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Monday, October 1, 2012

Hello From Wollombi This Long Weekend, A Film Festival And A Garden Sculpture Exhibition

Wollombi is one of those towns in rural Australia that if you didn't know about it through a friend or have something to go to there, you probably would never pass by. In the 2006 Australian census they counted just 264 locals though this number increases on holidays and weekends when retired professionals and young  families with a weekend country retreat come to town. Most of them at some point will head into town to get milk and bread from the convenience store, a proper coffee from Bruno the local barista / restraunteur, or pick up a case of Noyce Brothers Wines from their cellar door. Other than that, there isn't much to do except enjoy the natural beauty of the place. It is a place of rest and relaxation, timber fires and long walks.

It was therefore a great surprise for me to find this long weekend was a hive of activity for this sleepy village. The first surprise came when I attended the 'Sculpture At The Gate' outdoor sculpture garden just outside of town. On display were an enormous number of works by Australian artists which were spread out over a huge paddock of grass. And, inside the homestead were a great deal more artworks and sculptures on display and for sale. Following this event we were to head straight home and shower because my girlfriend was a judge in the Wollombi Short Film Festival. Hosted by The Valley Artists Group, the short film festival had a variety of films which were shown from across the country from Perth, to Melbourne, to Sydney and including local talent from Wollombi and the surrounding Cessnock Shire. To be perfectly honest, I was not expecting much at all so I was pleasantly surprised when the quality of the short films being shown were not only professionally done but were well-scripted, thoughtful, creative and in many cases, thoroughly entertaining! One such video came from the Wollombi Pony Club whose black and white film 'The Wollombi Kid Part 2' had the entire audience in stitches of laughter which reminded me of the influence of the community theatre in films such as Cinema Paradiso in bringing people together. It was such an amazing event that I was so upset when the MC declared that if they could not find new management, the event would close down the following year.

I was fortunate at the end of the Festival to meet briefly a young photographer named Andrew Cooney whose video, A Country Landscape, took out third prize for his amazing still life time-lapsed photography video on local flora and fauna. The video, which I will post below, was accompanied by a score which kept you engaged with the video right to the very end. I think this young man has a lot of talent and although he is yet to finish high school, I think we will be hearing a lot more from him soon. Here is a little bio on Andrew:

"I first started in photography 3 years ago using dads camera. I then got myself a camera (Nikon D90) and after multiple lens purchases, upgraded to the Nikon D800. I Normally just shoot around home as there is plenty of country scenes to shoot, but I also love to shoot beaches, so I tend to hang around the Central Coast shooting Terrigal, Avoca, Wamberal etc. I just recently purchased an underwater housing for my D800 which allows me to go underwater and get a very different perspective which I love. About 8 months ago I was in contact with Ross Wood from 171 entertainment. He had been following my work for quite a while and wanted me to shoot time lapse footage for a music video he was working on. So he lent me his Dynamic Perception rig and I shot with it every chance I got. After 3 months I had got enough footage for his music video but lucky enough for me He let me hang onto it, giving me time to shoot more time lapse and put together "A Country Landscape". A few months back, Kasey Chambers brother, who lives just down the road from me, asked if I would come and take some photos in his studio of Kasey when she was recording her new album. To my surprise I managed to get all but 1 of the photos in her new album which was really cool!! Having met plenty of new people over the very few years I have loved photography, it has really influenced what I do and how I do it. Going into year 12 next term I only have 12 months of school left and after that I plan to travel and somehow get a job allowing me to see the world and make a living at the same time."

September in Australia is the month for wisteria, a time when the heady fragrance permeates the air around and reminds  us not only of life renewing, but that summer is just around the corner.
The rustic Wollombi country side
A bronze ape contemplating mortality, part of the sculptures on display at Sculptures At The Gate
A stark contrast to its surrounds, artist Lea Ferris creates a coral garden in the midst of an Australian garden landscape

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