Time and tide keep on pushing and pulling Pushing and pulling on you and me Sometimes our flood runs high, Sometimes we’re both left bone dry Dreaming of the big blue sea! Time and tide wait for no one Time and tide wait for no one Time and tide keep on pushing and pulling.
These are lyrics from beloved Australian singer-songwriter Paul Kelly’s song ‘Time and Tide.’ I bought his Greatest Hits CD in December 2019, and listened to it every day for a month as I drove around my beautiful country that is still being devastated by the relentless wildfires that have been burning since September of 2019. 33 people have been killed so far – including four firefighters – more than 11 million hectares of bush, forest and parks have been burned and 1 billion animals are estimated dead. On the 1st of January, the air quality index in Canberra – at 4,091 – ranked the worst in the world, 20 times higher than the hazardous level, with smoke later reaching as far as New Zealand and South America. Record-breaking temperatures and months of severe drought fuelled the bushfires, though uncertainty of their exact cause and the climate change debate persists. Regardless of the different arguments and their proponents, one thing remains clear; this is a climate crisis. I read somewhere that “this would be the summer that changes everything,” and I really do hope it is the case.
More than 1,600 firefighters are currently working to slow the spread of fires – some deployed from overseas brigades – and people from both the national and international community have responded with an overwhelming amount of support, by donating, protesting and helping in any way available to them. Over my five weeks in three different states of Australia – Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory – I witnessed first-hand the severity of the drought and the aftermath of some of the bushfires. I also spent time in places where the land has not yet been affected by the fires, though the morale of the people there certainly has. With this series of images, I hope to contrast the visible devastation of the bushfires and the drought with scenes of a seemingly unaffected seaside summer, to offer a picture of the state of the world today; where many people are living in some form of environmental, political, social or health disaster, and others remain safe and sheltered – for now. If there is one thing that the fires have reinforced to all of us, it is both the unpredictability and strength of Mother Nature. Like Paul Kelly’s lyrics suggest, the earth isn’t waiting for us to act, and that is precisely why we need to.
About Chanel Irvine
As a documentary photographer, Chanel’s practice seeks to portray the power of human initiative, connection and contribution. Inspired by the importance of solution-based journalism, she embraces visual communication that empowers and inspires. Her stories often focus on livelihoods, environments and communities that are susceptible to change based on emerging trends, development demands and the technological progressions that inevitably accompany today’s increasingly modern society. In this way, her photographs aim not only to serve as a historical preservation of their subjects, but to shed light on their most admirable, steadfast and necessary presence in today’s world.
Using a retrospective lens, Chanel’s more personal work similarly reflects this tension between preservation and change. With an eye for moments she deems timeless, her observations consistently focus on scenes that are reminiscent of older, simpler times, which persist seemingly unaffected by the advancements that continuously transform the world we live in. As a result, her photographs accentuate the “ordinary” – reasserting its importance as a photographic subject and highlighting the beauty that can constantly be rediscovered in the everyday. [Official Website]