Paper Tigers: Documenting Our Environment

Photographs from the 'Paper Tigers' exhibition - an anthology of contemporary Australian photojournalism - highlighting environmental concerns, both in Australia and overseas

By Head On Foundation

Paper Tigers

Nancy wonders if she should stay or go (2020-04-01) by Tracey NearmyHead On Foundation

Photojournalism, a mirror on society

Celebrating the best of Australian photojournalism, the Paper Tigers exhibition features 60 images from 60 of the best Australian photojournalists. It is through the lens of these photographers that we understand and experience much of the world's events.

"Most of us live relatively insular lives, protected from the tensions of our less than perfect world. Sometimes it takes an in-your-face image to shake us out of complacency and drive home an injustice or social ill..." Alan Davies, Emeritus Curator of Photographs at the State Library of New South Wales

Dam in Drought - near Come By Chance, NSW (2019) by David GrayHead On Foundation

David Gray

Dam in Drought - near Come By Chance, NSW

David Gray began his career as a cadet photographer at The Australian newspaper (1988), working as a staff photographer from 1991 (Canberra Press Gallery), then specialising in sports coverage. 

Dam in Drought captures farmer Johnnie McKeown walking near his truck, as he inspects a dried-up dam on the drought-affected family property of Long View on 6th October 2019, located near the Australian town of Come By Chance.

The 6,000 acres (2,400 hectare) property of Long View, located around 700 kilometres north-west of Sydney, has been in the McKeown family since the late 19th Century. The current devastating drought affecting the flat north-west plains has meant the last 'decent' rain the property received was a decade ago - in 2010.  

Death on the Darling by Nick MoirHead On Foundation

Nick Moir

Death on the Darling

Moir’s passion is capturing the dramatic environmental phenomena of Australia, from its ragged lightning and dust storms and blackening bushfires to the devastating effects of climate change. He is currently the chief photographer of The Sydney Morning Herald.

Moir's photograph captures a red kangaroo drawn to the last drops of water left in the Darling River system which became stuck in the thick mud in the centre of Lake Cawndilla near Menindee. Dozens of roos, sheep, goats and emus also became stuck, too far into the lake to rescue and were so close to death that they had to be put down. 

Extreme drought and high temperatures along with poor water management has left the Darling River a barren crack in the land with only a few miles of blue green algae filled water near Menindee that is now filled with the dying carcasses of fish.

Kangaroos in Drought 2002 (2002) by Michael AmendoliaHead On Foundation

Michael Amendolia

Kangaroos in Drought 2002

Michael Amendolia is best known for his photojournalistic photography on issues related to blindness and its solutions internationally. His portrait of Australian humanitarian Fred Hollows has become one Australia's most recognisable photographs.

In 2002, drought conditions in Australia forced thousands of kangaroos to Oxley Station in the Macquarie Marshes, near Warren, western New South Wales. The kangaroos move from the nearby national parks to properties with water and feed.

Untitled by Simon O'DwyerHead On Foundation

Simon O’Dwyer


Simon O'Dwyer spends his time pursuing his fine art photography in Australia and globally. Formerly a Fairfax photographer for The Age newspaper, he spent 22 years documenting the changing landscape of Australia.

In 2009, Belinda Gayle from Chum Creek managed to save a few animals including her goldfish as bush-fires attacked and burnt her animal shelter to the ground. In her care was this three-month-old female Eastern Grey Kangaroo which couldn't be saved. 

11 years on, Australia is again on fire, and early estimates believe over a billion of our wildlife have died as a result of the ongoing inferno. 

"Simon O'Dwyer's image is a stark reminder of the horrific effect of wildfires on our native fauna." Alan Davies, Curator of Photographs

A Burning World by Ashley CrowtherHead On Foundation

Ashley Crowther

A Burning World

Ashley Crowther hails from Byron Bay, New South Wales, and has lived across Asia for nine years. Throughout this time, he has focused on climate change and associated social development issues.

Crowther's photograph captures a child engulfed by plumes of smoke from burning coal inside an unregulated charcoal production field in Jharkhand, India, which holds some of India’s largest coal reserves.

Across India, this coal powers cities and factories and is used inside homes for cooking. Over 500 million people rely on solid fuels for cooking in India, which is responsible for a plethora of respiratory illnesses. 

100,000 children die annually from preventable conditions. Globally, air pollution (indoor and outdoor), is responsible for over 7 million deaths (World Health Organisation). Smoke produces carbon dioxide, adding to the increasing threat of climate change.

Nancy wonders if she should stay or go (2020-04-01) by Tracey NearmyHead On Foundation

Tracey Nearmy

Nancy wonders if she should stay or go

Australian photographer and videographer Tracey Nearmy has worked for numerous publications throughout Australia and overseas over the past 20 years.

In Nearmy's photograph we see Nancy Allen and Brian Allen, who used garden hoses to wet down their house as high winds pushed smoke and ash from the Currowan fire towards Nowra on 4th January 2020.

Is That All You’ve Got? (2011) by Rob MaccollHead On Foundation

Rob Maccoll

Is That All You’ve Got?

Rob Maccoll covers disasters and conflict including wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the AIDS epidemic and violence in Papua New Guinea, bombings in Bali and Jakarta, the tsunamis in Phuket, Aceh and Ghizo, and floods, cyclones and bushfires closer to home.

In Is That All You've Got? we see Andrew Schirner, Daryl Webber and Mick Pearson having another drink to celebrate surviving Cyclone Yasi. They had partied all night as their Silkwood home collapsed around them.

Moment of impact (2010) by Glenn LockitchHead On Foundation

Glenn Lockitch

Moment of impact. Antarctica 2010

Glenn Lockitch is an independent human rights and environmental photojournalist. He has photographed in Australia and overseas for 27 years.

In the Southern Ocean of Antarctica, Lockitch's image shows Japanese harpoon ship, the Yushin Maru 3 (right), trying to shake off the anti-whaling ship Sea Shepherd, the Bob Barker (left), from the Japanese factory ship the Nisshin Maru's tail (background), ramming the Bob Barker and tearing a one-metre gash in its hull. 

In the name of ‘research’, using a loophole in the International Whaling Convention, Japanese whalers set a yearly quota of 1,035 whales to kill in the Antarctic waters, many in the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary. The whalers have not published any academically respected, internationally peer-reviewed scientific research papers. 

The multinational, anti-whaling, direct-action, marine conservation organisation Sea Shepherd sailed yearly to Antarctica until 2017 to physically obstruct and stop the Japanese whaling slaughter. 

Japan ceased its whaling operations in the Antarctic, repeatedly blaming Sea Shepherd for its whale quota loss. Since 2002 Sea Shepherd has directly helped save the lives of over 6,000 whales.

Explore more iconic imagery from Australia's best photojournalists, in our series of Paper Tigers stories.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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