Guanaba QLD, Australia
Photographer Cam Neville’s dedication to his documentary subjects can appear slightly fanatical at times.
Given that he has spent the majority of the last four years as an active member of the “Firies” in the local volunteer brigade near his Queensland home and has been at more fires than you have had hot dinners, it is not surprising that his portfolio of work and “fire’ stories reflect this.
What is surprising is that given the inherent danger of what he photographs that his images of the activities of his “brigade brothers” and himself have such a romantic vision, the subjects of his photos are both phlegmatic and poetic. The huge flames surrounding them seem to be part of the cinematic dream of Mervyn LeRoy’s “Wizard of Oz”… courage though it seems, is not something lacking in the hearts of those in these pictures.
Tiny figures in blood orange colours hang their hands casually off their hips as swirls of angry orange clouds break against the cobalt blue skies above them, blackened tunnels of flame shaped like the genteel leafy bowers from such English period dramas as “Pride and Predjudice” are really the hell mouths of the burning Australian environment.
Neville’s take on the destructive force of fire in the wilderness of the Australian bush is both beautiful and intriguing. Like his photographs of the ornaments and keepsakes left at the side of the road after people have died, there is not only a guilelessness and naivety but also true compassion about Neville’s work. There is no cloying sentimentality about these images that leaves the viewer with an over-satiated feeling, rather an honest question is asked of how or why the people who have passed away have been remembered at these roadside memorials.
Neville’s photographs are not the sensationalized, overdramatic news frames that feed the daily media psyche but rather a serious documentary look at life and death events that happen.
Neville's work has appeared in Fairfax Media and online.
2014 - Moran Photographic Prize Finalist