in our nature

A new eye on nature

James Hattam | 10 July 2023

This text is adapted from a speech given to launch A New Eye on Nature at Wild Island Tasmania, Hobart, on 7 July 2023. A New Eye on Nature is open at Wild Island Tasmania, Salamanca Place, Hobart until 30 July 2023. Selected pieces can be seen and purchased on the Wild Island website.

Protection is just the start of the conservation journey, but without protection, we could never achieve effective long-term conservation.

At the core of TLC’s protection of places, is photography.

I am still grateful for the contribution of founding TLC board member, and award-winning nature photographer and film-maker, Matthew Newton, who embedded photography into the TLC DNA. In doing so, Matt began the work of connecting people to the places we work to protect. After all, it was a photograph - Peter Dombrovskis’ ‘Rock Island Bend’ - that galvanized a community and planted the seed of the conservation movement in Australia.

Photography has raised tens of millions of dollars for the TLC, protecting tens of thousands of hectares and creating an active, engaged and inspired community of supporters around the world that contribute to the protection of nature in Tasmania.

Every reserve has a different origin story and sending a photographer out is one of the most rewarding elements of building a campaign.

TLC has always valued creative expression in storytelling and as a way to share the complex layers of the landscapes where we work, both human and ecological.

Abstract 1 (Skullbone Plains Reserve) by Karen Keefe

People often ask me what is the ‘secret sauce’ of TLC. The answer is community and connections across communities.

Over the years Matt Newton and Rob Blakers have connected TLC with their community of photographers through the Tasmanian Nature Photographers Group. These photographers captured the intricate and often hidden elements of our reserves. They go beyond the science of observation and into the art of being, watching, listening and interpreting.

So, after the success of our last art and nature collaboration, Breathing space, we thought what better way to contribute to a community that has given so much to us than to offer a series of immersive photography residencies for emerging photographers across our reserves.

In Autumn, this year our first recipients headed off into the wilds.

Kelly Slater is a lens-based artist whose practice explores environmental image making that goes beyond sentimental representations of landscape. She visited Daisy Dell and Vale of Belvoir Reserves.

Nick Green is a Tasman Peninsula photographer whose work serves as a meditative exploration of his environment and inner self. Nick visited Eagle Rock Reserve.

Karen Keefe is a midwife, Calm Birth educator and environmental activist who aims to portray her connection with nature and the importance of protecting areas of high conservation value. She visited Skullbone Plains Reserve

Tree Veins (Eagle Rock Reserve) by Nick Green

I want to share a story of one of the places that Kelly visited – Daisy Dell Reserve - and two very special humans.

Daisy Dell was protected in 2017 by TLC, but the protection for that landscape was fought for for decades by two men, Peter Sims and John Wilson. The reason I tell this story is because Peter and John epitomise the Quiet Conservationist. They are always in the background: working hard, determined, humble, generous and resolute. And for me, photographers are some of our greatest Quiet Conservationists.

Every time I look at a photo captured by a nature photographer I am reminded of what Anais Nin wrote in Seduction of the Minotaur, that ‘we do not see things as they are, we see them as we are’. Nick, Kelly and Karen have invited us into their world, and through their lens we interpret what that means for us.

In the same way that the creation of a TLC reserve is an expression of the community’s deep value and connection to nature, these works connect us to ourselves, the world the live in, the community that we form and the natural world that we depend on.

Recumbent Limbs (Daisy Dell Reserve) by Kelly Slater

Thank you to Nick, Kelly and Karen for sharing your world with the TLC.

A special shout-out to the TLC team, especially Jane Rawson who can’t be here tonight. It was she who organised the residencies, ensured the photographers’ safety during their stays and worked to get this exhibition off the ground. She’s now busy organising for this exhibition to be shown in the north.

I’d also like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Rob Blakers and the Wild Island team. Rob is a long-standing TLC supporter and photographer; if you know our organisation you’ll no doubt know his beautiful images and videos of the iconic areas we protect and manage.

Rob generously helped curate this exhibition, guiding us, the photographers and has supported the TLC in hosting this event so we can share these new pieces with as many people as possible.

A New Eye on Nature is open at Wild Island Tasmania, Salamanca Place, Hobart until 30 July 2023. Selected pieces can be seen and purchased on the Wild Island website. The exhibition will travel to Ulverstone later in the year.

Rob Blakers, Kelly Slater, Karen Keefe, Nick Green and James Hattam at the launch of ‘A New Eye on Nature’ exhibition at Wild Island Tasmania. Photo: Manderlee Anstice

Author Profile

James Hattam

Chief Executive Officer

James is a conservation ecologist with a passion for connecting people to the natural world through shared experiences, storytelling and community involvement. He has been working with government and not-for-profits in Victoria and Tasmania for more than 17 years, with experience in conservation covenants, philanthropic programs, marketing, communications, community engagement and not-for-profit governance.