “I’m very excited to see water coming into it for the third year in a row, which is the first time in white persons’ history,” Peter says. “The last trip was five weeks, but I come with a camera, not a calendar.”
The amount of water this year, flowing inland from the Queensland floods in December and January and the Northern Territory’s wet season, is set to be even more abundant than the previous two years. “People talk about ‘the records say this, the records say that’ but throw the record book away. I wouldn’t be surprised if the depth in the deeper section goes above the 15-metre mark, the record height set in the ’70s flood.”
He says images typically published of Lake Eyre flooding are very similar. “They take a wide-angled shot from 3000–4000 feet [about 900-1200 metres], showing horizon to horizon, and that’s alright for one photo, but it doesn’t give you the story of the land and the arrival of the water in this landscape that hasn’t seen it for years.”
Peter particularly loves the vastness of the landscape. “If you close your eyes and open them again, you’d swear you’ve got your directions mixed up and you’re in Bass Strait. You can’t see the coast in any direction. And that’s from the air! You’re smack dab in the middle of an ocean.”
This story excerpt is from Issue #76
Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2011