«They had known the land so well they knew what it looked like [from the air]. I’m very unreligious but there was some kind of spirituality there.»
When Harmon began creating the remarkable images of dried-up floodplains, billabongs and river beds, he was initially attracted by the aesthetics – the colours and shapes of the land revealed from the air.
But soon the tension between the beauty from the air and the devastation on the ground of the Murray-Darling became apparent, especially after he made extensive contacts with the local Indigenous people.
On the ground, he saw «ugly truths of stolen land, stolen water, inappropriate and illegal land use, environmental degradation and a dispossessed people fighting for the country in which their spirituality and identity are so enshrined.
«That started to turn my head in terms of the story I’m telling.»
American-born Harmon, a former documentary maker, says he is «ideas driven» rather than overtly political and that he has no illusions about what his work – contained in an upcoming exhibition called WaterMarks – might achieve.
«Art can’t change things. This wasn’t even intended to change things. But I’d like to think that this work got attention and maybe helped some more people think about the issues out there. I’d love that.
«You don’t have to be political to be sad.»
WaterMarks is at Casula Powerhouse from February 16 to March 24.