Australia: People of the Fatal Shore
Australia’s major cities dot the coastline of this vast continent and Sydney, the country’s largest metropolis, is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world, its glittering harbor, the Opera House, Harbor Bridge and its surf beaches tourist draw cards of the land down under.
But the waterways of Sydney are not just physical attributes, they have also become social divides and these topics are explored in two books from Cyclops Press - Saltwater People of the Broken Bays: Sydney’s Northern Beaches and the companion book released this week, Saltwater People of the Fatal Shore.
While it is acknowledged that the Northern Beaches are generally where wealthier people settled, the shoreline that is traversed in the latest book, Saltwater People of the Fatal Shore has a much more colourful history partly influenced by the fact that Botany Bay, the site of a major British penal colony established in the late 1700s, is in the middle of this stretch of coastline.
The Saltwater set is the work of photographer and filmmaker John “Oggy” Ogden who is highly regarded as a champion for the rights of Indigenous Australians. Oggy describes these beautifully crafted hardcover volumes as “coffee table books with a sting”, the bite delivered in the historical commentary, which he hopes will promote reconciliation and a greater understanding of the Aboriginal people. He says “one of the main drivers for these books is to acknowledge the First People”, as the Australian Aborigines are known.
In Saltwater People of the Fatal Shore there is also an environmental thread to the story that is woven throughout and starts with the pristine waters of Botany Bay that were quickly turned to festering pools by the English colonizers.
“The First People lived here for tens of thousands of years in a sustainable manner. The Europeans were rapacious. They didn’t only take what they needed, they went on a frenzy, and what was a Garden of Eden became a toxic waste area. When I look at it in the microcosm of 200 years of our history, you can see how much we have changed the land and it hasn’t always been for the good”.
Both books also celebrate Australia’s beach culture – surf, sand and sun – and there are some fantastic historical images of the earliest surfers with their heavy wooden boards as well as more contemporary photographs.
In his research Oggy has unearthed thousands of photos, drawings and archival records. Both books feature his own photography as well as that of other professionals and he has had tremendous fortune to uncover photographs that span generations giving historical fact a human face.
Saltwater People of the Broken Bays and Saltwater People of the Fatal Shore are published by Cyclops Press and are available for purchase online.