Gunnedah photographer strives to capture nation's history

Local identity Phil Thomas shares photos from his collection with Gunnedah photographer Paul Mathews. Photo: Supplied
Local identity Phil Thomas shares photos from his collection with Gunnedah photographer Paul Mathews. Photo: Supplied

Gunnedah will become a test site to “help set the foundation” for a historical project.

Gunnedah photographer Paul Mathews, International Olympic Committee photo expert Peter Charles, and journalist and author James Knight are on a mission to preserve precious history captured in photographs.

The project, Moments in Time, is a bid to save “Australia’s pictorial past”, with a call for old or rare photographs of families and their ancestors.

A photo of a drover giving his dog a drink out of his hat.

A photo of a drover giving his dog a drink out of his hat.

Paul Mathews said the team will archive photographic collections of everyday people, together with the stories behind the photos.

“We live in the disposable digital age where it’s easy to wipe away memories with the swipe of a finger, but go back to the days of film, and we all have our collections stashed somewhere,” he said.

“These collections should never be lost because they tell important stories of who we are. They may be pictures of a bloke fixing a windmill, a stockman working some sheep, a cricket match, a Sunshine Harvester in a paddock of wheat; there are so many stories that need to be told and preserved.

“But our fear is that too many of these pictures and stories will be lost as time goes on, so now is the time to copy and archive them before it’s too late.”

Changing and repairing a tyre between Goondiwindi and Mungundi.

Changing and repairing a tyre between Goondiwindi and Mungundi.

The first step of the proposed nationwide archival project will be staged in Gunnedah on September 1-2 at the Gunnedah Bicentennial Creative Arts Gallery from 9am-3.30pm.

Mr Mathews said they were asking people with “iconic photos” to bring them in and share their stories.

“We are especially looking for anything that depicts a way of life that no longer exists… Pictures that will show what daily life was like in days gone by,” he said.

“What transport was like, what it was to live without running water, electricity, air conditioning, how kids got to school, what the fashions of the day were; everything about life as it was. All the things that today we take for granted, and how in the past they were different.

“It will provide today’s generations an actual picture of the way daily life was. A time before roads were sealed, when cars were a rarity, when the horse and cart were the primary means of transport, when B-doubles didn’t exist and the rivers were the highways and arteries of the country.

“This archive will illustrate a way of life that the youth of today and tomorrow could not imagine and even today’s older generations struggle to remember.”

The team will make digital copies of selected photos, and video-interview the owners of these photos. The pictures and stories will then be archived and presented to an archive library, yet to be decided.

“Our hope is to develop ‘banks’ of material that can be stored and used by community sources such as councils, education institutions, state libraries and so on,” Mr Mathews said.

“It’s early days at the moment, but our aim is to grow this into a project of national significance.

“After all, to know where we’re going, we must know where we’ve been.”

For more information on Moments in Time, contact Paul Mathews on 0427 424 353.

This story Gunnedah to become part of nationwide photography project Moments in Time first appeared on Namoi Valley Independent.

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