We send Australia’s most experienced photographers far and wide across our vast nation. These assignments involve months of planning, making contacts and following up leads, regrouping from dead-ends, sorting out permits, often through multiple state departments, and where possible, consultations with First Nations.
Our visual storytellers need to have the survival skills to safely navigate remote locations on their own, to be able to work and file on the hoof, to have the social and emotional intelligence to flesh out the different strands of the story, and make meaningful connections in the field in order to produce work with depth and uncover new angles.
Our photographers can pivot between documenting aerial, video, stills and audio to provide the comprehensive, often sensory, detail that our stories are renowned for. Dean Sewell spent weeks in his swag for us, working on one story that he began more a decade ago. Adam Ferguson travelled thousands of kilometres up the Dingo Fence to Cameron Corner, in the extreme far west corner of NSW, making friends with the people who live their lives along the legendary fence. Annette Ruzicka’s year flew by largely in the field, criss-crossing the country for AG, from WA’s Kimberley to the alpine ranges of Victoria and Southern NSW before heading back to the tropical Top End to observe crocs. James Bugg was given some loose map coordinates to hunt down the most pristine of alpine bogs and Matthew Newton was set loose on one of the toughest and most remote hikes in the country, Southwest NP, Tasmania.
We try to commission experts in their topic areas. Photojournalist Justin Gilligan has documented the ocean’s plastic pollution for years from his home on Lord Howe Island and already knew the key characters in our complex shearwater story. We regularly work with conservation-led photographer Doug Gimesy. A leading voice in the field of environmental photography, he offers an especially clear understanding of how imagery can shift mindsets. Other photographers, such as veteran photojournalist Melanie Faith Dove, were scrambled at a moment’s notice to cover this year’s huge weather events. Randy Larcombe and Emma Phillips were asked to document innovators who have made positive contributions to preserving our natural world.
To all these photographers and the many more we have sent into mines, storms, jungles and on epic treks, or have come to us with their research or passion projects, we thank you for your commitment to telling stories that make us care more for our world.
Photographer Justin Gilligan is a conservation photojournalist and Associate Fellow with the International League of Conservation Photographers. He lives on Lord Howe Island documenting the island’s biodiversity and the growing pollution in the surrounding ocean. He witnesses firsthand how ocean plastics decimate seabirds such as shearwaters. Justin spent many weeks this past year observing the work of Dr Jennifer Lavers (pictured above holding a sick shearwater). Jennifer has discovered that plastics are causing multi-organ damage in seabirds. Shearwaters ingest large quantities of plastic that are then regurgitated to feed their young. Hatchlings end up with bellies full of indigestible plastic and can never leave the island, dying there in great pain.
Dean Sewell travelled 5000km for us, spending several weeks in the arid desert environment of central South Australia near Kati Thanda- Lake Eyre. Only it wasn’t arid at all. He was penned in by successive rain events, with both the Oondnadatta and Birdsville tracks closed. One of Dean’s assignments was to cover the return of the Curdimurka Ball in Maree (the Maree Hotel is seen top right) after an 18-year hiatus.
Wildlife photographer Isaac Wishart works barefoot when hunting bioluminescence and glowing fungi. He spent several nights for us in Queensland’s Lamington NP photographing the area’s nocturnal biodiversity. Lamington is one of the few remaining extensive areas of subtropical Gondwanan rainforest anywhere in the world, and this is Isaacs natural home after spending the last eight years as a bush regenerator in the region. Two years of abundant La Nina rains delivered fungi aplenty. Wishart’s image above show a Mycena chloophos fungus glowing green in the rainforest understorey.
Photographer Max Mason Hughes hooked up his camper-trailer and spent a week for us at McGraths Flat, central NSW, with a crack team of fossil experts. Over the past three years a team of researchers has been secretly excavating the site, discovering thousands of incredibly well-preserved specimens, including rainforest plants, insects, spiders, fish and a feather. Max documented the dig, the characters, the thrilling finds, the beauty of the wider area and the after-dig dinners in Gulgong. And he also found a fossil: “It was as small as a lady beetle and its spindly hair-thin legs and gossamer wings were intact, frozen in time for 10–15 million years in the iron-rich silt of the Miocene era billabong.”
Photographer Thomas Wielecki, together with writer Tim the Yowie Man, trawled the length of the Old Hume Highway, the old inland route between Sydney and Melbourne. He discovered stretches of the historic route disappear without warning into paddocks or end abruptly at fences, grids or piles of blue metal. Les Davies and Julie Chalmers (top image) live in the former Shell service station in Breadalbane, NSW, and gave our photographer an impromptu tour of the former servo. The old restaurant is now the couple’s lounge room and in their bedroom is the old fuse box that once controlled the bowers and lighting on the forecourt.
We sent Chris Round on a travel assignment to explore the Central Goldfields of Victoria. Chris was chosen because he is well known for his meticulously rendered landscapes, especially his awarded photos of discarded and mysterious structures in vast natural landscapes. The Goldfields is littered with old mines and mining detritus, so this region was of special interest given Chris is working on a series exploring the balance between nature and our intrusion of it.
Industrial designer Girius Antanaitis made waves in the veterinary world when he invented a wombat dental gag, a metre-long needle used to euthanise sick whales. Until then he was better known for crafting avian orthopaedic surgery kits. In Girius’s view, a lot of the surgical instruments currently used by wildlife veterinarians aren’t fit for purpose. His most recent project has been to find a new way to repair fractures in turtle shells by mounting a plate externally with screws that go to a specific depth so as not to harm the turtle (image at top). Photographed in his Melbourne workshop by Emma Phillips.
Adam Ferguson travelled up the longest human-made structure on Earth, the Dingo Fence, as part of our investigation into whether there is a case for its removal. He documented life lived and lost along the fence, from macropods, workers to deceased dingoes. The assignment involved months of preparation developing connections with individual land managers, ecologists, local government and fence maintenance units.
In May, recently relocated NYC now Perth-based photographer Finlay Mackay visited drone cinematographer Jaimen Hudson (pictured flying his drone) who despite becoming a quadriplegic in 2008 is a prolific wildlife photographer in Esperance, WA.
Francesco Vicenzi camped at the Gariwerd/Grampians NP over several weekends to catch the renowned rock-climbing and rock-art sites in different light and conditions for a story on how land managers are working to balance the interests of Traditional Owners and climbers.
Tajette O’Halloran travelled to Moonie on the Darling Downs, QLD, to spend a weekend with 19-year-old Meg Rees who left Brisbane’s suburbs for a life in the bush during the pandemic.
Armed with some coordinates photographer James Bugg‘s task was to locate the pristine bogs at Mt Baw Baw, VIC. These were hidden in deep bush and accessed far from trails through walls of spiky candle heath bush. James endured hours of tracing and retracing steps through the maze, soggy from condensation, before he was able to record the micro biology of the bogs in such a beautiful way.
On assignment for another story Thomas Wielecki, together with writer Tim the Yowie Man, spotted three little pups in the centre of Gundagai, NSW. The town is known for its iconic Dog on the Tuckerbox statue – located just outside the town on the freeway – but the new litter of puppies scattered across Gundagai was a surprise. According to some business owners, the dog was a little too popular with travellers on the Hume Highway with many stopping for an obligatory photo with the dog and not venturing into town. To solve the problem sculptor Darien Pullen was commissioned in 2021 to create three puppy statues to be placed outside businesses in the main street.
Photographer Randy Larcombe spent a day with AG Society’s Lifetime of Conservation Awardee, ecologist Dr John Wamsley, at his home in the Adelaide Hills. Here John is seen wielding a tool he uses to remove weeds and wears the cat-skin hat he controversially wore to the South Australian Tourism Awards in 1991. John has campaigned for half a century on behalf of the nation’s endangered species. Many of his ideas were vilified by those in government supposedly responsible for conservation but who failed to recognise the urgency of biodiversity decline.
Photographer Annette Ruzicka trekked with the ridge lines and valleys of the Kosciuszko region with a group of volunteers committed to restoring Australia’s alpine huts.
Photographer Jarred Walker (top and above far left) and Melanie Faith Dove (above centre and right) visited wombat sanctuaries for our story on the different problems wombat’s face in different areas across Australia. On arrival at SA’s Wombat Awareness Organisation Jarred found, to his horror, that he had arrived at a crime scene – wombats had been deliberately mutilated nearby. In SA the penalty for killing a wombat without a permit is a $2500 fine or six months in prison. But they’re also considered an agricultural pest as their diggings wreck fences, damage machinery and compete for resources. Melanie works as a wildlife rescuer as well as teaching photography and already knew the ACT’s leading wombat carer, Yolandi Vermaak. Melanie visited Yolandi at home where she found these juvenile orphan wombats in her suburban yard, which has armoured fences with concrete and metal poles to stop wombats digging under them.
In February, photographer Dean Sewell checked in on the ugly fish that broke the internet. The blob fish was photographed first by Australian Research Institute Researcher Dr Kerryn Parkinson in 2003 when she was aboard a research expedition between Australia and New Zealand. Her snap went viral and ended up being voted the world’s ugliest animal in 2013. Dean found Mr Blobby elegantly preserved in a jar in the dry lab of the Australian Museum’s Ichthyology department. His pinkish flesh had receded and turned pale and wrinkled, an entirely different vision to that which Kerryn first photographed – the flesh of his forehead slid down into a ‘nose’ and the corners of his mouth sagged into that iconic frown.
Photographer Steven Siewert spent the day in a fluorescent lab shadowing neuroscientist Professor Geoge Paxinos, famed for his hand drawn maps based off slides of the human brain. After the shoot he repaired to George’s home, only to find more brains featuring in artworks across his living room walls.
Photographer Melanie Faith Dove became a volunteer for Vets For Compassion when confronted by a large eastern grey male in her suburban front yard. Melanie teamed up with photojournalist Sandra Sanders to document kangaroos in crisis, an investigation into how urban sprawl is pushing macropods more and more into harm’s way.
Photographer Matthew Newton undertook the notoriously difficult South Coast Track in Tasmania with writer Elspeth Callendar (pictured) for a story on the privatisation of our wilderness areas. The 84km bush walk between Melaleuca and Cockle Creek is regarded as one of the world’s great ‘wilderness’ walks and requires everyone to carry a full pack of gear, including tent, food and cooking equipment for the duration. Inclement weather means some sections of the track are perpetually wet and muddy with challenging waterway crossings and arduous ascents par for the course. This might change soon now that the area has been earmarked for a string of luxury huts.
Photographer Annette Ruzicka visited the stunning wetlands of the south-western NSW conservation property Gayini, owned by the Nari Nari Tribal Council.
In February and then in March this year Lismore, northern NSW, experienced catastrophic flood events. Four people died and hundreds remain homeless. As a volunteer for Vets with Compassion Melanie Faith Dove was given access to relief centres and shelter to document and assist people with pets who had lost their homes.
Ngiyampaa/Murrawrri and Kooma photographer Melinda Hooper photographed her family for our Deadly Science book series.
Photographer Elise Derwin generated all the imagery for our book How to Raise Outdoor Kids. She sourced the many locations sited across NSW, and the models, filing almost a thousand frames for the mammoth assignment. A few weeks after she finished shooting for our book some of these locations and the town in which she lives, Lismore, NSW, were partially destroyed in a catastrophic flood event.