The Hay Plain in NSW is a space that people drive through on their way from Adelaide to Canberra or Sydney. It is treeless with scrubby saltbush, and it is commonly seen by those viewing it through their car windows as a flat, barren, featureless and bleak space--especially during the day in mid-summer. I find this space fascinating as it is very atmospheric with the changing light, clouds and rain.
Hay is an overnight stop for me on the Adelaide and Canberra trip and I usually stop and take photos. This picture was made on a 2015 trip to Canberra as I was driving into Hay on the Sturt Highway:
The light was starting to fade and I only had the time to quickly make a couple of photographs. I stopped the car and wandered around whilst the road trains roared past. I noticed the bits of cotton moving over the road and along the ground from the wind and the road trains. I laid down on my stomach on the side of the road and made some snaps before the light went.
The silos for the storage of grain prior to rail transport to markets closed down at the start of the 21st century. The Kywong branch line of the Main Southern Railway line in NSW, which services Wagga Wagga, closed down in 1975. The closure of the branch lines --eg., the Tocumwal branch line which closed around 1988-- is an indication of the emptying out of rural Australia.
It's a sad history of broken dreams and landscape and place in the form of place attachment that is concerned with the symbolic meaning in early settler Australia. Place attachment is the “emotional bonds that form between people and their physical surroundings. These are powerful aspects of human life that inform a sense of identity, create meaning in the lives of human beings, facilitate community and influence action.
Photography has the ability to aid and create place attachments. Photography is also valuable for interpreting the erosion of Aboriginal culture form the Australian landscape. The 19th century image-makers document the land as the British immigrants settled it, thereby helping create meaning for the settlers and establishes the land as virgin by not effectively including Aboriginals in their narratives.
Photography helped represent the land as empty and by extension created a culture of ownership, plenitude and expanse for white settlement and so covered up the destruction of Aboriginal place attachments for the place creation and subsequent attachment of thew white British settlers.