Occasional Utopias
Project info

Occasional Utopias 2017

Occasional Utopias is a series depicting the semi arid land in Far South Western Queensland, Australia, otherwise known as the Channel Country. This remote and unforgiving region supports cattle on vast pastoral holdings of hundreds of thousands of acres made possible through the availability of sub artesian water aquifers. Drought defines these inland region’s and it’s common for years to pass with no rain. While the absence of water characterises this area spectacular water events resulting from the confluence of storm systems further north and east bring flooding on an unprecedented scale. With the water comes an abundance of life as river systems fill, plains flood, bird life explodes and native grasses flourish. These short lived events are sufficient to sustain life for years to come.

Australian’s, a coastal dwelling people, are ambivalent about the “outback” having collectively inscribed a nothingness, emptiness and sameness to inland areas despite the rich diversity of flaura, fauna and landscapes. The little understood mythology of Australia’s first inhabitants, the Australian Aboriginal, adds a further level of complexity to the “outback” with rich cultural traces to be found in the remotest areas across the continent. World events in recent years are reshaping our relationship with remoteness as global terror indiscriminately targets the populated centers of the west being remote can be seen as a haven. Climate change is also introducing extremes in areas already defined as extreme. The photographs in this series were made towards the end of a long drought. Despite the obvious absence of water the traces of it can be found everywhere; dry river systems, abandoned river craft, rail bridges and rail infrastructure and endless dry flood plains. All patiently waiting, in the stifling heat of an Australian summer, for the rain to come.

Simon Cuthbert
31 March 2017